Not quite as old as the hills, but with a reputation that is just as solid, the Westmorland Gazette has been the definitive voice of the Lake District and its surrounding communities since 1818.

Lake District poet Wordsworth was one of its original backers and a champion of the cause for keeping in power Lord Lowther and Colonel Lowther, who controlled the two parliamentary seats for Westmorland.

He almost became editor, when the incumbent, a man called Fisher, was dismissed within weeks for "not being political enough." Wordsworth was certainly political, but he side-stepped the editor's chair, securing it instead for his friend Thomas de Quincey.

De Quincey was probably a worse choice than Fisher. An opium enthusiast he stole stories from other papers, spent most of his time writing from Grasmere and refused to go to the newspaper office in Kendal. Worst of all he used the paper to describe in detail the hallucinogenic effects he experienced while drugged up with laudanum.

He went after four months, but Wordsworth's association with the Gazette was to continue for many years. In the 1830s he wrote dozens of letters to the paper protesting about the spread of the railway to Cumbria and, in particular, towards his Grasmere home.

Letters from other great Victorians can be found on the pages of the Gazette as it rapidly grew to become the authoritative county newspaper.

Ruskin, the art-critic, writer and social reformer, wrote from his mansion overlooking Coniston Water, and Beatrix Potter sent letters from her cottage at Hilltop, Near Sawrey where she lived the life of a gentlewoman farmer after making her fortune from Peter Rabbit and other children's books.

The Gazette became the voice of a community stretching from the hill farmers of the Yorkshire Dales in the east to the mighty iron, steel and shipbuilding industries of Furness in the West. From magical mountains like Helvellyn in the north to the mysteries and dangers of tide swept Morecambe Bay in the south.

It was at the heart of the even greater changes brought by mass tourism and the creation of the Lake District as Britain's premier national park.

Today, with a circulation over 30,000, a copy of The Gazette can still be found in most homes in its heartland, and also in those of many far beyond who yearn to live among the lakes and high fells - or keep in touch with their past life, family and friends.

Highly regarded throughout the provincial newspaper industry The Gazette has won a host of awards for its editorial content and overall quality. It now has an office in Furness, based in Ulverston, and is distributed circulates in an area bounded by Greenodd, Broughton and Barrow-In-Furness.

Now owned by the Newsquest Media Group, a Gannett company, it is the flagship of Westmorland Gazette Newspapers, which also publishes the Wednesday free tabloid the South Lakes Citizen and a host of other niche titles.

In 1998, Newsquest launched its websites, and the Gazette began life online as The site has grown to be a premiere Lake District news, information, lifestyle and e-commerce site providing services to locals, visitors and tourists.

The Westmorland Gazette is independent of political parties, private interest and Government. Its policy is to provide readers in South Lakeland and surrounding areas with a news and information service that is fair, accurate and balanced.

The Gazette adheres to the Press Complaints Commission’s code of practice. If you find an error of fact in its pages, please write to the Editor whose policy it is to correct mistakes promptly in print and, where appropriate, to apologise.

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