Furness: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Furness (pronounced /ˈfɝːnɨs/) is a peninsula in south Cumbria, England. At its widest extent, it is considered to cover the whole of North Lonsdale, that part of the Lonsdale hundred that is an exclave of the historic county of Lancashire, lying to the north of Morecambe Bay.[1]

The area is divided into Low Furness and High Furness. Low Furness is the peninsula;[2] it juts out into the Irish Sea and delineates the western edge of Morecambe Bay. The southern end of the peninsula is dominated by the bay's tidal mudflats. The long thin island of Walney lies off the peninsula's south-west coast. High Furness is the northern part of the area, that was part of North Lonsdale but is not on the peninsula itself.[3] Much of it is within the Lake District National Park, and contains the Furness Fells. It borders England's largest lake, Windermere. Additionally, the Cartmel Peninsula is often included in definitions of Furness.[4] Strictly speaking, however, Cartmel is not part of Furness, forming a separate peninsula between the estuaries of the rivers Leven and Kent. Both areas together form the pennisulars of south Cumbria.

The town of Barrow-in-Furness dominates the region with well over two thirds of its population.[5] Other principal settlements of the region are Ulverston, Coniston, Broughton-in-Furness, Cartmel, Dalton-in-Furness and Askam and Ireleth. The population of Furness stands at around 100,000.



The oldest record of its name is Fuþþernessa about 1150.[6] It probably came from Old Norse Fuðarnes = "Fuði's headland". The meaning of Old Norse fuð , which refers to the female sex organ, makes it clear that the man's name "Fuði" is a crude shipboard nickname with sexual reference, and not a formal name given by his parents.[citation needed]

Evidence of Roman inhabitation has remained low until recently, but archaeological surveys in Urswick have suggested that the local church dates to this time, and may even have been a monastery. It has also been claimed that this was the site of the birthplace of St Patrick.[7] Furness was part of the Scottish Kingdom of Strathclyde, though it has also been suggested that the local Viking settlers were actually Manx, rather than coming directly from Scandinavia.

By the time of the Domesday Book, Furness was at the very north-western corner of William the Conqueror's kingdom, disputed by England and the Scots. The Domesday Book recorded twenty-six vills or townships forming the Manor of Hougun as being held by Earl Tostig. In the Domesday Book, Houganai or island of Hougun was also the name given to the adjacent Walney Island. Hougun (believed to derive from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or mound) was the name given to Furness. [8][9]

As the border moved northwards, the status of Furness became more settled and the latter Middle Ages saw dominance by the monks of Furness Abbey. They owned much of the local land, and built structures such as Piel Castle. Buildings from this age are in the traditional sandstone of the region, which was later used for the gothic style town hall of Barrow-in-Furness in the Victorian era. At one stage, the power and wealth of Furness Abbey was exceeded in the United Kingdom only by Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds. However, the monastery fell to ruins during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s. The Abbey's lands in Furness were passed to the Duchy of Lancaster in 1540.

Furness remained a remote farming and fishing district, accessible only across the dangerous sands of Morecambe Bay. William Wordsworth was among those who enjoyed the remote splendour of the area, writing a number of sonnets about local features such as Piel Castle and the River Duddon. The highland areas of High Furness began to experience tourism in the late 18th century, before the tourist boom of the Victorian era.

The fortunes of Furness changed dramatically in 1840s and 1850s, when William Schneider found the second largest iron ore deposits in the United Kingdom at Askam-in-Furness. Further resources were found at Dalton-in-Furness, Lindal-in-Furness and Roose. The Furness Railway was built to transport this ore, providing the area with its first safe transport route to the rest of England.

The iron ore and steelworks were, at their time, the biggest in the world. The population of Barrow-in-Furness rose from a few hundred to 47,000 by 1881, bypassing Dalton-in-Furness and Ulverston as the area's biggest town, and engulfing a number of smaller villages along the way. The Furness Railway expanded to the mining sites at Coniston and Greenodd, and helped develop Barrow along a unique town plan. Mining in Furness reached its peak in 1882, when 1,408,693 tons of ore were won. At the same time, the popularity of tourism in the Coniston and Hawkshead areas increased, popularised in part by the work of John Ruskin.

Tourism in High Furness was promoted by the writings of Beatrix Potter in the early part of the 20th century. Potter was one of the largest landowners in the area, eventually donating her many properties to the National Trust. In particular, sites such as Coniston Water, Tarn Hows and Windermere became popular.

Iron and steel soon gave over to shipbuilding in Low Furness, with Barrow's docks becoming one of the largest in the United Kingdom. In particular, submarine development became a speciality of the town, with the Royal Navy's first submarines built there. During the World Wars, this allowed Furness to escape many of the economic problems that other areas suffered, due to the constant work provided by the military. Although tourism declined, the rural areas of Furness were able to rely on agriculture for survival.

After World War II demand for ships and submarines remained high, while the development of the Lake District National Park fostered tourism further. Attractions such as the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, steamers on Windermere and Coniston Water, and fell walking, caused parts of Furness to become dependent on the tourist trade.

In the early 1990s, the decline of shipbuilding due to the end of the Cold War led to mass redundancies in the area. The shipyard's employment figures fell from 20,000 to 3,000 in a twenty year period. However, the shipyard in Barrow remains England's busiest and the only nuclear submarine facility in the country. Tourism has increased even more, with the Aquarium of the Lakes and South Lakes Wild Animal Park among the newer attractions.

Transport has become an increasingly controversial issue, with conservation groups and local business clashing over the need for improvements to the A590 trunk road, the main link to the M6 Motorway. Proposals for a road bridge over Morecambe Bay have appeared, but are yet to progress beyond the planning stages.


The Furness region consists mostly of low-lying hills, forests and flats, with some higher ground towards the north.

The highest point of the region is Coniston Old Man at 803 m (2634 ft). Other notable summits include Dow Crag, Wetherlam and Swirl How which, together with "The Old Man", are known as the Furness Fells. Gummer's How is a prominent hill in the east of the region.

Lakes include Windermere, Coniston Water and Esthwaite Water. The wide expanse of Grizedale Forest stands in-between these lakes.


Settlements with population over 10,000
There are only three settlements in Furness with a population over 10,000. Barrow which is home to around three quarters of the areas population, with Ulverston and Dalton following. Other notable towns with a population under 10,000 are Coniston, Broughton, Cartmel, and Askam and Ireleth.

Town Population District
Barrow-in-Furness 59,900 Barrow-in-Furness
Ulverston 11,210 South Lakeland
Dalton-in-Furness 11,000 Barrow-in-Furness

There are no official demographic statistics for Furness, as it is not an official district, region or county. For demographics in the largest town - Barrow - See here, or the county - Cumbria - as a whole see here.


Industry is the largest employer in the Furness region, and has been for over 100 years. Currently the biggest employers in the area are:

Employer Company Info No of people employed Location
BAE Systems UK Based defence contractor (Fourth Largest in world) works on land, sea and air defence 5,000 Along the Walney Channel, takes up a vast area of the south western tip of the town
GlaxoSmithKline British based pharmaceutical, biologicals, and healthcare company 570 On the outskirts of Ulverston.
Kimberly Clark American corporation that produces mostly paper-based consumer products 470 Park Road - Industrial Outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness


Furness was a detached part of the historic county of Lancashire bordering Cumberland to the north-west and Westmorland to the north-east (see Three Shire Stone). It has been previously known as "Lancashire beyond the sands [of Morecambe Bay]" or "north of the sands" or "over the sands" as in Grange-over-Sands. The area formed the northern part of the hundred of Lonsdale.

In 1974 Furness became part of the shire county of Cumbria for aministration purposes, legally it is still a part of the County Palatine of Lancashire. At the district level it now consists of Barrow Borough and part of South Lakeland.

Towns and villages

Towns and villages in Furness include:

See also the Islands of Furness

Rivers and lakes


Famous people

See also


  1. ^ Furness Family History Society, 'Lancashire North of the Sands', Accessed August 20, 2006.
  2. ^ Explore Low Furness Accessed August 20, 2006
  3. ^ Furness Family History Society Accessed August 20, 2006
  4. ^ Furness Family History Society 'Cartmel' Accessed August 20, 2006
  5. ^ 2003 Cumbria population figures Accessed August 20, 2006
  6. ^ A.D.Mills, Dictionary of English place-names, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0 19 280074 4
  7. ^ North West Evening Mail
  8. ^ Cumbria: Hougun (The Domesday Book On-Line)
  9. ^ The Place-Names of Cumberland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1952)

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FURNESS, a district of Lancashire, England, separated from the major portion of the county by Morecambe Bay. It is bounded S.E. by this inlet of the Irish Sea, S.W. by the sea, W. by the Duddon estuary and Cumberland, and N. and E. by Westmorland. Its area is about 250 sq. m. It forms the greater part of the North Lonsdale parliamentary division of Lancashire, and contains the parliamentary borough of Barrow-in-Furness. The surface is almost entirely hilly. The northern half is included in the celebrated Lake District, and contains such eminences as the Old Man of Coniston and Wetherlam. Apart from the Duddon, which forms part of the western boundary, the principal rivers are the Leven and Crake, flowing southward into a common estuary in Morecambe Bay. The Leven drains Windermere and the Crake Coniston Lake. The usage of the term "Lake District," however, tends to limit the name of Furness in common thought to the district south of the Lakes, where several of the place-names are suffixed with that of the district, as Barrow-inFurness, Dalton-in-Furness, Broughton-in-Furness. Between the Duddon and Morecambe Bay lies Walney Island, 8 m. in length, and in the shallow strait between it and the mainland are several smaller islands. That part of Furness which forms a peninsula between the Leven estuary and Morecambe Bay, and the Duddon estuary, is rich in hematite iron ore, which has been worked from very early times. It was known and smelted by British and Romans, and by the monks of Furness Abbey and Conishead Priory, both in the district. It was owing to the existence of this ore that the town of Barrow grew up in the 19th century; at first as a port from which the ore was exported to South Wales, while later furnaces were established on the spot, and acquired additional importance on the introduction of the Bessemer process, which requires a non-phosphoric ore such as is found here. The hematite is also worked at Ulverston, Askam, Dalton and elsewhere, but the furnaces now depend in part upon ore imported from Spain. The supposed extension of the ore under the sands of the Duddon estuary led to the construction of a sea wall to facilitate the working. The district is served by the main line of the Furness railway, from Carnforth (junction with the London & North-Western railway), passing the pleasant watering-place of Grange, and approximately following the coast by Ulverston, Dalton and Barrow, with branches to Lake Side, Windermere, and to Coniston.

Apart from its industrial importance and scenic attractions, Furness has an especial interest on account of its famous abbey.

The ruins of this, beautifully situated in a wooded valley, are extensive, and mainly of fine transitional Norman and Early English date, acquiring additional picturesqueness from the warm colour of the red sandstone of which they are built. The abbey of Furness, otherwise Furdenesia or the further nese (promontory), which was dedicated to St Mary, was founded in 1127 by a small body of monks belonging to the Benedictine order of Savigny. In 1124 they had settled at Tulketh, near Preston, but migrated in 1127 to Furness under the auspices of Stephen, count of Boulogne, afterwards king, at that time lord of the liberty of Furness. In 1148 the brotherhood joined the Cistercian order. Stephen granted to the monks the lordship of Furness, and his charter was confirmed by Henry I., Henry II. and subsequent kings. The abbot's power throughout the lordship was almost absolute; he had a market and fair at Dalton, was free from service to the county and wapentake, and held a sheriff's tourn. By a succession of gifts the abbey became one of the richest in England and was the largest Cistercian foundation in the kingdom. At the Dissolution its revenues amounted to between £750 and £800 a year, exclusive of meadows, pastures, fisheries, mines, mills and salt works, and the wealth of the monks enabled them to practise a regal hospitality. The abbot was one of the twenty Cistercian abbots summoned to the parliament of 1264, but was not cited after 1330, as he did not hold of the king in capite per baroniam. The abbey founded several offshoot houses, one of the most important being Rushen Abbey in the Isle of Man. In 1535 the royal commissioners visited the abbey and reported four of its inmates, including the abbot, for incontinence. In 1536 the abbot was charged with complicity in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and on the 7th of April 1537, under compulsion, surrendered the abbey to the king. A few monks were granted pensions, and the abbot was endowed with the profits of the rectory of Dalton, valued at £33, 6s. 8d. per annum. In 1540 the estates and revenues were annexed by act of parliament to the Duchy of Lancaster. About James I.'s reign the site and territories were alienated to the Prestons of Preston-Patrick, from whom they descended to the dukes of Devonshire.

Conishead Priory, near Ulverston, an Augustinian foundation of the reign of Henry II., has left no remains, but of the priory of Cartmel (1188) the fine church is still in use. It is a cruciform structure of transitional Norman and later dates, its central tower having the upper storey set diagonally upon the lower. The chancel contains some superb Jacobean carved oak screens, with stalls of earlier date.

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