Westward, northward from Westmorland lieth Cumberland, the utmost region this way of the realme of England, as that which on the north side boundeth upon Scotland: on the south side and the west the Irish Sea beateth upon it, and eastward above Westmorland it butteth upon Northumberland. It tooke the name of the inhabitants, who were the true and naturall Britans, and called themselves in their owne language, Kumbri and Kambri. For, the histories testifie, that the Britans remained here a long time, maugree [in spite of] the English Saxons, howsoever they fretted and stormed thereat: yea and Marianus himself recorded as much, who termed this country Cumbrorum terram, that is, The land of the Cumbri, or Britans: to say nothing of the places that everywhere here, beare British names, as Caer-Luel (Carlisle), Caer-dronoc (Cardurnock), Pen-rith , Pen-rodoc (Penruddock), &c. Which most evidently declare the same, and as clearly prove mine assertion.

The country, although it be somewhat with the coldest, as lying farre north, and seemeth as rough by reason of hilles, yet for the variety thereof it srnileth upon the beholders, and giveth contentment to as many as travail it. For, after the rocks bunching out, the mountains standing thicke together, rich of metal mines, and betweene them great meetes stored with all kindes of wild foule, you come to prety hilles good for pasturage and well replenished with flocks of sheepe; beneath which againe you meet with goodly plaines spreading out a great way, yielding corne sufficiently. Besides all this the ocean driving and dashing upon the shore affordeth plenty of excellent good fish, and upbraideth, as it were, the inhabitants there abouts, with their negligence, for that they practice fishing no more than they doe.

The south part of this shire is called Copeland, and Coupland, for that it beareth up the head aloft, with sharp-edged and pointed hilles, which the Britans tearm copa: or as others would have it, named Copeland, as one would say Coperland, of rich mines of copper therein.

Now the shore treandeth out more, and more, and encloseth westward, where it maketh a little promontory, which the common sort for Saint Bega, call Saint Bees. . . . Scarce a mile hence standeth Egremont Castle on the top of a hill, the seat in times past of William de Meschines. . . . From hence the shore, drawing itself back by little and little, and as it appeareth by the heapes of rubbish it hath beene fortified all along by the Romans, wheresoever there was easy landing. For it was the outmost bound of the Roman Empire, and the Scots lay sorest upon this coast and infested it most, when they flowed and flocked hither by heapes out of Ireland2. . . After this the river Derwent, which having his first beginning in Borrowdale, a valley hemmed in with crooked hills creepeth betwene the mountains called Derwent Fels. . . . and after it hath passed through these hills spreadeth abroad into a large lake, Bede termed it proegrande stagnum, that is, a very great pool: wherein are three islands eminent above the water. . . . On the very skirt of this botome, in a pleasant soil compassed about with dewy hills, and fenced on the north side with that high mountain Skiddaw, lieth Keswick, a little town, which is at this day much inhabited by mineral men who have here their smelting house by Derwent side.

As for that mountain Skiddaw aforesaid, it riseth up to such an height with two heads like unto Parnassus, and with a kind of emulation beholdeth Scruffel hill (Criffell) before it in Anandale within Scotland, that from these two mountaines, according as the misty clouds arise or fall, the people thereby dwelling make their prognostication of the change of weather. From hence Derwent sometimes within a narrow chanell otherwhiles with a broader streame speedeth him very fast northward, to entertaine Cocker, which when they meete, doe encompasse, almost round about, Cockermouth a mercate (market) towne of good welth, and a castle of the Earls of Northumberland. Afterwards Derwent, having gathered his waters into one stream, entreth into the ocean at Wirkinton (Workington), a place famous for the taking of salmon. When the shore hath passed on right forward a little way from hence, it bendeth so backe againe with an arme of the sea retiring inward, that it may seem to bee that Moricambe, which Ptolomee setteth heere: the nature of the place and the name doth so just agree. For a crooked creeke it is of salt water, and Moricambe in the British tongue signifieth a crooked sea. Hard by this David the first King of Scots built the Abbey de Ulmo3 commonly called Holme Cultrain (Holme Cultram). . . Beneath this Abbey, the brooke called Waver runneth into the said arme of the sea, which brooke taketh into it the riveret Wiza, at the head whereof lie the very bones and pitiful reliques of an ancient citie, the neighbours call it at this day Old Carlile4.


William Camden's Brittania, translated by Philemon Holland, 1610




1. Camden's Brittania was first published in 1586; Holland's translation followed in 1610.
2. During Roman times the Scots were an Irish people - they settled on the west coast of Scotland in early post-Roman times.
3. This is the only reference to the Abbey de Ulmo I have ever come across.
4. The Roman fort and civilian settlement at Old Carlisle is still prominently visible from the Carlisle - Cockermouth road.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman