Westmorland, until 1974 was one of England’s ancient counties when it became part of Cumbria. Celia Fiennes’s view in 1698 of ‘…Rich land in the bottoms, as one may call them considering the vast hills above them on all sides…’ was more positive than that of Daniel Defoe who, in 1724, considered Westmorland ‘A country eminent only for being the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England, or even Wales it self. ’ It was a county of stark topographical contrasts, fringed by long and deep waters of the Lake District, bisected by mountains with high and wild fells.
Compared to the surveys of 1674-5, the Michaelmas 1670 return for Westmorland is most useful for the information it gives on exemption from the hearth tax. The later surveys contain more households, and more households with multiple hearths, and therefore give the more accurate picture of Westmorland in the 1670s.