History of Heversham and Leasgill

A Quick Overview

Heversham and Leasgill are now in the county of Cumbria but prior to the reorganisation of local government in 1974, they were located in Westmorland, described in 1828 by Pigot and Co as follows–

‘ … an inland county, being bounded on the north and north-west by Cumberland, on the east by Durham and Yorkshire, and on the south and south-west by Lancashire. 'Westmoreland' received its name from its situation to the west, and the principal part of it being formerly moorish barren land. It is one of those counties which, in the time of the Romans, was inhabited by that tribe of the ancient Britons called the 'Brigantes.' Under the Saxons it formed part of the Kingdom of Northumberland. Traces of two Roman roads are still visible, one from Carlisle to Appleby, and the other from the Picts wall in Cumberland, by Kendal, to Lancaster.

The county is divided into two unequal portions, called the baronies of Westmoreland and Kendal; the former although abounding with hills is comparatively an open country; the latter is very mountainous containing many bleak and barren hills, usually called the fells. The western mountains contain mines of copper and in some places have been discovered veins of gold. Slate and limestone quarries are productive and near to Kendal, a beautiful and variegated marble is found which is worked into chimney-pieces, ornaments etc.

The county lies in the province of York and the diocese of Carlisle. It is divided into four wards, East, West, Kendal and Lonsdale. There is one borough and county town (Appleby) seven other market towns, and thirty-two parishes.

Westmoreland's lakes are Winander-Mere and Ulleswater. The former is the largest in England, and is situated partly in Cumberland.’

Probably around 1900, Westmorland was described as follows -

‘Westmorland, a county in N. of England; bounded NW. and N. by Cumberland, NE. by Durham, E. by Yorkshire, and S. and SW. by Lancashire and Morecambe Bay; greatest length, N. and S., 32 miles;. greatest breadth, E. and W., 40 miles; area, 500,906 acres, population 64,191. Westmorland presents continuous succession of mountain, moor, and fell, intersected by deep winding vales, traversed by numerous streams. The principal of these are the Eden, Lowther, Lune, and Kent, the last forming the broad estuary which terminates in Morecambe Bay. The mountains consist of various ridges belonging to the Pennine and Cumbrian chains. Helvellyn, on the Cumberland border, rises to a height of 3115 ft. The western part of the county is within the Lake District, and contains Hawes Water, Grasmere, Rydal Water, and Ullswater on the Cumberland border, and Windermere on the Lancashire border. The climate is moist. The arable land is mostly confined to the valleys, where the soil usually consists of a dry gravelly loam, well adapted for turnips, but the greater part of the county is natural pasture. A few tracts of woodland remain of the forests which formerly clothed all the hills. The mineral productions include graphite, marble, roofing slate, and some coal, lead, and copper. The only manufactures of any consequence are the coarse woollens of Kendal. The county has good communications by railway.’ 

Further back in time, the area around Heversham and Leasgill marks the Southern extremity of the ice covering some 10,000 years ago. Many drumlins were deposited on the limestone bedrock during the last Ice Age. More dramatic effects of the ice can be seen not far away in the Lake District and the sculptured outlines of the Coniston, Langdale and Fairfield ranges are all visible. More obvious in all weathers is the limestone escarpment of Whitbarrow Scar just to the North-West across the River Kent. To the West is the drained and fertile plain of Milnthorpe Marsh and then the open expanses of sand and mud that provide the estuary for both the Kent and the Bela as the water makes its way to Sandside, Arnside and finally to Morecambe Bay. Heversham and Leasgill are positioned between the boulder-clay drumlin known as ‘Haysteads’ to the West and the exposed carboniferous limestone of Heversham Head to the East. These limestone outcrops are scattered around the area and also include Farleton Fell and Arnside Knott. 

 As for distant social history; the Celts, the Romans, the Vikings and then the missionaries from Ireland would all have passed this way between 2,000 BC and 400 AD. Further advances by the Vikings occurred up to around 900 AD. More detail on all historical aspects of the vicinity, particularly on Milnthorpe and Heversham, can be found in recognised and accessible sources. 

Jumping to the year 2001, Heversham and Leasgill and this area of South Lakeland are situated in present-day county of Cumbria. In 1974, Westmorland was incorporated into Cumbria together with Cumberland, the Furness part of Lancashire and a small part of the former West Riding of Yorkshire around Sedbergh. Some four miles to the North is Kendal. Less than a mile to the South of Heversham is the village, or ‘town’ of Milnthorpe and two miles beyond Milnthorpe is the county boundary with Lancashire.

Pigot and Co. (1828) National Commercial Directory