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Ancient extent of Cumberland
Status Administrative county (1889–1974)
Ceremonial county (until 1974)
1831 area 969,490 acres (3,923.39 km2)[1]
1911 area 973,086 acres (3,937.939 km2)[2]
1961 area 973,146 acres (3,938.182 km2)[2]
HQ Carlisle
Chapman code CUL
Origin Historic
Created 12th Century
Abolished 1974
Succeeded by Cumbria
1911 population
- 1911 density
1961 population
- 1961 density
Governance Cumberland County Council (1889–1974)
Arms of the former Cumberland County Council
Arms of Cumberland County Council
Type Wards (ancient)

Cumberland (play /ˈkʌmbərlənd/) is a historic county of North West England, on the border with Scotland, from the 12th century until 1974. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974 (excluding Carlisle from 1914) and now forms part of Cumbria.

Early history and formation of countyEdit

What was to become Cumberland had a complicated political history before the 12th century. The first record of the term "Cumberland" appears in 945, when the Anglo Saxon Chronicle recorded that the area was ceded to Malcolm I of Scotland by King Edmund of England. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 most of the future county remained part of Scotland although some villages in the far south west, which were the possessions of the Earl of Northumbria, were included in the Yorkshire section with the Furness region.[3]

In 1092 King William Rufus of England invaded the Carlisle district, settling it with colonists. He created an Earldom of Carlisle, and granted the territory to Ranulf Meschyn. In 1133 Carlisle was made the see of a new diocese, identical with the area of the earldom.[4] However, on the death of King Henry I in 1135, the area was regained by Scotland's King David I. He was able to consolidate his power and made Carlisle one of his chief seats of government, while England descended into a lengthy civil war.[3] In 1157 Henry II of England resumed possession of the area from Malcolm IV of Scotland, and formed two new counties from the former earldom: Westmorland and "Carliol". The silver-mining area of Alston, previously associated with the Liberty of Durham, was also added to the new county of Carliol for financial reasons.[4] By 1177 the county of Carliol was known as Cumberland.[5] The border between England and Scotland was made permanent by the Treaty of York in 1237.

Boundaries and subdivisionsEdit

The boundaries formed in the 12th century did not change substantially over the county's existence. It bordered four English counties and two Scottish counties. These were Northumberland and County Durham to the east; Westmorland to the south, the Furness part of Lancashire to the southwest; Dumfriesshire to the north and Roxburghshire to the northeast.

To the west the county was bounded by the Solway Firth and the Irish Sea. The northern boundary was formed by the Solway Estuary and the border with Scotland running east to Scotch Knowe at Kershope Burn. The boundary ran south from Scotch Knowe along the Cheviot Hills, then followed a tributary of the River Irthing and crossed Denton Fell to the River Tees. From Tees Head the boundary crossed the Pennines to descend Crowdundale Beck, from where it followed the rivers Eden and Eamont to the centre of Ullswater. The line then followed the Glencoin Beck to the top of the Helvellyn ridge, thence to Wrynose Pass and along the River Duddon to the sea near Millom.[5]

The highest point of the county was Scafell Pike at 3,208 feet (978 m); it is the highest mountain in England. Carlisle was the county town.

Division into wardsEdit


Map of Cumberland showing wards, 1824

The Earldom of Carlisle was divided into baronies, but on the creation of the county these were replaced by wards. These took the place of hundreds found in most other English counties, and originated in military subdivisions organised for the defence of the county from incursions by Scottish troops.[5]

[6] Each ward was composed of a number of parishes, areas originally formed for ecclesiastical administration. In common with other counties of northern England, many parishes in Cumberland were very large, often consisting of a number of distinct townships and hamlets. Many of these subdivisions were eventually to become civil parishes and form the lowest level of local government. The wards and their constituent parishes in 1821 were:[7][8]

Ward Parishes Notes
Allerdale above Derwent
Beckermet St John Included part of township of Calder & Beckermet or Calderbridge
Beckermet St Bridget Included townships of Ennerdale & Kinniside, Eskdale & Wasdale
Brigham Included townships of Blindbothel, Buttermere, Cockermouth, Eaglesfield, Embleton, Greysouthen, Mosser, Setmurthey, Whinfell
Crosthwaite (part) Included township of Borrowdale
Drigg and Carlton
Gosforth Included township of Bolton
Irton with Santon Included township of Santon & Murthwaite
Lamplugh Included townships of Kelton & Winder, Murton
Lorton Included townships of Brackenthwaite, Wythop
Millom Included hamlet of Birker with Austhwaite, township of Ulpha
Moresby Included township of Parton
Ponsonby Included part of township of Calder & Beckermet or Calderbridge
St Bees Include townships of Hensingham, Lowside Quarter, Netherwasdale, Preston Quarter, Rottington, Sandwith, Wheddicarr, Whitehaven
Workington Included townships of Great Clifton, Little Clifton, Stainburn, Winscales
Allerdale below Derwent Allhallows
Aspatria Including townships of Hayton & Mealo, Oughterside & Allerby
Bolton Including townships of Bolton Gate, Bolton Wood & Quarry Hill, Bolton Lowside, Isel Old Park, Sunderland
Bridekirk Including townships of Dovenby, Great Broughton, Little Broughton
Bromfield (part) Including townships of Allonby, Langrigg & Mealrigg, Papcastle, Tallentire, Westnewton
Caldbeck (part)
Cammerton Including township of Seaton
Crosscanonby Including townships of Birkby & Canonby, Blennerhasset & Kirkland, Crosby, Maryport
Crosthwaite (part) Included townships of Castlerigg St John's & Wythburn, Keswick, Ribton, Underskiddaw
Dearham Including township of Ellenborough & Ewanrigg
Holme Cultram Including townships of Abbey Quarter (or Holme Abbey), Holme East Waver Quarter, Holme St Cuthbert's Quarter, Holme Low Quarter
Ireby Including townships of High Ireby, Low Ireby
Isel Including township of Blindcrake and Redmain
Torpenhow Including townships of Bewaldeth and Snittlegarth, Bothel & Thrupland
West Ward
Cumberland Aikton
Bowness Included townships of Anthorn, Drumburg, Fingland
Bromfield (part) Included townships of Blencogo, Dundraw
Burgh by Sands
Carlisle, St Mary's (part)† Townships of Caldewgate Quarter, Cummersdale Quarter, Wreay
Carlisle St Mary Within† Included township of Rickergate Quarter
Carlisle St Cuthbert's Within†
Carlisle St Cuthbert's Without†
Kirkandrews upon Eden
Orton Included township of Baldwinholme
Sebergham Low and High Quarters
Wigton Included townships of Oulton Water, Waverton High & Low, Woodside Quarter
Arthuret Included townships of Braconhill, Lineside, Longtown, Netherby
Crosby High & Low
Cumrew Outside and Inside
Cumwhitton Included township of Northsceugh
East Farlam
Hayton Included townships of Little Crosby, Fenton & Faugh, Talkin
Irthington Included townships of Kingwater, Laversdale, Newby, Newtown
Kingmoor (hamlet) Extra-parochial liberty belonging to the Corporation of Carlisle
Kirkandrews upon Esk Included townships of Kirkandrews Moat, Kirkandrews Nether Quarter, Kirkandrews Upper Quarter, Nichol Forest
Kirklinton Included townships of Hethersgill, Westlinton (or Levington)
Lanercost Included townships of Askerton, Burtholme & Banks, Lineside
Nether Denton
Scaleby East and West
Stapleton Included townships of Belbank, Solport Quarter, Trough
Upper Denton
Walton High and Low
West Farlam
Addingham Included townships of Gamblesby, Glassonby, Hunsonby & Winskill
Ainstable and Rushcroft
Alston with Garrigill Included the Chapelry of Garrigill and the Liberty of The Fell
Caldbeck (part) Township of Mosedale
Carlisle, St Mary's (part) Township of Middlesceugh & Braithwaite
Castle Sowerby
Edenhall Included township of Langwathby
Great Salkeld
Greystoke Included townships of Berrier & Murrah, Bowscale, Matterdale, Mungrisdale, Threlkeld, Watermillock
Hesket in the Forest
Hutton in the Forest Included townships of Hutton John, Hutton Roof, Hutton Soil, Thomas Close
Kirkland Included townships of Culgaith, Kirkland & Blencarn
Kirkoswald Included township of Staffield
Lazonby Included township of Plumpton Wall
Newton Reigny Included township of Catterlen
Penrith Included townships of Middlegate, Netherend & Bridge, Burrowgate, Town Head, Dockray, Plumpton Head and Carleton

† Parts or all of these parishes and townships constituted the City of Carlisle, and were largely outside the jurisdiction of Cumberland Ward.

Local government from the 19th centuryEdit

During the 19th century a series of reforms reshaped the local government of the county, creating a system of district with directly-elected councils.

Poor law and municipal reformEdit

File:Cumberland Lewis.png

The first changes concerned the administration of the poor law, which was carried at parish level. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 provided for the grouping of parishes into poor law unions, each with a central workhouse and an elected board of guardians. Cumberland was divided into nine unions: Alston with Garrigill, Bootle, Brampton, Carlisle, Cockermouth, Longtown, Penrith, Whitehaven and Wigton.[7]

In the following year the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 was passed, reforming boroughs and cities in England and Wales as municipal boroughs with a uniform constitution. The corporation of the City of Carlisle was accordingly remodelled with a popularly elected council consisting of a mayor, aldermen and councillors.

Local boards and sanitary districtsEdit

Outside of municipal boroughs, there was no effective local government until the 1840s. In response to poor sanitary conditions and outbreaks of cholera, the Public Health Act 1848 and the Local Government Act 1858 allowed for the formation of local boards of health in populous areas. Local boards were responsible inter alia for water supply, drainage, sewerage, paving and cleansing. Eleven local boards were initially formed at Brampton, Cleator Moor, Cockermouth, Egremont, Holme Cultram, Keswick, Maryport, Millom, Penrith, Whitehaven, Wigton and Workington.[7]

Further reform under the Public Health Act 1875 saw the creation of sanitary districts throughout England and Wales. The existing municipal boroughs and local boards became "urban sanitary districts", while "rural sanitary districts" were formed from the remaining areas of the poor law unions.

Three more local boards were formed: Arlecdon and Frizington in 1882, Harrington in 1891 and Aspatria in 1892. In addition Workington and Whitehaven received charters of incorporation to become municipal boroughs in 1883 and 1894 respectively.

Local government acts of 1888 and 1894Edit

In 1889, under the Local Government Act 1888, the Cumberland County Council was created as the county council for Cumberland, taking over administrative functions from the Court of Quarter Sessions. The Local Government Act 1894 reconstituted the existing sanitary districts as urban districts and rural districts, each with an elected council.

The Act of 1888 also allowed any municipal borough with a population of 50,000 people or more to become a "county borough", independent of county council control. In 1914, Carlisle successfully applied for this status, ceasing to form part of the administrative county, although remaining within Cumberland for the purposes such as Lieutenancy and shrievalty.[7]

Reform in 1934Edit

The Local Government Act 1929 imposed the duty on county councils of reviewing the districts within their administrative county so as to form more efficient units of local government. In general, this meant the merging of small or lightly populated areas into larger units. A review was carried in Cumberland in 1934. The following table lists the urban and rural districts before and after the changes.[7]

District 1894–1934 District 1934–1974
Alston with Garrigill RD
Arlecdon & Frizington UD Part of Ennerdale RD
Aspatria UD Absorbed by Wigton RD
Bootle RD Part of Millom RD
Brampton RD Part of Border RD
Carlisle RD Part of Border RD
Cleator Moor UD Part of Ennerdale RD
Cockermouth RD
Cockermouth UD
Egremont UD Part of Ennerdale RD
Harrington UD Absorbed by Workington MB
Holme Cultram UD Absorbed by Wigton RD
Keswick UD
Longtown RD Part of Border RD
Maryport UD
Penrith RD
Penrith UD
Whitehaven RD Part of Ennerdale RD

The distribution of population in 1971 was as follows:[9]

County Borough of Carlisle 71,580
Cockermouth Urban District 6,366
Keswick Urban District 5,184
Maryport Urban District 11,612
Penrith Urban District 11,308
Municipal Borough of Whitehaven 26,721
Municipal Borough of Workington 28,431
Alston with Garrigill Rural District 1,917
Border Rural District 29,267
Cockermouth Rural District 21,520
Ennerdale Rural District 30,983
Millom Rural District 14,088
Penrith Rural District 11,380
Wigton Rural District 21,830

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the administrative county and county borough were abolished and their former area was combined with Westmorland and parts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire to form the new county of Cumbria. The area from Cumberland went on to form the districts of Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland and part of Eden.[10]


The name continues in use as a geographical and cultural term, and it survives in Cumberland sausages, the HMS Cumberland, which is nicknamed "The fighting sausage", the Cumberland County Cricket Club, the Cumberland Fell Runners Club, the Cumberland Athletics Club, and organisations and companies, such as the local newspapers The Cumberland News, and The West Cumberland Times and Star, and the Cumberland Building Society.

In June 1994, during the 1990s UK local government reform, the Local Government Commission published draft recommendations, suggesting as one option a North Cumbria unitary authority (also including Appleby, the historic county town of Westmorland). It also suggested that Cumberland could be reinstated as an independent ceremonial county. 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.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Grass-of-Parnassus as the county flower. Parnassus flowers had been associated with the county since 1951, when they were included in the coat of arms granted to the Cumberland County Council. They subsequently featured in the arms granted to Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough Council, in both cases to represent Cumberland.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 1831 Census cited in Vision of Britain – Ancient county data
  2. ^ a b c d Vision of Britain – Cumberland population (density and area)
  3. ^ a b Barrow, G W S (2006). The Kingdom of the Scots: Government, Church and Society from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century, 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1803-1. 
  4. ^ a b "Carlisle Diocese: History and Description". Clergy of the Church of England Database. King's College, London. 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  5. ^ a b c Marr, J E (1910). Cambridge County Geographies: Cumberland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  6. ^ W L Warren (1984). "The Myth of Norman Administrative Efficiency: The Prothero Lecture". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., Vol. 34. Royal Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Youngs, Frederic A, Jr. (1991). Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, Vol.2: Northern England. London: Royal Historical Society. pp. 648–649. ISBN 0-86193-127-0. 
  8. ^ Whillier, Thomas (1825). A General Directory to all the Counties, Hundreds, Ridings, Wapentakes, Divisions, Cities, Boroughs, Liberties, Parishes, Townships, Tythings, Hamlets, Precincts, Chapelries &c. &c. in England. London: Joseph Butterworth & Son. pp. 28–31. 
  9. ^ 1971 Census; Small Area Statistics
  10. ^ Local government in England and Wales: A Guide to the New System. London: HMSO. 1974. ISBN 0-11-750847-0. 
  11. ^ Detail taken from a copy of Cumberland Heritage published by Victor Gollancz, London in 1970 with an ISBN of 0 575 00376 6

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 54°45′N 3°00′W / 54.75, -3

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Cumberland. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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