Much has been written about the foundation of Westmorland and its ‘baronies'.  A quick glance at that mine of disinformation Wikipedia proves this.  What is actually known about the county seems mainly to be gleaned from the pipe rolls and later accounts.  Gleaned is definitely the operative word here as much is unknown and possibly now unknowable.  The ‘county' itself is apparently a composite, the northern Appleby section being detached from Cumberland, while the southern section, Kendal, was originally a part of Amounderness.  The county itself appears to have originally been administered as an adjunct to Yorkshire in the pipe roll accounts of the sheriffs.  Even the name of this county is uncertain.  The earlier Norman spelling suggests Westmorland - the land of the western moors.  This was to contrast it to the eastern moors in Yorkshire on the other side of the Pennines.  Alternatively, in its second reiteration, it becomes Westmereland - the land of the western meres or lakes or just possibly the land of the Western limits or boundaries.  The latter seems most unlikely for a descriptive name, lying as it does in the mountains and not including the lakes to the north in Cumberland.  Indeed, if this were the correct name Sudmereland would seem a more suitable description.  Therefore the original name most likely stood for the Western Moor Land in differentiation to the eastern moors of Yorkshire beyond the Rere Cross which in the Middle Ages was alleged to have been placed by King Edward (d.946) to mark the boundary between England and Scotland. 

The Norman history of the district of Westmorland is all but blank.  In 1072 King William I of England (d.1087) deprived Gospatrick of his earldom and made King Malcolm III (d.1093) his man, probably leaving him in command of Cumberland and possibly the Northern part of Westmorland, ie. Appleby, as part of the Scottish kingdom.  The Carlisle Chronicle, drawn up using ancient chronicles in 1291 to help Edward I (1272-1307) determine the correct king of Scotland, stated clearly that in the time of Earl Siward (d.1055) King Malcolm of Cumbria (d.1093) ruled to the River Duddon (Dunde).  Thirteenth century sources state that the boundary between Cumbria and England lay at ‘the King's Cross on Stainmore'.  This lay between the castles of Brough and Bowes and marked the eastern extreme of the later Appleby barony.  Kendal to the south probably lay within English control, which meant that the land later known as Westmorland was before 1092 divided in two.  Indeed the shape of the ‘county' suggests that it always consisted of 2 independent parts in an unnatural marriage, Appleby and Kendal.  Indeed these 2 districts were even placed under separate dioceses, Kendal belonging to York and Appleby to Durham or Glasgow at various times and finally to Carlisle after that diocese's founding in 1133.

As ever, any such history of a north English county is based upon scanty evidence.  However, a single writ of Earl Gospatrick (1067-72) mentions in passing the peace that he and Earl Siward (d.1055) had imposed upon Allerdale in Cumberland, while according to the rather unreliable Life of Waltheof (d.1075), written in the mid twelfth century by Jocelin of Furness, King Edward the Confessor (1042-66) granted Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland to Earl Siward (d.1055), who had earlier been made earl of Yorkshire by King Cnut (1016-35).  Quite clearly from this Carlisle was recognised as a part of Scotland before the Norman Conquest, even if Northumbrian rule had occasionally held sway here.  The district was only brought fully under Norman control when William Rufus (1087-1100), with the aid of a large army, took and fortified Carlisle in 1092, expelling its previous lord, Dolfin, who was a younger son of Earl Gospatrick (d.1074).  It is presumed that Appleby and Kendal were later both held by Ivo Taillebois (d.1094/97), Roger Fitz Gerold (d.bef.1098) and Ranulf le Mechin (d.1129).  The latter relinquished control over the area to Henry I (1100-35) in 1120/22.  As has been seen, there is no certain mention of a ‘county' called Westmorland before this date and Ranulf le Mechin is only recorded as holding lands in Appleby and not Kendal.

With these facts in mind, one of the first historical mentions of Westmorland occurs under the year 966 in the Peterborough manuscript of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.  Unfortunately this is not a contemporary document, but dates to between 1117 and 1121.  This states simply:

Here Thored son of Gunnar ravaged Westmorland (Her Thored Gunneres sunu forhergote Westmoringaland).

However, this entry would appear to plagiarise an earlier work, in this case the Worcester version of the chronicle.  This contains exactly the same information and was probably written in the last quarter of the eleventh century so this would suggest Westmorland as a name existed at or soon after the Norman Conquest.  Both these entries therefore come back to a lost original source or hearsay - it is impossible to say which.  All that can be said with certainty is that the name Westmorland was used by 1100 to denote an area, probably in the vicinity of the current Westmorland, which would be understood by contemporary literati.

A decade after this Peterborough chronicle was written, there is an account for Westmarieland entered in the 1131 pipe roll, the only fully surviving roll from the reign of Henry I (1100-35).  In this Richard Fitz Gerard of Appleby rendered his account which included a figure of 79s 4d paid from the old farm of the county and 103s 4d for the geld of animals.  He also noted £26 19d paid from the new farm and accounted for expenditure at Appleby castle.  There is no mention of Kendal or anywhere in the southern part of modern Westmorland, although the left hand edge of the membrane has been torn off and lost, taking some small portion of the text with it.  However, under the Yorkshire account of this year a comment is made that aid raised in Yorkshire that year remained in Westmorland, above the record for the Tees and in the lordships of Blyth and Doncaster.  This suggests that all these places were then accounted for as adjuncts of Yorkshire.  Unfortunately there is then a gap in the pipe rolls until 1156.

In 1157 the chronicle of William Newburgh mentioned Westmorland.  Unfortunately this work was only written after 1192 at the very earliest and probably around 1196.  William was dead in 1198.  Therefore he wrote some 40 years after the event.  He stated that in 1157:

The king [Henry II] commanded the king of Scots [Malcolm IV], who held the northern regions of England, namely Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland, in the name of the Empress Matilda and her heirs, which had been acquired by King David of the Scots as if he possessed them in his own right, that he [Henry II] should not be cheated of so much of his kingdom, nor that it should be so patiently mutilated, it being just to return to him [Henry], that which had been acquired in his own name.

With this Westmorland with Cumberland and Northumberland, passed back into the hands of the kings of England in the form of Henry II (1154-89) .  Despite this, rather surprisingly, Westmorland did not appear in the early pipe rolls.  It is first mentioned during 1167 when it was noted under Yorkshire that Joel Harley owed his fine under Westmorland.  This fine continued to be mentioned until 1176, after which it disappeared, unpaid.  This indicates that Westmorland was working as a shire at this time, but that no accounts were kept at the Exchequer.

That Westmorland was considered a part of Yorkshire is repeatedly shown by its appearance in or at the end of the pipe roll account for Yorkshire.  Its next mention occurs in 1172, when, under the title Westmariland, it was recorded that Elias Applebi owed 2m (£1 6s 8d) concerning his right of 6m (£4).  Also included in this short list were the lordships of Doncaster, Tickhill and Lancaster, all listed under separate headings at the end of the Yorkshire account.  The war of 1173-74 then took place with much fighting in the North, including the taking of the castles of Appleby and Brough from King Henry II.  Both these places were in the lordship of Appleby, but no mention during this time is made of the southern district around Kendal.  In the aftermath of the war in 1176, towards the end of the Yorkshire Account, a heading was made: Also of the pleas of the same [for mercy in the king's forest] in Westmarieland.  There then followed a long list of 31 named individuals who had fined for various infractions in the county, one of the main complaints being raised against the 23 named individuals who had traitorously surrendered the royal castle of Appleby to the Scots.  Named eighth amongst this list is Robert, the dapifer of Hugh Morville (d.1201).  Three people higher in the list appears John Morville (d.1202+), the younger brother of Hugh (d.1201), the supposed lord of Westmorland.  After this section there follows a title: Concerning these [above fines] that have rendered the whole [fine] De his etui totum reddiderunt.  Under this it was recorded that the sheriff had accounted for £21 10s of the fines made for mercy by the men of Westmorland whose names are recorded in this roll which had been delivered to the treasury in 21 tallies.  Consequent of this the sheriff was found to be quit of owing the money.  There then followed the fine of William Fitz William [probably William Lancaster (d.1184), the son and heir of William Fitz Gilbert (d.1170), lord of Kendal and Morhull as well as constable of Lancaster castle] of 30m (£20) for having his duel against Gospatric Fitz Orm [of Appleby] and then various other payments before the next section, an account of the honour of Count Conan [Bowes] is commenced.  From the above comments it seems to have been deduced by later historians that Hugh Morville (d.1201) must have been lord of Westmorland including Appleby and Kendal from 1157 to 1174.  However, this is nowhere stated and it is just as possible that Hugh was King William the Lion's man in the district and his tenure of the county was short.  Certainly those who associate this man with the Hugh Morville of Knaresborough (d.1173+) are in error.

During 1177 another pipe roll account for Westmorland was drawn up.  This began with the title:

Also of the pleas of those [who rendered the arbitrary amercements in the forest] in Westmorland.

There then followed a short list of 6 named individuals who made payments for their actions which had obviously happened in the previous war.  This was followed by another heading:

Concerning those who rendered everything, whose names and debts are recorded in the 22nd pipe roll.

There then followed the final instalments of payments for the minor misdeeds of the men of Westmorland and the fact that William Fitz William (probably William Lancaster of Kendal, d.1184) had paid 20m (£13 6s 8d) of the 30m (£20) fine for his having his duel with Gospatric Fitz Orm (d.1185).  Some passages later there is the statement concerning the sheriff being allocated some money for the fugitives and guilty parties of Westmorland paying fines during the past year which totalled to 27s 3d.  The guilty were named as Robert Kirkby Stephen, Robert Sidcherte, Uchtryd Halegecherche, Gilmichael Fitz Scoggan and Dolfin Fitz Murwid.  Of these Kirkby Stephen must obviously be associated with the town of the same name in Appleby lordship.  This same year of 1177, Reiner the dapifer of Ranulf Glanville entered an account for Westmorland to cover the last 3 years.  This resulted in a render of £34 8s 10d for the third year (1175), £38 18s 3d for the previous year (1176) and £57 4s 4d for this year (1177).  This rather shows that the county had been heavily damaged in the war and was only now beginning to recover, having nearly doubled in value over the past 3 years.  There then followed a list of the income from the lands which Hugh Morville (d.1201) had held in pledge and in custody.  One of these included the interesting entry:

And to the brethren of the hospital of St Lazarus of Jerusalem 5m (£3 6s 8d) by the division of Hugh Morville by the king's writ which the aforesaid Ranulf gave effect to, to account to him of all in his [Hugh's] inheritance which he placed in the custody of the castles and waigneries and stock of the lands in Westmarieland.

Reiner then accounted for £58 2s 8d for the custody of the Westmorland castles for the 3 year term.  After further accounts, including the garrisoning of Roxburgh castle as well as Sheriff Ranulf accounted for 20s from the fishery of Kendal and 1m (13s 4d) for noutgeld.  This is the first time Kendal can be definitely associated with Westmorland.

In 1178 it was recorded under the title, At Mercy [for misdeeds] in the forest in Westmorland, that Elias Fitz Gilmichael owed 40s for recognition of 2 carucates that he did not yet have.  This was followed by the debt of Gospatric Fitz Orm for his treason at Appleby.  It was also noted that Odard Broham paid his debt for treason and that William Fitz William paid off the last part of his debt for his duel against Gospatric Fitz Orm.  This same year Westmorland appeared as a county in its own right after the Yorkshire account, of which it was obviously a part, for it began ‘The same Ranulf rendered his account...'.  Quite clearly this same Ranulf is the same as the sheriff of Yorkshire, Ranulf Glanville (d.1190).

Ranulf Glanville was Henry II's trouble shooter in the North.  He was sheriff of Yorkshire from 1163 to 1170 and again from 1175 to 1189, Warwickshire and Leicestershire from 1163 to 1164 and from 1174 to 1186, Lancashire from 1173 to 1174 and finally for Westmorland from 1176 to 1189.  He was also made constable of Richmond castle in 1173.  Ranulf's account throws some light on the formation of Westmorland.  Firstly he claimed that the old farm of the county was £30, which was accounted for, while the new farm was £90 2s 5d by the writ of the itinerant justices and the oaths of men from the same county.  This strongly suggests that this survey had just taken place.  There then followed a list of fines and a comment that in default of the rent appointed by the dregs, which Hugh Morville converted into free service, 12s and 6d by the aforesaid writ.  Later the sheriff made account for £45 9s which he had received from Henry the clerk of Hugh Morville, which Henry had from the aforesaid land.  Next it was recorded that for the restitution of the lands of Westmorland, £65 9s was accounted by the king's writ and the view of the aforesaid [sheriff].  Later Ranulf accounted for £4 8s from the farm of Hoff (Houf, just south of Appleby) which Hugh Morville had in custody.  Further entries concerning Hugh were the farm of Brampton (Branton, just north of Appleby) which Hugh had in pledge, the farm of Kirkby mill (presumably Kirkby Stephen, although possibly Kendal or less likely Kirkby Lonsdale) from before it was returned to Waltheuio by the king's writ and which Hugh had in pledge, and finally the farm of Vwal (Whale? Some 10 miles west of Appleby and 18 miles north of Kendal), which belonged to Asketil the sergeant before Hugh had it in pledge.  Also in the list of the sheriff's account there was an entry for John Morville (d.1202+) having the land of Brampton (Branton), which the king had granted him by his own writ and that the sheriff had paid the £17 10s 2½d that he had made in the perquisites of Westmorland into the Treasury.  This was followed by the new fines made in the county.

All these entries, and later ones, show that Hugh Morville (d.1201) was certainly highly active in Westmorland before 1175.  What they do not say is in what capacity.  This has been claimed to show that Hugh was lord of Westmorland from 1157 to 1173 under King Henry II (1154-89).  However, the evidence accrued above is far from proof of this.  It would appear just as likely that Hugh's interference with the running of the county took place when he was a rebel fighting for King William the Lion as well as possibly before 1157 when he may have been working for King Malcolm IV (1153-65).  Alternatively he could have had interests in the county under Henry II.  Quite simply the evidence is too insubstantial to be be certain.

It has been claimed that not only was Hugh Morville (d.1201) lord of Westmorland before 1174, but also that Theobald Valoignes (d.1209) inherited the whole county in 1178 on the payment of £30 relief on 6 knights' fees, a transaction that was accounted under Westmorland.  However, this hardly stands up to scrutiny with the king obviously remaining in control of the county as the subsequent pipe roll entries prove.  In fact Theobald was Glanville's nephew, Ranulf having married Bertha Valoignes before 1149.  All the entry actually means is that Theobald had paid a relief on 6 fees.   His father, Robert Valoignes, had held 30[1/3] fees in 1166, so this was probably nothing to do with them, although the death of his father is otherwise unrecorded, although it has been claimed that this payment on 6 fees marked the occasion of Robert's death.  The suggestion that these 6 fees in 1178 consisted of 4 for Appleby and 2 for Kendal seems unlikely.  Beyond this claim, there is absolutely no indication of Westmorland being in Theobald's hands and it should be remembered that he did not die until 1209, although neither of his sons seem to have survived him long.

Despite the claim for Theobald Valoignes being lord of Westmorland, the county continued in the hands of the sheriff and a change can be seen in the status of Westmorland in 1179.  This year 2 entries were made under the Yorkshire account under the title, Pleas in Westmorland.  After an account from the lands of Count Conan [Bowes] came the final Wesmariland account.  This had the same Ranulf [Glanville] again as sheriff and he entered the farm at £90 2s 5d as well as recording the fine of £4 8s for the farm of Hoff (Houf) again which Hugh Morville had in custody.  He also accounted for 1m (13s 4d) from the farm of Whale (Wal) which was in pledge to Hugh Morville from Anketill the sergeant.  Ranulf also recorded the payments of noutgeld he had made in the county, £7 14s for the old noutgeld and £55 19s 3d for this year's noutgeld.  His final useful account concerning the occupation of Westmorland was the fine entered by the burgesses of Appleby for their charter of liberties.  There was no account for Westmorland in 1180 and it was stated that its noutgeld was not to be exacted from Sheriff Ranulf as the king had granted him that render to sustain himself in his work as long as it pleased the king by his writ.  Quite clearly Ranulf was being allowed to run the county for his own profit.  It is also clear that those identifiable places within Westmorland in the pipe rolls are associated with Appleby and not Kendal.

With this references to Westmorland virtually disappear until the end of Henry's reign in 1189.  In 1181, Sheriff Ranulf Glanville of Yorkshire paid 26s 8d of the old noutgeld in Westmorland and in 1183, under Yorkshire, he entered some Westmorland Pleas.  He also rendered 110s for minor misdemeanours of the men of Westmorland whose names and debts were said to be recorded on the roll of the justiciaries which was delivered to the treasury.  In 1184, again under Yorkshire, various New Fines in the court of Ranulf Glanville in Westmorland were entered.  In the following list of fines there was one for 10m (£6 13s 4d) from the men of William Lancaster of Kendal which was paid.  This would seem to mark the death of William Lancaster and perhaps indicated the first time that Kendal had come under the jurisdiction of Westmorland.  Further pleas were made in the Yorkshire account as having been held before Ranulf as well as being paid in 1185 and 1186.  Otherwise Westmorland was not mentioned further until the pipe roll of September 1189 under King Richard I (1189-99) when further Westmorland pleas were heard under Yorkshire.  The county itself next appeared with a short summary of accounts in September 1190.

In 1192 Sheriff Hugh Bardolf and Hugh Bobi made the return for Yorkshire.  At the end of this came the same sheriff's short account for Westmorland.  In this he noted that the revenue of the county had been reduced by grants to other people and for expenditure on 3 castles outside the barony - viz. Kenilworth, Tickhill and Bristol.  It was also noted that 2m (£1 6s 8d) worth of land had been given to Alan Valoignes (d.1195, the lord of Tebay), £14 6s 4d from the land of Gilbert Fitz Remfry in Kendal and also £8 18s 2d from the same land as well as 100s from the fishery of Kendal.  This makes it quite clear that Kendal had been operating as a part of Westmorland before the grants of Richard I in April 1190.  Westmorland finally reappears as a county in 1201 when William Stuteville was sheriff with Philip Scrope, paying £130 2s 4d for the farm of the county and with a supplement of 14s 6d.  Gilbert Fitz Remfry [Kendal] paid £28 5s 10d in cornage, while the sheriff received £19 16s 5d by the king's writ and the view of William Denton and Robert Newbury for having the custody of the castles of Appleby and Brough.  Later in the rolls came a full account for Westmorland showing that it was obviously functioning again as a proper county.  Then, on 21 February 1203, King John informed his lieges that he had given to Robert Vipont (d.1228) ‘our castles of Appleby and Brough with all purtenances...' and a little later he added to this all the bail of Westmorland.  Quite clearly ‘all the bail of Westmorland' meant Appleby and the northern ‘proper' part of Westmorland and not Kendal to the south.  In any case, the grant brings to an end this brief survey of the beginnings of Westmorland.


Copyright©2023 Paul Martin Remfry