In ecclesiastical matters, the east and west Wards form the Deanery of Appleby, in the Diocese of Carlisle; and Kendal and Lonsdale Wards constitute the Deaneries of Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale, in the Archdeaconry of Richmond and Bishopric of Chester. The whole county is in the province of York, and in the northern circuit.
Though many thousand acres of wastes have been enclosed and cultivated here during the last fifty years, the county is generally so mountainous and hilly, that a large portion of it can never be subjected to the plough; but even the sides of the fells, (as the mountains are here called), afford good pasturage for sheep and cattle, or are covered with wood, whilst the numerous beautiful, picturesque, and fertile valleys, are tilled with great advantage, and yield abundant crops of all kinds of grain and grass. The soil varies much in quality, but is generally dry, being either incumbent upon sand, gravel, or limestone-rock. Of the numerous RIVERS and streams that water the valleys and glens here, only four preserve their names to the ocean, viz._ the Eden, Kent, Lune and Tees, the latter of which forms, for about eight miles, the north-east boundary of the county, and enters the county of Durham at the sublime cataract, called Caldron Snout. The other principal rivers are the Lowther, Eamont, Belo, Sprint, Mint, Brathay, Rothay, and the Underbarrow; besides which there are in this county five beautiful LAKES, viz._ Windermere, Grasmere, Hawes-Water, Rydal, and Elterwater, with part of Ulls-water, and a number of smaller sheets of water, called Tarns, as will be seen in the following description of the Lake district.
In some parts of Westmorland, considerable portions of land are covered with coppices, consisting principally of oak, ash, alder, birch, and hazel. These underwoods are usually cut down every 16th year, and the wood is chiefly converted into hoops and bobbins, the former being generally sent to Liverpool, and the latter to the cotton, woollen, linen and silk manufacturers. Westmorland was formerly celebrated for charcoal, but very little is now made here, the wood being now more profitably turned into bobbins, or made into hoops, corves, and a sort of baskets, which are here called Swills.
There are several fine champaign tracts between the Lune and the Kent, and between the Eden and the Lowther, but the rest of the county affords only narrow dells and glens of fertility, amid dreary hills and extended waters. It abounds in excellent blue slate, large quantities of which are exported to all parts of the United Kingdom. Limestone and Freestone are found in most parts of the county, but coal is seldom met with, and the metallic ores lie so deep as not to be worth the working, except near the source of the Tees, where the Earl of Thanet’s mines produce about 620 tons of lead yearly.
Shap Wells, situated at Lodge How, 3 ½ miles S. by E. of Shap, are greatly celebrated for their medicinal virtues, and being strongly impregnated with saline matter and muriate of lime, are very efficacious in chronic diseases. On the summit of Dufton-Fell is a well of a strong petrifying quality. At Kendal, which is the only large town in this county, are many extensive coarse woollen, worsted, fancy waistcoating, linsey-woolsey, and hosiery manufactories, beside several large tanneries. There are also several linen, flax, and other manufactories, in the neighbourhood of Milnthorp, Burton, and Kirkby Lonsdale. The trade and commerce of the county is greatly facilitated by the Lancaster and Kendal Canal, which opens an inland water communication from hence to nearly all the principal towns in England. The 4 wards of Westmorland contain 33 parishes, consisting of 117 townships (Also 94 villages and hamlets), not bearing the names of their townships.* one borough, (Appleby) and ten market towns, viz. Ambleside, Brough, Burton, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Kirkby Stephen, Milnthorpe, Orton, Ravenstonedale, and Shap, at which, and at Temple Sowerby, Brough Hill, and some other places, fairs are held annually.
EARLS OF WESTMORLAND._ Sir Daniel Fleming observes, that although it is generally affirmed that Richard II created the first earl of Westmorland; yet there seems to have been some earls of this county before that reign; for he finds Humphrey de Bassingburne, one of the knights of the Earl of Westmorland, about the time of the Norman conquest. It is, however, certain that Richard II conferred that title upon Ralph Nevill, of Raby, in the county of Durham, "a man of the greatest and most ancient birth of English nobility, as descended from Ucthred, Earl of Northumberland, whose heirs successively flourished in that honour, until Charles Neville, casting off his allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, and covering treason under a pretext of religion, dishonoured that noble house, and, in the year 1599, was forced to fly into the Low Countries, where he ended a miserable life. The aforesaid Earl Ralph, by his wife Catherine, daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, had so fair an issue, and the name of Nevill, became thereby so greatly multiplied, that almost at the same time there flourished, besides the Earls of Westmorland, an Earl of Salisbury, an Earl of Warwick, an Earl of Kent, a Marquis Montacute, a Duke of Bedford, a Lord Latimer, and a Lord Abergavenny - all Nevills." Francis Fane, eldest son of Lady Mary Despencer, descended from the Nevills, and was, by King James I in 1624, created Earl of Westmorland, which title is now possessed by his descendant, the Right Honourable John Fane, of Apthorp, in Northamptonshire.