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
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
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
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 northeast.
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
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 unions.
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.