Egremont Marketplace

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Egremont Marketplace

1267 Market Charter

The place-name Egremont first appears during the Norman period, and this name may derive from the Latin acri mons or the French aigre mont, meaning ‘sharp–pointed hill’. An alternative derivative is ‘hill beside the Ehen’, particularly as the Latin for Ehen, in the Register of St Bees, is Egre. Historically, Cumberland did not come under Norman rule until 1092, and the Barony of Egremont was one of three estates forming the Forest of Copeland, which was established sometime after 1120.

In 1267, Egremont received a royal market charter; the market subsequently serving the area between Workington and Ravenglass. An early, possibly thirteenth-century, market cross was also discovered in 1922, and now stands within the castle grounds. The core of the medieval settlement fell on the Main Street and it is clear from early nineteenth-century mapping that the area on the western side of Main Street contained medieval burgage plots.

The Danes first established a fort on the site of Egremont Castle around the end of the first millennium AD. In about 1300, the town was established much as it is seen today, surrounded by agricultural lands. In 1322, Robert Bruce attacked the town, causing a huge death toll. For the next 100 years or so an uneasy peace followed and the castle fell into ruins.

In 1565, a stone bridge was built over the River Ehen to access the town, which was now smaller because of frequent Scottish raids. Little changed for a century, until new stone buildings appeared on the Main Street, probably built with stone from the castle. In 1683, Edward Benn and his heirs were given land with the provision that they rebuild the stone bridge and maintain it for ever.

In 1748, another bridge was built at Briscoe Mill at a cost of £28-15s-0d, paid for by John Pearson, a local hatter. Soon Egremont began to service the Port of Whitehaven and in 1830, iron ore was mined over several sites. Over the next 60 years new schools, churches and the town hall were built. New housing estates were also built to accommodate the growing town, with many old parts of the town being demolished in 1968.

In bygone days, dyeing and weaving were traditional industries based around the River Ehen. Iron ore mining and quarrying has been established in Egremont for more than 800 years. Industrial mining of iron ore started around 1830 with many mines being opened, and continues to this day.

Around the early 17th century, agricultural lime was mined at Clints Quarry, with more heavy duty mining being undertaken to supply the iron and ore industry in the mid 19th century, finally ending in 1930. Clints Quarry (now a Site of Special Scientific Interest) can be found just north of Egremont town. In 1950, Rowntrees built a chocolate crumb factory near Christie Bridge and the nuclear industry became established at Sellafield. The Rowntrees site has become a new housing estate, York Place, which is located at the northern end of Main Street.