News of the Copeland by-election in December prompted me to discover Britain’s three-party constituency tripoints, where three constituencies each held by a different party meet. Back then, it formed part of a tripoint with Lib Dem-held Westmorland and Lonsdale, and Tory-held Penrith and the Border on the ridge running from Helvellyn to Fairfield.
Now Copeland’s Tory, however, the electoral geography has changed, but the number of tripoints remains the same. We’ve lost the old one (which now marks where two Tory constituencies and one Lib Dem one meet) but have gained a new one where Tory Copeland meets Labour Barrow and Furness and Lib Dem Westmorland and Lonsdale, and unlike the old one it’s a well marked spot as it’s the top of the Wrynose Pass. This, along with the Hardknott pass a little further west, is part of a famous route through the western Lake District and makes for a pretty hair-raising drive or a very tough cycle ride. The point is also marked by the Three Shire Stone, as it’s not just a constituency tripoint, it’s a historic country tripoint too.
The three constituencies follow the boundary lines of three historic counties, though the tripoint’s now solidly in the heart of Cumbria. Unsurprisingly, the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency contains the county of Westmorland, while Copeland was part of old Cumberland. To the south, the Furness peninsula and Barrow-in-Furness were historically a county borough (the 19th century equivalent of a unitary authority) of Lancashire, despite being physically separate from the rest of the county. These identities still matter to people living in the area, and people in Barrow will still call themselves Lancastrian rather than Cumbrian, while Westmorland and Cumberland are still used frequently in their parts of the county.
The tripoint may have changed from one I’ve walked through to one I’ve driven through, but it’s a reminder that while old boundaries may have disappeared from some maps, they still linger on in others, though no one has yet replaced the Three Shire Stone with a multicoloured version to mark this.