People described hearing and feeling the earth moving for “well over a minute” just after 2300 GMT on Tuesday.
The earthquake, which had a magnitude of 3.6, was felt in locations across Cumbria and in Lancashire, south-west Scotland, parts of Yorkshire, Northumberland and the Isle of Man.
Police say there are no reports of injury or damage so far. The tremor was picked up by the US Geological Survey.
People have contacted the BBC to say they felt the tremor in places including Barrow, Sellafield, Cockermouth, Windermere and Penrith.
Cumbria Fire and Rescue service has also confirmed the quake.
A spokesman said: “We have had no requests from members of the public. At the moment, we don’t believe there is any structural damage.”
‘Very frightening’ Data from the British Geological Survey (BGS) showed the location of the quake as Coniston, in Cumbria, 9km (5.6 miles) south-west of Ambleside and with a depth of 14.3km (8.9 miles).
David Galloway, a seismologist with the BGS, said: “We’ve not had any reports of any damage and it’s probably unlikely that there will be damage.
“We do get a few earthquakes in this country and maybe get one of this size every 12 to 18 months, but damage is very unlikely.”