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County of Lancashire


1868 - The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland

"LANCASHIRE, a county palatine and maritime shire, in the north-western part of England, extending between the rivers Mersey and Duddon. It is bounded on the N. by Cumberland and Westmoreland, N.E. and E. by Yorkshire, S. by Cheshire, and W. by the Irish Sea. It is divided into two parts by Morecambe Bay, of which the northern contains the district of Furness. Its total length is 87 miles, and breadth nearly 46. It comprises an area of 1,219,221 acres, or 1,905 square miles; of which 80,000 acres are shore. Lancashire is in size the sixth county in England, and is now the most populous shire in the empire, its population being only exceeded by London. According to the census of 1861 it contains a population of 2,429,440, being a considerable increase to the population of 2,031,236 in 1851. Since the commencement of the present century it has more than trebled. This county was, at the dawn of English history, inhabited by a people called the Brigantes, the most powerful of all the tribes possessing the island. These people were subsequently subdued by Agricola, and Lancashire included in the province of Maxima Cæsariensis. For some time after the invasion of the Saxons this county retained its independence as a portion of the British state of Cumbria. In the 7th century part was reduced by the Angles under Egfrid, the son of Oswis, and added to the kingdom of Northumbria, but the whole county was not permanently brought into subjection before the reign of Edward the Elder, in 921. It was invaded by the Scots under Robert Bruce in 1323, who proceeded as far as Preston. It was here that the Earl of Lincoln landed with numerous German and Irish adherents to support the cause of Lambert Simnel, in the reign of Henry VII. When the "Pilgrimage of Graa" occurred in the reign of Henry VIII. the people of Lancashire revolted, but were subdued by the earls of Shrewsbury and Derby. In the Civil War it played a prominent part. Preston' and Lancaster were alternately occupied by the royalists and parliamentarians. In 1644 Lathom House was besieged; and in 1648 the royalists under the Duke of Hamilton were defeated by Cromwell on Ribbleton Moor. In the rebellion of 1715 the followers of the Pretender were forced to surrender at Preston. In 1745 this county was occupied by the forces of the Young Pretender. Lancashire forms two electoral divisions, viz: North Lancashire and South Lancashire, each returning two members to parliament. North Lancashire contains the hundreds of Lonsdale, Amounderness, Leyland, and Blackburn; and South Lancashire the hundreds of Salford and West Derby. It is in the northern circuit, and assizes are held at Lancaster for North Lancashire, and at Liverpool for South Lancashire. The county palatine of Lancaster is attached to the Duchy of Lancaster, which, by Act of Parliament in the first year of Edward IV., was vested in the said king and his heirs, to hold as a separate inheritance, but annexed to the crown, in which it is still vested. A court of chancery is held at Lancaster for the county palatine. Bankruptcy courts are held at Liverpool and Manchester. The number of townships in Lancashire is about 500, and these still serve as the chief civil territorial divisions, having separate rates for their poor and highways. It comprises 69 parishes. No county in the empire possesses larger and more flourishing cities. Of these the chief are, Liverpool, Manchester, Salford, Oldham, Preston, Blackburn, Wigan, Lancaster, Ashton-under-Lyne, Rochdale, Bolton, Accrington, Bury, Clitheroe, Warrington, &c.; there are also 29 market towns, and above 900 villages and hamlets. Lancashire is governed by a lord-lieutenant, high sheriff; and 350 magistrates. As regards the geographical features of the county, its northern part, called Furness, detached from the main portion, forms an integral part of the Cumbrian mountains. This part is again divided into two districts, called the Upper Furness, or Furness Fells, and Lower Furness. The upper is distinguished by mountains rising to an elevation of 2,000 and 3,000 feet, watered by streams or occupied by lakes. Towards the coast the country presents a flat and swampy aspect-the Lower Furness. In the chief portion of the county the northern and eastern parts are traversed by branches from the central high lands running into Derbyshire. These, however, are not equal in elevation to the Cumbrian group, but form high waste moorlands. In the southern and western parts these elevations decrease and leave a broad flat surface running down to the sea. This flatness borders the sea from the mouth of the river Wyre to that of the Lune, and continues as far as Morecambe Bay. With this exception, and that of Low Furness, Lancashire assumes almost a mountainous character. Its chief heights are, Old Man, in Coniston Fells, 2,677 feet; Pendle Hill, near Clitheroe, 1,803 feet; Bleasdale Forest, 1,709 feet; Boulworth Hill, 1,689 feet; Whittle Hill, 1,614 feet; Rivington Moor, 1,545 feet; Lee Pike; and Langridge Fell. The coast, with few exceptions, is low throughout, bordered by broad sands. Its outline is regular, excepting the two bays of Liverpool and Morecambe, and the estuary of the Ribble. The islands along the coast are off the southern extremity of Furness; these are Walney Island, Foulney, Piel of Fouldrey, Sheep and Roe Islands, and Old Barrow Ramsey. They are all small and unimportant, excepting that of Walney, which is 8 miles long, and never exceeds 1 mile in width. It stands upon a bed of peat, and is so low as to have been nearly inundated. It contains two hamlets, and at its southern point a lighthouse. The rivers that irrigate Lancashire generally flow from N. to S. The Lune, or Loyne, rising in Westmoreland, enters Lancashire near Kirkby Lonsdale, receiving as its tributaries the Greta and the Wenning, and after passing Lancaster empties itself into Lancaster Bay. The Wyre, rising in the Yorkshire moorlands, and after a course of 28 miles, empties itself in Lancaster Bay. The Ribble rises in the Yorkshire mountains, and, after dividing the counties of York and Lancaster, enters Lancashire, receiving on its course the Hodder, Calder, and Derwent, till it finally discharges itself in the Irish Sea. The Mersey rises near Huddersfield, and flowing through Yorkshire, proceeds along the border of Lancashire and Cheshire till it reaches Stockport, when it is joined by the Goyt, and is called the Mersey. Its tributaries are the Irwell, Irk, and the Medlock, and it empties itself in Liverpool Bay. There are also several other small rivers in the county, as the Winster, Duddon, Leven, Douglas, and Alt. The two chief lakes are in Furness-the Windermere and Coniston Water. The former, though on the borders of Westmoreland, is included in Lancashire. It is about 11 miles long, and varies in breadth from 1 to half a mile. It is the largest lake in England, and its scenery remarkably beautiful. Its waters are relieved by the Leven. Coniston, or, as it is sometimes called, Thurston Water, is nearly 6 miles long and half a mile broad. Its waters are discharged by the Leven. Coniston Fells are at its northern extremity. There are other shallow lakes, as Marton Mere, White Otter, and Barton Mere, but of little importance. The chief promontories are South End, Rossal Point, and Birkenhead. Communications through the county are well afforded by the Sankey Canal, extending from St. Helens, near Prescot, into the Mersey; the Duke of Bridgewater's canal, commencing in Manchester and from thence flowing into Cheshire; the Leeds and Liverpool canal, the largest in the kingdom, entering Lancashire near Colne, and passing by Blackburn, Chorley, Wigan, and Ormskirk, to Liverpool; the Lancaster canal, beginning in Westmoreland at Kendal, and running direct to Lancaster, from whence, after a short course, it unites with the Leeds and Liverpool canal; and the Ashton-under-Lyne, Rochdale, Manchester, Bolton, and Bury canals. These canals are a portion of that inland navigation connecting the Irish Sea with the German Ocean. Nor are the facilities offered by this water communication the only means of transit in the county. Perhaps in no part of the United Kingdom is the railway system more completely carried out than in Lancashire. The entire S. of this county is traversed with a network of lines, and communication is easily held by rail with all the important towns. The main northern line to Scotland, in connection with the London and North-Western railway, enters Lancashire at Warrington passing Wigan, Preston, ton, and Lancaster, and quitting the county at Burton. Manchester is a centre from whence all lines radiate. The Manchester and Liverpool line runs to Liverpool; another line joins Manchester with Preston. The Manchester and Huddersfield line and the Manchester and Yorkshire connect Manchester with the towns in Yorkshire. The North-Western railway unites Lancashire with London. There are also other smaller lines, such as that from Manchester to Altringham, Liverpool to Southport, Liverpool to Preston, Preston to Blackpool, and the Whitehaven and Furness junction railway, running along Furness. There are numerous coach roads, of which the chief are-the Carlisle and Manchester road, passing Chorley, Preston, Lancaster, into Westmoreland; the Liverpool road to Manchester; the London and Liverpool road; the Manchester road to Halifax and Leeds; and various other smaller roads, too numerous to mention. The climate of Lancashire is mild and moist, being preserved from the cold easterly winds by the high hills running along its eastern boundary. It is, however, very subject to rain, by the clouds from the Atlantic being arrested on their progress. Owing to the moisture arising from this cause, Lancashire is an excellent grazing county. The land is well cultivated. Oats are the favourite crop, but wheat is sown along the shore. Potatoes are much cultivated. Meadows and pastures are much commoner however than arable fields. Sheep are not nearly so numerous as cattle; the black-faced Cheviot and Leicester are the chief breeds. The oxen are some of the best in England. There is also a good breed of strong horses for farming and laborious purposes. The chief strata overspreading the county is the New Red sandstone, in which is a deposit of rock-salt. This formation abounds in the valley of the Mersey, and extends inland as far as Manchester. Near the coast it is covered with moss and peat. These peat mosses contain quantities of large timber trees, the remains of ancient forests. The coalfield, which crops out from under the red marl, is the great source of the prosperity attending the manufactures in this county. This field lies between the Ribble and the Mersey. The line which bounds it extends from Colne to Upholland, near Wigan, and from thence to Ormskirk, and between Newton and Warrington. A small coal-field E. of Lancaster occupies a portion of the county and extends into Yorkshire. The coal pits are most numerous about Prescot, Newton, Wigan, Bolton, Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne, and in the vicinity of Blackburn and Burnley. Those in the northern coal-field are mostly in the neighbourhood of Hornby. The millstone grit forms those hills which bound the eastern side of the county. North of the Lune is the carboniferous or mountain limestone. Of the mineral productions of Lancashire the chief is coal, which is of various kinds; also lead, copper and ironstone, but these are obtained only in small quantities. The mountains of Furness furnish blue slate. Good freestone is quarried near Lancaster, and brick and pipe-clay are obtained in various parts. The chief manufacture in the county is that of cotton, which is principally carried on in Manchester and its neighbourhood; but this source of industry in 1861 received a severe check from the scarcity of the raw material caused by the American civil war. There are also manufactures of woollen, worsted, stuffs, carpets, silk ribbons, beer-engines and machinery, shawls, hosiery, shipbuilding, soap, candles, leather, &c. The ecclesiastical distribution of the county has undergone several changes. After the conversion of the Northumbrian Saxons to Christianity it was included in the diocese and province of York. Upon the supremacy of the West Saxons the southern part of it was joined to the diocese of Lichfield and the province of Canterbury. In 1541 these disjoined portions were re-united in the new diocese of Chester, formed by Henry VIII. and continued so to 1847. At that time, by an Act of Parliament which came into operation some years ago, the whole of the county, excepting the deanery of Furness and Cartmel, added to Carlisle, was formed into the diocese of Man cheater, in the province of York. The parishes in .this county are most extensive; that of Whalley contains 108,140 acres; Lancaster, 66,100; Oldham, 58,620; Blackburn, 45,620; and many others little inferior in extent. There are numerous dependent chapelries, and many new churches have been erected. The Independents and other Dissenters form a good portion of the manufacturing towns. Wesleyan Methodists are remarkably numerous. There is also a considerable mass of Roman Catholics. Lancashire has, in the colleges at Manchester and Liverpool, complete university institutions, representing the so-called University of London. The medical schools are held in good repute. Colleges are here of the Roman Catholics and other sects. This shire contains upwards of 50 public grammar and collegiate schools, besides private schools of a like class. By the Poor-law Commissioners Lancashire is divided into 29 poor-law unions. These unions contain 475 parishes, with an area of 1,105,107 acres. Quarter sessions are held at Lancaster, and by successive adjournments at Salford, Preston, and Kirkdale. By the Reform Act this county was divided into two parts for parliamentary purposes. The election for the northern division takes place at Lancaster, and for the southern at Newton. Formerly 14 members were returned to parliament, viz: 2 for the county, and 2 each for the boroughs of Lancaster, Clitheroe, Liverpool, Newton, Preston, and Wigan. The Reform Act disinfranchised Newton, and reduced Clitheroe to 1 member, but created 4 new boroughs-Manchester, Bolton, Blackburn, and Oldham, each returning 2 members; and 5, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, Rochdale, Salford, and Warrington, each returning 1 member, go that the whole number returned to parliament is 26. The history of Lancaster as a county palatine is curious. At an early date it was distinguished as an honour, or kind of superior feudal lordship. In the reign of Henry III. the honour was changed to an earldom in favour of Edmund, second son of that king. Edward III. erected the earldom into a duchy in favour of Henry Plantagenet, and afterwards of John of Gaunt, for whom the county was made a county palatine. Henry IV., by an Act of Parliament,' caused that the title and revenues should remain to him and his heirs for ever, and the duchy has now for ages been annexed to the crown. The county palatine and the duchy of Lancaster, with regard to extent, are quite distinct. The duchy has a separate chancery court, with a chancellor, attorney-general, and other officers, having an equity jurisdiction within the limits of the duchy. Lancashire contains many interesting objects of antiquity, including several Roman roads. Six of these radiate from Manchester; one runs to Blackrod, another to Ribchester, the ancient Caucus, two others to Cheshire, one to Stockport, and another to Stretford, supposed to be the Fines Flavice et Maximæ mentioned by Richard of Cirencester. There are others also too numerous to mention. All traces of the station at Mancunium, now Manchester, have disappeared. There are but few castellated remains now left. The chief are the keeps of Lancaster and Dalton castles, the ruins of the castle on the Island of Piel of Fouldrey, and Hornby castle, those of the castles of Furness, Gleaston, Thurland, Greenhough, Hoghton, Turton, and Belfield. There are remains of old abbeys at Furness, Cockesand, and Whalley; of priories at Burscough and Upper Holland; of churches at Cartmel and Middleton. Among the chief seats are Knowsley Park, Earl of Derby; Holker, Earl of Burlington; Lathom, Lord Skelmersdale; Atherton, Lord Lifford; Heaton, Earl of Wilton; Worsley, Earl of Ellesmere; Croxteth, Earl of Sefton."