Ancestry UK

Westmorland Society's School, West Norwood, London

The Westmorland (then usually spelled Westmoreland) Society was established in 1746, initially as a social club for gentlemen and those in the upper echelons of business who hailed from the county and were now living in London. In 1786, the Society instigated a fund to applied in the maintenance and education of poor children, born in or near London, of Westmorland parents. Little progress was made in this work until 1810 when a meeting of the Society agreed to establish a charity for the purposes. Finally, in 1815, the housing and maintenance of five needed children was undertaken. In 1818, a building fund was established to provide a residential school to house such children but it was only in 1851 that a suitable plot of land was acquired on Norwood Lane (now Norwood Road), Tulse Hill, with the building's foundation stone being laid on 4th May, 1852. The Westmoreland Society School was finally opened on 17th January, 1854.

The new building, whose construction cost about £2,500, was designed by George Smith. The building work was carried out by George Myers. The premises could house up to fifty children although the funds of the Society initially limited the number to 25. The object of the Society was now formally stated as the 'maintaining, boarding, clothing, and educating children (free of charge) from 8 to 15 years of age, born in London, or within 12 miles of the Royal Exchange, of a Westmorland born parent, or children born elsewhere, whose parents, Westmorland born, have resided for one year past in, or within 12 miles of, London.' The qualifying distance from London was later increased to 75 miles.

Admission to the School was through a periodic election by the subscribers to the charity. Donors of 10 guineas in any one year became life governors with one vote at elections. An annual subscriber was given one vote for each guinea subscribed.

Westmorland Society's School, West Norwood, early 1900s. © Peter Higginbotham

The School is believed to have closed by 1924. The Westmorland Society still exists and now provides financial support for people in need aged 60 or over, who were either born within the former county of Westmorland (now part of Cumbria) or had a parent born there.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Kendal Archive Centre, Kendal County Offices, Kendal LA9 4RQ. Holds the Society's administrative records.



  • The Westmorland Society, Willowmere, Bank Mill Lane, Berkhamsted HP4 2NT (no website).