Home | News | Newsletter | Sitemap
Print-friendly version


The history of the Lake District dates back millions of years ago to the pre-historic Ice Age; the now beautiful area that consists of numerous lakes and huge fells, was once covered with large glaciers.  Some scientists that study the history of the Lake District has noted that as early as 15,000 years ago, glaciers could have been found on the land now known as the Lake District.  As the glaciers melted and formed U-shaped valleys; they began to fill with water.  As a result, large fells or mountains to the Western World began to form.  Other valleys filled with smaller amounts of water and are referred to as tarns in the area.  As historians studied the history of the Lake District, they also discovered slate, a development of ocean sediment that forms after great lengths of time.  Another key in understanding the history of the Lake District comes from the rich limestone that is still prominent in the area today.  Limestone is a deposit of once living ocean dwellers.  Geologists and scientists alike have found other signs relating to the history of the Lake District, as well.  For example, various precious metals can also be found throughout the faults of the bedrock.  Volcanic rock is the primary make-up of the various mountains and fells throughout the area; although not extremely high peaks for those wishing to climb; they do have very rigid rock walls and jagged cliffs. 
The earliest bones and flint tools found by those studying the history of the Lake District date back nearly 10,000 years ago.  It is believed that pre-historic man used flint tools such as axes to make their way in the region.  In recent years, two archaeological sites were noted to the history of the Lake District.  Both these sites, one in the valley near the Ullswater and the other in a valley near Langdale, show signs of prehistoric activity dating back some 6,000 years ago.  These stone circles and linear drawings are believed to date back to the late stone age; around 4,000 to 2,500 BC.  Many historians that have studied the history of the Lake District believe these early carvings in stone may have been geographical maps, perhaps drawings of the stars in the sky at night, or even to signify some type of religious ceremony to the Gods.  The mystery that surrounds the meanings of these ancient carvings in stone will most likely remain a debate amongst historians for years to come.  As more and more findings are made throughout the region; most likely the history of the Lake District will become more clear to modern man.
One of the most significant pieces of history for the Lake District concerns the Roman occupation during 70-40 AD.  Remnants of the forts and roads that were made by the Roman occupation still stand today.  One such fort known as Hardknott Fort sits near Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria.  The 3-acre stone fort was once believed to house over 500 Roman soldiers.  The history of the Lake District shows that the Roman occupation lasted for several hundreds of years; however, they mainly set up forts to protect major trade routes; actual settlements did not form until much later.
The history of the Lake District is to believe to be first settled in the 10th Century AD.  The Norse invaders first came to the land of Lakes and started to clear the trees and valleys for settlements; with them they brought sheep for breeding- a continued tradition, still today.  Farming began to affect the area; although, not heavily populated- those that did choose to make the area their home- began to change its outward appearance.  More and more fields were plowed and more and more trees were cut down; as well, stone walls and fences were set up to protect owner’s property and separate man from the great fells standing tall.  Throughout the 13th Century AD, the sheep continued to graze in the fields and valleys that made up the Lake District; what land that wasn’t destroyed by the actual farmers; were now being engulfed by their hungry sheep.  This time in the history of the Lake District is marked by the great wool trade business; a major industry and means for success.
One of the most important factors that changed the lives and livelihood of those living in the Lake District occurred during the Post-Medieval years.  The history of the Lake District speaks often of the mining that occurred during this time.  Precious stones and minerals like lead, copper, graphite, and iron were mined- carted down the steep fells and then loaded on huge boats for trading.  Those that were not making their living farming; began to mine precious minerals and stones for their livelihood; this continued for years to come.  As the railroad made its way into the area in the 18th Century- mining became one of the most profitable industries in the Lake District
The history of the Lake District would never be complete without discussing the tourism industry.  In fact, tourism today is the most profitable industry in the area.  And it all started hundreds of years ago.   Poets and writers started visiting the beautiful scenic area in the early 16th and 17th Centuries.  Their journeys began as educational tours of the area, just as we study the history of the Lake District; they too- wanted to know more about the beautiful land and waters that made up this region.  One of the first writers to publish information about the Lake District was Father Thomas West.  In 1778, Father Thomas West, wrote and published A Guide to the Lakes.  When studying the history of the Lake District; most historians note this publication as the true start to the tourism industry of the Lake District.  However, many other historians believe the true tourism history of the Lake District began approximately 32 years later, when in 1810- William Wordsworth wrote of his explorations in a published book entitled Guide to the Lakes; later a 5th Edition was created entitled A Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England.  As more and more people read about the beautiful land of lakes and mountains in the North of England; the more they wanted to journey to see the sights.  The history of the Lake District often speaks of railroads and larger steamers that transported precious stone from the region, but more importantly- it brought in huge amounts of people.  The Lake District had become a tourist destination.
The most important phenomenon that still amazes people today regarding the Lake District is its magnificent views and its rural-like setting.  One of the main reasons the countryside has been able to stay intact has to do with the National Park.  You see, in 1951- the majority of the Lake District became one of England’s National Parks; not just any National Park, the largest in the country.  When England made the Lake District a National Park- it helped protect the area from industry.  Most of the mining had stopped when the railroad system shutdown; but those that did not; soon ceased after the National Park took over.  The preservation of the Lake District is a very important part of the history of the Lake District; without recognition by the National Park service- the Lake District that is today a beautiful and picturesque view- would most likely be nothing but mined and commercialized industry.  Although, one of the most populated national parks in all of England; it still holds it’s natural beauty and those that live in the region still protect it’s sacred grounds and waters.
The geography of the land is an important factor when discussing the history of the Lake District; after all- it’s what you’ve most likely come to see and what most of the visitors for centuries have come to look at, as well.  The largest fell is known as Scafell Pike and it stands nearly 980 meters.  Most books and references to the Lake District speak of various fells or mountains; in all- there are 214 in the region.  Some are small and some run into each other; so there has always been debate throughout the history of the Lake District on the number of fells or mountains in the region.  As well as fells, there are approximately 16 lakes in the area.  The largest lake is known as Windermere, it stretches nearly 10 and a half miles, its deepest point is nearly 219 feet.  On any given day, you will most likely see sailboats, motorboats, and steamers making their way through the water of the Windermere.  When studying the history of the Lake District; you probably will learn that these lakes served as means of nourishment and trade routes throughout the centuries.  Today, the lakes are used for fishing, boating, and recreation.  There are still several steamers that run the larger lakes every day; however, now they carry tourists and visitors- not copper and precious minerals. 
Recent statistics show that over 14 million visitors beacon the Lake District in any given year.  It’s become a major tourist destination spot for those living in England, Spain, France, Japan, and even the USA.  Unlike earlier times, when only the rich could afford to visit the beautiful area; today, the tourism market has developed into a growing business to accommodate all walks of life.  Many of the older dwellings dating back for hundreds of years serve as guest quarters for those that make the journey to the Lake District.  As well, the early 19th Century saw many resorts and large hotels being built to accommodate the rising numbers of visitors.  Most of the locals find their means of survival depending upon the tourism business; however, their work often mimics the days of long ago. 
Sheep breeders are still working the land to supply restaurants and local establishments with fresh lamb meat; a popular ingredient throughout the history of the Lake District.  As well, farmers work the land- growing fresh vegetables and fruits; many are sold at local farmer’s markets and to local restaurants and shops for meal preparation.  Artisans in the Lake District sell their crafts and hand-made works of art in locally owned shops; as well, many open up their beautiful homes to visitors for inexpensive accommodations.  And even some of the old mines once worked day in and day out by residents are now open to the public.  As well, the fishing industry has long been associated with the history of the Lake District; today visitors will find some of the best cooked seafood in the entire country of England available in the Lake District; favorites like fresh trout, salmon, and brown shrimp are often featured specials throughout the area.
For more information on the History of the Lake District; you may want to visit one or more of the various museums in the region.  There are currently museums that give a general account and history of the Lake District; as well, there are museums that feature historical references to the Lake District; for example- there is a railway museum featuring the railroad history of the Lake District, an aviation museum featuring the aviation history of the Lake District, museums dedicated to the mining communities of the Lake District and even a steamer museum dedicated to the maritime history of the Lake District.  As well, there are several museums that have references to the literary history of the Lake District
The history of the Lake District has long been studied by school-age children in England; and with great hope- most will probably at one time or another journey to the Lake District.  Its historical relevance coupled with its natural beauty makes it a wonderful place to spend a holiday.  Most of those that set foot in the area at one time or another will find themselves drawn back time after time.  Today, the Lake District maintains its magic; of course it’s a little more crowded than it was 10,000 years ago- but it’s a wonderful sight to see.