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Cumbria (/ˈkʌmbriə/ KUM-bree-ə; locally [ˈkʰʊmbɾiə] KUUM-bree-ə) is a non-metropolitan county in North West England. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local authority, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. Cumbria’s largest settlement and county town is Carlisle and the only other major urban area is Barrow-in-Furness on the south-western tip of the county which has a population just slightly smaller than Carlisle. The county of Cumbria consists of six districts (Allerdale, Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden and South Lakeland), and in 2008 had a population of just under half a million. Cumbria is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the United Kingdom, with 73.4 people per km2 (190/sq mi).

Cumbria, the third largest ceremonial county in England by area, is bounded to the north by the Scottish council areas of Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the southeast by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland.

Cumbria is predominantly rural and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park, considered one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty, serving as inspiration for artists, writers, and musicians. Much of Cumbria is mountainous, and it contains every peak in England over 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level, with Scafell Pike at 978 metres (3,209 ft) being the highest point of England. An upland, coastal, and rural area, Cumbria’s history is characterised by invasions, migration, and settlement, as well as battles and skirmishes between the English and Scottish. Historic sites in Cumbria include Carlisle Castle, Furness Abbey, and Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the end of the period of British history known as Roman Britain (c. 410 AD) the inhabitants of Cumbria were Cumbric-speaking native “Romano-Britons” who were probably descendants of the Brigantes tribe that the Roman Empire had conquered in about 85AD. (Cumbric was a language related to Old Welsh). The Roman civitas of the Carvetii (sometimes considered to be a sub-tribe of the Brigantes) covered almost the same area as what is now Cumbria. Because Cumbria was on the very edge of the Roman province of Britannia, “Romano-Briton” is probably not a very accurate term for the people of these parts, because even after more than three hundred years of Roman military occupation it is unlikely very many of them understood Latin or were particularly enthusiastic about Roman customs. The names “Cumbria” and “Cumberland” are derived from the name these people gave themselves, Cymru (pronounced cum-ri), which originally meant ‘compatriots’ in Old Welsh. The place names Cymru, its Latinised version Cambria, Cumbria and Cumberland all derive their names from this common root. The name could also be associated with that of the Sicambri who came with the Tungri as auxiliaries in the 2nd and 3rd century.

During the Early Middle Ages Cumbria formed the core of the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. By the end of the 7th century most of Cumbria had been incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Most of modern day Cumbria was ruled by Scotland at the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and thus was excluded from the Domesday Book survey of 1086. In 1092 Cumberland was invaded by William Rufus and incorporated into England. Nevertheless, the region was dominated by the many wars and border skirmishes between England and Scotland of the Latter Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, and the associated Border Reivers who exploited the dynamic political situation of the region. There were at least three sieges of Carlisle fought between England and Scotland, and two further sieges during the Jacobite Risings.

After the Jacobite Risings of the Eighteenth Century, Cumbria became a more stable place and, as in the rest of Northern England, the Industrial Revolution caused a large growth in urban populations. In particular, the west-coast towns of Workington, Millom and Barrow-in-Furness saw large iron and steelworks develop, with Barrow also developing a significant shipbuilding industry. Kendal, Keswick and Carlisle all became mill towns, with textiles, pencils and biscuits among the products manufactured in the region. The early nineteenth century saw the county gain fame as the Lake Poets and other artists of the romantic movement, such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, lived among, and were inspired by, the lakes and mountains of the region. Later, the children’s writer Beatrix Potter also wrote in the region and became a major landowner, granting much of her property to the National Trust on her death. In turn, the large amount of land owned by the National Trust assisted in the formation of the Lake District National Park in 1951, which remains the largest National Park in England and has come to dominate the identity and economy of the county.

The county of Cumbria was created in 1974 from the traditional counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, the Cumberland County Borough of Carlisle, along with the North Lonsdale or Furness part of Lancashire, usually referred to as “Lancashire North of the Sands”, (including the county borough of Barrow-in-Furness) and, from the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Sedbergh Rural District. Its strategic authority is Cumbria County Council.

Local papers The Westmorland Gazette and Cumberland and Westmorland Herald continue to use the name of their historic county. Other publications, such as local government promotional material, describe the area as “Cumbria”, as do the Lake District National Park Authority and most visitors.

Cumbria is the most northwesterly county of England. The northernmost and southernmost points in Cumbria are just west of Deadwater, Northumberland and South Walney respectively. Kirkby Stephen (close to Tan Hill, Yorkshire) and St Bees Head are the most easterly and westerly points of the county. At 978 metres (3,209 ft) Scafell Pike is the highest point in Cumbria and in England. Windermere is the largest natural lake in England.

The Lancaster Canal runs from Preston into South Cumbria and is partly in use. The Ulverston Canal which once reached to Morecambe Bay is maintained although it was closed in 1945.

The boundaries are along the Irish Sea to Morecambe Bay in the west, and along the Pennines to the east. Cumbria’s northern boundary stretches from the Solway Firth from the Solway Plain eastward along the border with Scotland to Northumberland.

It is made up of six districts: Allerdale, Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden and South Lakeland. For many administrative purposes Cumbria is divided into three areas — East, West and South. East consists of the districts of Carlisle and Eden, West consists of Allerdale and Copeland, and South consists of Lakeland and Barrow. In January 2007, Cumbria County Council voted in favour of an official bid to scrap the current two-tier system of county and district councils in favour of a new unitary Cumbria Council, to be submitted for consideration to the Department for Communities and Local Government. This was then rejected.

The county returns six Members of Parliament to the House of Commons, representing the constituencies of Carlisle, Penrith & The Border, Workington, Copeland, Westmorland and Lonsdale and Barrow & Furness.

Many large companies and organisations are based in Cumbria. The county council itself employs around 17,000 individuals, while the largest private employer in Cumbria, the Sellafield nuclear processing site, has a workforce of 10,000. Below is a list of some of the county’s largest companies and employers (excluding services such as Cumbria Constabulary, Cumbria Fire and Rescue and the NHS in Cumbria), categorised by district:

  • Allerdale
    • Associated British Ports Holdings own and operate the port of Silloth.
    • Plastic film maker, Innovia Films, has its headquarters and only UK factory in Wigton, which employs almost 1,000 people and is Wigton’s biggest employer.
    • World-wide US bed maker, Sealy Beds UK (which is part of the Silentnight Group), owns a factory at Aspatria, which employs around 300 people.
    • Flour miller, Carr’s Milling Industries PLC, which is based in Carlisle, owns a large factory at Silloth which makes the ‘Carr’s Breadmaker’ range and Carr’s farm feeds.
    • Window maker, WestPort Windows, owns a large factory at Maryport, which makes UPVC windows and doors.
    • World rally company, M-Sport has its headquarters at Dovenby Hall, near Cockermouth.
    • Swedish paper maker, Iggisund Paperboard, has its only UK factory at Siddick, near Workington
    • US chemical & camera giant, Eastman, has a factory at Siddick, near Workington. It makes plastic bottle pellets (PBP) and products for the smoking industry and employs 100 people.
    • Steel giant Tata Steel owns a cast products plant at Workington, which employs 300 people.
    • Carlisle-based haulage group, The Stobart Group, owns a large Haulage depot at Workington, which was once owned by Truck/Bus maker, Leyland.
    • Packaging company, Amcor, owns the formerAlcan packaging plant at Salterbeck, Workington.
    • James Walker Ltd, the international car seal maker, has a large factory at Cockermouth.
  • Barrow-in-Furness
    • Barrow’s shipyard is one of the UK’s largest. BAE Systems is the current owner and employs around 5,000.
    • Associated British Ports Holdings own and operate the port of Barrow.
    • The only Kimberly-Clark mill in the North of England is located in Barrow.
    • James Fisher & Sons, a large provider of marine engineering services, is based in Barrow.
    • One of the largest single-site furniture stores in the UK, Stollers, is located in Barrow.
  • Carlisle
    • Close to 1,000 people work in one of only two Pirelli tyre plants in the UK.
    • Carr’s is a successful foodstuff and agricultural brand that was established in 1831 in Carlisle.
    • The Stobart Group, which is one of the UK’s largest haulage companies, is headquartered in Carlisle.
    • Nestlé operates a factory on the outskirts of Carlisle.
    • Cavaghan & Gray is a food manufacturing business based in Carlisle and a significant employer in the city.
    • Crown Holdings owns two factories in Carlisle, locally known as ‘Metal Box’. Both factories make products for the beverage industry.
  • Copeland
    • As stated above, Sellafield is the largest private employer in the county; many West Cumbrians have links to the site.
  • Eden
    • Center Parcs owns a large resort in Whinfell Forest near Penrith.
    • Carlisle based haulage giant, The Stobart Group, owns a large transport depot at Penrith
    • National sawdust, animal bedding & bark suppliers, A W Jenkinson, is headquartered at Clifton, Penrith
  • South Lakeland
    • Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline operates a large factory in Ulverston.
    • International kitchenware store Lakeland has its headquarters and flagship store in Windermere.
    • Farley Health Products, a subsidiary of the Heinz Company, runs a factory in Kendal.

The largest and most widespread industry in Cumbria is tourism. The Lake District National Park alone receives some 15.8 million visitors every year. Despite this, fewer than 50,000 people reside permanently within the Lake District – mostly in Ambleside, Bowness-on-Windermere, Coniston, Keswick, Grasmere and Windermere. Over 36,000 Cumbrians are employed in the tourism industry which adds £1.1 billion a year to the county’s economy. The Lake District and county as a whole attracts visitors from across the UK, Europe, North America and the Far East (particularly Japan). The tables below show the twenty most visited attractions in Cumbria in 2009 (please note that not all visitor attractions provided data to Cumbria Tourism who collated the list. Notable examples are Furness Abbey, the Lakes Aquarium and South Lakes Wild Animal Park, the latter of which would almost certainly rank within the top five).

Rank Attraction Location Visitors
1 Windermere Lake Cruises Bowness-on-Windermere 1,313,807
2 Rheged Penrith 439,568
3 Ullswater Steamers Glenridding 348,000
4 Whinlatter Forest Park and Visitor Centre Whinlatter 252,762
5 Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Carlisle 251,808
6 Grizedale Forest Park and Visitor Centre Grizedale 175,033
7 Carlisle Cathedral Carlisle 166,141
8 Lake District Visitor Centre Brockhole Windermere 135,539
9 Hill Top Hawkshead 103,682
10 Sizergh Castle Sizergh Castle 90,063
Rank Attraction Location Visitors
11 Cumberland Pencil Museum Keswick 80,100
12 Muncaster Castle Ravenglass 78,474
13 Dock Museum Barrow-in-Furness 73,239
14 The Beacon Whitehaven 71,602
15 Holker Hall Cartmel 58,060
16 Carlisle Castle Carlisle 56,957
17 Beatrix Potter Gallery Hawkshead 47,244
18 Trotters World of Animals Bassenthwaite 45,559
19 The Homes Of Football Ambleside 49,661
20 Cartmel Priory Cartmel 43,672

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added (GVA) of East Cumbria at current basic prices  with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 2,679 148 902 1,629
2000 2,843 120 809 1,914
2003 3,388 129 924 2,335

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of West Cumbria at current basic prices with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 2,246 63 1,294 888
2000 2,415 53 1,212 1,150
2003 2,870 60 1,420 1,390

The University of Cumbria is one of the UK’s newest universities having been established in 2007, it is at present the only university in Cumbria and has campuses across the county.

The M6 is the only motorway that runs through Cumbria. Kendal and Penrith are amongst its primary destinations before it terminates just north of Carlisle. Major A roads within Cumbria include:

  • A6 (Luton, Bedfordshire to Carlisle via Kendal and Penrith)
  • A66 (Workington to Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire via Keswick, Penrith and Brough)
  • A590 (M6 Junction 36 to Barrow-in-Furness via Ulverston)
  • A591 (Sizergh to Bothel via Kendal, Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and Kewsick)
  • A592 (M6 Junction 40 to Staveley via Penrith, Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere)
  • A595 (Carlisle to Dalton-in-Furness via Whitehaven and Workington)
  • A596 (Carlisle to Workington)

There are only two airports in the county: Carlisle Lake District and Barrow/Walney Island. Both airports formerly served scheduled passenger flights and both are proposing expansions and renovations to handle domestic and European flights in the near future. Barrow-in-Furness is one of the country’s largest shipbuilding centres, but the Port of Barrow is only minor. There are no ferry links from any port or harbour along the Cumbria coast.

The busiest railway stations in Cumbria are Carlisle, Barrow-in-Furness, Penrith and Oxenholme Lake District. The 399-mile (642 km) long West Coast Main Line runs through the Cumbria countryside adjacent to the M6 motorway. The Cumbrian Coast Line connects Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle and is a vital link in the west of the county. Other railways in Cumbria are the Windermere Branch Line, most of the Furness Line and much of the Settle-Carlisle Railway.

Cumbria’s largest settlement and only city is Carlisle, in the north of the county. The largest town, Barrow-in-Furness, in the south, is slightly smaller. The county’s population is largely rural: it has the second lowest population density among English counties, and has only five towns with a population of over 20,000. Cumbria is also one of the country’s most ethnically homogeneous counties, with 95.1% of the population categorised as White British (around 470,900 of the 495,000 Cumbrians).

Population totals for Cumbria
Year Population Year Population Year Population
1801 173,017 1871 365,556 1941 456,833
1811 193,139 1881 410,856 1951 471,897
1821 225,555 1891 434,867 1961 473,706
1831 242,320 1901 437,364 1971 475,669
1841 255,603 1911 440,485 1981 471,693
1851 274,957 1921 441,483 1991 489,191
1861 320,257 1931 442,693 2001 487,607
Pre-1974 statistics were gathered from local government areas that now comprise Cumbria

The table below has divided the settlements into their local authority district. Each district has a centre of administration; for some of these correlate with a district’s largest town, while others are named after the geographical area.

Administration borough/district Centre of administration Other towns, villages and settlements
Allerdale Workington Aspatria
Barrow-in-Furness Barrow-in-Furness Askam and Ireleth
Carlisle Carlisle Brampton
Copeland Whitehaven Arlecdon and Frizington
Cleator Moor
St Bees
Eden Penrith Alston
Kirkby Stephen
South Lakeland Kendal Ambleside
Kirkby Lonsdale


The arms of Cumbria County Council were granted by the College of Arms on 10 October 1974. The arms represent the areas from which the new county council’s area was put together; the shield’s green border has Parnassus flowers representing Cumberland interspersed with roses; red for Lancashire (the Furness district) on white for Yorkshire (Sedbergh is from the West Riding). The crest is a ram’s head crest, found in the arms both of Westmorland County Council and Barrow County Borough, with Cumberland’s Parnassus flowers again. The supporters are the legendary Dacre Bull (Cumberland) and a red dragon (Appleby in Westmorland). They stand on a base compartment representing Hadrian’s Wall (in Cumberland), crossed with two red bars (from the Westmorland arms).

The county council motto “Ad Montes Oculos Levavi” is Latin, from Psalm 121; (“I shall lift up mine eyes unto the hills”).

The county flag of Cumbria is a banner of arms of Cumbria County Council.

Carlisle United are the only professional football team in Cumbria and currently play in League One (3rd Tier in the English football pyramid). They attract support from across Cumbria and beyond, with many Cumbrian “ex-pats” travelling to see their games, both home and away. Home attendances are usually 3,000 to 4,000 and the away support is often 1,000 to 2,000. This is one of the highest proportions of away-home support in England.

Rugby league is a very popular in South and West Cumbria. Barrow, Whitehaven and Workington play in the Rugby League National Leagues and Carlisle in the Rugby League Conference.

Cumberland County Cricket Club is one of the cricket clubs that constitute the Minor Counties in the English domestic cricket structure. The club, based in Carlisle, competes in the Minor Counties Championship and the MCCA Knockout Trophy. The club also play some home matches in Workington, as well as other locations.

Workington is home to the ball game known as Uppies and Downies, a traditional version of football, with its origins in Medieval football or an even earlier form. Players from outside Workington do take part, especially fellow West Cumbrians from Whitehaven and Maryport.

Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling is an ancient and well-practised tradition in the county with a strong resemblance to Scottish Backhold. In the 21st century Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling along with other aspects of Lakeland culture are practised at the Grasmere Sports and Show, an annual meeting held every year since 1852 on the August Bank Holiday. The origin of this form of wrestling is a matter of debate, with some describing it as having evolved from Norse wrestling brought over by Viking invaders, while other historians associate it with the Cornish and Gouren styles indicating that it may have developed out of a longer-standing Celtic tradition.

Cumbria Kart Racing Club is based at the Lakeland Circuit, Rowrah, between Cockermouth and Egremont. The track is currently a venue for rounds of both major UK national karting championships. Formula One world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button both raced karts at Rowrah many times in the formative stages of their motor sport careers, while many other F1 drivers, past and present, have competed there.

Two evening newspapers are published daily in Cumbria. The News and Star focuses largely on Carlisle and the surrounding areas of north and west Cumbria, and the North-West Evening Mail is based in Barrow-in-Furness and covers news from across Furness and the South Lakes. The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald and The Westmorland Gazette are weekly newspapers based in Penrith and Kendal respectively.

The Bay, CFM Radio and Lakeland Radio are the most popular local radio stations throughout the county, with BBC Radio Cumbria being the only station that is aimed at Cumbria as a whole.

Places of interest include:

  • Abbot Hall Art Gallery
  • Appleby-In-Westmorland (Gypsy fair)
  • Bassenthwaite Lake
  • Bewcastle
  • Black Combe
  • Blackwell
  • Brantwood
  • Brough Castle
  • Brougham Castle
  • Brougham Hall
  • Broughton in Furness
  • Brougham Castle
  • Buttermere
  • Cartmel Priory
  • Carlisle Castle
  • Carlisle Cathedral
  • Castlerigg Stone Circle
  • Church of St Olaf, Wasdale
  • Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk
  • Cockermouth, “Gem” Town
  • Coniston Water
  • Crummock Water
  • Cumbria Coastal Way long distance footpath
  • Cumbria Way long distance footpath
  • Dales Way long distance footpath
  • Dalton Castle
  • Derwent Water
  • Dock Museum
  • Dove Cottage
  • Egremont Castle
  • Eden Valley Railway
  • Ennerdale Water
  • Eskdale
  • Fell Foot Park
  • Firbank Fell
  • Fisher Tarn Reservoir
  • Furness
  • Furness Abbey
  • Grange-Over-Sands
  • Haig Colliery Mining Museum
  • Harrison Stickle
  • Hadrian’s Wall
  • Hartley Castle
  • Haweswater
  • Hawkshead Grammar School Museum
  • Hill Top
  • Hoad Monument
  • Hodbarrow Nature Reserve
  • Holker Hall
  • Kendal Castle
  • Kentmere
  • Killington Reservoir
  • Kirkby Lonsdale
  • Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway
  • Langwathby railway station
  • Windermere
  • Lakeland Wildlife Oasis
  • Lanercost Priory
  • Laurel & Hardy Museum
  • Levens Hall
  • Millom
  • Millom Folk Museum
  • Muncaster Castle
  • Museum of Lakeland Life
  • National Nature Reserves in Cumbria
  • Pennine Way long distance footpath
  • Penrith Castle
  • Piel Island
  • Quaker tapestry
  • RAF Millom Museum
  • Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway – heritage railway
  • Rey Cross
  • Rheged
  • Rydal Water
  • Sea to Sea Cycle Route
  • Seathwaite Tarn
  • Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Facility
  • Silecroft
  • Silloth on Solway
  • Sizergh Castle & Garden
  • South Lakes Wild Animal Park
  • St Bees
  • St Bees Priory
  • St Bees Head
  • Staveley
  • Swarthmoor Hall
  • Thirlmere
  • Ullswater
  • Ulverston
  • Vickerstown
  • Wasdale Head
  • Wast Water
  • Whitehaven
  • Whinfell Forest
  • Windermere Steamboat Museum
Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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