Some history on Lancaster in the county of Lancashire



Lancaster : "Map by John Speed [1607]

1886 Barrett's Directory

Lancaster. This ancient borough, market town, and port is in the southern division of the Hundred of Lonsdale, the archdeaconry of Lancaster, and diocese of Manchester, and is 20½ miles N. by W. from Preston, 52 miles N.N.W. from Manchester, the same distance N.N.E. from Liverpool, 69 miles S. from Carlisle, 89 miles W. by N. from York, and 239 miles N.N.W. from London. It is situated on the southern banks of the river Lune, and the eye of the traveller on his approach to the town is at once arrested by the battlements of its magnificent castle, and the lofty tower of the venerable church of St. Mary, which stand on a bold eminence to the west of the town. Few places abound with more interesting reminiscences than Lancaster. Like most other ancient towns, its early history is involved in some obscurity. That it was a Roman Station, and one of much importance, is undoubted. The remains of the ancient vallum may still be distinctly traced in the fields on the north side of St. Mary's Church. What, however, was the name of the Station, it is more difficult to say. Now that the authenticity of the Itinera of Richard of Cirencester has been undermined, the supposition that the name may have been Alauna is without corroboration. The measurement of the Iter of Antoninus would seem to point to Lancaster as having been the ancient Bremetonacae, and this theory has not yet been successfully disputed. The name, Lancaster, from the river Lon, or Lune, and Castrum, a Camp - signifies the fortress on the Lune.

There seems little doubt that when the Romans, under Julius Agricola, finally established their dominion in Britain they found here a small town known as Caer Werid, or Green City of the ancient Britons, probably fenced round with a trench and rampart. The stations marked out by Agricola in the country of the western Brigantes will be found in general to be situated upon principal rivers, at the exact point where the water ceases to be navigable for vessels of considerable burthen - secure from piratical invasion, and convenient for the purposes of commerce. Several Roman remains have been found at Lancaster at different times, and many more would doubtless be discovered had not the Castle and the Church been built on the site of the Roman station. This circumstance, combined with the terrible demolition made by the Scotch invaders in 1322, and the consequent removal of the town itself from its original elevation to the declivity and foot of the hill, must have had the effect of burying in one indiscriminate and impenetrable heap magazines of antiquities. During the heptarchy the Saxons gave the town the name of Lone-caster, or the Castle on the Lune; as they designated Ribchester Ribblechester, or the Castle on the Ribble. The Normans found Lancaster reduced to a village, and the Roman Castrum little better than a ruin. Lancaster being one of the manors which Roger de Poicton received from the Conqueror, that Baron founded or enlarged the present Castle and constituted it his baronial residence. A flourishing town soon gathered round the Castle, and the burgesses acquired extensive privileges from their lords, and Lancaster was constituted the capital of the county. Gilbert Fitz Reinfrede obtained from King John the possession of the honour of Lancaster, united with the other barons of the realm in compelling that monarch to grant Magna Charta to the people of England. In 1265 these honours and possessions were confiscated, and granted the next year by Henry III. to his youngest son, Edmund Crouchback, who was created the first Earl of Lancaster. One of his descendants was created Earl of Derby by Edward III. for his services in the Scotch wars. This earl distinguished himself greatly in the wars in France, and he is said to have spent £100 a day while engaged in the foreign wars, equal to over £1,000 worth of our money. He was subsequently made Duke of Lancaster, with power to have a Chancery in time county, and to issue out writs under his own seal, and to enjoy all other liberties and regalities belonging to a County Palatine. The Palace of the Savoy was built by this duke at a cost of 52,000 marks. For his acts of piety and generosity he was styled "The good Duke of Lancaster," and when the King of France presented him with valuable gifts he declined them all except a thorn out of the crown of our Redeemer, which he brought to England, and left as a precious relic to the Collegiate Church of our Lady at Leicester. He gave several hundred acres of land to Whalley Monastery, stipulating that prayers should be said for the repose of his soul and the souls of his ancestors and heirs. He died 24th March, 1360, leaving two heiresses, Maud and Blanch, who were married, respectively, to Ralph Lord Stafford and John of Gaunt, Earl of Richmond, fourth son of Edward III. This prince inherited by his marriage a number of castles, manors, lordships, and estates in several counties, and on the death of Maud the whole of the possessions of the late Duke of Lancaster fell to him. A few months after this acquisition of fortune he was elevated by his royal father to the Dukedom of Lancaster, with all the liberties and regalities of an Earl Palatine. He was also made Earl of Leicester and Derby, with the office of High Steward of England. By a second marriage with Constance, daughter of Peter the Cruel, King of Castile and Leon, he became allied to the reigning family of Spain, and when he returned with his wife's dowry in 1389 he had 47 mules laden with chests of gold. The Castles of Lancaster and Leicester became alternately his residence. His haughty demeanour rendered him so obnoxious to the populace that, during the insurrection which then broke out, they burnt the duchy palace in the Savoy. He surpassed all the subjects of his time in power and fortune, and was placed at the head of the King's Councils in the Senate and of his army in the field.

Henry Plantagenet, surnamed Bolingbroke, from the place of his birth, was the only surviving son of John of Gaunt, by Blanch, of Lancaster, and succeeded to his father's title and inheritance in 1398. During his father's lifetime, he was summoned to Parliament by the title of Earl of Derby. Two years afterwards the King confirmed all time grants that had been made by his grandfather and himself to the family of Lancaster, and extended the grant of County Palatine, which had been originally given to John of Gaunt for his life only, to his heirs male, as a mark of his regard towards Henry of Bolingbroke. And in the 15th year of his reign he made his cousin Sir Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby, a duke by the title of Duke of Hereford. In six years a violent quarrel arose between the Dukes of Hereford and Norfolk, who had each accused the other of disloyal expressions towards the King. An appeal to arms was made by the Duke of Hereford, and in 1398, the combatants mounted on their chargers, splendidly caparizoned, appeared at Coventry, by appointment, armed cap a pie. The King and his whole Court were assembled to witness the combat, and proclamation being made, and the trumpet sounded for the charge, the Duke of Hereford spurred forward his horse, but before the Duke of Norfolk could advance, the King cast down his warden, and the heralds cried Stay! Stay! The King then caused both the Dukes to be disarmed and banished them the kingdom, inasmuch as one of them at least must have been very culpable, and did ordain and adjudge that Henry of Lancaster should be banished the kingdom for ten years, and that Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, should be exiled for life. The nation was highly incensed at this capricious proceeding and cruel sentence and when Henry of Lancaster passed through London, on his way to France, he was followed by more than 40,000 citizens, with the Lord Mayor at their head. His father, John of Gaunt, died the same year, on which Henry of Bolingbroke assumed the title of Duke of Lancaster. A rebellion in Ireland, the natural consequence of arbitrary rule, summoned the King to that country, and, during his absence, the Duke of Lancaster returned to England. He lauded at Ravenspurn, in Yorkshire, early in 1399, and being joined by a number of northern lords and a large body of the commonality, lie marched by way of Doncaster to London on the 28th of September, mounted the throne from which Richard II. was deposed, under the sanction of Parliament, and by the will of the nation. The ducal house of Lancaster, having thus given a sovereign to the throne of England, arrived at the summit of earthly grandeur, and from that time to the present, with the exception of a short period in which the house of York reigned, the title of Duke of Lancaster has been associated with the regal dignity.

The most brilliant period in the history of the town was that in which the Earls and Dukes of Lancaster held courts here. John of Gaunt, while residing in the castle, obtained from his royal father a charter for the right of holding all pleas and sessions of the county in Lancaster. A decree of the Chancellor and Council of the Duchy of Lancaster, under the duchy seal, states that in the reign of Queen Mary two of the original quarter sessions of the peace, formerly held in Lancaster, had been withdrawn from the town to Clithero, by an order of the Duchy Court, but that upon the mayor, bailiffs, and commonalty of Lancaster producing the original Charter of Edward III. and the various confirmations thereof, it was ordered and decreed that the assizes and gaol delivery, and the quarter sessions, should be held henceforward at Lancaster and nowhere else.

The town suffered severely from the incursions of the Scots, and was several times burnt by hostile border tribes. No authentic record of what happened to it during the wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster, is preserved, but at the accession of Henry VII. the greater part of it was in ruins. In the reign of Elizabeth it was put into a state of defence, and during the Civil War played a prominent part, first on one side and then on the other. During the siege, in 1642-3, nearly the whole town was destroyed by fire, and only ten years afterwards the castle was again besieged, but in vain, by an army of the Duke of Hamilton. The next military force which appeared before its walls was that in support of the Pretender in 1715. Unfortunately for the Jacobite cause, the force deserted Lancaster in favour of Preston, there to meet with a signal defeat which annihilated the Scottish army. But this defeat did not extinguish the hopes of the house of Stuart, and Lancaster was doomed, in 1745, to witness another more formidable attempt to supplant the king de facto by the king de jure. Having landed in Scotland, and collected a numerous army, Prince Charles Edward advanced into Lancashire at the head of 5,000 men, accompanied by sixteen Scotch and English nobles. On the 24th of November they passed through Lancaster, where they procured a number of horses to convey their baggage and facilitate their advance. After proceeding as far as Derby, they were so panic-stricken as to return, and in their hasty retreat passed through Lancaster on the 13th of December. The battle of Culloden, fought in the spring of the following year, sealed the fate of the Stuarts, and drove the young Pretender from the kingdom, leaving numbers of his less fortunate friends to suffer on the scaffold with all the revolting details then observed in cases of high treason. After the retreat from Derby, the fortunes of the Prince ebbed, as the retiring tide after it has reached its limits. There was a tide so strongly in his favour as to excite the astonishment of all observers. He missed it, and achieved not fortune, but irretrievable ruin.

Before the suppression of the monasteries, Lancaster contained several religious houses, but they are now so completely swept away that not even a vestige remains to point out any of their sites. Their situations, however, are pretty well ascertained; it is known that the site of the Benedictine priory is partly occupied by the vicarage; that the hospital for lepers, dedicated to St. Leonard, stood at the end of St. Leonard's Gate; that the priory of Black Friars was in Friar Street, and that of the Grey Friars near the old bridge. A chantry, founded in 1485, by John Gardyner, for the reception of four poor women, as well as for the stated celebration of the divine offices in the parish church, escaped the fate of the monasteries, and exists to the present time, in the humble edifice rebuilt in 1792, on Castle Hll, the ancient site. "When we find" says Mr. Baines, "that in the hospital of St. Leonard, or the hospital for lepers, as it is called in the Notitia Monastica, the allowance per diem to each of the brethren was a loaf weighing 1lb. 2oz., and pottage on Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays, it will be allowed that the bill of fare in most of the workhouses of modern tunes is much more luxurious." He also says that "the revulsion in the national affairs, produced by the destruction of the religious houses, may be traced in the number of statutes passed in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII., from one of which, of the date of 1544, it appears that there had in times past, been many beautiful houses in Lancaster in common with several other towns in this county, but that they were now falling into ruin." And Camden, who wrote in the time of Elizabeth, tells us that "Lancaster is at present but thinly peopled, and the inhabitants farmers; the country about it being cultivated, open, flourishing, and not bare of wood."

Photographs of Lancaster

Lancaster : Castle Park [1953]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY


Contemporary Photographs

Lancaster : Penny's Almshouses [2017]
© Photo taken by author on September 15th, 2017. DO NOT COPY

Lancaster Advertisements

Lancaster : Advertisement for Reddrop & Co. Ltd. of Cheapside and Church Street [1950]

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Related Newspaper Articles

"One of two cyclists who were knocked from their machines while riding home from work Monday evening, when they were in collision with a car, which is alleged not to have stopped, John William Gardner [57], of 73, Windermere Road, Lancaster, died from his injuries in Morecambe Hospital late last night. The other cyclist, Joseph Gallagher [24], of Park House, Torrisholme, Morecambe, escaped with only a slight injury to his hand. The police traced the driver of the car yesterday."
"Lancaster Cyclist"
Lancaster Evening Post : April 10th 1935 Page 9

Beer label for Danger XB brewed at Hartley' of Ulverston after being operated by Robinson's

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