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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]
 • OriginBarony of Kendal,
Barony of Westmorland
 • Created13th century
 • Succeeded byCumbria
StatusHistoric county (current)[3][4][5]
Ceremonial county (until 1974)
Administrative county (1889-1974)
Chapman codeWES
GovernmentWestmorland County Council (1889-1974)
 • HQAppleby (historic county town)
County Hall, Kendal (1889-1974)
Arms of the former Westmorland County Council
Arms of Westmorland County Council
 • TypeBaronies and Wards
 • UnitsWestmorland:
•East •West
•Kendal •Lonsdale
Wards of Westmorland

Westmorland (/ˈwɛstmərlənd/); formerly also spelt Westmoreland;[6] even older spellings are Westmerland and Westmereland; the people of Westmorland are known as Westmerians[7]) is a historic county in north-west England. It formed an administrative county between 1889 and 1974, after which the whole county was administered by the new administrative county of Cumbria.

Early history[edit]

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 as part of Scotland. Before 1226, the Barony of Kendal was part of the Honour of Lancaster in Yorkshire and later a county itself while the Westmorland was part of the Earldom of Carlisle, the latter in became Cumberland and was part of Scotland at the time.

Both baronies became a single county of Westmorland in 1226/7. Neighbouring Lancashire was also formed at this time.[8] Kendal and Appleby officially became towns and boroughs, the former was only reformed as a municipal borough under 1835 act and the latter gained county town status with only borough reformed under the 1885 act.


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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

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.[8]

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:[13]

District Population
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.[14] The area forms parts of the districts of South Lakeland and Eden.

In July 2021 Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced proposals for the dissolution of Cumbria County Council and the smaller local councils to form two unitary authorities in their place. The eastern authority would reunite the entirety of Westmorland along with Furness, Eden and the Sedbergh area.[15]

Coat of arms[edit]

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.[16]


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.

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 2021, it was proposed that local government in Cumbria should be reorganised into two unitary authorities, one of which is to be named Westmorland and Furness and would cover most of the historic county along with parts of historic Lancashire and Cumberland.[17]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b "Eric Pickles: celebrate St George and England's traditional counties". Department for Communities and Local Government. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b F.A. Youngs, Guide to the Local Administrative units of England, Vol.II, Northern England, London, 1991
  9. ^ Vision of Britain – History of East ward
  10. ^ Vision of Britain – History of West ward
  11. ^ Vision of Britain Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine – History of Kendal ward
  12. ^ Vision of Britain Archived 2007-10-01 at the Wayback Machine – History of Lonsdale ward
  13. ^ 1971 Census; Small Area Statistics
  14. ^ "Local Government Act 1972". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  15. ^ "Next steps for new unitary councils". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  16. ^ W. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales; 2nd ed. London, 1953
  17. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-59183200
  18. ^ "The history of the festival". Retrieved 22 January 2014.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°30′N 2°35′W / 54.500°N 2.583°W / 54.500; -2.583