21 November 2016 11:18

A new A to Z guide, the first of its kind and published today, provides a snapshot history of every community in Cumbria.

‘Cumbria: an Historical Gazetteer’ has been edited by Emeritus Professor Angus Winchester, of Lancaster University’s Department of History.

The easy to use Gazetteer, published in association with the Cumbria County History Trust, contains short, pithy summaries of historical information about every community in Cumbria, both large and small. 

Published by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University, the publication provides a digest of facts about population, landownership, local economic history, places of worship, schools and other community institutions across the centuries.

The groundwork for the Gazetteer was carried out for the Victoria County History (VCH) of Cumbria project by a 90-strong team of volunteer local historians, who compiled brief historical cameos for the project website, drawn from a checklist of key sources.  Many of the volunteers, who became the core research team, had completed local history courses at Lancaster University.

The cameos have now been edited and re-written for publication by Professor Winchester to ensure accuracy and consistency. 

“It’s been a real labour of love,” says Cockermouth-raised Professor Winchester. “I have really enjoyed doing it. I thought I knew Cumbria well but, doing this, I realise now there is so much I don’t know.”

Professor Winchester used printed sources, population returns and even Google maps and ‘Street View’ in a bid to collate an accurate picture as possible.

Providing comprehensive coverage of the whole of the modern county of Cumbria from the earliest written record to the present day, the volume contains 348 separate articles, one for each of the Civil Parishes as they existed in the 1890s. 

“It’s surprising how much has changed in recent years with, for example, schools and chapels closing and wind farms emerging,” he added.

The Gazetteer will be an indispensable work of reference for all with an interest in Cumbria’s past, residents and visitors alike.

It is presented in three formats: the softback book, online (on the Cumbria County History Trust website at http://www.cumbriacountyhistory.org.uk/places) and as a searchable electronic version available as a PDF file on a USB pen drive.

“We are covering all bases by presenting the Gazetteer in the three formats,” added Professor Winchester, the Director of the Victoria County History of Cumbria project from its inception in 2010 until his retirement in 2016. “They make it much more accessible and researcher-friendly.

“The Gazetteer, in note form, is full of factual information. In its handy paperback book form it’s the sort of guide you might want to keep in the car to reference and glean a flavour of places as you visit them.”

The VCH Project will now develop the work undertaken for the Gazetteer by providing full online profiles on each place. Sixteen have already been completed.

“The Gazetteer is really a starter for ten for the larger online histories,” added Professor Winchester. “It is designed to encourage people to contribute and to help provide a fuller picture. It is a useful resource in its own right encompassing the whole of Cumbria not just Cumberland and Westmorland.”

  • The VCH is a national English history project which began in 1899 and was dedicated to Queen Victoria with the aim of creating an encyclopaedic history of each of the historic counties of England. In 2012 the project, which is run from the Institute of Historical Research in London, was rededicated to HM Queen Elizabeth II in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee year.
  • Order this book through the Online Store