The Historic Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland

The Historic Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland

Traditionally, the North West of England comprises four Counties: Cheshire, Lancashire, Westmorland and Cumberland.

Westmorland and Cumberland, colloquially known as ‘Cumbria’ (not to be confused with the administrative area governed by Cumbria County Council since 1974), are also known as the Lake Counties. Of course, the Lake District National Park (now a World Heritage Site: ‘The English Lake District’) comprises parts of the aforementioned, together with a large portion of Lancashire North of the Sands.

There is no question that the Lake District is thoroughly deserving of its World Heritage status. It was inscribed for three main reasons: its natural beauty, the man-made landscape evolving over thousands of years, and the literary and artistic connections – think the Lakeland Poets and Beatrix Potter for starters.

Of course, there is far more to the beautiful Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland than the Lake District: Hadrian’s Wall, Appleby Horse Fair, historic Carlisle, the Westmorland Dales (part of another National Park), Calder Hall (the world’s first commercial nuclear power station), gurning, the North Pennines etc.

There are some who would claim that Cumberland and Westmorland no longer exist. So, taking Cumberland first, I should ask such folk to explain the following:

Cumberland sausages; HMS Cumberland, The Cumberland Gazette, The West Cumberland Hospital, The Duke of Cumberland, The Cumberland Building Society, Cumberland sauce, Cumberland lead pencils, Cumberland Infirmary – the list goes on.

For Westmorland, we have Westmorland Family (owner of Tebay Services), The Westmorland Gazette, The Westmorland County Show, Westmorland General Hospital, Westmorland parkin, Westmorland Shopping Centre, The Earl of Westmorland – and again, the list goes on.

Cumberland and Westmorland also have their own cricket and football associations; and add to that the legion of businesses that use the name of Cumberland or Westmorland and those doubters may start to get the message!

Cumberland and Westmorland do not appear in the Domesday Book (1086) for the simple reason that most of the area was part of the realm of the Scottish Kings at the time. The area had previously been in the Kingdom of Northumbria, and before that the Kingdom of Strathclyde. They were brought back under the English Crown by William II in 1092, where they have remained ever since (bar a brief period between 1135 and 1157).

The first record of the term ‘Cumberland’ appears in 945. The names Cumberland/Cumbria/Cymru all derive from the word “kombroges”, which was an old Celtic word for "compatriots".

In 1157, Henry II formed a new County, Cumberland, and two new baronies, Kendal and Westmorland. These baronies joined together to form the County of Westmorland, in 1226. To make matters more confusing, Westmorland was originally known as Westmoreland!

In more recent times instances of the county flags of Cumberland and Westmorland being flown have increased greatly. It is reassuring to know that Cumbrians and Westmerians still have great pride in their Historic Counties.