The first hall was built the 14th century alongside the Norman parish church for the Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary in York, but after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, it passed through the hands of various rich families until 1759, when Colonel George Romney had the place completely rebuilt by the eminent architect John Carr. The austere grey building set amidst tree-lined parkland is an imposing site, and once again, became the home for a series of well-to-do families until being acquired by the town in the late 19th century spending spree that had previously lead them to purchase Kendal Castle.
With the funds all but spent, the town opened the parkland up to the public and left the building to decay until 1950, when a trust was formed to raise funds, conduct repairs, and put together a collection. The gallery was opened to the public in 1962, displaying portraits by local 18th century favourites George Romney and Daniel Gardner and contemporary furniture by Gillows of Lancaster. The collection has continued to grow and now includes magnificent views of Windermere and the Lake District by other 18th- and 19th-century artists such as P J de Loutherbourg, J M W Turner, and John Ruskin as well as many other Georgian paintings, furnishings, and objets-d’art.
What truly sets this gallery apart for me is the decision to display the painting within a recreated Georgian setting, giving the visitor the chance to envisage the works as the artist had intended them, making this well worth a visit.
March 10, 2005
From journal Kendal: Have Your Mint Cake & Eat It