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1868 - The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland

"LANCASTER, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, exercising separate jurisdiction, but locally situated in the hundreds of Lonsdale South of the Sands and Amounderness, county Lancashire. It is the county town of Lancashire, 15 miles S.W. of Kirby Lonsdale, 60 N.W. of Manchester, and 240 N.N.W. of London by road, or 230 by the London and North-Western railway, on which it is a first-class station. It is situated about 6 miles from Lancaster Bay, on the river Lune and Lancaster canal. The parish is very extensive, including, besides the county town, the chapelries of Admarsh, Caton, Glasson, Gressingham, Littledale, Overton, Poulton-le-Sands, Quernmoore, Skerton, Stalmine, Wyersdale, and 13 other townships. The town, which is situated in the north-western angle of the county, is built on an eminence rising abruptly from the left bank of the Lune. It occupies the site of a Roman station, as the suffix to its name indicates, probably Ad Alaunam of Richard of Cirencester, or Longovici. It is supposed to have been dismantled after the departure of the Romans, but was restored by the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria, who made it their capital. It is mentioned in the Domesday Survey as Loncastre, and at that time formed part of the crown manor of Halton. In 1094 the Anglo-Norman baron, Roger de Poitou, built the castle, and enlarged the town, which received a charter from King John. In the reign of Edward III. it was made a county palatine, and the manor, with the duchy of Lancaster, conferred on John of Gaunt, the king's son, a dignity still retained by the royal family. In 1322 it was plundered by the Scottish army under Bruce, and part of the castle destroyed, but it was immediately restored, and the gateway tower was then added. During the fear that prevailed in England regarding the Spanish Armada, the castle was used as a fortress, and has ever since been employed as the county prison. In the wars of the Roses the town was greatly reduced, and again suffered considerably during the parliamentary war. In 1698 a great part of the town was destroyed by fire, in behalf of the Pretender, and in 1745 was much agitated by the temporary success of the Pretender. The municipal borough, which was first chartered by King John, when Earl of Morton, is divided into three wards. It is governed, under the Municipal Corporations' Act, by a mayor, who is returning officer, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, with the style of "Mayor, bailiffs, and commonalty of the town of Lancaster." Its income is about £3,000, chiefly arising from the rents of the townlands. The population of the municipal borough in 1851 was 14,604, and of the parliamentary, 16,168; by the census of 1861 the population of the municipal was 14,487, and of the parliamentary borough, 16,005, showing a small decrease in the decennial period. The bounds of the parliamentary borough were extended by the Reform Act so as to include, besides the "old borough," parts of the townships of Bulk and Skerton. It first exercised the elective franchise in the 23rd of Edward I., and continued to return members till the 1st of Edward IL, when it intermitted until the reign of Edward VI., since which time it has regularly returned two members to parliament. The general appearance of the town is picturesque. The castle, crowning the summit of the hill on which the town is built, stands out with its stately towers in bold relief, and is the chief object of attraction. It has been nearly wholly rebuilt, and is used as a county gaol and court-house. The keep is antique and very strong; its gateway, with its two projecting towers, dates back to the time of Edward III. The southern bank of the river Lune is spanned by a bridge of five arches. The chief buildings in the town are-the townhall, situated in the market-place, a stone building surmounted by a small clock tower, and entered through a portico supported by pillars; the custom-house, on St. George's quay, a neat building with a portico supported by four Ionic columns; the county lunatic asylum, on Lancaster Moor, a building of the Doric order; the barracks; the cemetery, on Lancaster Moor; the dispensary, music hall, assembly rooms, Odd Fellows' hall, Ripley's hospital, grammar school, banks, theatre, &c. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Manchester, value £1,709. The parish church of St. Mary, situated on the N.E. side of the Castle hill, is in the later style of English architecture, with a lofty tower containing a clock and eight bells. It was originally built by Roger de Poitou. The interior comprises a nave, two aisles, chancel, and gallery, at the W. end; pillars and pointed arches divide the aisles from the nave. In the channel are some specimens of oak carvings; also three windows in stained glass, representing the Crucifixion and Ascension in the centre window, divided into ten compartments, and the other two "Moses striking the Rock," and "Feed My Lambs." There are likewise other stained-glass windows, representing "Adoration of the Magi," "Doubting of St. Thomas," and incidents in the life of John the Baptist. The church possesses a number of monuments and brasses, of which the most important are those dedicated to William Stratford, LL.D., Thomas Bowes, and Sir Samuel Eyre. In Chapel-street is St. John's church, a simple stone building: the living is a perpetual curacy In Moor-lane stands St. Anne's chapel, a plain building its living is a perpetual curacy St. Thomas's church, in Penny-street, is a structure possessing a spire containing six bells: it comprises a nave, aisles, and chancel, and a stained-glass window to the memory of the late incumbent: the living is a perpetual curacy On Lancaster Moor is a neat edifice called Christ Church, with two small spires. There are in Lancaster also places of worship for the Independents, Wesleyans, various orders of Methodists, Quakers, and Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic church is a new building, dedicated' to St. Peter, with a very lofty spire. This town is well furnished with schools. The Royal Grammar school, at the top of Nelson-street, in the Tudor style, is a very excellent establishment; St. Mary's National school, for boys, St. Leonard's Gate, has an endowment by which 30 boys are clothed and educated here gratis; and the St. Mary's National school for girls, which educates 80 girls and 140 infants: in Edward-street is St. Anne's school, containing 130 boys; in Marton-street is St. Thomas's National school; and in Aldcliffe-street is the Lancasterian school for boys and girls. There are also schools for the children of Roman Catholics, Quakers, and Independents. Of the charities there is a very large building in course of construction to be called Ripley's hospital, endowed by Mrs. Ripley, for the purpose of educating and maintaining boys and girls, to the number of 300, within a radius of 15 miles of Lancaster. The almshouses are, Gardyner's, founded in 1485, for 4 old men; Penny's, founded in 1715, for 12 poor persons; and Gillison's, founded in 1781, for eight poor unmarried women; and the union poorhouse. Independent of its general retail trade, Lancaster possesses a considerable manufacturing trade. There are cotton and silk mills, iron foundries, corn mills, large marble works, and considerable manufacturing establishments for furniture, also an iron shipbuilding company. A good deal of commerce is carried on by the coasting and foreign trade. Owing to the great amount of sand that accumulates in the channel of the Lune, navigation is impossible to vessels of large burthen. To remedy this, in 1787 a dock was constructed at Glasson, 5 miles down the river, enabling vessels to discharge their cargoes into lighters to be brought to St. George's quay. The Lancaster canal, which is conveyed over the river Lune by an aqueduct of five semicircular arches, each 70 feet span, communicates with the mining districts, thus supplying the neighbourhood with coal and other commodities. Here are held the assizes for the northern division of the county, also the borough court of pleas, court of pleas for the county, and the consistory court of the archdeaconry of Richmond. The county court and insolvent debtors' court are held monthly. The Poorlaw guardians meet every Saturday. Lancaster Poorlaw Union contains 19 townships and parishes. No traces exist of the leper hospital founded by King John, or the Black friary founded in Henry III.'s reign. Of the old castle, the chief specimen of antiquity the town boasts of, there remain the great keep, 90 feet high; King John's Gate; John of Gaunt's Tower, now a record office, and other towers. In the parish churchyard is an old runic cross. Dr. Taylor, Professor Owen, and Dr. Whewell were natives of the town. The principal seats in the neighbourhood are-Drummond Hall, Halton Hall, and Quernmore. This town is the head-quarters of the militia. There are two newspapers published every Saturday morning-the Lancaster Gazette and Lancaster Guardian. Markets are held every Wednesday and Saturday, the latter being the most important. Fairs for horses, cattle, cheese, &c., are held on the 1st May, 5th July, and 10th October, the latter of which is the chief cheese fair in the county."