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Ancient Cities/Ancient Stories: Keswick

Although Keswick is not a city, it is a beautiful town in the heart of Cumbria, with a wonderful history dating back thousands of years, even pre-dating the Roman period.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, an ancient monument dating back to around 3200 BCE (Before Common Era) is one of the earliest stone circles in Britain and is visited annually by many tourists.


As with all stone circles, we don’t know the true purpose of Castlerigg but we can assume our ancestors used it for rituals, keeping time or burial purposes. There have also been some settlements and hillforts found nearby. 


South of Keswick is a neolithic stone tool production centre called the Langdale Axe Industry. This centre was created around 4000 - 3500 BCE, which would have been around the same time as the construction of Castlerigg Stone Circle. In modern times, people have discovered abandoned axes, partially completed tools, and sharp-edged fragments created by shaping huge rocks in the vicinity. They have also discovered stones used as hammers and other evidence of the mass production of axes. These axes have been found all over Great Britain, which shows how connected the Neolithic people probably were.






In Roman Britain, Cumbria was a part of the Carvetii tribe's territory. Given that the western section of Hadrian's Wall was located there, it was strategically significant. While there is a wealth of Roman archaeological material in the county's northernmost regions, there is little evidence of Roman presence in the Keswick area other than the discovery of one or more Roman roads close to the town today. The majority of the nearby villages that date from the Roman era and the years after their departure seem to have been Celtic in origin. The Celtic roots of many of the geographical names from that era, such as the River Derwent, are closely linked to their Welsh counterparts. 


Keswick was first recorded in the early Middle Ages when the Kingdom of Northumbria, stretching from the East coast to the West, was in power. This collection of Celtic and Christian inhabitants littered the Lake District landscape, including Keswick. So before the rise of Christianity and the Normans arriving in England, Keswick, although small, saw many different Pagan cultures, whether they lived in the settlements there, built stone circles near it, or built roads near it, Keswick has seen it all. 

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