We have performed a detailed population study of patients with genetic muscle disease in the northern region of England. Our current clinic population comprises over 1100 patients in whom we have molecularly characterized 31 separate muscle disease entities. Diagnostic clarity achieved through careful delineation of clinical features supported by histological, immunological and genetic analysis has allowed us to reach a definitive diagnosis in 75.7% of our patients. We have compared our case profile with that from Walton and Nattrass' seminal study from 1954, also of the northern region, together with data from other more recent studies from around the world. Point prevalence figures for each of the five major disease categories are comparable with those from other recent studies. Myotonic dystrophies are the most common, comprising 28.6% of our clinic population with a point prevalence of 10.6/100,000. Next most frequent are the dystrophinopathies and facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy making up 22.9% (8.46/100,000) and 10.7% (3.95/100,000) of the clinic population, respectively. Spinal muscular atrophy patients account for 5.1% or 1.87/100,000 patients. Limb girdle muscular dystrophy, which was described for the first time in the paper by Walton and Nattrass (1954) and comprised 17% of their clinic population, comprises 6.2% of our clinic population at a combined prevalence of 2.27/100,000. The clinic population included patients with 12 other muscle disorders. These disorders ranged from a point prevalence of 0.89/100 000 for the group of congenital muscular dystrophies to conditions with only two affected individuals in a population of three million. For the first time our study provides epidemiological information for X-linked Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and the collagen VI disorders. Each of the X-linked form of Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and Ullrich muscular dystrophy has a prevalence of 0.13/100,000, making both very rare. Bethlem myopathy was relatively more common with a prevalence of 0.77/100,000. Overall our study provides comprehensive epidemiological information on individually rare inherited neuromuscular conditions in Northern England. Despite the deliberate exclusion of relatively common groups such as hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (40/100,000) and mitochondrial disorders (9.2/100,000), the combined prevalence is 37.0/100,000, demonstrating that these disorders, taken as a group, encompass a significant proportion of patients with chronic disease. The study also illustrates the immense diagnostic progress since the first regional survey over 50 years ago by Walton and Nattrass.