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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] ) is an area of Northern England which was historically a county. People of the area are known as Westmerians. [7] The area includes part of the Lake District and the southern Vale of Eden.


The county had an administrative function from the 12th century until 1974, when it was subsumed into Cumbria together with Cumberland, the Sedbergh area of Yorkshire, and the Furness area of Lancashire. It gives its name to the Westmorland and Furness unitary authority area of Cumbria, which covers a larger area than the former county. [8]

Early history


At the beginning of the 10th century a large part of modern day Cumbria was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, and was known as "Scottish Cumberland". The Rere Cross was ordered by Edmund I (r.939946) to serve as a boundary marker between England and Scotland ("Scottish Cumberland"). [lower-alpha 3]

County of Westmorland

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 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. [10] 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.


Hand-drawn map of Westmorland and Cumberland by Christopher Saxton from 1576 Westmorlandia Cumberlandia Atlas.jpg
Hand-drawn map of Westmorland and Cumberland by Christopher Saxton from 1576

Westmorland bordered Cumberland to the north, County Durham and Yorkshire to the east, and Lancashire to the south and west. Windermere formed 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 the County Hall in Kendal, although the assizes were held in the Shire Hall in the historic county town of Appleby. [15] [16] 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: [17]

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. [18] The area formed parts of the districts of South Lakeland and Eden from 1974 to 2023.

In July 2021 Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the dissolution of Cumbria County Council and its six district councils and their replacement in April 2023 by two unitary authorities: Cumberland, and Westmorland and Furness. The latter re-united and re-established historic Westmorland within a single administrative unit, along with the Furness (Lancs), Penrith (Cumberland) and Sedbergh (Yorks) areas. [19]


J. E. Marr explains the name "Westmorland" thus:

The name applied to the district by the Anglo-Saxons was originally Westmoringaland, 'the land of the people of the western moors,' in distinction from that of the people of the eastern moors, on the east side of the Pennine chain. The present name has not, however, been derived from that of Westmoringaland, but from Westmarieland or Westmerieland, used in the twelfth century, hence Westmerland. The meaning of this is land of the western meres, and not moors. Mere means boundary as well as a lake, and it is doubtful whether the word as used here refers to lakes or boundaries. There is no doubt that Westmerland is the more correct spelling [...]. [20]

Coat of arms

The College of Arms granted Westmorland County Council a coat 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. [21]


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

in April 2023, Westmorland reappeared on national maps as part of Westmorland and Furness unitary authority. During the intervening 1974-2023 period, Westmorland has still been 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, local government in Cumbria was reorganised into two unitary authority areas, one of which is named Westmorland and Furness and covers all of the historic county along with parts of historic Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumberland. [22]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

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

Cumbria is a ceremonial county in North West England. It borders the Scottish council areas of Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders to the north, Northumberland and County Durham to the east, North Yorkshire to the south-east, Lancashire to the south, and the Irish Sea to the west. Its largest settlement is the city of Carlisle.

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

Ambleside is a town and former civil parish in the Westmorland and Furness district of Cumbria, England. Within the boundaries of the historic county of Westmorland and located in the Lake District National Park, the town sits at the head of Windermere, England's largest natural lake. In 2020 it had an estimated population of 2596.

<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 Westmorland and Furness district of Cumbria, England. It lies within the River Kent's dale, from which its name is derived, just outside the boundary of the Lake District National Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Windermere, Cumbria (town)</span> Town in Cumbria, England

Windermere is a town in the civil parish of Windermere and Bowness, in the Westmorland and Furness district in the ceremonial county of Cumbria, England; it is within the Lake District National Park. The town lies about half a mile (1 km) east of the lake, Windermere, from which it takes its name. In 2021 it had a population of 4826.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Lakeland</span> Former local government district in England

South Lakeland was a local government district in Cumbria, England, from 1974 to 2023. Its council was based in Kendal. The district covered the southern part of the Lake District region, as well as northwestern parts of the Yorkshire Dales. At the 2011 Census, the population of the district was 103,658, an increase from 102,301 at the 2001 Census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eden District</span> Former local government district in England

Eden was a local government district in Cumbria, England, based at Penrith Town Hall in Penrith. It was named after the River Eden, which flowed 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 would be divided into two unitary authorities. On 1 April 2023, Eden District Council was abolished and its functions transferred to the new authority Westmorland and Furness, which also covers the former districts of Barrow-in-Furness and South Lakeland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Furness</span> Peninsula and region of Cumbria, England

Furness is a peninsula and region of Cumbria, England. Together with the Cartmel Peninsula it forms North Lonsdale, historically an exclave of Lancashire. On 1 April 2023 it became part of the new unitary authority of Westmorland and Furness.

<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">Lakes, Cumbria</span> Civil parish in England

Lakes is a civil parish in the Westmorland and Furness district, in the ceremonial county of Cumbria, England. In the 2001 census the parish had a population of 5,127, decreasing at the 2011 census to 4,420. It covers the town of Ambleside, and the villages and hamlets of Clappersgate, Rydal, Grasmere, Troutbeck, Chapel Stile, Elterwater, Little Langdale and Waterhead.

<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 evolved from 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. Both of them evolved from medieval feudal baronies. 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 former Eden District of the new county of Cumbria, although it did not include Penrith, which was the administrative capital of the district.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kendal Castle</span> Castle in Cumbria, England

Kendal Castle is a medieval fortification to the east of the town of Kendal, Cumbria, in northern England. The castle, which is atop a glacial drumlin, was built in the 13th century as the Caput baroniae for the Barony of Kendal. By the 15th century, the Parr family owned the castle.

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">Cumbria County Council</span> Former local authority in England

Cumbria County Council was the county council for the non-metropolitan county of Cumbria in the North West of England. Established in April 1974, following its first elections held the previous year, it was an elected local government body responsible for the most significant local services in the area, including schools, roads, and social services.

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

Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire operates both local and regional bus services in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, England, as well as Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It is a subsidiary of the Stagecoach Group, which operates bus, coach, rail and tram services across the United Kingdom.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Westmorland and Furness</span> District in Cumbria, England

Westmorland and Furness is a unitary authority area in Cumbria, England. The economy is mainly focused on tourism around both the Lake District and Cumbria Coast, shipbuilding and the port in Barrow-in-Furness, and agriculture in the rural parts of the area.



  1. There is some confusion here since Edward the Elder died in 924. It is assumed that it was Edmund I (r.939-946), King of the English, who ordered the stone cross. See List of English monarchs > House of Wessex.
  2. WiKtionary : Middle English < hospital > A hostel or guesthouse; a place of accommodation or lodging.
  3. Scalacronica . . .from a boundary stone, the pre-Norman stump of which still remains, and which, according to the Scala cronica (1280), was fixed by King Edward (died 946) [lower-alpha 1] as the boundary between England and Scottish Cumberland. (fn. 1) It is there called the Reir Croiz de Staynmore and the hospital [lower-alpha 2] , being near, was occasionally called Rerecross hospital but more commonly the Spital on Stainmoor. . . [9]


  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. Page 1974, pp. 321–330.
  10. 1 2 F.A. Youngs, Guide to the Local Administrative units of England, Vol.II, Northern England, London, 1991
  11. Vision of Britain Archived 28 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine – History of East ward
  12. Vision of Britain Archived 28 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine – History of West ward
  13. Vision of Britain Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine – History of Kendal ward
  14. Vision of Britain Archived 2007-10-01 at the Wayback Machine – History of Lonsdale ward
  15. "Appleby Conservation Area Character Appraisal and Management Plan" (PDF). Eden District Council. 1 February 2022. p. 59. Retrieved 26 March 2023.
  16. Jones, Sir Clement (1948). "A Tour In Westmorland". Kendal: Titus, Wilson & Son.
  17. 1971 Census; Small Area Statistics
  18. "Local Government Act 1972". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  19. "Next steps for new unitary councils". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  20. Marr, J. E. (1909). Cambridge County Geographies: Westmorland. CUP Archive. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 3-4. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  21. W. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales; 2nd ed. London, 1953.
  22. "Names for two controversial Cumbria councils revealed". BBC News. 5 November 2021.
  23. "The history of the festival". Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.


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