Kendal’s first museum was formed in 1796 by William Todhunter who exhibited a collection of fossils, plants, minerals, animals and antiques.
In 1835 the Kendal Literary and Scientific Society took over the museum. The society included among its members Dr Thomas Gough, Professor Adam Sedgwick, John Ruthven and Dr John Dalton. As the collection grew, the Museum had to be rehoused several times.
In the early 1900s money problems forced the sale of some exhibits; the rest were offered to the town. In 1913 the current building – formerly a wool warehouse – was offered to the Town Council for the purposes of housing the museum.
After World War One the collections were moved to the new building and the museum was run by a series of honorary curators on behalf of the Town Council. One of these curators included Alfred Wainwright, the famous guide book author and fellwalker, who gave up his spare time for 30 years to look after the collections.