Threlkeld is a small village four miles east of Keswick, under the shadow of Blencathra fell.
The history of Threlkeld goes back over 800 years. The name derives from Norse meaning ‘The well of the thrall’ – a thrall being a medieval term for a man bound in service to his lord, though there is no record of there having been a lord.
At the time of Neolithic Man the area around Threlkeld would have been densely wooded to a height of about 2000 feet, with the valley being an impenetrable swamp. Man’s settlement in the Threlkeld Valley goes back at least to Neolithic times, around 5000 years ago. The Stone Circle at Castlerigg and the ancient settlement below Threlkeld Knotts are witness to this. As the forests were cleared, scattered valley communities appeared, around the time of Christ. Threlkeld probably grew from such a community.
There is evidence through a few collapsed walls and ruined buildings of an early settlement here, though nothing is known of why is was abandoned. It is thought to have existed approximately from AD300-900, though it may have been occupied before Roman times.
The village was a minor ‘boom town’ at the start of the 20th century when quantities of zinc and lead were discovered in the area. Over a hundred men were employed at the local mine and terraced houses were built to accommodate them, quarrying for granite continued in the area until the 1980’s.
Today’s landscape in entirely man-made, with the trees cut down for firewood or to make charcoal, and the ground cleared to provide pasture for sheep.
The present church of St. Mary dates from 1777 and stands on the site of a previous church. The church is a fascinating place of considerable antiquity, with some interesting tombstones in the churchyard.
The village today lies on a narrow road winding its way through old cottages, and is now bypassed by the A66. The Horse and Farrier Inn dates from 1688 and is a clear reminder of bygone days.
The village hall “Threlkeld Public Room” has served the village for a hundred years. It was opened on 18th December 1901, and is extensively used for village activities, and has been recently refurbished.
Threlkeld formerly had its own station on the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway, on the opposite side of the valley, next to the (closed) Threlkeld Quarry, at the foot of Clough Head. Today the railway line is a footpath and cycle track. Three rows of terraced houses, which used to accommodate the quarry workers, stand near the station.
The Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum, and a small centre for light business has opened nearby.
The nearby Blencathra Field Centre was once a TB isolation hospital but now functions as a residential centre offering courses in biology and geography.