‘Various collections have been made from time to time by inquisitive and learned men, concerning the history and antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, some with an intention of publication, others to gratify private curiosity’ wrote Joseph Nicolson and Richard Burn in the Preface to their History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland (1777), listing some of the resources available to them. Nowadays, public access to and the exploitation of such collections and the vast quantities of archives now held by local and national record offices has been revolutionised, assisted by online and other finding aids and promoted by the publication of such books as David Dymond’s Researching and Writing History, A Practical Guide for Local Historians (British Association for Local History, 1999) and journals, including The Local Historian. Nevertheless, the costs of travel to one of the four branches of the Cumbria Archive Service (at Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle, Kendal, and Whitehaven) and / or a local studies library and the costs of photocopying etc. may deter some from seeking to research and write up an aspect of the history of the area.
It was to promote the exploitation of the resources of Cumbria’s archive centres that in 2005 FOCAS launched a Research Grant scheme, making modest grants in support of historical research which required significant use of one or more of the centres. The subjects of research of those so assisted have included the history of the (now derelict) pleasure gardens at Netherhall, Maryport, farming in Cumberland during the First World War, life and times in Cockermouth during the Second World War, and Burneside’s World War II history.
The Committee of FOCAS is now re-launching its Research Grants Scheme and invites applications from those who are FOCAS members. Research grants, normally amounting severally to a total sum of £250 p.a., are offered to support research and writing on the history of Cumbria. No limit is placed on the periodisation of research or the field of history being pursued, though applications to conduct family history research will be considered only if the fruits of such work can be shown to have wider historical interest. Normally, funded research will be in undertaken in one or other of Cumbria’s Archive Centres and / or in local studies libraries in the county. Successful applicants will be encouraged to publish the outcomes of their work in appropriate publications, with a copy of each published piece of work being deposited with the appropriate branch of the Cumbria Archive Service; successful applicants will also be expected to submit a c. 400-word summary of their funded work for publication in FOCAS’s Newsletter.
Application forms, with contact details, may be downloaded below by clicking the downward arrow and will be considered at the next FOCAS Committee meeting after receipt of the application (four times a year)