A Guide to County-Wide Organisations Supporting Local History

The Federation seeks to promote the major organisations and key Cumbria-wide societies which have an important role in the practice of local history studies in Cumbria. The following is an introduction to the principal organisations.

The British Association for Local History     


The British Association for Local History, BALH, is the national charity which promotes local history and serves local historians. It is best known for the publications The Local Historian, a quarterly journal, and Local History News, a topical magazine. A major benefit of membership for local history societies is that public liability insurance is provided for events such as outings.

BALH arranges regular conferences in London and the regions, in particular an annual Local History Day, including a prestigious annual lecture. CLHF has been closely associated with BALH, with three previous CLHF officers being presented with awards for personal achievement by BALH.

The Cumbria Archive Service     


The Cumbria Archive Service provides a county-wide service for local and family historians to find and gain access to a very wide range of records. The service is provided through four offices, here, having regional collections, though large family and county-wide archives are not generally divided.

Cumberland is provided through Carlisle and a second office at Whitehaven, concentrating on the area south of the Derwent. Old Westmorland is served from Kendal, and the part of old Lancashire, north of the sands, by an office at Barrow. A reader’s ticket can be obtained at any office, with the normal proof of identity and address. Please check current opening hours.

The search facility CASCAT, for those records with searchable catalogues, is here

The Lancashire Record Office, at Preston, here is also important for those parts of Lancashire which came in to Cumbria, and for the records of the Archdeaconry of Richmond, which covered much of western Cumberland before 1858.

The Cumbria County History Trust


The Cumbria County History Trust, CCHT, is a registered charity which was created in 2010 to renew the research and writing of topographical articles for each of the 340 townships in the modern County of Cumbria. The work, begun for the Lake Counties before the First World War as part of the national Victoria County History project, had been dormant since 1939.

CLHF was instrumental in the initiative to start this project, and has fully supported its progress. CCHT is managed by a mixture of trustees nominated by organisations, of which CLHF is one, and trustees elected by the members. The VCH Cumbria project is managed by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University, with volunteer local historians collecting the material and drafting the articles on the townships.

The website of CCHT contains a gazetteer of the basic histories of VCH townships, based on a volunteer project called the Jubilee Digests, in honour of the 60 years of the Queen’s reign. These histories can be found through the interactive map here together with a valuable and growing databank of information and sources about each VCH township. The volunteer’s handbook, plus much more information, is here.

CLHF strongly encourages anyone interested in local history to support this project through membership of CCHT, which is the principal ongoing source of funds, and to become involved in the research and writing. For further information please contact VCH@clhf.org.uk

The Cumbria Family History Society


The Cumbria Family History Society was founded to help members carry out their genealogical researches, the area of interest being the modern county of Cumbria. The society produces a quarterly Newsletter, which is sent by post to all members in February, May, August, November.

The Publishing programme covers a range of Cumbrian Genealogy topics including the 1851 census for the whole county, Memorial Inscriptions, Carlisle Marriage Bonds, Probate and Burial Indexes, Place names, Strays, and a few Parish Registers transcripts.

The society’s website contains a comprehensive links page for family history, here, complementing the CLHF links page for local history.

The Cumbria Industrial History Society     


CIHS was formed in 1985 by members of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society with a particular interest in industrial history. The regular programme includes winter evening meetings, guided field trips in summer, often to sites normally closed to the public, an annual conference and a regular bulletin.

In addition to publishing work, the Society is actively involved in the recording and conservation of important sites. This includes a major project to catalogue and digitise the slide collection of the late Mike Davies-Shiel, a past president of the Society and a leading industrial historian of the Lake Counties.

Cumbria Local Studies Libraries    


Focussing on collections of published material, including newspapers, the local studies libraries in Cumbria provide a valuable resource for local historians.

Local studies collections are located at Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Penrith, Whitehaven and Workington. Please check latest information and opening times.

The Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Antiquarian Society (C&WA&AS)    


In 2016 C&WA&AS celebrated 150 years since its founding. It is the oldest society in Cumbria, and its interests cover the area of the modern county. Originally formed for the study and recording of archaeological remains and historical records, it currently fully embraces historical studies of Cumbria in its activities. It has been a major funder and practical supporter of the Victoria County History project for Cumbria.

It is a membership organisation, and has formed four regional groups which are independent but affiliated, and which provide a series of local meetings. The regional groups are members of CLHF.

C&WA&AS is a major publisher of the history of Cumbria. The main publication, the annual Transactions , is the principal journal of record for articles, and provides the most important secondary source for new studies. The complete run of Transactions has now been made available online with extensive search facilities, and is freely available here, except for the latest ten years, for which membership is required.

Grants are available to support historical and archaeological research of a high standard, here.

The Friends of Cumbria Archives, FOCAS


The Friends of Cumbria Archives is a voluntary organisation whose purpose is to support and promote the acquisition, storage and use of historical archival records in Cumbria. While its brief allows support of all repositories, FOCAS is primarily concerned with supporting the Cumbria Archive Service in practical ways.

It is a membership organisation and a registered charity. Grants can be made to support the projects of local historians which are particularly relevant to supporting and promoting the archives. CLHF encourages local historians to join FOCAS and participate in its work.

Lancaster University Regional Heritage Centre     


The Regional Heritage Centre was established in 2014. It encompasses the Centre for North-West Regional Studies, which was founded in 1973, and the Victoria County History for Cumbria. Its aim is to foster engagement between Lancaster University and the regional community in the field of cultural heritage.

The RHC provides the most significant series of educational events and study days, though taught courses in local and regional history are no longer offered. The next events can be found here.