Lancaster, the historic county town of Lancashire, is situated on the River Lune at its lowest crossing point. The town owes its existence to this strategically important location.
The town has a rich history. Neolithic and bronze age artifacts have been found around Castle Hill, indicating that the area was settled from early times. A Roman auxiliary fort was situated on Castle Hill from the AD 70s until the end of the Roman occupation. There is evidence for an Anglo-Saxon church on the same site and the settlements of "Loncastre" and "Chercaloncastre" (ie the church site) are mentioned in Domesday. Following the Norman conquest the Manor of Halton, to which Lancaster then belonged, was given to Roger of Poitou who built a castle in Lancaster and founded the adjacent Priory in 1094. The town was granted its borough charter in 1193 by John of Mortain, later to be King John. The town was dominated by religious institutions in the middle ages - as well as the Priory there was a Dominican friary and a Leper hospital. The nearby abbeys of Furness and Cockersands also owned property in the borough. In the 16th and 17th centuries the town was saved from obscurity by the twice-yearly assizes held in the Castle but, during this period, there was little or no expansion of the town. Lancaster's golden age was in the 18th century when it was a thriving port, trading with North America and the West Indies. After a decline in the first half of the 19th century, the town entered a period of prosperity and expansion in the later 1800s based on the oilcloth industry and light engineering work. Lancaster became a city in 1937. The latter half of the 20th century saw a decrease in the town's fortunes as manufacturing industries declined. While some industry remains, the service sector, in particular education and healthcare, is the major employer today.
This tour, covering the historic centre of Lancaster, visits sites associated with all periods of Lancaster's history. There are few visible Roman remains and the Castle and Priory are the only extant medieval structures. There are, however, many fine 18th century buildings which escaped redevelopment in the 1960s and much evidence of Lancaster's maritime and industrial history. The tour may be carried out on foot, in which case allow 2-3 hours for the full tour, or from the comfort of your armchair. Clicking on most of the photographs will bring up a larger version in a new window. Unless otherwise stated, photographs are copyright LAHS. They may be used freely for non-profit and educational purposes. Many interesting features from Lancaster's past have been destroyed and nothing visible remains above ground. These features are indicated by thelogo.
I am indebted to A History of Lancaster, edited by Andrew White, Edinburgh University Press, 2001 for much of the historical information in this tour.
Other valuable sources were:
The Buildings of Georgian Lancaster by Andrew White, Lancaster University Centre for North West Regional Studies
Railways Around Lancaster by Nuttall and Rawlings, Dalesman
Industrial Lancaster by James Price, Lancaster City Museum Local Studies no. 12.
Lancaster Priory web site.
Lancaster City Museum
I thank David Shotter, James Price and Rachel Newman for their contributions and helpful suggestions.
The tour is circular and may be started from any of the locations.