Cumberland, a maritime and border county, bounded on the N by the Solway Firth and Scotland, on the E by Northumberland and Durham, on the SE and S by Westmorland and Lancashire, on the W by the Irish Sea. Its greatest length north-eastward is 80 miles, and its mean length about 60 miles; its greatest breadth south-eastward is 35 miles, its circuit is about 215 miles. Its area is 970,161 acres, of which about 342,000 comprise the mountainous district, and 8000 the lakes and waters. The surface is very much diversified. A range of mountains, commencing in the Crossfell ridge at the boundary with Durham and Wesmorland, extends along all these borders to the boundary with Scotland, and degenerates in many parts, especially toward the N, into wild expanses of heath. A broad tract of low land, at first tumulated, afterwards rich valley, afterwards morass more or less reclaimed, extends parallel with this range along the course of the Eden river, and onward thence to the boundary with Scotland. Another great tract of low land, prevailingly flat, and variously poor and rich, strikes westward from the middle and lower part of the Eden's valley to the Irish Sea, and lines all the shore of the Solway Firth. A great upland tract, with the Skiddaw group of mountains on the N, the Helvellyn group in the centre, and the Scaw Fell group in the S, including many summits from 2000 to 3229 feet high, enclosing numerous picturesque vales, and forming the main part of the famous Lake country, occupies most of the remaining area of the comity, measuring about 39 miles by 17, and gives scenic character to all the rest. The chief rivers are the Eden, the Croglin, the Irthing, the Petteril, the Caldew, the Line, the Esk, the Wampool, the Waver, the Ellen, the Derwent, the Ellen, the South Esk, and the Duddon. Rivulets of picturesque character, many of them with fine waterfalls, are numerous. The chief lakes are Derwent Water, Bassenthwaite, Thirlmere, Lowes, Crummock, Buttermere, Ennerdale, Wastwater, and part of Ulleswater. Picturesque lakelets and mountain tarns also are numerous. The rocks range from granite and trap through slaty formations, both without and with fossils, and through sedimentary deposits of old red sandstone, mountain limestone, millstone grit, and coal, up to new red sandstone. The igneous and the Silurian rocks occupy most of the Lake country, and the newer ones extend thence to the eastern and northern boundaries, the Solway Firth, and the sea. Bare and curious minerals occur in great variety; plumbago, and silver, lead, copper, and iron ores are found; coarse marble, limestone, and building stone are plentiful, and iron and coal are produced in considerable quantities. The native flora is surprisingly rich, and moor game abounds.
The soils are variously strong fertile loam, heavy wet loam, light dry loam, and poor peaty mould. About one-third of the entire area is waste. The crops and culture are much controlled by the character of the soils, but extensively include good rotations. Husbandry in all departments has undergone much recent improvement.
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Archives and Libraries
Cumbria Record Office and Local Studies Library, Barrow
140 Duke Street
Cumbria Record Office and Local Studies Library, Whitehaven
For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.
Directories & Gazetteers
The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Cumberland online for the period 1833-1915, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, Harrod.
Old map of Cumberland circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Cumberland circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.
The Visitation of Cumberland, 1615, is available to browse from the Heraldry page.