Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : November 2022

It’s a boozy kind of love this month in the Kirkgate Quarter.

The prosecco corks will be popping at our AW Cockfrock (that’s Autumn/Winter in fashion parlance) on 19 and 20 November, with an exclusive preview evening for Friends of Kirkgate on Friday 18th. The bar will be open.

Cockermouth Round Table’s Beer Festival is back at the Kirkgate on 24, 25 and 26 November. The barrels will be waiting for all you beer buffs!

We’re raising a glass ourselves to celebrate the installation of a shiny brand new kitchen and bar store just off our ground floor community hall, the Egremont Room.

But there’s also some sad news in town, a reason for a well-catered wake – the closure of the Kirkgate Quarter’s iconic Jennings Brewery. We take a look at its long history in this month’s KQC.



There’s a great movie line-up all the way to Christmas, featuring stories with stars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts, a 1950s cleaning lady’s encounter with the glamorous Parisian fashion house Dior, the amazing tale of how the remains of King Richard III were found under a car park in Leicester, and a slice of the life of another ‘King’ – Elvis Presley.

Check them, and our full programme, out here.

The regular films are usually shown three times a week – Friday and Monday evenings with a sub-titled matinee on Wednesday afternoons. With two big events coming up this month there’s no film screening on Friday 18th, Wednesday 23rd or Friday 25th November.

We sometimes host special film nights too – on Sunday 11 December there’s Cockermouth Rotary Club’s fundraiser, a screening of Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again (PG). Don’t miss the chance to enjoy some feel-good Mediterranean sun on the big screen as winter deepens. Abbasolutely fabulous!

Emma Johnsons Gravyboat comes to town for Jazz@Kirkgate on Sunday 27th November at 7.30pm. This will be the last Jazz night of 2022 but keep your eyes peeled for a full programme in 2023!


Our last live gigs of the year feature two very different musical genres.

Jazz@Kirkgate: Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat, 27 November, 7.30pm (doors 6.30pm)
Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat is a cinematic, melodic jazz quintet based in Leeds, led by saxophonist and composer Emma. The group won the Peter Whittingham Award to record their debut album, Worry Not, released to great acclaim in 2021. Since then, they’ve completed a national tour, welcoming audiences with live music, stories, warmth and melodic, spacious compositions that allow each band member to shine.

Christmas Party: AKA Ska Fell, 17 December, 8pm (doors 7pm)
Santa’s getting his two-tone Baggy Trousers on for our Christmas fundraiser party with local Ska legends AKA Ska Fell. There’ll be Bad Manners, Madness, The Specials and more at our last gig of 2022. This will be a flat-floor event, so bring your dancing shoes, buy lots of raffle tickets and let’s have a blast while raising money for North Lakes Food Bank, as well as supporting Kirkgate, your local live music venue.
£2 from every ticket will go to the Food Bank, plus 50% of the raffle proceeds.

AKA Skafell are ready to raise the roof on the 17th December!

Arts Out West

With the autumn season of Arts Out West in full swing, there are some great nights out to be had all over West Cumbria – at Ewanrigg and Netherton Community Centre (Maryport), The Globe Hall (Ireby), Muncaster Parish Hall (Ravenglass), Loweswater Village Hall, Blindcrake Village Hall, Plumbland Village Hall, Gleaston Village Hall, The Settlement (Maryport), The Gather (Ennerdale), and Kirksanton Village Hall. Check out the shows and dates here and use the search filter to find our Arts Out West shows.


Cockermouth’s legendary shopping experience is back on Saturday 19 November (10am – 4pm, then 7pm until late) and Sunday 20 November (10am – 1pm). Members of our Friends organisation are being treated to an exclusive evening preview on Friday 18th.

Ticket price (£2 per session) includes entry into our prize draw!

Come along to our ever-popular sale of pre-loved good-quality ladies clothes and accessories. Why not get together with the girls on Saturday night and sip prosecco while browsing the rails, or pop down in the daytime for a cuppa and a cake while you shop? There’ll be some excellent bargains for your winter and Christmas party outfits, as well as must-haves for next year.

And… did you know… fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. So do your bit for the planet while revamping your wardrobe. You’ll be even more fabulous!

Proceeds from this special fundraising event will help us keep improving the Kirkgate.


The latest upgrade to the Kirkgate Centre is a wondrous new state-of-the-art catering-standard kitchen and bar store, in a room off our ground floor community hall, the Egremont Room. The new facility is now known as ‘The Colley Kitchen’ in honour of one of our founders, Peter Colley, who died a couple of years ago.

To our great surprise, Peter left us a generous legacy which his widow, Barbara, also one of the founders of Kirkgate, agreed should go towards this improvement in what we can offer the community. Soon after we got this news, we learnt that another anonymous supporter had also left us a significant amount of money in their will!

Along with additional funding from Allerdale Borough Council, this has enabled us to fulfil a long-held ambition to have high-spec kitchen facilities at the Kirkgate. It will transform the way the Egremont Room can be used by the many community groups and businesses that hire it.  And as it’s also our bar and café space on show nights and for daytime activities, it means our volunteers are able to work more comfortably, safely, and efficiently. Emma Heys tells us more in her General Manager’s letter at the end of this newsletter.

One of our volunteers, bar manager Hugh Brodie, project managed the installation of the kitchen and has done a brilliant job, so thanks Hugh, you’re a star! And thank you so much to all who so generously funded the work.

Interested in hiring the Kirkgate?

Whether you are a business, a voluntary organisation, a community group, a public service or a local resident looking for the perfect place to hold your activities, parties, dinners, meetings or events, please get in touch with our Operations Manager Katie Gentry on or phone 01900 829966. You’re welcome to come and see all our facilities and extensive technical equipment in the Egremont Room and in the theatre upstairs before making a booking. There’s free wifi and we’re right next to a car park with 3 hours free parking. More details here.


Kirkgate is the long-running home of Cockermouth Round Table’s annual Beer Festival, running this year on 24, 25 and 26 November. Ben King, Secretary of Cockermouth 325 Round Table, tells us all about it:

‘In addition to a wide selection of ales, lagers and ciders, there are five sessions of live entertainment from local bands. We are excited to welcome Broken English (Friday) and Out on Bail (Saturday) for the first time to provide the evening entertainment. The Pete Wilson Band will be there for the afternoon sessions. In addition we’re showing the men’s football World Cup match between England and USA (Friday, 7pm kick off) so please bring plenty of cheer.

‘All this couldn’t happen without our generous sponsors, notably Cumbrian Ales who are the main festival sponsors. We are extremely thankful.

‘We are also full of praise for the volunteers from the Round Table and 41 Club who give up many hours organising and preparing for the event.

Round Table is an international organisation for young men (18-45) that holds social activities many of which raise money for good causes locally. We’re blokes from Cockermouth and surrounding villages and we promote the positive mental health of our members, so while it is men-only, that’s deliberate to give men a safe space to do ‘men talk’ (largely rubbish, but it helps!).

Ask 10 members of Round Table why they joined and you will get 10 different answers. It’s the social side, meeting new people, contributions to the local community, having a laugh, doing something different. Why not give it a try? Our next event is the Santa Sleigh (9-11 December). To find out more, speak to us at the beer festival or email us

For beer festival tickets:


This is where we feature one of our many wonderful volunteers – there are over 80 of them! We couldn’t do what we do without them, especially with so much going on at the Kirkgate lately. This month, it’s Jamie Kerr:

‘I started volunteering just over a month ago to keep myself busy while looking for a job in computer programming, as well as for some real world experience. I anticipated that it would be more interesting and satisfying than working in a shop, a point on which I was happy to be proven right.

‘Over the past month I’ve been lucky enough to have tried such a wide range of things. Listing them all would get pretty dull. However, to give a flavour: envelope stuffing, video editing, glassware cleaning, film projecting, leaflet posting, cable testing, furniture deconstructing, spreadsheet wrangling and many, many more. At no point was I dropped in the deep end and at every step, help was gladly given if asked for. I was comfortable with using computers before volunteering here, which has been helpful for the more technical tasks, but not essential to making myself useful. Out of the roles I have already named, it should be self-evident that there are many which don’t rely on computers, plus the countless not mentioned which are equally analogue.

‘It’s safe to say I’ve tried a wide range of tasks and enjoyed the whole process of learning while giving something back. Somehow by tying together moderate computer skills with mediocre practical skills and middling people skills, the big cheeses [of the Chronicle] have selected me as Volunteer of the Month. Thank you for that! It’s very satisfying to see that my effort is so appreciated.’


When the Kirkgate Centre first opened in 1995, having been converted from the old All Saints School, the first floor auditorium was named The Jennings Theatre in recognition of the support that Jennings Brewery, close by, had given to the project. Kirkgate has always felt a strong connection to our town’s wonderful home-grown beers, especially when the smell of brewing wafted over the town. Heritage volunteer Gloria Edwards tells the story of the brewery:

Last month was a sad time for Cockermouth, as it saw the closure of the Jennings Brothers Ltd brewery by owners Carlsberg Marston’s. The business was incorporated in 1887 but its story began way before that, with the opening of a small brewery in Lorton in 1828 by John Jennings.  His father William, of High Swinside Farm in Lorton, had been a maltster. John’s son (another John) ran the brewery, whilst at the same time building up a flax spinning and thread mill in High Lorton. Two of his sons (John Brown Jennings and Joseph Henry Jennings) built up the brewing business, and it thrived. They were producing beer, ale and porter for many beer houses in the area.

There were some wonderful names for the wooden casks holding the beers: kilderkins (about 18 gallons), firkins (around 9 gallons), hogsheads (54 gallons) and barrels holding 36 gallons.  These were produced by coopers, skilled workmen, who heated wooden staves to make them pliable and then dropped heated metal rings over, which cooled to hold the staves tightly in place.

Images above

  1. Entrance to Jennings Brewery
  2. Group of employees with head brewer in centre 19th C.
  3. John Jennings Junior
  4. John Jennings Senior
The Jennings brothers realised that they needed larger premises and the opportunity to move to Cockermouth came when the owner of the Old Brewery in Cockermouth, Horace Robert Wyndham, retired. He sold his business to the two Jennings brothers in 1873.  The brewery was now known as the Castle Brewery, nestling as it did beneath the Castle walls, and the brewery at Lorton closed in 1881.

Because of the Temperance Movement, tighter controls on beer houses, and the re-introduction of beer duty, the period up to the First World War was difficult for brewers. To ensure security of outlets for their beer, Jennings began buying up pubs as ‘tied’ premises.  In Cockermouth these included The Grapes, the Cordwainer’s Arms, the Spread Eagle and the Swan – of those four only the Swan on Kirkgate remains.

In the early 1970s Jennings became the last independent brewery in Cumbria.  They introduced several new beers over the years, including Border Brew (1974), Castle Bitter (1975), Cumbria Pale Ale (1978), Snecklifter and Cumberland Ale (1990), as well as Cocker Hoop, La’al Cocklewarmer and the wonderfully named Cross Buttock.

Many will miss the distinctive beers produced in Cockermouth by Jennings Brothers Ltd, created through traditional methods of brewing and the undoubted quality of the water drawn from its own well. The popular brewery tours and Brewery Shop had ceased operating some time ago.

We encourage all former workers at Jennings to let us have their memories and tell the story of Jennings – please contact us on

Get-together of Jennings employees Oct 2022 (image used courtesy of Landlady Paula Dalling, Bush Inn, 26.10.22)
Local History Illustrated Lecture, 1 December 2pm, £3.
The next in our series of monthly talks from our Heritage Volunteers is on the old Cockermouth-Workington Railway. Book here.


There’s nothing nicer than having good friends and the Friends of Kirkgate are among the best. We’re relaunching this special club with some new member benefits for the special people who go the extra mile in supporting our unique community charity.

Kirkgate is dedicated to providing creative, cultural and heritage experiences with and within the communities in West Cumbria. We think it’s really important to have an organisation like Kirkgate that does so much to add to life in our area. If you agree, please support us by becoming a Friend. From £30 a year you will enjoy various benefits including:

  • Ticket exchange
  • Priority or exclusive invitations to special events such as the Cockfrock preview
  • Occasional newsletters updating you on future plans and new developments at Kirkgate Arts and Heritage


Are you receiving our fortnightly email with the listings of what’s coming up at the Kirkgate and Arts Out West venues? Let us know if not! As a valued Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle reader you should also be receiving our listings, and occasional special offers. Email if you haven’t spotted them in your inbox.

There’s always a lot on at Kirkgate and Arts Out West venues with something for everyone: daytimes, evenings, weekdays and weekends. Search our website by category or date to find what tickles your fancy, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Kirkgate.

Check details for all upcoming shows here.

We also produce a printed list of all the films coming up every month – available in our lobby as you come in for an event, or from our Box Office which is open Mondays and Fridays 10am – 1pm.

You really won’t want to miss anything!

General Manager’s letter

Our new ground floor kitchen off the Egremont Room is transforming what we can do here at the Kirkgate Centre. We’ve always hosted weddings, funeral teas, parties and special occasions that need catering, whether by ourselves or outside caterers, but it hasn’t been easy. Staff and volunteers have had to transport everything from cutlery and crockery to hot water flasks and food up and down in the lift from the tiny first floor galley kitchen. We had very little space there, and only a kettle and a microwave passing for cooking equipment.

So to have been the beneficiaries of the generosity of supporters, who have left us money in their wills, and of Allerdale Borough Council, who recognise the importance of our organisation and venue to the town of Cockermouth and people beyond, is a great vote of confidence in our future.

The new Colley Kitchen, named after founders Peter and Barbara Colley, is bright, clean, spacious, well ventilated, and easy to use. It’s all-electric, there is secure storage for our bar stock, and we can improve on our recycling and waste management. There is instant boiling water, a rapid dish-washer, a large hob and oven. We now have proper flooring and hygienic stainless steel sinks, worktops and shelving. This will help us develop the private hire side of our business, a key contributor to the earned income that we increasingly need. At a time when energy and food costs are shooting up – ours included – we are determined to keep adapting to the needs of our community, through new initiatives like the social, friendly Warm Spot we’ve set up every Monday morning in the Egremont Room between 10am and 12 noon. You can helps us cover the costs of heating and refreshments by donating here.

We’re aiming to develop some new community projects that make the most of the new kitchen facilities, and hopefully in 2022, the Egremont Room will be ever more busy with life throughout the days and evenings.

Our hire rates are competitive and we have the added bonus of helpful and friendly staff and volunteers, and a venue that can’t be beaten for its community vibe and character. So support your local community space – please contact us if you’d like to make a booking for your private event We’d be delighted to show you our new Colley Kitchen. There’ll be tea and coffee on tap!

Emma Heys