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Cockermouth Post Article July 2012 – What did the Victorians do for Cockermouth?

Not long to go now until the start of our annual summer exhibition. This year we’ve chosen to take a look at some of the remarkable achievements of the Victorians and how they improved life in Cockermouth. Nationally, the Victorian period included the coming of the railways, provision of education, public health Acts, the setting-up of local government, police and fire brigade services, and the coming of gas, electricity, piped water and sewerage services.

In Cockermouth national events such as Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 brought major improvements in the form of new bridges and the planting of trees on Main Street. The appearance of Main Street changed with the erection of the Mayo statue, commemorating a former MP, and the Waugh memorial clock (demolished in 1932), raised in commemoration of Edward Waugh, another MP. Elsewhere in the town two new Churches appeared during this period – Christ Church, and St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church – whilst the All Saints’ Church destroyed by fire in 1850 was rebuilt in very different architectural style and reopened in 1852. Fairfield Schools appeared, to supplement provision at All Saints’, and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School in 1877. An Industrial School opened during the Victorian period (on the present Strawberry How site), and a new Workhouse was constructed between 1841-3 on Gallowbarrow. Many of the town’s larger houses were built during this period, and housing in the Moor area of town developed rapidly from the 1860s onwards. Our beautiful cemetery and the two lovely Chapel buildings opened in 1856, and Harris Park in 1895. We reap the benefits of that and many other lovely parts of town, with their mature trees and mellowed appearance, very different to how they would have looked when first developed.

Not only were many improvements made to the appearance of our town by the Victorians, but traditions such as the Children’s Carnival saw their beginnings back then through the instigation of Cousin Charley’s May Day Parade. The fine tradition of bands in the town originated early in Victorian times, with the Mechanics’Band, Borough Band and Industrial School Band, for example.

Gloria Edwards

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