At the time of Domesday Book in 1086, parts of the county were considered either to form part of
Yorkshire or to be within the
separate kingdom of Scotland,
having historically been associated with the Kingdom of
Strathclyde. The Normans conquered the area that is now Cumbria in 1092
during the reign of William II and created the baronies of Kendal and Westmorland. These were originally distinct
jurisdictions with separate sheriffs, but were formed into a single county of Westmorland in
1226/7. Before 1226 the Barony of Kendal was connected to
the Earldom or Honour of Lancaster while that of Westmorland was part of the Earldom of
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 historic county town, formed a historic borough and was unreformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835; although reform came later
in 1885. Kendal was reformed as a municipal borough in 1835.
Rather than being divided into
hundreds, Westmorland was subdivided into
two baronies of
Westmorland (or sometimes Appleby)
The baronies were further subdivided into two
East ward - Appleby, Brough, Kirkby
Stephen, Orton, Tebay
West ward - Askham, Bampton, Barton, Patterdale, Shap, Yanwath
Kendal ward - Ambleside, Burton-in-Kendal,
Lonsdale ward - Kirkby Lonsdale
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
Aside from the two municipal boroughs of
Kendal and Appleby, the Local Government Act 1894 divided the county into urban
districts and rural districts.
5 Urban districts: Ambleside, Bowness on Windermere, Grasmere, Kirkby Lonsdale, Windermere
3 Rural districts: West Ward, East Westmorland, South
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
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.
Despite their title, many of Westmorland's
urban districts, such as Lakes, Grasmere, and Shap, were quite rural in character.