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Ancient extent of Westmorland
Status Administrative county (1889-1974)
Ceremonial county (until 1974)
1831 area 485,990 acres (1,966.73 km2)[1]
1911 area 505,330 acres (2,045.00 km2)[2]
1961 area 504,917 acres (2,043.327 km2)[2]
HQ Appleby (historic county town)
County Hall, Kendal (1889-1974)
Chapman code WES
Origin Historic
Created In antiquity
Succeeded by Cumbria
1911 population 63,575[2]
1961 population 67,180[2]
Governance Westmorland County Council (1889-1974)
Arms of the former Westmorland County Council
Arms of Westmorland County Council
Type Baronies, Wards (ancient)

Westmorland (play /ˈwɛstmərlənd/; formerly also spelt Westmoreland[3]; even older spellings are Westmerland and Westmereland) is an area of North West England and one of the 39 historic counties of England. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974, after which the whole county was absorbed into the new county of Cumbria.

Early historyEdit

At the time of Domesday Book in 1086, parts of the county were considered either to form part of Yorkshire or to be within the separate kingdom of Scotland, having historically been associated with the Kingdom of Strathclyde. The Normans conquered the area that is now Cumbria in 1092 during the reign of William II and created the baronies of Kendal and Westmorland. These were originally distinct jurisdictions with separate sheriffs, but were formed into a single county of Westmorland in 1226/7.[4] Before 1226 the Barony of Kendal was connected to the Earldom or Honour of Lancaster while that of Westmorland was part of the Earldom of Carlisle.

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 950m (3,117 ft). According to the 1831 census the county covered an area of 485,990 acres (1,966.73 km2).[1]

Appleby, the historic county town, formed a historic borough and was not reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, although reform came in 1885. Kendal was reformed as a municipal borough in 1835.

Division into wardsEdit

Rather than being divided into hundreds, Westmorland was subdivided into the two baronies of Westmorland (or sometimes Appleby) and Kendal.

The baronies were each further subdivided into two wards:

Modern historyEdit

In 1889, under the Local Government Act 1888, a county council was created for Westmorland, taking functions from the Quarter Sessions. Westmorland 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. The county council was based at Kendal, rather than the historic county town of Appleby-in-Westmorland.

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:

  • A new Lakes Urban District was formed by the merger of Ambleside and Grasmere UDs and adjacent parishes in West Ward and South Westmorland RDs
  • East Westmorland RD, most of West Ward RD and Shap UD were merged to form North Westmorland Rural District
  • South Westmorland RD absorbed Kirkby Lonsdale UD, at the same time losing an area to Lakes UD.[4]

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:[9]

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. The area now forms parts of the districts of South Lakeland and Eden.

Coat of armsEdit

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.[10]



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.

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 1831 Census cited in Vision of Britain - Ancient county data
  2. ^ a b c d Vision of Britain - Westmorland population (density and area)
  3. ^ R. Wilkinson The British Isles, Sheet The British Isles. Vision of Britain
  4. ^ a b F.A. Youngs, Guide to the Local Administrative units of England, Vol.II, Northern England, London, 1991
  5. ^ Vision of Britain - History of East ward
  6. ^ Vision of Britain - History of West ward
  7. ^ Vision of Britain - History of Kendal ward
  8. ^ Vision of Britain - History of Lonsdale ward
  9. ^ 1971 Census; Small Area Statistics
  10. ^ W.C. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales, 2nd edition, London, 1953

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 54°30′N 2°35′W / 54.5, -2.583

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Westmorland. 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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