Furness (/ˈfɜːrnəs/ FUR-nəs) is a peninsula and region of Cumbria
in northwestern England. Together with the Cartmel
Peninsula it forms
North Lonsdale, historically an exclave of Lancashire.
Furness Peninsula, also known as Low Furness, is an area of
villages, agricultural land and low-lying moorland, with the
industrial town of Barrow at its head. The peninsula is bordered by
the estuaries of the
River Duddon to the west and the River Leven in
Morecambe Bay to the east. The wider region of
Furness consists of the
peninsula and the area known as High Furness, which is a relatively
mountainous and sparsely populated part of England, extending inland
Lake District and containing the
Furness Fells. The inland
boundary of the region is formed by the rivers Leven, Brathay and
Duddon, and the lake of Windermere. Off the southern tip of
Walney Island, eighteen kilometers in length, as well as several
Barrow, which developed when Furness's iron industry flourished in the
19th century, dominates the region's human geography: the surrounding
borough contains three quarters of the total population of 91,563.
The remainder of
Furness is predominantly rural, with
only other settlement with more than 10,000 people. Much of High
Furness consists of moorland, mountain or woodland environments.
The name, which is first recorded in 1150 as Fuththernessa, is
interpreted as "headland by the rump-shaped island," from Old Norse
futh (genitive futhar), meaning rump, and nes, meaning headland.
The island in question may be Piel Island, with the name originally
referring to the headland immediately opposite (where
before being extended to the entire region. Alternatively it could
be Walney Island: though it little resembles a rump today, erosion
could have altered its shape over time.
View from the slopes of
Dow Crag in the Coniston Fells
Furness's border follows the
River Duddon up to Wrynose Pass, and then
the Brathay until it flows into Windermere. The mere forms most of the
eastern boundary, with the rest being made up of the Leven, from its
source at Windermere's southern tip to its mouth at Morecombe Bay.
Furness has an area of about 647 square kilometers.
Furness Fells are formed of
Ordovician volcanic rocks, and
Silurian shales and slates to the south. They are cut through by
Windermere, Coniston Water, and numerous valleys which drain into the
Esk, the Duddon, and Morecambe Bay. The higher ground is rocky
heathland, with frequent tarns, while the lower ground supports
pasture and woodland. In the east there are two main chains of
hills: one overlooking Windermere, with
Latterbarrow (245m) as its
highest point, and the other, which reaches 300m, overlooking Coniston
Water. Between them is flat country and Esthwaite Water. West of
Coniston Water is the highest range, the Coniston Fells, with the
Coniston Old Man
Coniston Old Man (803m) as its highest point (and historically the
highest point in Lancashire). A lesser range extends from
just north of Dalton, but south of that the landscape is flat; this
area is also called Plain Furness. The low rolling hills of Low
Furness are formed of glacial deposits, mainly boulder clay, above
Triassic sandstone and
Carboniferous limestone. There are large
deposits of iron ore here, of very pure quality.
The human geography of the area is dominated by the town of
Barrow-in-Furness. Barrow is located on the tip of the peninsula and
Walney Island, and the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness, which includes
the small towns of Millom and Dalton-in-Furness, has a population of
69,100. Barrow, which grew from a small village to a large town
during the nineteenth century, is characterized by a grid pattern of
streets of terraced houses,  surrounded by more contemporary
suburbs. Though the
Port of Barrow
Port of Barrow still contains much industry, there
has also been significant redevelopment of former dock areas into
retail parks, office blocks and spaces of light industry. The other
major town in the area is Ulverston, at the border of Low and High
Furness, and the population of
Ulverston and its surrounding villages
is 17,307. The corridor along the main
A590 road between Ulverston
and Barrow is relatively densely populated and urban. Despite decline,
industry remains a bigger employer in this part of
Furness than most
of the UK, with BAE Systems,
Kimberly-Clark (both Barrow) and
GlaxoSmithKline (Ulverston) the largest employers. In Barrow and up
the west coast of Furness, the
Sellafield Nuclear site is also a
significant employer. The rest of
Furness is very rural, with the
mountainous, wooded and lacustrine environments. To the west, the main
settlements of Kirkby and Broughton are dominated by farming and
commuting. Tourism is more significant to the east of
together with Cartmel,
Furness has been marketed as part of the Lake
District Peninsulas, . The
Lake District National Park covers most
of High Furness, with Coniston and
Hawkshead the main centers for
tourism, while major tourist attractions include Grizedale Forest, the
Aquarium of the Lakes, South Lakes Safari Zoo, Lakeside and
Haverthwaite Railway, and the
Windermere ferry services. The northern
and eastern communities of
Furness share more in common with the
Lakeland towns of
Ambleside and Bowness, outside of the region, than
with the more urban areas of Low Furness. Mining was once a major part
of the local economy, but today only the
Burlington Slate Quarries at
Kirkby remain of note.
Transport connections are, by British standards, slow. The
the main road into the region from the M6 Motorway. The A595 is the
main route up the western coast of Furness, and the A593/A5084 run
north-south from Low
Furness to High Furness. The
provides railway connections to the
West Coast Mainline
West Coast Mainline through the
south of Furness, and the
Cumbria Coast Line is a slow rural branch
line with services running north to Copeland and Carlisle. The
Windermere Ferry in the east of
Furness is England's only vehicular
The ruins of
Furness Abbey, just north of Barrow
Furness seems to have been scantly populated in ancient times. A
handful of Brittonic placenames survive around Barrow, suggesting this
part was settled earliest. Anglo-Saxons arrived in Low
the 7th century, but do not seem to have spread to High Furness, which
remained almost empty until it was populated by incoming Scandinavians
in the 10th century. It has been suggested that they had a small
mountain kingdom there, centered on Coniston (which means "king's
town"). The prevalence of names with the element "thwaite" in High
Furness (from Norse thveit, "clearing"), and the absence thereof in
Low Furness, suggests that the latter had already been deforested by
the time the Scandinavians arrived. Scandinavians probably formed
the majority of the
Furness population, and Old Norse remained a
living language in the region until at least the late 12th century.
Before the Conquest, Furness, assessed to contain 82 ploughlands, was
part of the Manor of Hougun, held by Tostig, Earl of Northumbria.
Furness was in the possession of the crown. In 1127 Prince
Furness Abbey, granting the abbot most of the land in
Furness and giving the rest to a Fleming named Michael. Henry III
later granted the rent due from the lord of Michael's Land (£10 per
year) to the abbot of Furness, making him the sole tenant-in-chief,
and thus one of the most powerful abbots in the country.
In the 14th century
Dalton Castle and
Piel Castle were built by the
Furness to defend the market town of Dalton and the port of
Barrow respectively. The area had been raided by Scots in 1316 and
again in 1322, though in the latter year the abbot paid Robert the
Bruce a ransom to stop his men harrying Low Furness.
Lambert Simnel landed with his army at
Piel Island in
1487. A few locals joined him, including Sir Thomas Broughton of
Broughton Tower, who would be killed at the disastrous Battle of Stoke
The abbey was closed in 1536 after the monks lent their support to the
Pilgrimage of Grace, and the abbot's lands were seized by the crown,
becoming part of the royal duchy of Lancaster. Later they were
granted to the dukes of Buccleuch and Devonshire.
In May 1643,
Furness was occupied and plundered by a large Royalist
force commanded by Richard Viscount Molyneux. Later that year they
prepared to march to the relief of
Thurland Castle in South Lonsdale,
then besieged by Colonel Rigby, but Rigby took some of his men over
the sands and met the Royalists at Lindal, where they were routed. The
Parliamentarians looted the Dalton neighbourhood before retreating to
Cartmel the same night. In 1644 the Royalists remained in control of
Furness, though the country folk were hostile to them, and Parliament
ships landed at
Piel Island to aid in a rising. After a fight at
Hawcoat the resistance was quashed, and the Parliament ships left for
Liverpool. After collecting the king's rents, the Royalists left for
Cartmel. After the Restoration of the monarchy, one
Colonel Sawry, attempted a rising.
Barrow Island in 1890
Iron had been mined in
Furness since prehistory, and by the late 18th
century ore was being exported from Barrow. The
Furness Railway was
built in the 19th century to cater to the increasing demand. Iron and
steelworks were established at Barrow, and the town's population grew
from 325 in 1847 to 51,712 in 1891, surpassing Dalton's and
Ulverston's. Mining in
Furness reached its peak in 1882, when
1,408,693 tons of ore were won. At the same time, tourism in the Lake
District increased, popularised in part by the work of
John Ruskin and
Tourism in High
Furness was promoted by the writings of Beatrix Potter
in the early 20th century. Potter was one of the largest landowners in
the area, eventually donating her many properties to the National
Shipbuilding later replaced iron and steel as Low Furness's main
industry, and Barrow's shipyards became the largest in England. In
particular, submarine development became a specialty of the town, with
the Royal Navy's first submarines built there. During the wars this
Furness to escape many of the economic problems that other
areas suffered, due to the constant work provided by the military.
World War II
World War II demand for ships and submarines remained high,
while the development of the
Lake District National Park further
fostered tourism. 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 led to mass
redundancies in the area. The shipyard's employment figures fell from
20,000 to 3,000 in a 20-year period. However, the shipyard at Barrow
remains England's busiest and the only nuclear submarine facility in
the country. Tourism has increased even more, with the Aquarium of the
South Lakes Safari Zoo
South Lakes Safari Zoo 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 historic boundaries of
Lancashire (red) compared with the modern
Furness formed the greater part of the North Lonsdale exclave of the
historic county of Lancashire, which bordered
Cumberland to the
Westmorland to the northeast (the point where the three
counties met is marked by the Three Shire Stone at the head of the
Duddon). North Lonsdale is also called "
Lancashire North of the
In 1974 North Lonsdale, with
Cumberland and Westmorland, became part
of the new county of Cumbria. At the district level it now consists of
the borough of Barrow and part of South Lakeland.
Furness and the western part of High
Furness are in the Barrow and
Furness parliamentary constituency, while eastern High
Furness is in
Westmorland and Lonsdale.
Jubilee Bridge, linking Barrow Island and Walney Island
Conishead Priory, near Ulverston
Piel island and castle
Scenery near Broughton in the winter
The Old Man of Coniston from Coniston village
Windermere from Latterbarrow
Furness Family History Society.
^ Population data for northwest England, from the 2011 census, Furness
being defined as the borough of Barrow and the
South Lakeland output
areas 007A, 008, 012, and 014.
^ Mills, David (2011). A Dictionary of British Place-Names. Oxford
^ a b c d e f g h Rajala, Heikki (2009–2010). "English Place-Names"
(PDF). Innervate. Nottingham University. 2.
^ Taggart, Caroline (2011). The Book of English Place-Names. Random
^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Furness". The Encyclopædia
Britannica. 11. Cambridge University Press. CS1 maint: Extra
text: authors list (link)
^ a b c d Bowden, Mark (2013).
Furness Iron. English Heritage.
^ a b c d e f g Farrer, William; Brownbill, John, eds. (1914). "The
Parish of Furness". A History of the County of Lancaster. 8. Victoria
^ Nugent, Helen. "Census shows
Barrow-in-Furness suffered steepest
decline in population". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November
^ Roberts, E. (1977). Working-class women in the North West. Oral
History, 5(2), 7-30.
Furness and Ulverston, Local Area Partnership" (PDF). South
Lakeland. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
Lake District Peninsulas". Travel Rat. Retrieved 31 January
^ Dyckhoff, Tom. "Let's move to Ulverston, Cumbria". The Guardian.
Retrieved 24 November 2017.
^ "The Great Raid of 1322". Barrow History Society.
^ "Lambert Simnel's Landing on Piel Island". Barrow History
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barrow-in-Furness". The Encyclopædia
Britannica. 3. Cambridge University Press. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
Coordinates: 54°16′12″N 3°05′19″W / 54.27004°N
3.08853°W / 54.270