Protest group marks out historic Westmorland and Lancashire

FIGHT: One of the Westmorland signs put up by County Watch near Bowness-on-Windermere

FIGHT: A protester puts up a Lancashire sign on the old border between historic Westmorland and Lancashire counties

First published in Ballots The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A RADICAL protest group has taken drastic action to ensure Westmorland becomes officially recognised as a historic county.

Members of County Watch have baffled tourists and locals by placing ‘Welcome to Lancashire’ signs in the heart of what is now Cumbria.

The signs - which are official Lancashire County Council signs - have been spotted at Bowness and Skelwith Bridge.

A series of unofficial ‘Westmorland’ signs have also appeared in Burton-in-Kendal, Milnthorpe and Sedbergh.

County Watch secretary Tony Bennett said Britain’s historic county and shire boundaries should be retained.

“I think these historic signs give people a sense of place, continuity and tradition,” he said.

“People value the Westmorland county name and this is apparent in the Westmorland County Show, the Westmorland Football League and the Westmorland Gazette.

"Westmorland still has a very strong identity but there is no point retaining the name if people don’t know where the historic county starts and ends.”

The county of Westmorland and parts of Lancashire were absorbed into the new county of Cumbria in 1974.

"These areas have been governed by Cumbria County Council ever since.

Mr Bennett, 63, a retired solicitor from Essex, said County Watch has taken direct action because repeated “polite attempts” to have the historic county recognised have failed.

He said County Watch will return to Cumbria next summer if Cumbria County Council does not recognise the old Westmorland boundaries by April.

“We will be back to put ‘Westmorland’ signs up at Brough, Penrith, Keswick and possibly even on top of Hellvelyn,” he said.

“This is a shock tactic but we would love to talk to Cumbria and Lancashire county councils and we will happily pay for the new signs, agree a location and erect them to Highways Agency standards.”

But the new signs have sparked confusion from locals and tourists who have failed to understand the significance of the County Watch campaign.

David Foster, 65, from Crook, said he was utterly baffled when he spotted the ‘Welcome to Lancashire’ sign at Counties Meet, near Bowness.

“Nobody know where they have come from or why they are there,” he said.

“It’s just so obscure.”

Martyn Stott, 54, Cartmel Fell, said County Watch members had taken “a diabolical liberty”.

He said: “It’s miles to the Lancashire border so it’ve very confusing and misleading for tourists. Aside from that I don’t want to live in Lancashire!

“I think the whole thing is stupid, very misleading and there’s no point to it.

“All the neighbours have been talking about it wondering what the heck is going on.

"In fact I’m thinking of putting my own sign up saying: ‘Lancashire 35 miles south - keep going’.”

Ted Walsh, chairman of Cartmel Fell Parish Council, said locals have always pushed to maintain an existing ‘Counties Meet’ sign to mark the spot where Winster, Cartmel Fell and Windermere meet.

“I can see the point if someone wanted the historic Westmorland noted but whether it needs this level of skulduggery I don’t know,” he said.

But Appleby-in-Westmorland parish councillor and former mayor, Stan Rooke, said he would love to see Westmorland recognised as a county.

“When Westmorland was abolished in 1974, our former mayor fought to retain the name in the town’s title so the county wouldn’t die,” he said.

“It’s so important to keep the name alive because Westmorland is such a historic county and it would be nice for future generations to recognise it as such.

The Friends of Real Lancashire group also wants to see the traditional counties of Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland signposted.

Chairman, Chris Dawson, said such a move could boost tourism.

“The history and culture of the area is bound up with the traditional counties that have existed for centuries and whose boundaries remain unchanged by any legislation,” he said.

“The geography of Britain ought to be based on traditional county areas which never change rather than on ephemeral administrative areas.”

A spokesman for Cumbria Tourism said: "I applaud County Watch's spirit and inventiveness but we have to remember that this is 2010 and this is Cumbria, whether we like it or not.

"We would not want to confuse any visitors to the area about where they are.

"I'd like to see a sign called Welcome To Paradise and we could put it up in the Lake District, naturally."

A spokesman for Cumbria Highways said the LCC signs have been removed and returned to the authority.

“Following the re-drawing of county boundaries in 1974, road signs were obviously altered to reflect this change and unauthorised attempts to make further alterations could be misleading – especially for tourists and visitors,” he said.

“Any requests for new road signs need to go via the highway authority for permission, so we’d urge people to get in touch with us to look at going through the correct process rather than simply taking action into their own hands.”

County Watch

County Watch has led campaigns in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset and Somerset.

In 2005, County Watch placed ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ signs in Saddleworth, in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, in a bid to have the parish recognised as part of historic Yorkshire. Since then the village has flown a Yorkshire flag.

The group has 20 active members and is chaired by author Nikolai Tolstoy, a distant cousin of the Russian author Leo Tolstoy.

Tony Bennett is a retired solcicitor from Essex who ran as the UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harlow in the 2001 General Election and as Veritas party candidate in 2005.

Has County Watch gone too far with its signs? Add your comments below.

Comments (15)

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8:18am Fri 17 Dec 10

Anthony Bennett says...

Back in 1917, a new regime took power in Russia, and the historic city of St. Petersburg was renamed 'Leningrad'. But the people of that city never accepted the new name, and after the fall of state communism in the 1990s, they demanded their city be given its historic name. Today, it's on the map again as 'St. Petersburg'. Let's hope Westmorland doesn't have to wait so long for its name to be fully restored to the maps of England. In 1974 they created Cleveland, Humberside and Avon - all now gone due to people power. They took Rutland off the map - but the people of Rutland made sure it was put firmly back on the map. It's Westmorland's turn next.
Back in 1917, a new regime took power in Russia, and the historic city of St. Petersburg was renamed 'Leningrad'. But the people of that city never accepted the new name, and after the fall of state communism in the 1990s, they demanded their city be given its historic name. Today, it's on the map again as 'St. Petersburg'. Let's hope Westmorland doesn't have to wait so long for its name to be fully restored to the maps of England. In 1974 they created Cleveland, Humberside and Avon - all now gone due to people power. They took Rutland off the map - but the people of Rutland made sure it was put firmly back on the map. It's Westmorland's turn next. Anthony Bennett
  • Score: 0

10:00am Fri 17 Dec 10

Guanajuato says...

I think there's a 3rd option that should be on the poll - 'Couldn't give a monkeys'

Whilst I think we shouldn't forget the historic name, the history doesn't change just because the name has.
I think there's a 3rd option that should be on the poll - 'Couldn't give a monkeys' Whilst I think we shouldn't forget the historic name, the history doesn't change just because the name has. Guanajuato
  • Score: 0

11:17am Fri 17 Dec 10

Petertheyorkshireman says...

"A series of unofficial ‘Westmorland’ signs have also appeared in Burton-in-Kendal, Milnthorpe and Sedbergh."

Oh dear either the Gazette has made an error or the credibility of County Watch is seriously in question. Everybody knows that Sedbergh has never been in Westmorland. In fact it is currently listed as been in Cumbria but is only on temporary loan from Yorkshire !
"A series of unofficial ‘Westmorland’ signs have also appeared in Burton-in-Kendal, Milnthorpe and Sedbergh." Oh dear either the Gazette has made an error or the credibility of County Watch is seriously in question. Everybody knows that Sedbergh has never been in Westmorland. In fact it is currently listed as been in Cumbria but is only on temporary loan from Yorkshire ! Petertheyorkshireman
  • Score: 0

5:07pm Fri 17 Dec 10

Anthony Bennett says...

@ Petertheyorkshireman


You're right and the 'Gazette' made an error. We did in fact erect a Welcome
to Westmorland sign on the road from Sedbergh to the M6 and one saying Welcome to Yorkshire on the same road, going towards Sedbergh. I believe that many in Sedbergh celebrate Yorkshire Day. I speak as the son of a Yorkshireman and a grandson of a railwayman on the Settle-Carlisle line, by the way.
@ Petertheyorkshireman You're right and the 'Gazette' made an error. We did in fact erect a Welcome to Westmorland sign on the road from Sedbergh to the M6 and one saying Welcome to Yorkshire on the same road, going towards Sedbergh. I believe that many in Sedbergh celebrate Yorkshire Day. I speak as the son of a Yorkshireman and a grandson of a railwayman on the Settle-Carlisle line, by the way. Anthony Bennett
  • Score: 0

6:50pm Fri 17 Dec 10

wazoo says...

Why not go back further and call it Scotland, Northumbria or even the Roman Empire!
I am proud to be born and bred Westmorland but the fact is we are now Cumbria. Whats the point unless you actually push for the county of Westmorland to be re-established. Memories are nice but why waste money on signage which doesn't actually mean anything.
Why not go back further and call it Scotland, Northumbria or even the Roman Empire! I am proud to be born and bred Westmorland but the fact is we are now Cumbria. Whats the point unless you actually push for the county of Westmorland to be re-established. Memories are nice but why waste money on signage which doesn't actually mean anything. wazoo
  • Score: 0

7:29pm Fri 17 Dec 10

Anthony Bennett says...

wazoo wrote:
Why not go back further and call it Scotland, Northumbria or even the Roman Empire! I am proud to be born and bred Westmorland but the fact is we are now Cumbria. Whats the point unless you actually push for the county of Westmorland to be re-established. Memories are nice but why waste money on signage which doesn't actually mean anything.
To go back to my original comment, there are probably people who said: "I am proud to be born and bred in St. Petersburg but the fact is that we are now Leningrad". Probbaly not many outside the Communist Party. What a good job people in the East Riding of Yorkshire didn't say: "I am proud to be born and bred a Yorkshireman but the fact is we are now Humberside".

How long will Cumbria last?
[quote][p][bold]wazoo[/bold] wrote: Why not go back further and call it Scotland, Northumbria or even the Roman Empire! I am proud to be born and bred Westmorland but the fact is we are now Cumbria. Whats the point unless you actually push for the county of Westmorland to be re-established. Memories are nice but why waste money on signage which doesn't actually mean anything.[/p][/quote]To go back to my original comment, there are probably people who said: "I am proud to be born and bred in St. Petersburg but the fact is that we are now Leningrad". Probbaly not many outside the Communist Party. What a good job people in the East Riding of Yorkshire didn't say: "I am proud to be born and bred a Yorkshireman but the fact is we are now Humberside". How long will Cumbria last? Anthony Bennett
  • Score: 0

7:32pm Fri 17 Dec 10

Anthony Bennett says...

Would you like to see historic Westmorland road signs reintroduced?

++++++++++++++++++++
+++

Well, 73% of Westmorland Gazette readers say 'YES' so far.
Would you like to see historic Westmorland road signs reintroduced? ++++++++++++++++++++ +++ Well, 73% of Westmorland Gazette readers say 'YES' so far. Anthony Bennett
  • Score: 0

8:33pm Fri 17 Dec 10

wazoo says...

And if Cumbria is changed to something else in the future will a group emerge who want to reintroduce 'old Cumbria' signage?
Like I said, I am a proud Westmorland native but whats the point in confusing visitors and wasting money.
Are you familar with the way the gazette online polls work? Multiple voting does not reflect a true representation of opinion (how many times have you voted?). If you wish to put up these signs then go for it, but honestly- nobody really cares!
And if Cumbria is changed to something else in the future will a group emerge who want to reintroduce 'old Cumbria' signage? Like I said, I am a proud Westmorland native but whats the point in confusing visitors and wasting money. Are you familar with the way the gazette online polls work? Multiple voting does not reflect a true representation of opinion (how many times have you voted?). If you wish to put up these signs then go for it, but honestly- nobody really cares! wazoo
  • Score: 0

11:55pm Fri 17 Dec 10

Anthony Bennett says...

@ wazoo

1. The County of Westmorland was established 784 years ago; the administrative area of Cumbria 36 years ago.

2. The online poll doesn't allow me to vote more than once. After I voted, the bars showing the % of votes For and Against is always shown.

3. County Watch has paid and will pay for any signs erected.

4. Signs elsewhere, notably on the former Lancashire/Yorkshire border, paid for by supporters by the way, which announce when you are entering 'Historic Yorkshire' or 'Historic Lancashire', are appreciated by many

5. Some people care, others don't. I have seen copies of the local MP's news magazine and he calls it 'Westmorland Today'. He obviously cares.
@ wazoo 1. The County of Westmorland was established 784 years ago; the administrative area of Cumbria 36 years ago. 2. The online poll doesn't allow me to vote more than once. After I voted, the bars showing the % of votes For and Against is always shown. 3. County Watch has paid and will pay for any signs erected. 4. Signs elsewhere, notably on the former Lancashire/Yorkshire border, paid for by supporters by the way, which announce when you are entering 'Historic Yorkshire' or 'Historic Lancashire', are appreciated by many 5. Some people care, others don't. I have seen copies of the local MP's news magazine and he calls it 'Westmorland Today'. He obviously cares. Anthony Bennett
  • Score: 0

11:57am Sat 18 Dec 10

wezzyk says...

Change it back if the public want it!! Wha ta laugh, if i remember rightly nobody want to lose it in the first place but the public were completely ignored then!! So multiple vote away if you can do it.

Until it is changed the sign people should spend the time learning how to present their signs correctly and check on where they should put them whilst waiting for the go ahead, by the time they are given the go ahead they might have got some of it right.

If they do change back, please could a 'quality sign' company be instructed as the one in the article above is a disgrace - if it is one word is should be on one line, not split onto two? To save costs i presume?

Also i disagree with businesses outside of cumbria advertising on cumbrian roadsides. More and more are appearing. This should be restricted to their own counties only and we should also set up county / border controls to stop outsiders coming in unless they are spending money that is.

Rant over ill go and clear some snow off the driveway now
Change it back if the public want it!! Wha ta laugh, if i remember rightly nobody want to lose it in the first place but the public were completely ignored then!! So multiple vote away if you can do it. Until it is changed the sign people should spend the time learning how to present their signs correctly and check on where they should put them whilst waiting for the go ahead, by the time they are given the go ahead they might have got some of it right. If they do change back, please could a 'quality sign' company be instructed as the one in the article above is a disgrace - if it is one word is should be on one line, not split onto two? To save costs i presume? Also i disagree with businesses outside of cumbria advertising on cumbrian roadsides. More and more are appearing. This should be restricted to their own counties only and we should also set up county / border controls to stop outsiders coming in unless they are spending money that is. Rant over ill go and clear some snow off the driveway now wezzyk
  • Score: 0

4:07pm Sun 19 Dec 10

ron3 says...

In Scotland although the country was divided up into regions they still recognise their old counties.
In Scotland although the country was divided up into regions they still recognise their old counties. ron3
  • Score: 0

7:18pm Sun 19 Dec 10

magical trevor says...

Well Wazoo....it obviously does matter to some people or there wouldn't even be a discussion about it would there. If you're not bothered, don't worry about it.
Well Wazoo....it obviously does matter to some people or there wouldn't even be a discussion about it would there. If you're not bothered, don't worry about it. magical trevor
  • Score: 0

12:11pm Mon 20 Dec 10

Soren says...

Anthony Bennett wrote:
Would you like to see historic Westmorland road signs reintroduced?

++++++++++++++++++++

+++

Well, 73% of Westmorland Gazette readers say 'YES' so far.
I've voted twelve times already!!

So it obviously matters to me!!
[quote][p][bold]Anthony Bennett[/bold] wrote: Would you like to see historic Westmorland road signs reintroduced? ++++++++++++++++++++ +++ Well, 73% of Westmorland Gazette readers say 'YES' so far.[/p][/quote]I've voted twelve times already!! So it obviously matters to me!! Soren
  • Score: 0

4:03pm Mon 20 Dec 10

meatloaf says...

However, I voted yes but then changed my mind so voted no, then realised they would cancel each other out so voted no again...............
..
However, I voted yes but then changed my mind so voted no, then realised they would cancel each other out so voted no again............... .. meatloaf
  • Score: 0

11:20pm Mon 20 Dec 10

wazoo says...

Sorry trevor but i thought a 'discussion' (your word, not mine) was more than one point of view. I see in another article you have proclaimed frustration with somebody for not letting you express your opinion, and yet you post a comment here having a go at me yet offering nothing yourself! Back on topic, it matters to my children who were born in Cumbria, along with everyone else under the age of 36, but perhaps they should butt out as well. So whats your opinion? I'm sure you have something incredibly interesting to say!
Sorry trevor but i thought a 'discussion' (your word, not mine) was more than one point of view. I see in another article you have proclaimed frustration with somebody for not letting you express your opinion, and yet you post a comment here having a go at me yet offering nothing yourself! Back on topic, it matters to my children who were born in Cumbria, along with everyone else under the age of 36, but perhaps they should butt out as well. So whats your opinion? I'm sure you have something incredibly interesting to say! wazoo
  • Score: 0

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