Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme

'Our Common Heritage'

27th May – 18th June

‘Our Common Heritage’

The Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Scheme is holding a free exhibition in The Old Courthouse (Shap) from 27th May to 18th June 2023. It is in celebration of the ‘Common Land’ of the Westmorland Dales; an intrinsic part of its farming heritage and underpinning the farming economy for centuries. 

Common Land is privately owned land with ‘Rights of Common’ over that land, most commonly to graze animals. At one time nearly half of the land in Britain was Common Land, but now accounts for just 3% of land in England. However, Cumbria and Yorkshire have about half of this, which comprises of large tracts of our most well-loved and ecologically rich landscapes including in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. 

The history of the Westmorland Commons is linked to the evolution of grazing animals, the rise and fall of specialised breeding stock, and the labour of tenant farmers working the common for hundreds of years. The exhibition will summarise the results of our research into the history of common land across the Westmorland Dales area. There will be a chance to listen to some of the interviews with commoners and representatives of the farming community. Visitors will also be able to reflect on our changing relationship with common land.