The Middleland and Marches

A monument for Penrith

Why does Penrith not have a central memorial commemorating the First World War? Indeed why is there so little sculpture at all? The old First World War memorials are almost completely hidden and forgotten. The only really first-rate sculpture is the Giant’s Tomb in St. Andrew’s Square. It is wonderful – raw hogback stones, soaring […]

Predicting the Future

Rt Hon Rory Stewart MP delivers a talk as part of the 750th anniversary celebrations of Balliol College, University of Oxford. Speaking at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, he addresses the topic of how the world might change over the next 75 years by explaining how the ancient kingdom of Northumbria morphed itself from a […]


Cumbrians and Northumbrians must have felt isolated and marginalised fourteen hundred years ago. Agriculture had collapsed around them, the population had plummeted, there had not been a new road or stone building constructed in two centuries. Education, industry, and trade had collapsed. We were one of the most underdeveloped places in Europe or Asia. But […]

Scotland, England and the Middleland

The idea that there are two things called England and Scotland, is only a late invention forged by ambition, violence, and luck. There is nothing ‘natural’ behind these two names – the division is not based on ‘blood’, or ‘soil’. It first emerged from a straight line, ruled on a map by the Emperor Hadrian, […]


Why did five kings meet, a thousand years ago, at Eamont Bridge? When you are driving up the A6, down the A66, does it seem a likely place for a Royal Conference? The Eamont Bridge page of Wikipedia is not much help. It reminds us that it was until 1974 the border between Cumberland and […]


Walking the Border

Recently, I forded the Solway from Bowness to Annan, hoping to examine the border between England and Scotland. I stopped, two hundred yards beyond the shore, in salt water, up to my waist. The tide had gone out, and the distance to the Scotland was half a mile of sea. What would I find on the […]

Forests in Cumbria

We live in what was largely ‘forest’: the medieval equivalent of the national park. Inglewood Forest between Penrith and Carlisle was sixty miles in circumference – if my maths is right 286 square miles. It touched the Forest of Allerdale. Add Nicolforest, in the North, and Gilsland, Geltsdale, Greystoke, and Skiddaw/ Thornthwaite, and more than […]

home rule for cumberland

It is easy to see Cumbria as the North-West frontier. Our land seems marked by frontiers. Even Rome, which merged and melted what is now most of the European Union, and the Arab League, had its border here. You could ride from modern Iraq, through Romania and Belgium, on fine roads, using a single language, […]