Cockermouth is an ancient market town and civil parish in the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England, so named because it is at the confluence of the River Cocker as it flows into the River Derwent. Historically a part of Cumberland, Cockermouth is situated outside the English Lake District on its northwest fringe. Much of the architectural core of the town remains unchanged since the basic medieval layout was filled in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Edward Waugh (1816 – 26 March 1891) was an English solicitor and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 to 1885. Waugh was the son of John Lamb Waugh of Seat Hill, Irthington, Cumberland and his wife Catherine Miles, daughter of Richard Miles of Pates Hill, Irthington. He was admitted solicitor in 1840 and eventually became head of the legal firm of E and E L Waugh and Musgrove of Cockermouth. He was one time Registrar of the County Court and Clerk to the magistrates.
At the 1880 general election, Waugh was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Cockermouth, replacing the Liberal William Fletcher who had been elected at a by-election in 1879. At the 1885 general election, the town of Cockermouth ceased to be a parliamentary borough, and the name was transferred to a new county division. Waugh did not contest the new constituency.
The Clock Tower in the centre of the main street was erected in honour of Edward Waugh, and was known affectionately as Neddy’s. It was located near the junction with Station Street. In 1932, as it was considered a hazard to traffic, it was demolished.
The town market pre-dates 1221, when the market day was changed from Saturday to Monday. Market charters were granted in 1221 and 1227 by King Henry III, although this does not preclude the much earlier existence of a market in the town. In recent times, the trading farmers market now only occurs seasonally, replaced by weekend continental and craft markets.
In the days when opening hours of public houses were restricted, the fact that the pubs in Cockermouth could open all day on market days made the town a popular destination for drinkers, especially on Bank Holiday Mondays. The Market Bell remains as a reminder of this period (inset into a wall opposite the Allerdale Hotel)., while the 1761 and Castle pub (which spans three floors) have been renovated to reveal medieval stonework and 16th and 18th-century features.
Much of the centre of the town is of medieval origin substantially rebuilt in Georgian style with Victorian infill. The tree lined Kirkgate offers examples of unspoilt classical late 17th and 18th-century terraced housing, cobbled paving and curving lanes which run steeply down to the River Cocker. Most of the buildings are of traditional slate and stone construction with thick walls and green Skiddaw slate roofs.
Many of the facades lining the streets are frontages for historic housing in alleyways and lanes (often maintaining medieval street patterns) to the rear. Examples of Georgian residences may be found near the Market Place, St. Helens Street, at the bottom of Castlegate Drive and Kirkgate.
Cockermouth lays claim to be the first town in Britain to have piloted electric lighting. In 1881 six powerful electric lamps were set up to light the town, together with gas oil lamps in the back streets. Service proved intermittent, and there was afterwards a return to gas lighting.
In 1964, Cockermouth was named one of 51 ‘Gem Towns’ in the UK, by the Council for British Archaeology. This recognised the importance of the historic buildings, and the need to manage traffic management and the urban development.