Furness // is a peninsula and region in south Cumbria, England. While the name originally referred to the peninsula only, it can also refer more broadly to the whole of North Lonsdale, that part of the Lonsdale hundred that is an exclave of the historic county of Lancashire, lying to the north of Morecambe Bay. Since the boundary changes which removed the area from Lancashire, the use of the word Furness for the whole area has increased.
The area may be divided into Low Furness and High Furness. Low Furness is the peninsula itself; it juts out into the Irish Sea and delineates the western edge of Morecambe Bay. The southern end of the peninsula is dominated by the bay's tidal mudflats. The long thin island of Walney lies off the peninsula's south-west coast. High Furness is the northern part of the area, that was part of North Lonsdale but is not on the peninsula itself. Much of it is within the Lake District National Park, and it includes the Furness Fells. It borders England's largest body of water, Windermere. Additionally, the Cartmel Peninsula, a separate peninsula between the estuaries of the rivers Leven and Kent, is often included in definitions of Furness.
The town of Barrow-in-Furness dominates the region with about 60% of the population. Other principal settlements are Ulverston, Dalton-in-Furness, Coniston, Broughton-in-Furness, and Askam and Ireleth. The population of Furness is around 100,000.
The oldest record of its name is as Fuþþernessa about 1150. It probably came from Old Norse Fuðarnes = "Fuði's headland". The meaning of Old Norse fuð, which refers to the female sex organ, makes it likely that the man's name "Fuði" was a crude shipboard nickname with sexual reference, and not a formal name given by his parents.
Evidence of Roman inhabitation has remained scarce until recently, but archaeological surveys in Urswick have suggested that the local church dates to this time, and may even have been a monastery. It has also been claimed that this was the birthplace of St Patrick. Furness was, prior to Anglo-Saxon settlement, part of the British Kingdom of Strathclyde.
By the time of the Domesday Book, Furness was at the very north-western corner of William the Conqueror's kingdom, disputed by England and the Scots. The Domesday Book recorded 26 vills or townships forming the Manor of Hougun as being held by Earl Tostig. In the Domesday Book, "Houganai" or "island of Hougun" was the name given to the adjacent Walney Island. Hougun (believed to derive from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or mound) was the name given to Furness.
As the border moved northwards, the status of Furness became more settled, and the later Middle Ages saw it dominated by the monks of Furness Abbey. They owned much of the local land and administered the area from Dalton Castle; they also constructed Piel Castle. Buildings from this age are in the traditional sandstone of the region, which was later used for the Gothic style town hall of Barrow-in-Furness in the Victorian era. At one stage, the power and wealth of Furness Abbey was exceeded in the United Kingdom only by Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds. However, the monastery fell to ruins during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s. The Abbey's lands in Furness were passed to the Duchy of Lancaster in 1540.
Furness remained a remote farming and fishing district, accessible only across the dangerous sands of Morecambe Bay. William Wordsworth was among those who enjoyed the remote splendour of the area, writing a number of sonnets about local features such as Piel Castle and the River Duddon. The highland areas of High Furness began to experience tourism in the late 18th century, before the tourist boom of the Victorian era.
The fortunes of Furness changed dramatically in 1840s and 1850s, when William Schneider found iron ore deposits at Dalton-in-Furness. These deposits were spread throughout the Dalton area in Askam, Lindal and Roose as well as Dalton. The Furness Railway was built to transport this ore, with the first line running from Kirkby to Dalton and then extended down to Rampside. Rampside was not suitable for the shipment of the ore so a later line was built from Dalton to the hamlet of Barrow. With the later extension of the line to Ulverston and that town's rail link to Lancaster it provided the area with its first safe transport route to the rest of England.
The iron ore and steelworks were, at one time, the biggest in the world. The population of Barrow-in-Furness rose from a few families to 47,000 by 1881, surpassing Dalton-in-Furness and Ulverston as the area's biggest town, and engulfing a number of smaller villages along the way. The Furness Railway expanded to the mining sites at Coniston and Greenodd, and helped develop Barrow. Mining in Furness reached its peak in 1882, when 1,408,693 tons of ore were won. At the same time, the popularity of tourism in the Coniston and Hawkshead areas increased, popularised in part by the work of John Ruskin.
Tourism in High Furness was promoted by the writings of Beatrix Potter in the early 20th century. Potter was one of the largest landowners in the area, eventually donating her many properties to the National Trust. In particular, sites such as Coniston Water, Tarn Hows and Windermere became popular.
Iron and steel soon gave way to shipbuilding in Low Furness, and Barrow's docks became one of the largest in the United Kingdom. In particular, submarine development became a speciality of the town, with the Royal Navy's first submarines built there. During the World Wars, this allowed Furness to escape many of the economic problems that other areas suffered, due to the constant work provided by the military. Although tourism declined, the rural areas of Furness could rely on agriculture for survival.
After World War II demand for ships and submarines remained high, while the development of the Lake District National Park fostered tourism further. Attractions such as the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, steamers on Windermere and Coniston Water, and fell walking, caused parts of Furness to become dependent on the tourist trade.
In the early 1990s, the decline of shipbuilding led to mass redundancies in the area. The shipyard's employment figures fell from 20,000 to 3,000 in a twenty-year period. However, the shipyard at Barrow remains England's busiest and the only nuclear submarine facility in the country. Tourism has increased even more, with the Aquarium of the Lakes and South Lakes Safari Zoo among the newer attractions.
Transport has become an increasingly controversial issue, with conservation groups and local business clashing over the need for improvements to the A590 trunk road, the main link to the M6 Motorway. Proposals for a road bridge over Morecambe Bay have appeared, but are yet to progress beyond the planning stages.
The Furness region consists mostly of low-lying hills, forests and flats, with some higher ground towards the north.
The highest point of the region is Coniston Old Man at 803 m (2634 ft). Other notable summits include Dow Crag, Wetherlam and Swirl How which, together with "The Old Man", are known as the Furness Fells. Gummer's How at 321 m (1053 ft) is the highest of the foothills in the east of the region, while Kirkby Moor reaches an elevation of 333 m (1093 ft) in the south-west of Furness.
Settlements with population over 10,000
There are only three settlements in Furness with a population over 10,000: Barrow has 60% of the area's population, with Ulverston and Dalton following. Other notable towns with a population under 10,000 are Coniston and Broughton.
There are no official demographic statistics for Furness, as it is not an official district, region or county. For demographics in the largest town - Barrow - See here, or the county - Cumbria - as a whole see here.
Industry is the largest employer in the Furness region, and has been for over 100 years. Currently the biggest employers in the area are:
|Employer||Company Info||No of people employed||Location|
|BAE Systems||UK Based defence contractor (Fourth Largest in world) works on land, sea and air defence||5,000||Along the Walney Channel, takes up a vast area of the south western tip of the town|
|GlaxoSmithKline||British based pharmaceutical, biologicals, and healthcare company||570||On the outskirts of Ulverston.|
|Kimberly Clark||American corporation that produces mostly paper-based consumer products||470||Park Road - Industrial Outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness|
Furness was an exclave of the historic county of Lancashire, bordering Cumberland to the north-west and Westmorland to the north-east (see Three Shire Stone). It has been known as "Lancashire beyond the sands [of Morecambe Bay]" or "north of the sands" or "over the sands" as in Grange-over-Sands. The area formed the northern part of the hundred of Lonsdale.
Towns and villages
Towns and villages in Furness include:
- Aldingham, Askam-in-Furness
- Backbarrow, Bardsea, Barrow-in-Furness, Baycliff, Bouth, Broughton-in-Furness
- Coniston, Colton
- Dalton-in-Furness, Dendron
- Furness Abbey, Foxfield
- Gleaston, Great Urswick and Little Urswick, Greenodd
- Haverthwaite, Hawkshead
- Lakeside, Leece, Lindal-in-Furness
- Newby Bridge, Near Sawrey and Far Sawrey, Newton-in-Furness
- Roose, Rampside, Roa Island
- Satterthwaite, Scales, Stainton with Adgarley, Swarthmoor
- Walney Island
See also the Islands of Furness
Rivers and lakes
- River Brathay — forms the northern boundary along with Wrynose Pass
- Coniston Water
- River Crake
- River Duddon — forms the western boundary
- Esthwaite Water
- River Leven
- Rusland Pool
- Windermere is part of the eastern boundary of Furness
- River Winster — forms the remainder of the eastern boundary
- Duddon & Furness Mountain Rescue Team
- Furness College - a constituent college of the University of Lancaster.
- Coniston Water
- Furness Family History Society, 'Lancashire North of the Sands', Accessed August 20, 2006.
- Explore Low Furness Accessed August 20, 2006
- Furness Family History Society Accessed August 20, 2006
- Furness Family History Society 'Cartmel' Accessed August 20, 2006
- A.D.Mills, Dictionary of English place-names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-280074-4
- North West Evening Mail
- Cumbria: Hougun (The Domesday Book On-Line)
- The Place-Names of Cumberland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1952)