"Westmorland, county in N. of England; bounded NW. and N. by Cumberland, NE. by Durham, E. by Yorkshire, and S. and SW. by Lancashire and Morecambe Bay; greatest length, N. and S., 32 miles;. greatest breadth, E. and W., 40 miles; area, 500,906 acres, population 64,191. Westmorland presents continuous succession of mountain, moor, and fell, intersected by deep winding vales, traversed by numerous streams. The principal of these are the Eden, Lowther, Lune, and Kent, the last forming the broad estuary which terminates in Morecambe Bay. The mountains consist of various ridges belonging to the Pennine and Cumbrian chains. Helvellyn, on the Cumberland border, rises to a height of 3115 ft. The western part of the county is within the Lake District, and contains Hawes Water, Grasmere, Rydal Water, and Ullswater on the Cumberland border, and Windermere on the Lancashire border. The climate is moist. The arable land is mostly confined to the valleys, where the soil usually consists of a dry gravelly loam, well adapted for turnips, but the greater part of the county is natural pasture. A few tracts of woodland remain of the forests which formerly clothed all the hills. The mineral productions include graphite, marble, roofing slate, and some coal, lead, and copper. The only manufactures of any consequence are the coarse woollens of Kendal. The county has good communications by railway." Barclay's Complete and Universal English Dictionary 1842.
Since 1974 Westmorland has been incorporated into the present-day county of Cumbria together with Cumberland, the Furness part of Lancashire and a small part of the former West Riding of Yorkshire around Sedbergh. The name lives on in Appleby-in-Westmorland its former county town. An alternative spelling of Westmoreland was sometimes used in C18-19th.
Local information is organised within Genuki by parishes as they existed in the C19th (according to the Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers 2nd ed., Chichester, Phillimore (1995). In addition a separate page exists for Appleby the county town.
Westmorland is served by the Cumbria Archive Service and the principal office relevant for the county is:
However there will also be some useful material at other record offices, especially Probate Records which will be found at Carlisle), Preston, York (Borthwick Institute) and London (NationalArchives). Other relevant material might be found at Barrow.
The Cumbria Archives catalogue is available online with guides for different record types.
This includes Westmorland Quarter Session records at Kendal. Individual names are indexed.
The Nationa Archives Discovery catalogue indexes the holdings of the National Archives and 2500 other archives across the UK. There are over 51,000 catalogue references for "Westmorland" of which over 2800 are downloadable.
Genealogical material on Westmorland held in Kendal Library (and also Penrith Library) is described on the Cumbria Libraries Local Studies website.
The Society of Genealogists Library in London also has much useful material.
The essential book for family historians is Cumbrian Ancestors 4th edition (2014) published by and available from Cumbria Archive Service.
Also Cumberland and Westmorland: a genealogical bibliography. Stuart Raymond. 1993. Published Federation of Family History Societies - ISBN 1 872094 56 2.
Westmorland books can be searched in the catalogue of the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
The Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Antiquarian Society (CWAAS) has listing of its publications and its invaluable Transactions. These latter can be downladed by CWAAS members (up to 2006 for non-members).
Printed Transactions are held by several public libraries within Cumbria and elsewhere.
The following books (record transcriptions) have been digitised on British History Online:
- The Later Records relating to North Westmorland or the Barony of Appleby by J Curwin 1932
and has a wealth of information for North Westmorland parishes.
- Records relating to the Barony of Kendale:
- Volume 1 William Farrer & John F. Curwen (editors) (1923) CWAAS. Record Series, 4.
(20 townships of the parish of Kendal)
- Volume 2 William Farrer & John F. Curwen (editors) (1924). CWAAS Record Series, 5.
(33 townships in the parishes of Grasmere, Windermere, Heversham, Beetham, Burton and Kirby Lonsdale.)
- Volume 3 John F. Curwen (editor) (1926) CWAAS Record Series, 6.
(the barony of Kendale, plus records for individual townships supplementary to volumes 1 and 2).
- Volume 1 William Farrer & John F. Curwen (editors) (1923) CWAAS. Record Series, 4.
The worthies of Westmorland or, Notable persons born in that county since the reformation.
by George Atkinson. Published in 1849, J. Robinson (London), it is available as full-text on Internet Archive.
Worthies of Cumberland and Westmorland on Steve Bulman's site.
Cumberland and Westmorland M.P.'s from the Restoration to the Reform Bill of 1867, 1660-1867.
by Richard Saul Ferguson Published in 1871, Bell 2nd Daldy (London) available full-text on OpenLibrary.
Lords & Earls of Westmorland; Gentlemen of Note from Magna Britannica et Hibernia.Volume 6: Westmorland by Thomas Cox printed in 1731.
Earls of Westmorland Wikipedia.
The ejected of 1662 in Cumberland and Westmorland their predecessors and successors.
by Nightingale, B. Published in 1911, Univ. Press (Manchester) is available on Open Library.
MIs for certain churchyards have been published in: Monumental Inscriptions of Westmorland by E. Bellasis 1888-89. It is a 2 volume set and a copy is availablefor example in Kendal Library.n Some parishes are transcribed and searchable on Westmorland Papers. The transcripts for the other parishes are available on GENUKI Westmorland from the respective parish pages.
An index of Monumental Brasses in the county is available.
Returns for the national censuses of 1841 to 1911 are available online/on microfilm from the usual places, including Kendal Library. They are searchable online e.g. through Ancestry and FindmyPast and can be accessed for a fee through the portal of the National Archives website.
The England & Wales 1881 census is searchable on the LDS familysearch site, and is also available on computer and microfiche at Mormon Family History Centres and other libraries, and also available for purchase on CD-ROM.
Much of the 1851 census has been transcribed by Cumbria FHS and booklets can be purchased from the CFHS website shop . Names appearing in these transcripts are available in a name index from Roland Grigg. There is also 'North Westmorland - An Index to the 1851 Census' compiled by David Lowis and Barbara Slack. This indexes heads of households. For places on the 1851 census see the place index by Roland Grigg.
There was also a 'census' of 1787 (also known as the Constables' Census) the surviving returns of which are held at the Kendal Record Office of Cumbria Archives Service. The Record Office reference is WQ/SP/C. They are transcribed in Vital Statistics published by Curwen Archives Trust 1992 - ISBN 1897590008. They contain names of all householders, their families and tenants, and their occupations. There is an index to the 1787 census on Edenlinks.
There are also lists of inhabitants of Westmorland parishes 1695. These survive only for part of the Borough of Kendal and for Lonsdale Ward. They contain the names of householders, their families and servants and their occupations. They are held at Kendal RO and their reference is WD/Ry Box 32. A card index is available.
Though not actually a census, there are also Protestation Oath records for 1641 which record the males over 18 who swore an oath of allegiance (and those who didn't). These returns have survived for the East and West wards and a transcript may be available.
The earliest "census" was the Domesday Book which covered southern parts only of Westmorland.
Ecclesiastical History etc from Magna Britannica et Hibernia.Volume 6: Westmorland by Thomas Cox printed in 1731.
County Churches: Cumberland and Westmorland by J. Charles Cox
Published in 1913, G. Allen & company, ltd. (London) is available on archive.org
Cumbrian Parishes 1714 - 1725 from Bishop Gastrell's Notitia. Dr Lawrence A.S. Butler
An overview of North Westmorland church surveys is available on British History Onlone.
For Kendal Barony there is a transcript of Records of Kendale: Valores ecclesiastici also available on British History Online.
For brief descriptions see under the parish concerned, but for detailed descriptions see:
- Salter M. The Old Parish Churches of Cumbria. Folly Publications. 1998. ISBN 1871371356
- Pevsner N. The Buildings of Cumberland and Westmorland. 1967.
A comprehensive coverage of Westmorland churches and chapels is available on the GENUKI church database.
Many church photographs are available via the parish pages on this site.
There is also the discontinued Steve Bulman's Images of Cumbria and churches sites (not just Westmorland)
and included in Visit Cumbria's Churches of Cumbria
Actual church plans (mostly C19th) are available online.
Parish Registers will usually be in the Kendal Record Office, as will the Bishop's Transcripts. There should also be copies at the Carlisle Office. Listings have been published by Cumbria Archives (which will confirm which office will hold the originals)
- Cumbrian Church of England parish registers (PDF, 348KB)
- Cumbrian Methodist circuit and chapel registers (PDF, 141KB)
- Cumbrian church and chapel registers: Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregational, Friends/Quakers, other non-conformist (PDF, 123KB)
Microfilm versions should also be available through LDS Family History Centres. Use the normal sources for indexes and obtaining microfilms. In particular the International Genealogical Index (IGI) is available on the Mormon LDS Church FamilySearch site.
Westmorland parishes are searchable via:
- Cumbria FHS search interface (accessed by parish map).
- Archer Software IGI Batch Numbers.
- Hugh Wallis' interface on Rootsweb.
- a list of IGI batch numbers made available here on GENUKI Westmorland by 'Jake' Prescott.
All known transcriptions are indicated from the respective parish page here on GENUKI Westmorland.
Diocese of Carlisle Marriage License/Bonds are at Carlisle RO and have been published by Cumbria FHS/Cumbria Archive service in 6 volumes:
1 (1668-1739), 2: 1740-1752, 3: 1753-1762, 4: 1763-1774, 5: 1775-1788, 6: 1789-1800.
available for purchase from CumbriaFHS shop
Older church records include Westmorland Protestation Returns 1641-2 which record the males over 18 who swore an oath of allegiance (and those who didn't). These returns have survived for the East and West wards and a transcript has been published by M A Faraday.
There are not many Roman Catholic records for Westmorland. The county was in Hexham Diocese in 1860 and had only 2 chapels: Kendal and Dodding Green (records in Kendal record Office for 1762-1941). The best source of details of 'early' RC records is Michael Gandy, "Catholic Missions and Registers 1700-1880" vol. 5 North West England 2nd Ed. 1998 (ISBN 0 9528879 2 4).
A list of Papists of Kendale 1650 is transcribed on EdenLinks.
Non-conformist registers are usually deposited at the PRO in London. Microfilm copies for many are available in the Kendal Record Office.
Details of Society of Friends records are given on the Cumbria Archive site
General details on registration of births, marriages and deaths and their indexes are provided on the GENUKI England site.
The indexes can be searched on FreeBMD
Brett Langston has provided details of Westmorland Registration Districts 1837-1930.
Certificates of birth, death and marriage can be obtained from the Cumbria Certificate Service..
This county was divided into two grand divisions called the Barony of Westmorland and the Barony of Kendal. The former was divided into two wards called East Ward and West Ward, and the latter comprised the Kendal and Lonsdale Wards, forming the south-west part of the county. Transcriptions of descriptions from Parsons & White 1829 are given on Edenlinks.
Magna Britannica et Hibernia.Volume 6: Westmorland by Thomas Cox printed in 1731 includes topography and natural history.
Description of the county of Westmoreland by Fleming, Daniel Sir Read Online D. Quaritch; [etc., etc.], 1882 available on OpenLibrary.
Westmorland. by Marr, John Edward (1909), University Press (Cambridge county geography series) is available in full-text from Open Library.
The place-names of Cumberland and Westmorland by Sedgefield, Walter John, published in 1915, University Press (Manchester) is available as full-text from Open Library.
Black's Guide to the English Lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland by Blacks, Edinburgh is available in Open Library.
Legends of Westmorland and the Lake district. Published in 1874, Hamilton, Adams, and Co.; [etc., etc.] (London) is available in Open Library.
Old photos of Westmorland are available on the Francis Frith site.
Westmorland is now part of Cumbria and is best-known for including part of the beautiful Lake District National Park. It contains the largest lake - Windermere - and second highest mountain - Helvelleyn - in England. Many present day photographs are available on Visit Cumbria.
further Links to Westmorland, Lake District and Cumbria sites are provided.on this site.
A number of printed directories exist covering or including the county. There is a collection in Kendal Public Library covering 1829-1938.
The Leicester University project Historical directories has facsimiles of a number of directories for the county.
- Pigot & Co.'s Directory, 1828-29. [includes Westmorland]
- White's History, Directory & Gazetteer of Cumberland & Westmorland, 1829
- Post Office Directory of Westmorland, 1858
- Post Office Directory of Cumberland & Westmorland, 1873
- History, Topography & Directory of Westmorland, 1885
- Kelly's Directory of Westmorland, 1894
- Kelly's Directory of Westmorland, 1897
- Kelly's Directory of Westmorland, 1906
- Kelly's Directory of Westmorland, 1910
- Kelly's Directory of Cumberland & Westmorland, 1914
Parson & White's Directory for 1829 is indexed as Principal Inhabitants of Cumberland and Westmorland with Furness 1829, R. Grigg, Ed., Beewood Coldell, 1988 - ISBN: 1871418003 and still available on web archive: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T to V | W to Z
The details for all parishes from this directory are transcribed on Edenlinks site.
These and several other Cumbrian directories have been combined on Roland Grigg's website (Internet Archive).
Westmorland is included in Pigot's Trade Directory 1830 searchable database hosted on Rootsweb..
Use the national church database to identify a particular place in Westmorland (or to identify other places within a certain distance.
Or search the place index for Westmorland (in the 1891 census).
The index includes "Registration District", "Registration Sub-district", "Place", "PRO Piece Number" and "LDS Film Number". Enter the place-name in the text-box and press the "Search" Button.
For places on the 1851 census see the place index by Roland Grigg.
Old Cumbria Gazetteer Lakes Guides (formerly Portsmouth Univ, Geography Dept.)
History and Gazetteer from Magna Britannica et Hibernia.Volume 6: Westmorland by Thomas Cox printed in 1731.
Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516 compiled at the Centre for Metropolitan History
The Ordnance Survey site is useful for identifying and locating places.
Streetmap [for the whole of the UK] has a placename search facility for locating places
Pedigrees recorded at the heralds' visitations of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland
made by Richard St. George, Norry, king of arms in 1615, and by William Dugdale, Norry, king of arms in 1666
by Saint-George, Richard Sir Published in 1891, C. Thurman and sons (Carlisle) available in OpenLibrary.
Papers and pedigrees mainly relating to Cumberland and Westmorland, by William Jackson, published in 1892, Bemrose & sons, etc. (London), is available on Google Books.
Magna Britannica et Hibernia. Volume 6: Westmorland by Thomas Cox, 45 pages, printed in 1731.
Transcription by S Reveley, J Fisher and L Schoenwald. (Rootsweb Westmorland Listmembers) (c) 2003"
"Westmorland is an inland County, no where touching on the Sea, but bordering on the East on Part of Yorkshire and the Bishoprick of Durham, on the South on Lancashire, and on the West and North on Cumberland: It extendeth thirty Miles in Length, but is not much above twenty-four Miles in Breadth, which making it 120 Miles in Compass, it contains in it thirty-two large Parishes, in which are a great Number of Chapels of Ease, eight Marker-Towns, Six thousand five hundred and one Houses, Five hundred and ten thousand Acres of Land, which is divided into two large Baronies, viz. the Barony of Westmorland, which is a large Champian Country, and the Barony of Kendale, which is full of Mountains, or as they are called by the Inhabitants, Fells. These two Parts belong to two Dioceses, viz. the former Carlisle, and the latter to Chester.
This County was Part of the large Country of the Brigantes, of whom we having given a large Account in Cumberland, we shall supersede any Description of them here, as we shall also of the Northumbrian Kingdom established by the Saxons, of which this Shire was a Part, because we have also set down the Succession of the Kings thereof in Northumberland, to which we thought it most properly to belong, because from that County it took its Name, and thither also we refer our Reader.
How the Conqueror, after England became perfectly subject to him, dealt with this little County, our Historians are altogether silent. 'Tis probable, it was so remote from his Eye, that he little regarded it; and though his great Commanders were greedy to heap to themselves great Inheritances from the Saxons Spoils; yet this being an hilly barren Country, we do not find it disposed of to any, till the Reign of King John, who rewarded the great Services of Robert de Vipont, who had been with him at the memorable Battle of Mirabel, in which the French and Poictovins received so terrible an Overthrow; with a Grant of the Castles of Appleby and Burgh, and the whole Bailiwick of Westmorland, to hold during the King's Pleasure. This Robert still continuing in the King's Wars, had the next ensuing Year another Grant for his better Support of the Premisses, together with the Services of all those that held not by military Services, to hold to him and his Heirs, by the Wife that he then had, by the Service of four Knights Fees for all Service; provided, that he should not commit Waste in the Woods of Winesell, nor hunt in them during the King's Life, except he were there himself in Person, and saving to the King and his Heirs, all Pleas of the Crown.
In the two Baronies of Westmorland and Kendal before-mentioned, we find no Hundreds, but only Wards, Deaneries, Parishes, and Constablewicks; all which but the Deaneries, not being distinctly known to us, we are obliged to treat of the Towns in an Alphabetical Order, putting the Market-Towns in capital Letters for the more easy finding them. The Reason given by our Antiquaries, why this County was not divided into Hundreds, Rapes or Wapentakes, as all the other Counties of England are, is, because in antient Times these Parts paid no Subsidies, being sufficiently charged in Border Service against the Scots."
History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, by Joseph Nicolson and Richard Burn, 1777 is available from Google Books.
A history of Westmorland by Richard Saul Ferguson Published in 1894, E. Stock (London) is available from Internet Archive.
Bygone Cumberland and Westmorland. by Daniel Scott Published in 1899, W. Andrews & co. (London) available on Internet Archive.
Legends of Westmorland and the Lake district. Published in 1874, Hamilton, Adams, and Co.; [etc., etc.] (London) is available in Open Library.
History of Westmorland - Placenames for the County is included on the Vision of Britain site.
Some of the county was included in the Domesday Survey of 1086.
Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland is available on British History Online.
Feet of Fines - abstracts on medieval.org.uk giving details of conveyance of freehold property in Westmorland 1360-1485.
Information on manors is available on Lancaster University's Cumbrian Manorial Records website.
The Manorial Documents Register can be searched by selecting Westmorland as the county. As of November 2020, there were catalogued 3546 items, distributed between the following archives:
- Cumbria Archive Centre
- Carlisle (2,367)
- Kendal (743)
- Whitehaven (24)
- Barrow (3)
- Private collections (possibly accessible through Cumbria Archive Service) (198)
- Lancashire Archives (64)
- TNA (The National Archives) (129)
- Durham County Record Office (8)
- Essex Record Office (5)
- Arundel Castle (2)
- Duchy of Cornwall Office (2)
- Manchester University: University of Manchester Library (1)
As can be seen, most of the manorial records for the county will be found at Carlisle and Kendal record offices, and hence can also be found in the CASCAT database.
The Old Manorial Halls of Westmorland & Cumberland by Michael Waistell Taylor Published in 1892, T. Wilson is available on Open Library.
Links to web versions of maps of Westmorland and surrounding area from several centuries are provided on
Facsimiles of C19th Ordnance Survey maps of Westmorland are available on
There is also an undated map by Mackenzie .
A Boundary Commisioners' map of 1885 (Eyre & Spottiswoode) is available on the londonancestor.com site.
Current OS maps are available on the Ordnance Survey site.
Links to Westmorland military history sites are found elsewhere.
|Newspaper Name||Place of publication||BL Holdings|
|The Appleby Chronicle, Kirkby Stephen Reporter and North Westmorland Journal.||Appleby||1886-1886|
|Cumberland & Westmorland Herald.- archive website||Penrith||1925 to date|
|Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser and Penrith Weekly Chronicle||Penrith||1855-1898|
|Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser, and Penrith Literary Chronicle.||Penrith||1854-1855|
|The Kendal Mercury and Westmorland Advertiser.||Kendal||1834-1840|
|The Kendal Mercury and Northern Advertiser||Kendal||1840-1880|
|The Lake District Herald, etc.||Penrith||1920 to date|
|The Lancaster Gazetteer, and General Advertiser for Lancashire, Westmorland, etc.||Lancaster||1801-1803|
|Mid Cumberland and North Westmorland Herald||Penrith||1891-1925|
|Penrith Herald, and East Cumberland and Westmorland News||Penrith||1869-1891|
|Penrith and District Times.||Penrith||1898-1898|
|Penrith Times and Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser.||Penrith||1898-1901|
|Westmorland Advertiser and Kendal Chronicle.||Kendal||1811-1834|
|The Westmorland Gazette, etc.. - website||Kendal||1818 to date|
|The Westmorland Gazette, etc.||Kendal||1818-1826|
|The Westmorland Journal.||Kendal||1875-1875|
|Westmorland Journal and Kendal Guardian.||Kendal||1878-1880|
|Westmorland Mercury and Times.||Kendal||1913-1917|
An extensive list of Cumbria Libraries Newspaper Collections and their holdings is available from Cumbria County Council's site
The British Newspaper Archive (articles downloadable for a fee) includes Westmorland newspapers in the British Library collection.
A list is published by CWAAS: A Hand-list of newspapers published in Cumberland, Westmorland & North Lancashire. By F. Barnes & J.L. Hobbs (1951, PB, ISBN 1 873124 07 0).
Transcribed items are being added to Cumberland and Westmorland Newspaper Transcriptions.
Most employment within the county were connected with agriculture, and is discussed in Westmorland agriculture, 1800-1900 by Frank W. Garnett Published in 1912, T. Wilson (Kendal) and is available on Internet Archive.
A selective bibliography of other occupations is available.
Westmorland with only 65,010 inhabitants had the third lowest population in England in 1871.
Population tables and statistics are provided on this site.
There is statistical summary of Westmorland census results for 1901 (38 pages) is available on the Online Historical Population Reports site.
There are also other statistics on the VisionOfBritain site.
Most wills for the North of the County will be in the Carlisle R.O. as this is the Diocesan office for the Carlisle Diocese.
Being situated in the Province of York, some probate material relevant to the whole of the county will be in the Borthwick Institute in York.
The booklet Index and Extracts of Cumbrians in Wills proved at the P.C.C. is published by Cumbria FHS and includes wills for Westmerians available in the National Archives in London, searchable in the online catalogue (and perhaps can be purchased for download).
North country wills 1383-1558 Church of England. Province of Canterbury. Prerogative Court. Andrews & Co., 1908- (available on Internet Archive).
- Cumbria Local History Federation
- Ambleside Oral History Group
- Appleby-in-Westmorland Society
- Bampton & District Local History Society
- Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society
- Cumbria FHS
- Cumbria Industrial History Society
- Cumbrian Railways Association
- Holme & District Local History Society
- Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (CWAAS)
- Friends of Cumbria Archive Service (FOCAS)
- Lakeland Dialect Society
- Staveley and District H S
- Ulverston Heritage Centre - Family & Local History Group (covers South Lakeland)
- Upper Eden History Society