Lancaster, Lancashire genealogy

LANCASTER, a town, a township, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Lancashire. The town stands on the river Lune, the Lancaster canal, and the Northwestern railway, 6 miles NW of the influx of the Lune to Lancaster bay, and 52 NW by N of Manchester; and is connected by the Northwestern railway with all places to the N and the S, by a railway up the valley of the Lune with Yorkshire, and by a short branch railway westward with Poulton.

History:- The town occupies the site of a Roman station, and has yielded a great number of Roman relics. The station is thought by some to have been Longovicum, mentioned by Antoninus; but it much more probably was Ad Alaunum, mentioned by Richard of Cirencester. The name Ad Alaunum seems to allude to the river Lune, which the Romans probably called Alaunus. The town was known soon after the Norman conquest as Loncastre; and that name may have been derived immediately from the word Lon or Lune, applied to the river, and the Saxon word Ceastre, signifying "a castle" or "a fort;" but it appears manifestly to have come remotely from the Latin word Castrum, signifying "a station" or "a camp," and the word Alaunum, applied to the river; so that the name was originally Castrum-Alaunum, and was changed in course of time into Alauncaster, Loncastre, Launcaster, and Lancaster. The town seems to have grown out of the Roman station, or to have been in fact a Roman town; and it is traditionally said to have had a Roman fort, either built by Adrian in 124, or built by the father of Constantine in 305. It appears certainly to have had a fort of the Saxons, probably restored from the Roman one; and it was, for some time, the Saxon capital of the southern part of Cumbria, and was desolated by the Picts and Scots. It declined greatly before the Conquest; is not mentioned as a town in the Domesday survey; and was then a part of Halton crown manor. It was given by the Conqueror to Roger de Poictou; it became the residence of that magnate; and it began to revive, and to become again important, under his auspices. A grand castle, about the year 1094, was either re-constructed by Roger out of the old fort, or more probably was entirely rebuilt by him on that fort's site; and this seems to have flourished, without any considerable change, till 1322; but in that year, and also in 1389, it was desolated, and the town at the same time burned, by the Scots. The castle was restored, enlarged, and beautified, by John of Gaunt, so as to possess much more than its original strength and splendour; and was also protected by a moat, with drawbridge and portcullis. It was renovated again, in the time of Elizabeth; and was then first used as a fortress against the threatened invasion by Philip of Spain, and next converted into a county prison and a seat of justice. It was further enlarged in 1788, under the act for improving prisons; and it was still further enlarged at subsequent periods. The alterations and additions, from the time of its ceasing to be a baronial residence, were all done in the castellated style, on a similar model to the buildings of Chester Castle, and are computed to have cost upwards of £140,000. Its capacities, as a seat of justice, afford ample accommodation to the courts; and its capacities as a prison, can admit 234 male and 173 female prisoners. The entrance gateway is about 66 feet high, overhung by a triple row of machicolations, flanked by two octagonal towers, and surmounted by watch turrets. Over the gateway, in a niche, is a statue of John of Gaunt, cut by a native sculptor in 1822; and probably had been originally an effigy of the same person. The Great keep, of the 11th century, is crowned by a turret, called John of Gaunt's chair, rising to the height of 88 feet: has thick walls and round windows; and contains apartments 63 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 high. Another tower, called Adrian's, is a remnant of the original castle of Roger de Poictou; and possibly includes, in its walls, some Roman masonry. The town was much depopulated in the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster; was a scene of contest in the wars between Charles I. and the parliament; suffered extensive damage by an accidental fire in 1698; and shared in the agitations of the rebellion of 1745. Dr. Taylor, author of the Hebrew Concordance, the first Sir Robert Peel, Professor Owen, and Professor Whewell, were natives of the town; and the Queen takes from it the title of Duchess of Lancaster.

Site and Streets:- The town consists of Lancaster Proper on the left bank of the river, and the suburb of Skerton on the right bank. Lancaster Proper occupies a considerable eminence, of bold outline, crowned toward the W by the castle and the parish church. The views from it range southward over the great plain of Lancashire, westward to a distant horizon on the sea, eastward up the valley of the Lune to the hills of Lonsdale, and northward over a fine expanse of low country to the mountains of Westmoreland and Cumberland. The streets, for the most part, are narrow and dingy; but the newer ones are spacious and neat; the market-place is large and pleasing; the houses generally are built of free-stone and roofed with slate; and the outskirts contain many handsome villas. New roads, of an ornamental kind, were formed in the vicinity, and waterworks were constructed at Skerton and Morecambe, partly by way of giving employment to the distressed operatives during the cotton famine; and one of the new roads was named in honour of Shakespear, and opened at the Tercentenary Shakespear celebration in April 1864.

Public Buildings:- The castle has been already noticed. Parts of that structure, comprising two splendid courts, constructed at a cost of £40,000, are entirely modern. Raised terraces also extend beneath its walls, on the N and the S; and form a pleasant promenade, commanding extensive views. The town-hall, in Market-place, was built in 1783, at a cost of £13,000; is an imposing structure, in questionable taste; and has a pillared portico, surmounted-by a small clock-tower. The custom-house, on St. George's-quay, is a neat stone edifice, with tetrastyle Ionic portico. The new market, extending from Market-street to Common Garden-street, is well-constructed and commodious. The barracks, at the top of Penny-street, are a modern stone structure. The assembly-rooms are in King-street. The music-hall for concerts, lectures, and exhibitions, is in St. Leonard-gate. The mechanics' institution and school of art, containing news-rooms, class-rooms, and an extensive library, is at the top of Market-street. The merchants' subscription news-room is in Market-street. The Amicable society's library, instituted 1769, is on Castle Hill. The Odd Fellows' hall, erected in 1844, is in Mary-street. The public baths and wash-houses, in Cable-street, were built in 1863, at a cost of about £5,500, by gift of Samuel Gregson, Esq.; and contain 10 private baths for males, 5 private baths for females, a public swimming bath 40 feet by 25, and wash-house accommodation for 12 washers. An ancient bridge over the Lune, near the present quay, was ascribed variously to the Romans and the Scandinavians; had a recess, overhung by corbelled projections, and said to have been used by the Saxons as a court of justice; and remained in ruin till not many years ago, an interesting piece of antiquity; but has now completely disappeared. The new bridge, a little higher up, was erected in 1788, at a cost of £14,000; has five elliptical arches, and ornamental piers and parapets; and is regarded as one of the handsomest bridges of its size in Europe. The viaduct of the Northwestern railway is a light and elegant structure, with seven arches, of such high elevation as to figure prominently and beautifully in views from the upper parts of the town; but was replaced in 1866 by an iron structure. The viaduct of the Poulton railway is an iron bridge, about 590 feet long. The aqueduct of the Lancaster canal over the Lune, about ¾ of a mile NE of the town, was constructed at a cost of £48,000; has five arches, each 70 feet in span, rising 39 feet above the ordinary surface of the river; and is a splendid fabric, after designs by Rennie. The railway up the valley of the Lune passes under one of the aqueduct's arches.

Churches.:- The parish church, or St. Mary's, stands adjacent to the N side of the castle, harmonizes well with that structure, appears in some distant views to group with it, and occnpies the site of a Norman church, built by Roger de Poictou. That church was attached to a Benedictine priory, a cell to the abbey of Sees in Normandy, and transferred by Henry V. to the abbey of Sion in Middlesex; but it was entirely destroyed. The present church was mainly built in the 15th century; was invested, by Henry VII I., with the privilege of sanctuary; has a lofty well-proportioned tower, rebuilt in 1759; comprises nave, aisles, and chancel; measures 143 feet by 58; has undergone extensive alterations, of a modernizing kind; and contains fine screen-work and oak-carvings, said to have been brought from Cockersand abbey, a carved oak pulpit, a beautifully carved stone font, three rich stained-glass windows, a marble monument to Dr. Stratford by Roubiliac, a finely-carved marble monument to Sir Samuel Eyre, a number of other monuments, and several brasses. The churchyard once contained an ancient Runic cross. St. John's church, in Chapel-street, was built in 1775, and has a spire added in 1784. St. Anne's church, in Moor-lane, was built in 1796; and is a plain edifice, with an open turret. St. Thomas' church, in Penny-street, is a modern structure, in the early English style; and consists of nave, aisles, and chancel, with handsome tower and spire. Christ church, on Lancaster moor, was built in 1857; is in the early decorated English style; and has two small W spires. The Roman Catholic church, in East-street, was built in 1859; cost, with priests' house attached to it, above £15,000; is in the geometric pointed style; and comprises nave, aisles, transepts, chancel, and lady chapel, with tower and spire 240 feet high. There are places of worship also for Independents, Quakers, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, United Free Methodists, and Unitarians. A convent of sisters of mercy, and a cemetery, are contiguous to the Roman Catholic church. The general cemetery, on Lancaster-moor, was opened in 1855; comprises 21 acres; and contains three chapels for respectively Churchmen, Dissenters, and Roman Catholics. A black friary was founded, in the time of Henry III., by Sir H. Harrington; and a lepers' hospital was founded by King John: but both have completely disappeared.

Schools and Institutions:- The grammar school stands at the top of East-road; dates from at least the year 1482; was rebuilt in 1853, at a cost, together with the head-master's house, of about £4,000; is a neat edifice, in the Tudor style; and has an endowed income of £29, and an allowance of £100 a-year from the corporation funds. The girls' charity school stands in Middle-street; dates. from 1772; was rebuilt in 1849; and gives free education and clothing to 60 girls. The boys' blue coat or national school stands in St. Leonard-gate; dates from 1817; was rebuilt in 1850; and gives free education and clothing to 30 boys. Ripley's hospital, for educating and maintaining 150 boys and 150 girls, stands on the Cockerham-road; was built in 1856-64, on a fund of £100,000, given by Mrs. Ripley, in memorial of her husband; consists of a centre and advanced wings, 195 feet in frontage; is in the collegiate pointed style, with a clock-tower 110 feet high; and cost, in the construction, about £30,000. A national school for girls and infants, built in 1820, is in High-street; a national school, for boys, girls, and infants, is in Marton-street; a British school, for boys and girls, is in Aldcliffe-street; a large school for infants, built in 1853, is in Edward-street; a Quakers' school for boys is in Meetinghouse-lane; and a Roman Catholic school, for boys, girls, and infants, is contiguous to the Roman Catholic church. Penny's alms-houses, for twelve poor persons, were founded in 1715, and have an endowed income of £336. Gillison's alms-houses, or hospital, for eight poor unmarried. women, were founded in 1781, and have an endowed women, were originally a chantry, founded in 1485. The dispensary and house of recovery, in Thurnham-street, date from 1781. The county lunatic asylum, on Lancaster-moor, was established in 1816; is a handsome stone edifice, on a plot of about 5 acres; and, at the census of 1861, had 794 inmates. The workhouse, also on Lancaster-moor, is a large building; but, at the census of 1861, had only 81 inmates.

Trade:- Lancaster has a head post-office, two railway-stations, with telegraph, a banking office, and three chief inns; and publishes four newspapers, one of them twice a-week, two weekly, the other monthly. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and fairs on 1 May, 5 July, and 10 Oct. The manufacture of cabinet-work and upholstery, chiefly for exportation, has long been carried on; the manufacture of oil-cloth table covers, in fancy-imitations, is carried on in two establishments; the spinning of silk, and the spinning and manufacturing of cotton, are carried on in several mills; ship-building and railway-wagon-making are carried on by two limited companies; and there are extensive marble works, and iron foundries. The town is a head-port; but, in consequence of shifting sands in the channel of the Lune, it is itself reached chiefly by lighters, and has its main quay or dock at Glasson, 5 miles down the river. 'The vessels which belonged to it, at the beginning of 1864, were 35 small sailing-vessels, of aggregately 1,230 tons; 113 large sailing-vessels, of aggregately 14,751 tons; 4 small steam vessels, of aggregately 109 tons; and 6 large steam-vessels, of aggregately 1,213 tons. The vessels which entered, in 1863, were 20 British sailing vessels, of aggregately 6,445 tons, from British colonies; 2 foreign sailing vessels, of jointly 422 tons, from British colonies; 25 British sailing-vessels, of aggregately 2,886 tons, from foreign countries; 33 foreign sailing-vessels, of aggregately 5,950 tons, from foreign countries; 1,162 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 66,143 tons, coast-wise; and 450 steam-vessels, of aggregately 101,081 tons, coastwise. The vessels which cleared in that year were 10 British sailing-vessels, of aggregately 4,263 tons, to British colonies; 12 British sailing-vessels, of aggregately 1,491 tons, to foreign countries; 14 foreign sailing-vessels, of aggregately 2,403 tons, to foreign countries; 1,333 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 90,447 tons, coast-wise; and 437 steam-vessels, of aggregately 99,463 tons, coastwise. The amount of customs in 1862 was £15,613. A steamer sails twice a-week to Liverpool.

The Borough:- Lancaster was first chartered by King John; sent members to parliament from the 23d year of Edward I. till the first year of Edward II.; sent none from that year till the time of Edward VI.; has regularly sent two from that time till now; and is governed, under the new act, by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. The municipal borough consists of the township of Lancaster, and the extra-parochial place of Lancaster Castle; but the parliamentary borough comprises also parts of the townships of Skerton and Bulk. The town is the seat of petty sessions twice a-week for the borough, petty sessions weekly for the southern division of Lonsdale hundred, a monthly county-court, a court of pleas for the borough, a court of pleas for the county, the quarter-sessions for the northern division of the county, and the assizes for that division; and it also is a polling-place, and the place of election for the northern division of the county. Corporation income, in 1855, £4,803. Amount of property and income tax charged in 1863, £5,601. Electors, in 1863, 1,359. Pop. of the m. borough in 1851, 14,604; in 1861, 14,487. Houses, 2,681. Pop. of the p. borough, in 1851, 16,168; in 1861, 16,005. Houses, 2,992. Pop. of the Skerton portion, 1,467; of the Bulk portion, 51.

The Parish:- The township comprises 1,240 acres. Real property, with Lancaster Castle, £296,803; of which £52 are in quarries, £20,072 in canals, £232,691 in railways, and £1,376 in gas-works. Pop., 14,324. Houses, 2,680. The parish contains also the extra-parochial place of Lancaster Castle, the townships of Skerton, Bulk, Aldcliffe, Scotforth, Ashton-with-Stodday, Middleton, Poulton, Overton-with-Sunderland, Heaton-with-Oxcliffe, Over-Wyresdale, Myerscough, Preesall-with-Hackinsall, Stalmine-with-Stainall, Fulwood, Quernmore, Gressingham, Caton-with-Littledale, and part of Thurnham, and the chapelry of Bleasdale. Real property, with the rest of Thurnham, and with Bare and Torrisholme, £373,695; of which £46 are in quarries, and £140 in fisheries. Pop. in 1851, 26,232; in 1861, 27,430. Houses, 4,937. The special features and the special objects in the several parts are noticed in the articles on the townships. Lancaster bay indents the coast; extends, on the S side, beyond the parish; receives the river Lune on the NE side, and the river Wyre on the SSW side; measures 9 miles across the entrance, or rather along an imaginary junction line with the sea, from Red Nose to Rossall-point, and 6½ miles from that line to its innermost reach; consists mainly of foreshore, or of alternate shallows and sands; has a depth of from 6 to 12 fathoms outside the sands; and was called by the Romans Setantiorum Portus. The parish is cut ecclesiastically into the sections of St. Mary, St. John, St. Anne, St. Thomas, Christ Church, Bleasdale, Caton, Fulwood, Glasson, Gressingham, Littledale, Overton, Poulton-le-Sands, Quernmore, Skerton, Stalmine, and Wyresdale. The living of St. Mary is a vicarage, and the other livings are p. curacies, in the diocese of Manchester. Value of St. Mary, £1,709;* of St. John, £203;* of St. Anne, £202; * of St. Thomas, £180; * of Christ Church, £202. Patron of St. Mary, George Marton, Esq.; of St. John and St. Anne, the Vicar of St. Mary; of St. Thomas, the Rev. C. Campbell; of Christ Church, Mrs. Murray. The others are noticed in their respective alphabetical places.

The District:- The sub-district contains, of Lancaster parish, only the townships of Lancaster, Skerton, Bulk, Aldcliffe, Scotforth, and Ashton-with-Stodday, and the extra-parochial place of Lancaster Castle; but contains also the parish of Halton and the Bolton-le-Sands township of Slyne-with-Hest. Acres, 13,280. Pop., 18,347. Houses, 3,452. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Caton, containing the townships of Quernmore and Caton-with- Littledale, and the parish of Claughton; the sub-district of Heaton, containing the townships of Poulton, Middleton, Heaton-with-Oxcliffe, and Overton-with-Sunderland, and the parish of Heysham; the sub-district of Ellel, containing the townships of Over-Wyresdale and Thurnham, the parish of Cockerham, and the extra-parochial tract of Cockersand Abbey; the sub-district of Arkholme, containing the township of Gressingham, the parish of Whittington, and the Melling township of Arkholme-with-Cawood; the sub-district of Wray, containing the parish of Tatham, and the Melling townships of Farleton, Hornby, Roeburndale, Wennington, Wray-with-Botton, and Melling-with-Wrayton; the sub-district of Tunstal, containing the parish of Tunstal, and the Thornton township of Ireby; and the sub-district of Warton, containing the parish of Warton, and the Bolton-le-Sands townships of Bolton-le-Sands, Over-Kellet, and Nether-Kellet. Acres, 138,746. Poor-rates in 1863, £13,765. Pop. in 1851, 34,660; in 1861, 35,297. Houses, 6,699. Marriages in 1863, 306; births, 1,152, of which 73 were illegitimate; deaths, 702, of which 194 were at ages under 5 years, and 23 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 2,814; births, 11,638; deaths, 7,976. The places of worship, in 1851, were 37 of the Church of England, with 14,885 sittings; 5 of Independents, with 1,550 s.; 1 of Baptists, with 100 s.; 4 of Quakers, with 1,306 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 180 s.; 10 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1,730 s.; 2 of Primitive Methodists, with 290 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 102 attendants; 1 undefined, with 20 at.; and 4 of Roman Catholics, with 874 s. The schools were 51 public day schools, with 3,498 scholars; 59 private day schools, with 1,507 s.; 58 Sunday schools, with 5,644 s.; and 6 evening schools for adults, with 69 s. The district is cut for administration into three parts, Lancaster, Caton, and Arkholme, the second of which is an incorporation under Gilbert's Act; and there are two workhouses, respectively in Lancaster and in Caton.

John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)