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Historic county
Flag of Westmorland.svg
Westmorland en 1851.svg
Ancient extent of Westmorland
  1831485,990 acres (1,966.7 km2) [1]
  1911505,330 acres (2,045.0 km2) [2]
  1961504,917 acres (2,043.33 km2) [2]
  191163,575 [2]
  196167,180 [2]
  Origin Barony of Kendal,
Barony of Westmorland
  Created13th century
  Succeeded by Cumbria
Status Historic county (current) [3] [4] [5]
Ceremonial county (until 1974)
Administrative county (1889–1974)
Chapman code WES
Government Westmorland County Council (1889-1974)
   HQ Appleby (historic county town)
County Hall, Kendal (1889-1974)
Arms of Westmorland County Council.svg
Arms of Westmorland County Council
  Type Baronies and Wards
  Units Westmorland:
•East •West
•Kendal •Lonsdale
Westmorland Wards.svg

Westmorland ( /ˈwɛstmərlənd/ , formerly also spelt Westmoreland; [6] even older spellings are Westmerland and Westmereland) is a historic county in North West England. It formed an administrative county between 1889 and 1974, after which the whole county was administered by the new administrative and ceremonial county of Cumbria. The people of Westmorland are known as Westmerians. [7] In April 2023, it is planned that local government in Cumbria will be reorganised into two unitary authorities, one of which is to be named Westmorland and Furness and would cover all of the historic county along with parts of historic Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumberland. [8]


Early history

At the time of Domesday Book in 1086, the county did not exist; half was considered to form part of Yorkshire and the other half as part of Scotland. Before 1226, the Barony of Kendal was part of the Honour of Lancaster while the Barony of Westmorland was part of the Earldom of Carlisle, the latter became Cumberland and was part of Scotland at times.

Both baronies became a single county of Westmorland in 1226/7. Neighbouring Lancashire was also formed at this time. [9] Appleby was the historic county town, having been chartered in 1179. It was a parliamentary borough from 1295-1832, and incorporated by letters patent in 1574.


The historic county boundaries are with Cumberland to the north, County Durham and Yorkshire to the east, and Lancashire to the south and west. Windermere forms part of the western border with Lancashire north of the sands, and Ullswater part of the border with Cumberland. The highest point of the county is Helvellyn at 3,117 feet (950 metres). According to the 1831 census the county covered an area of 485,990 acres (196,670 hectares). [1]

Division into wards

Westmorland was subdivided into the two baronies of Westmorland (or sometimes Appleby) and Kendal. As with Cumberland, Durham and Northumberland it was divided into wards. The baronies were each further subdivided into two wards:

Modern history

In 1889, under the Local Government Act 1888, a county council was created for Westmorland, taking functions from the quarter sessions. The county council was based at Kendal, rather than the historic county town of Appleby. Kendal had been chartered as a municipal borough in 1835, Appleby in 1885. The county had no county boroughs throughout its history, so the administrative county, the area under the control of the county council, was coterminous with the geographic county.

Aside from the two municipal boroughs of Kendal and Appleby, the Local Government Act 1894 divided the county into urban districts and rural districts:

In 1905 a new Shap urban district was formed, while Windermere absorbed the neighbouring Bowness UD.

A County Review Order in 1935 reduced the number of districts in the county:

Despite their title, many of Westmorland's urban districts, such as Lakes, Grasmere, and Shap, were quite rural in character.

According to the 1971 census, Westmorland was the second least populated administrative county in England, after Rutland. The distribution of population was as follows: [14]

Municipal Borough of Appleby 1,944
Municipal Borough of Kendal 21,602
Lakes Urban District 5,815
Windermere Urban District 8,065
North Westmorland Rural District 14,778
South Westmorland Rural District 20,633

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the county council was abolished and its former area was combined with Cumberland and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire to form the new county of Cumbria, administered by a new Cumbria County Council. [15] The area forms parts of the districts of South Lakeland and Eden.

In July 2021 Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced proposals for the dissolution of Cumbria County Council and its six district councils and its replacement by two unitary authorities: Cumberland, and Westmorland and Furness. The latter would re-unite and re-establish historic Westmorland within a single administrative unit, along with the Furness, Eden and Sedbergh areas. [16]

Coat of arms

Westmorland County Council was granted a coat of arms by the College of Arms in 1926. The design of the shield referred to the two components of the county: on two red bars (from the arms of the de Lancaster family, Barons of Kendal) was placed a gold apple tree (from the seal of the borough of Appleby, for the Barony of Westmorland). The crest above the shield was the head of a ram of the local Herdwick breed. On the ram's forehead was a shearman's hook, a tool used in the handling of wool. The hook was part of the insignia of the borough of Kendal, the administrative centre of the county council. [17]


Map of Westmorland, 1824 Gray1824.westmoreland.jpg
Map of Westmorland, 1824

Westmorland is still used as a place name by organisations and businesses in the area such as:

The southern part of the county, the former Barony of Kendal or that part of Westmorland that is part of South Lakeland, is included in the Westmorland and Lonsdale parliamentary constituency.

In June 1994, during the 1990s UK local government reform, the Local Government Commission published draft recommendations suggesting that Westmorland's border with Yorkshire and Lancashire be restored for ceremonial purposes. The final recommendations, published in October 1994, did not include such recommendations, apparently due to lack of expression of support for the proposal to the commission.

In September 2011, the Westmorland Association, a local society which promotes the county's identity, successfully registered the Flag of Westmorland with the Flag Institute.

In 2013, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, formally recognised and acknowledged the continued existence of England's 39 historic counties, including Westmorland. [3] [4] [5]

In April 2023, it is proposed that local government in Cumbria will be reorganised into two unitary authorities, one of which is to be named Westmorland and Furness and would cover most of the historic county along with parts of historic Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumberland. [18]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cumbria</span> Ceremonial county of England

Cumbria is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in North West England, bordering Scotland. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local government, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. Cumbria's county town is Carlisle, in the north of the county. The only other major urban area is Barrow-in-Furness on the south-western tip of the county.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ambleside</span> Human settlement in England

Ambleside is a town and former civil parish, now in the parish of Lakes, in Cumbria, in North West England. Historically in Westmorland, it marks the head of Windermere, England's largest natural lake. In the Lake District National Park, it is south of the highest road pass in the Lake District, Kirkstone Pass and both places are the meeting point of well-marked paths and mountain hiking trails. In 2020 it had an estimated population of 2596. In 1961 the parish had a population of 2562.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cumberland</span> Historic county of England

Cumberland is a historic county in North West England that had an administrative function from the 12th century until 1974. It is bordered by the historic counties of Northumberland to the north-east, County Durham to the east, Westmorland to the south-east, Lancashire to the south, and the Scottish counties of Dumfriesshire and Roxburghshire to the north. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974 and now forms part of Cumbria. In April 2023, local government in Cumbria will be reorganised into two unitary authorities; one of these is to be named Cumberland and would include most of the historic county, with the exception of Penrith and the surrounding area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kendal</span> Cumbrian town in England

Kendal, once Kirkby in Kendal or Kirkby Kendal, is a market town and civil parish in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria, England, 8 miles (13 km) south-east of Windermere and 19 miles (31 km) north of Lancaster. Historically in Westmorland, it lies within the dale of the River Kent, from which its name is derived. At the 2011 Census, the town had a population of 28,586, making it the third largest town in Cumbria after Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness. It is renowned today mainly as a centre for shopping, for its festivals and historic sights, including Kendal Castle, and as the home of Kendal Mint Cake. The town's grey limestone buildings have earned it the sobriquet "Auld Grey Town".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Appleby-in-Westmorland</span> Market town in Cumbria, England

Appleby-in-Westmorland is a market town and civil parish in the Eden District of Cumbria, England, with a population of 3,048 at the 2011 Census. Crossed by the River Eden, Appleby was the county town of the historic county of Westmorland. It was known just as Appleby until 1974–1976, when the council of the successor parish to the borough changed it to retain the name Westmorland, which was abolished as an administrative area under the Local Government Act 1972. It lies 14 miles (23 km) south-east of Penrith, 32 miles (51 km) south-east of Carlisle, 27 miles (43 km) north-east of Kendal and 45 miles (72 km) west of Darlington.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kirkby Lonsdale</span> Town in S Lakeland district of Cumbria, England

Kirkby Lonsdale is a town and civil parish in the South Lakeland district of Cumbria, England, on the River Lune. Historically in Westmorland, it lies 13 miles (21 km) south-east of Kendal on the A65. The parish recorded a population of 1,771 in the 2001 census, increasing to 1,843 at the 2011 Census. Notable buildings include St Mary's Church, a Norman building with fine carved columns. The view of the River Lune from the churchyard is known as Ruskin's View after John Ruskin, who called it one of the loveliest in England. It was painted by J. M. W. Turner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Lakeland</span> District in England

South Lakeland is a local government district in Cumbria, England. The population of the non-metropolitan district was 102,301 according to the 2001 census, increasing to 103,658 at the 2011 Census. Its council is based in Kendal. It includes much of the Lake District as well as northwestern parts of the Yorkshire Dales.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eden District</span> Local government district in Cumbria, England

Eden is a local government district in Cumbria, England, based at Penrith Town Hall in Penrith. It is named after the River Eden, which flows north through the district toward Carlisle. Its population of 49,777 at the 2001 census, increased to 52,564 at the 2011 Census. A 2019 estimate was 53,253. In July 2021 it was announced that in April 2023, Cumbria will divide into two unitary authorities. Eden District Council will cease and its functions pass to a new authority, Westmorland and Furness, covering the current districts of Barrow-in-Furness, Eden and South Lakeland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Westmorland and Lonsdale (UK Parliament constituency)</span> Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1983 onwards

Westmorland and Lonsdale is a constituency in the south of Cumbria, represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2005 by Tim Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats (2015–2017).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Westmorland Rural District</span>

South Westmorland was a rural district in Westmorland, England from 1894 to 1974. It saw various boundary changes during its existence, particularly in 1935, when it absorbed Kirkby Lonsdale urban district, whilst parts merged with Ambleside and Grasmere Urban Districts to form Lakes Urban District at the same time. The district was abolished in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, with the area becoming part of the South Lakeland district of Cumbria.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barony of Kendal</span> Subdivision of the English historic county of Westmorland

The Barony of Kendal is a subdivision of the English historic county of Westmorland. It is one of two ancient baronies that make up the county, the other being the Barony of Westmorland. In 1974, the entire county became part of the modern county of Cumbria and ceased to have an administrative function. At the same time, Kendal borough along with some other rural and urban districts in Westmorland was merged with the neighbouring parts of Lancashire, Furness and Cartmel, and also the Sedbergh Rural District of the West Riding of Yorkshire into the new South Lakeland district of the new county.

The Barony of Westmorland also known as North Westmorland, the Barony of Appleby, Appleshire or the Bottom of Westmorland, was one of two baronies making up the English historical county of Westmorland, the other being the Barony of Kendal. Geographically, the barony covered the northern part of the larger county of the same name, and was divided into two wards – East Ward and West Ward. It covered an area similar to that of the Eden District of the new county of Cumbria, although it did not include Penrith, which is now the administrative capital of the district.

Westmorland in North West England was abolished in 1974 following Ted Heath's Local Government Act 1972. Westmorland became a part of Cumbria along with Cumberland, parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, including the Furness peninsular. In 2022 Westmorland was reconstituted as Westmorland and Furness following the abolition of Cumbria County Council. Westmorland and Furness have no High Sheriff as Cumbria has remained the ceremonial county.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire</span> Bus operator

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flag of Westmorland</span> Flag of English historic county

The Westmorland flag is the flag of the historic county of Westmorland. It was registered with the Flag Institute as the flag of the county in 2011.

The Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, founded in 1866, is a local historical, antiquarian, archaeological and text publication society and registered charity covering the modern county of Cumbria.

The Cumbria Rugby Union is the governing body for the sport of rugby union in the county of Cumbria in England. The union is the constituent body of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) for Cumbria, and administers and organises rugby union clubs and competitions in the county. It also administers the Cumbria rugby representative teams.

The Westmorland and Furness Cup was a rugby union knock-out club competition first organised by the Westmorland and Furness Rugby Football Unions. The original incarnation of the cup was believed to have been formed in the 1890s around the same time as the better known Cumberland Challenge Cup but records of its history are scarce. The modern version of the Westmorland and Furness Cup was first introduced during the 1964–65 season and was won by Windermere.


  1. 1 2 1831 Census cited in Vision of Britain - Ancient county data
  2. 1 2 3 4 Vision of Britain – Westmorland population (density and area)
  3. 1 2 "Eric Pickles: celebrate St George and England's traditional counties". Department for Communities and Local Government. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  4. 1 2 Kelner, Simon (23 April 2013). "Eric Pickles's championing of traditional English counties is something we can all get behind". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  5. 1 2 Garber, Michael (23 April 2013). "Government 'formally acknowledges' the Historic Counties to Celebrate St George's Day". Association of British Counties. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  6. R. Wilkinson The British Isles, Sheet The British Isles. Vision of Britain
  7. Join the Westmorland Association
  8. "Names for two controversial Cumbria councils revealed". BBC News. 5 November 2021.
  9. 1 2 F.A. Youngs, Guide to the Local Administrative units of England, Vol.II, Northern England, London, 1991
  10. Vision of Britain – History of East ward
  11. Vision of Britain – History of West ward
  12. Vision of Britain Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine – History of Kendal ward
  13. Vision of Britain Archived 2007-10-01 at the Wayback Machine – History of Lonsdale ward
  14. 1971 Census; Small Area Statistics
  15. "Local Government Act 1972". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  16. "Next steps for new unitary councils". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  17. W. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales; 2nd ed. London, 1953
  18. "Names for two controversial Cumbria councils revealed". BBC News. 5 November 2021.
  19. "The history of the festival" . Retrieved 22 January 2014.

Coordinates: 54°30′N2°35′W / 54.500°N 2.583°W / 54.500; -2.583