HISTORY OF THE
What was to become Cumberland had a complicated political history
before the 12th century. The first record of the term "Cumberland" appears in 945, when the
Anglo Saxon Chronicle recorded that
the area was ceded to Malcolm I of Scotland by King Edmund of England. At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 most of the future county remained part of Scotland although some villages in
the far south west, which were the possessions of the Earl of
Northumbria, were included in the Yorkshire section with the Furness region.
In 1092 King William
Rufus of England invaded the Carlisle district, settling it with
colonists. He created an Earldom of Carlisle, and granted the territory to Ranulf Meschyn. In 1133 Carlisle was made the see of a
new diocese, identical with the area of
the earldom. However, on the death of King Henry I in 1135, the area was regained by
Scotland's King David I. He was able to
consolidate his power and made Carlisle one of his chief seats of government, while England descended into a
lengthy civil war. In 1157 Henry II of England resumed possession of the
area from Malcolm IV of Scotland,
and formed two new counties from the former earldom: Westmorland and "Carliol". The silver-mining area
of Alston, previously associated
with the Liberty of Durham, was
also added to the new county of Carliol for financial reasons By
1177 the county of Carliol was known as Cumberland. The border
between England and Scotland was made permanent by the Treaty of York in 1237.
The boundaries formed in the 12th century did not change
substantially over the county's existence. It bordered four English counties and two Scottish counties. These
were Northumberland and
County Durham to the east;
Westmorland to the south, the
Furness part of Lancashire to the southwest; Dumfriesshire to the north and Roxburghshire to the
During the nineteenth century a series of reforms reshaped the
local government of the county, creating a system of district with directly-elected councils.
The first changes concerned the administration of the
poor law, which was carried at parish level.
The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 provided for the grouping of parishes into poor law
unions, each with a central workhouse and an elected board of guardians. Cumberland was divided into nine unions:
Alston with Garrigill, Bootle, Brampton, Carlisle, Cockermouth, Longtown, Penrith, Whitehaven and
In the following year the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 was passed, reforming
boroughs and cities in England and Wales as municipal boroughs with a uniform constitution. The corporation of the
City of Carlisle was accordingly remodelled with a popularly elected council consisting of a mayor, aldermen and
Outside of municipal boroughs, there was no effective local
government until the 1840s. In response to poor sanitary conditions and outbreaks of cholera, the Public Health Act 1848 and the Local Government
Act 1858 allowed for the formation of local boards of
health in populous areas. Local boards were responsible
inter alia for water supply,
drainage, sewerage, paving and cleansing. Eleven local boards were initially formed at Brampton, Cleator
Moor, Cockermouth, Egremont, Holme Cultram, Keswick, Maryport, Millom, Penrith, Whitehaven, Wigton and
Further reform under the Public Health Act 1875 saw the creation
of sanitary districts throughout England and Wales. The existing municipal boroughs and local boards became "urban
sanitary districts", while "rural sanitary districts" were formed from the remaining areas of the poor law
Three more local boards were formed: Arlecdon and Frizington in
1882, Harrington in 1891 and Aspatria in 1892. In addition Whitehaven and Workington received charters of
incorporation to become municipal boroughs in 1894 and 1883 respectively.
In 1889, under the Local Government Act
1888, Cumberland County
Council was created as the county council for Cumberland, taking over
administrative functions from the Court of Quarter
Sessions. The Local Government Act 1894 reconstituted the existing
sanitary districts as urban districts and rural districts, each with an elected council.
The 1888 Act also allowed any municipal borough with a population
of 50,000 or more to become a "county borough", independent of county council control. In 1914 Carlisle
successfully applied for this status, ceasing to form part of the administrative county, although remaining within
Cumberland for purposes such as Lieutenancy and shrievalty.
The Local Government Act 1929 imposed the duty on county councils
of reviewing the districts within their administrative county so as to form more efficient units of local
government. In general, this meant the merging of small or lightly populated areas into larger units. A review was
carried in Cumberland in 1934.