Cockermouth is an ancient market town and civil parish in the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England, and is so named because it is at the confluence of the River Cocker as it flows into the River Derwent. The mid-2010 census estimates state that Cockermouth has a population of 8,204, increasing to 8,761 at the 2011 Census.
Historically a part of Cumberland, Cockermouth is situated outside the English Lake District on its northwest fringe. Much of the architectural core of the town remains unchanged since the basic medieval layout was filled in the 18th and 19th centuries. The regenerated Market place is now a central historical focus within the town and reflects events during its 800-year history. The town is prone to flooding, being flooded in 2005, again much more severely on 19 November 2009 and on 5 December 2015.
The centre of Cockermouth retains much of its historic character and the renovation of Market Place has been completed, now with an artistic and community focus. The Kirkgate Centre is the town’s major cultural focus and offers regular historical displays by the Cockermouth Museum Group in addition to holding major cultural events including theatre, international music and world cinema. The tree-lined main street boasts a statue of Lord Mayo, formerly an MP for Cockermouth, who became British Viceroy of India and whose subsequent claim to fame was that he was assassinated.
The renovated arts and cultural zone in the 13th century Market Place has undergone something of a “regeneration” following European Union funding, and is now pedestrian-friendly adorned with stone paving and roadways, underground lighting and controversial seating in bright colours to reflect the area’s facades. Pavement art and stonework commemorate eclectic historical events, John Dalton’s atomic theory, local dialect, flooding and a curious range other memorabilia.
There is a cycleway which runs along the former Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway route, and spans a high bridge over the Cocker affording views of the town and river-scape.
Cockermouth suffered badly in the nationwide flood on 19 and 20 November 2009. Over 200 people needed to be rescued, with helicopters from RAF Valley, RAF Boulmer and RAF Leconfield retrieving about 50 and the remainder being rescued by boats, including those of the RNLI. Water levels in the town centre were reported to be as high as 2.50 metres (8 ft 2 in) and flowing at a rate of 25 knots. Many historic buildings on and adjacent to Main Street sustained severe damage, as did a number of bridges in and around the town. Recovery from the devastation was slow, with residents placed in temporary accommodation and some businesses temporarily relocated to Mitchells auction mart. By the summer of 2011 most of the damage had been repaired and buildings re-occupied, though some remained empty or boarded up.
Flooding occurred again in 2015 when the River Derwent burst its banks on December 5, with several hundred homes and businesses affected.