Magna Britannica et Hibernia
Volume 6: Westmorland
by Thomas Cox (Vicar of Bromfield, Essex) 45 pages, printed in 1731.
p34-36 Natural History
The Natural History of this County.
THE very Name of this County is thought by some to be an Epitome of its
natural Product, for Westmorland signifies a Land of Moors lying West; and
the Word, Moor, in the northern Parts of England, signifieth wild, barren
Places, so that Westmorland implies an uncultivated Tract lying towards the
West, which Character of it is partly true, and partly false. True, as to
the Barony of Kendal, which is so mountainous, that nothing else is to be
found but Hills, except a few Vallies. False, as to the Barony of
Westmorland (which is commonly called the bottom of Westmorland, from its
low Situation) which is a large, open, Champion Country, in Length not less
than twenty Miles, and in breadth about fourteen. And so far is this Part
of the County from being uncultivated, that it affords great Plenty of
arable Grounds, and many Moors, i.e. Commons of Pasture (as the Word More
signifies here and in other Counties) for here are few or no Mountains
(except that Ridge, which bounds the Country like a Bulwark) and the Moors
have been formerly ploughed, as the Ridges, which are plainly to be seen,
prove. Haying given this general description of the County, we shall
proceed to a particular One in our former Method, speaking, 1. Of the Air,
which is very sweet, healthful and pleasant, but somewhat sharp in the
mountainous Parts. Some have described it to be full of Moors and Marshes,
which sending forth filthy and noisome Exhalations, render the Air
unwholesome; but this we have shewed to be a Mistake, Moors signifying here,
only Pasture Grounds. A small Part of it borders upon the Sea, but with
little or no Prejudice to the Air: So that though it be but a small County,
it affords the Inhabitants very convenient Dwellings.
2. The Waters of this County are very plentiful and good. The
River Can, Ken, or Kent, rises at Kentmere, and being increased with two
large Brooks, which join it before it comes to Kendale, they make it a large
Stream, with which it passeth to the Ocean. This River is remarkable, not
only for its Plenty of Fish, but for its Chanel, which is stony, for a
Watercrook below Kendal, and two Catadupa at Levens and Betham, which we
have taken Notice of in those Places. But the greatest River in these
southern Parts of the County is the Lone, or Lune, which rising near
Mallerstand Forest, not far from Rissendale, gives Name to the adjoining
Tract, which is called Lonsdale, that is, a Vale upon the Lone. It appears
but small for some Time, but having received some Rivulets, and two Rivers
Birkbeck and Burrow near Orton, grows a large Stream, and waters the middle
Part of the County, and near Half the Borders towards Yorkshire, and at
length passeth into Lancashire, having received divers Brooks in the Way.
In these Parts bordering on Cumberland, but wholly in this County, lies
among the Mountains Winander-mere, said to be the greatest Lake in England.
It was called by the Saxons Winpa?nemen, from its winding Banks probably.
It is about ten Miles in Length, and paved at the Bottom as it were, with
one continued Rock, wonderful deep in some Places (as the Inhabitants
believe) and well stored with a Sort of Fish, commonly said to be had no
where else, called the Chare, which is a Sort of golden Alpine Trout. In it
are several Isles or Holmes, and the Fishing belongs to
Apelthwaite, an Hamlet in Winandermere Parish, whose Rector hath a certain
Sum of every Fishing boat in Lieu of Tithe, and a Pleasure-boat upon it.
The Rivers Rathey and Brathey, and the Chain of small Lakes called Gresmere
run into it. These are the most considerable Waters in the southern Parts
of this County.
But the most noble River in this County is the Eden, called by
Ptolemy, Ituna. It rises at a Place called Hugh-Seat-Morvill, or Hugh
Morvill's Hill, out of which two other Rivers, Eure and Swale, run into
Yorkshire. In its Course, which is long, it receives no less than twelve
Rivers and Brooks, and some of them considerable Streams, so that it is a
very large River before it comes to join the Eimot. This River (says
Cambden) may be called the Ticinus of this County and Cumberland, between
which it runs, because it falls in a clear and rapid Stream out of
Ulleswater, as the Tecin doth from the Lago Maggiore. The Ulleswater is a
Lake well stocked with Fish, and hath some Chares, tho' not so plentiful as
Winander-mere. It is fed with six small Rivers. The River Loder or
Lowther, which rises in the Broadwater Lake near Thornthwaite Forest, after
a long Course falls into the Eimot near Hornby. The Name of it seems to be
taken from the British Word Gladdwr, which signifies a Water clear, limpid,
and without Mud, all very proper Epithets for this River. The noble Family
of Lowthers take their Name from this River, and have a Seat upon the Banks
Besides these common Waters, we find some others in this County
of an extraordinary Nature, viz. 1. In Betham Park is a Spring called the
Dropping Well, that petrifies Moss, Wood, Stones, and Leaves. 2. A small
Spring, called Goudsike, a little above Rounthwait, on the North-side of
Jeffrey-mount, which continually casts up small Pieces like silver Spangles;
what the Cause is, must be left to the Naturalists to determine. 3. In wet
Mosses about Orton, are commonly dug up such subterraneous Trees as are met
with in other Parts of England, and are accounted for above. 4. At Burgh
upon Stanmore, near the Bridge in the upper Borough, hath a Spaw-well been
lately discovered. 5. Near the Head of the River Loder, at the Town of
Shap, antiently called Hepe, was in Mr. Cambden's Time a Well, which like
Euripus, ebbed and flowed several Times in a Day; but because (as our
Naturalists observe) the Breaking out of such Streams is purely fortuitous,
the Effect is not always lasting, as it happens here, for there is no such
ebbing Fountain at present to be heard of at, or near Shap.
3. Earth or Soil, which hath a general Character of Barrenness.
Mr. Speed, in his Description of this County, speaks thus of it: That it is
not commendable, either for Plenty of Corn or Cattle, being neither stored
with arable Grounds to bring forth the one, nor Pasturage to bring up the
other, so that the principal Profit of this People is by their Trade of
Clothing; but this Description is but partial. The mountainous Part of this
County, which is called the Barony of Kendal, is indeed barren, as almost
all Mountains are, yet as they afford good Pasture for Sheep, so have they
some of them, a soil fit for the Plow, and bear good, though not so much
Corn as lower Grounds; and between the Mountains there are rich Vallies
which produce excellent Pasture, but the Bottom of Westmorland, which is a
low Country, and hath few Mountains, hath both proper Land for ploughing,
and good Pastures, which are as well stocked with Cattle as other Counties,
proportionable to their Bigness; as seems plain from their plentiful Markets
at Apleby, Kendal, Ec. Among the rocky Mountains in this County there is
one called Isanparles, of great Note in the Neighbourhood, not only for its
Height and Difficulty of Ascent, but because Nature hath formed in it
several Caverns and Windings, as if she designed it for a Retreat in
4. Fire, which is almost as necessary for Life in those northern
Parts, as Food, is well provided for by Plenty of Fewel; for besides
Pit-coal, with which they all abound, this County seems to have Plenty of
Wood for Firing; for the Barony of Kendal hath Plenty of Wood upon its
Mountains; and near them, especially by the Sides of the Lone and
Winander-mere, and in the Barony of Westmorland, are divers Forests, as
Whinfield Forest in the Peninsula (which is a good Breadth of Land) between
the Rivers Eimot and Eden; Martendale Forest, which extends itself almost
the whole Length of Ulles-water, which is some Miles; Thornthwaite Forest,
and Mallerstand Forest, Milborn Forest, and Meldon Forest, besides divers
Parks, which are well stocked with Wood in both Baronies.
Herbs found in this County, and not in others, at least not so
commonly and plentifully:
Adiantum perpusillum foliis hifidis, or trifidis, small Moss
Maiden-hair with two or three Segments; found on Buzzard-rough-crag near
Allium, seu Moly Montanum floribus purpureis, Broad-leaved
Mountain Garlick with purple Flowers; in Troutbeck-holm by Great Strickland.
Bistorta minima, Small Bistort or Snakeweed; in several Places
in this County, but more plentifully at Crossby and Ravensworth.
Cratæogonon foliis brevibus obtusis, Eye-bright Cow-wheat with
short blunt Leaves; near Orton on the Side of a Brook in the Way to Crossby.
Cerasus Avium, Birds-Cherry; among the Mountains in this
Cerasus minimus silvestris fructu Cordiformi, The least wild
Heart-cherry-tree, commonly called the Merry-tree; about Rosgill.
Chamæcistus folio Pilosellæ, Hoary Dwarf Mountain Cistus, or
Holy-Rose with Cats-foot Leaves; on the Rocks near Kendal.
Gentianella Verna, seu præcox, Dwarf vernal Gentian; on the
Backside of Helse-fellnah near Kendall, and in the Parks near Birkhog by
Geranium flore variegato, Crows Cranebill with a party-coloured
Flower; in the old Deer Park by Thornthwait, fit for adorning a Garden.
Geranium montanum, Mountain Crows-foot Cranesbill; in the
Hedges, and among the Bushes in the mountainous Meadows and Pastures of this
County and Yorkshire.
Filix Saxatilis caule tenui, fragili, Stone-fern with slender
brittle Stalks, and finely cut Leaves; on old Stone Walls and Rocks,
Filicula petræa crispa, Small flowering stone Fern; at the
Bottom of Stone-Walls made up of Earth in Orton Parish, and in other Places
Filix ramose minor, The lesser branched Fern; on the Sides of
the Mountains in shady Places especially.
Gladiolus lacustris, Water Gladiole; in Ulleswater and
Gramen spicâ Gramineâ, Grass upon grass; in the Isle called
Householm in Ulleswater.
Gramen juncoides cum caudâ Leporina, Hares-tail Rush, or
Moss-crops; on Mosses and boggy Places in divers Parts of the County.
Helleborine minor floe albo, The lesser white flowered bastard
Hellebore; in the Lord Lonsdale's Wood, directly against Askham-Hall.
Hieracium fruticosum latifolium glabrum; The smooth,
broad-leaved bushy Hawkweed; by the Lake of Ullsewater.
Hieracium macrocaulon hirsutum folio rotundiore, Round-leaved rough
Hawk-weed with a long Stalk; by Buckbarrow-well in Long Sledale.
Hieracium leptocaulum hirsutum, f. rot. Small-leaved Hawkweed,
Ec. On the Rocks by the Rivulet, between Shap and Anna-Well.
Funcus parvus scapo supra paniculam compactam longius producto,
with the Shaft, produced to a great Length above its compact Panicle; near
Juniperus Alpina, Mountain dwarf Juniper, called by the
Inhabitants Savine, as well here as in Wales; upon the Tops of the
Lilium Convallium angustifolium, Narrow-leaved Lilly of the
Vallies; by Waterfall Bridge, and in other Places of this County.
Meu, or Meum vulgare, common Spignell, or Meu; in the Way from
Sedberg to Orton abundantly in the Meadows and pastures: The People call it,
Oxalis, seu Acetosa Rotundifolia, Round-leaved Mountain Sorrel;
on the Mountains of this County, and at Long Schedale near Buckburrow-Well,
Persecaria siliquosa, Codded Arsmart, or Touch me not; on the
Banks of the Winander-mere plentifully, and in many other Places.
Rubia erecta quadrifolia, Cross-wort Madder; near Orton,
Winander-mere, and in other Places of the County.
Salix folio laureo, odorato, Bay-leaved Sweet-William;
frequently found by the River Sides among the Mountains.
Tormentilla Argentea quinquefolia, Cinquefoil Ladies-mantle; on
the Rock by the Side of the Lake called Ulleswater.
Lunaria minor ramose, Branched cut-leaved Moon-wort; at Great
Vitis Idæa Magna, The great Bilberry Bush in the Forest of
Viola lutea grandiflora Montana, The yellow Mountain violet with
a large flower; commonly mixed with the mountainous Pastures in this County,
which the Cattle feeding on in May and June, it gilds, as it were, their
Teeth with a golden Colour.
Last updated: January 2005 Dave Huddart