Westmorland, an inland county, bounded on the NW and the N by Cumberland, on the NE by Durham, on the E and the SE by Yorkshire, on the S and the SW by Lancashire. Its outline is irregular. Its boundaries, to a considerable extent and at intervals, are formed by Windermere, Ulleswater, and the rivers Eamont and Lune. Its greatest length south-south-westward is about 35 miles, its greatest breadth is 40 miles, its circuit is about 135 miles, and its area is 500,906 acres. The surface is mainly a congeries of high uplands, diversified with moor, studded with mountain summits, and intersected with deep valleys. The heights are generally rugged and irregular, and they rise in most parts, particularly in the NE and in the W, to altitudes of from 1098 to 3055 feet. Much of the scenery is romantic or picturesque, and that in the W forms a main part of the features of the English lake region. The principal rivers are the Eden, the Lune, the Kent, the Eamont, and the Lowther. The principal lakes, besides the two great ones on the boundary, are Haweswater, Grasmere Lake, Rydal Water, Elter Water, and seven or eight tarns. Mineral springs are at Clifton, Roundthwaite, and near Shap. The principal tracts consist of Silurian rocks, lower and upper; some small tracts are Devonian; a broad belt in the NE, and considerable tracts in the S are carboniferous, chiefly limestone and shale, a broad belt in the extreme NE beyond the limestone is new red sandstone; and interspersed spots throughout the Silurian tracts are trap and granite. Gypsum is quarried at Acornbank; a grey or greenish limestone resembling marble near Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, and Ambleside; roofing slate of excellent quality at Kentmere, Whitemoss, Thrang Crag, and other places; and coarse slate, ragstone, and bluish granite, in many limited localities. A poor coal is worked on Stainmoor and near Mallerstang and Casterton; lead ore at Dunfell, Eagle Craig, Greenside, Glenridding, Hartley, and Staveley; and copper ore near Ashby, Orton, Raine, Shap, and Kirkby Lonsdale. Iron ore (hematite) is also obtained.
The soils on a few farms are clayey or loamy, but in general are gravelly and dry. Much of the hill pastures, mainly in consequence of perpetual moisture, is good. The chief crops are oats, barley, wheat, turnips, potatoes, and clover. The cattle are Durham shorthorns, Scotch breeds, and a rough long-horn breed; the sheep are chiefly a white-faced Silverdale breed, and goats are numerous. Many farms of from 10 to 300 acres are held as freeholds or copyholds subject to fines.
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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.
List of Registration Districts in Westmorland from 1837 to 1974.
Directories & Gazetteers
The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Westmorland online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.
A listing of the Wards in Westmorland, with the parishes contained in them.
Land and Property
The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Westmorland is available to browse.
Old map of Westmorland circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Westmorland circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.