Kent Brooks, of Kendal, examines the dialect used in the area now known as Cumbria

Throughout the centuries Cumbria was a cultural entity separate from the rest of England.

Indeed it was once part of the British kingdom of Strathclyde, but its true identity came with the settlement of Norse-Irish farmers mostly in central Lakeland and the Dales.

This has only changed recently with a huge influx of offcomers.

Perhaps even in the 12th century the language of Lakeland was close to the Icelandic of today, giving the place names and dialect.

In particular, the language of the fell farmer must be incomprehensible to offcomers with its hogs, gimmers, tups and twinters for sheep, ruddle, smits and heafs for things to do with sheep, while creatures like jammy cranes, ullets and tewits flew around.

Even more mysterious was a section in The Westmorland Gazette in my childhood, which had items such as “Taken up, Rough Wether Hogg, ritted near lug, rud far hook, hornburn JWT – Wilson, Fell End, Greendale.”

Locals immediately had a picture of this sheep and so it could be returned to its rightful owner. It has even been suggested that the word “lug” for ear comes from the old Norse “lögr” or law, as these marks signified the lawful owner.

Yet another sign of the changing identities is revealed in the postcodes CA and LA.

The LA postcode orients South Westmorland to Lancaster and away from its old unity with with what was North Westmorland, but is now Eden.

Appleby was Westmorland’s county town and important legal cases from Kendal and surroundings were tried there.

Even this paper now has substantial items on places like Morecambe and Carnforth, which previously were quite alien.

We are left with the strange paradox that the creation of the county of Cumbria united an area which had been a unit since the time when it was Celtic-speaking but had in the Middle Ages been split into Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire North of the Sands and the Sedbergh-Dent area.

But simultaneously the old Westmorland split and old South Westmorland became oriented towards the alien cultures of Lancashire.

Even typical Westmorland places like Killington now appear from the postal address to be part of Carnforth and are increasingly referred to as being in Lancashire!

Cumbria was united by sheep farming and its dialect, but sheep farmers are now vastly outnumbered by urban types who are willing to pay huge prices for the old farmhouses and their converted outbuildings. The dialect is virtually extinct.