Lancaster (St. Mary)

LANCASTER (St. Mary), a parish, comprising the borough, port, and market-town of Lancaster, having separate jurisdiction, partly in the hundred of Lonsdale south of the Sands, and partly in that of Amounderness, N. division of the county of Lancaster; the whole containing 24,149 inhabitants, of whom 14,089 are in the borough, 240 miles (N. N. W.) from London. This place is supposed to have been the Ad Alaunam of the Romans; and the discovery of coins, urns, fragments of earthenware, calcined bones, votive altars, sepulchral lamps, a bath, and other Roman antiquities, confirms the fact of its having been a station of that people at an early period of their occupation of our island. After the departure of the Romans from Britain, it was destroyed by an incursion of the Picts and Scots, and continued in a state of desolation till the time of the Saxons, by whom it was restored, and from its situation as a fortress near the river Lune, called Lunceastre, from which its present name is deduced. In the seventh century, it had risen to such importance as to be made the capital of the county, an honour which it still retains; but it suffered so much injury during the Danish incursions, that in the Norman survey, it is noticed only as a vill, or berewic, included in the manor of Halton. At the time of the Conquest it was given by William to Roger de Poictou, who is supposed to have enlarged and adapted for his baronial residence the ancient castle. The western tower is said to have been built by Adrian, in 124, and that facing the town by the father of Constantine the Great, in 305; and though these towers may not have been built by the persons to whom they are attributed, yet they are unquestionably Roman. It is doubtless to this period we must also assign the erection of the keep, which occupies a central position among this pile of buildings, and which was raised higher in the reign of Elizabeth, at the time of the threatened invasion of the island by the Spanish Armada: at the south-west corner of the keep is a small tower, known as John of Gaunt's Chair. The beautiful gateway tower was erected by John, Earl of Morton and Lancaster, who, after his accession to the throne, gave audience to the French ambassadors and received the homage of Alexander, King of Scotland (whom he had subdued), in this castle. On the accession of John of Gaunt to the dukedom in the year 1376, the county was constituted a palatinate. Separate courts for this independent jurisdiction are still opened at Lancaster; but they adjourn to Preston, and business is chiefly transacted there and in the duchy court at Westminster. In 1322 and 1389, the town was burnt and plundered by the Scots; and in the wars of the houses of York and Lancaster it was nearly depopulated, in consequence of the resolute adherence of the inhabitants to the cause of the Lancastrians. During the parliamentary war it suffered severely; and in 1698, an accidental fire destroyed a considerable portion of the town, which also, in the rebellion of 1745, participated in the agitations that then disturbed the peace of the kingdom.

The town is built up the sides of a hill crowned with the stately towers of the castle and parish church, and on the southern bank of the river Lune. A light and elegant stone bridge 549 feet in length, and of five elliptical arches, was erected over the river by the county in 1788, at a cost of £14,000, connecting the town with the township of Skerton. This bridge was built about 200 yards to the east of an ancient bridge, which long stood in ruins, but the last arch of which fell in 1846: the old bridge crossed the narrower part of the river, near St. George's quay, on which is a noble pile of warehouses. With the exception of a few, the streets are narrow; but considerable improvement has been made in the appearance of the town, and the houses, built of freestone found in the neighbourhood, and covered with slate, are in general handsome: in several parts of the town are noble mansions, some once the residence of nobility, and in the environs, which abound with varied and interesting scenery, are elegant villas. There are some baths, conveniently arranged, and provided with every requisite accommodation; and assemblies were till lately held in a suite of rooms well adapted to the purpose. The Amicable Library, instituted in 1769, possesses nearly 5000 volumes; a mechanics' library was opened in 1824, and there are several public newsrooms. A society for promoting the fine arts, by the purchase of paintings of the most eminent living artists, was established in 1820, but dissolved in 1845; and in 1835, a Literary, Scientific, and Natural History Society was founded, to which a museum is attached. The theatre has been converted into a commodious building, containing a music-hall, also used for the lectures of the Natural History Society, their museum, and several dwelling-houses.

The port is subject to much inconvenience from the difficulty of the navigation of the Lune, arising from the accumulation of sand in its channel, and an elevation in its bed, called Scaleford, probably the remains of a Roman ford across the river, which renders it inaccessible to vessels of large burthen. The Lords of the Admiralty, however, have recently granted £8000, to be applied under the direction of Mr. David Stevenson, the civil engineer, in deepening the channel of the Lune; and the works for that purpose will be forthwith proceeded with. A dock was constructed about 1785, at Glasson, nearly five miles down the river, capable of sheltering merchantmen, which discharge their cargoes by lighters at St. George's quay; and the facilities to commerce will be further increased by the construction of the Morecambe-Harbour railway and docks, three miles distant. See Heysham and Glasson. The foreign trade is chiefly with America, the West Indies, and the Baltic; and there is a very considerable coasting-trade, besides a trade carried on with Ireland and the Isle of Man, in grain. The number of vessels belonging to the port, in 1847, was 96, of the aggregate burthen of 6028 tons; and the receipts of the port (to which Ulverston, Barrow, Walney, Ramsyde, &c, are out-stations), amounted in 1846 to £31,068. The principal articles imported are, spirits and wine, from France, the Mediterranean, &c.; tea, sugar, and coffee; and timber and other wood from America and the Baltic. There is a good salmon-fishery on the river Lune, which also abounds with trout: the fishery extends from a place called Denny Beck to Scaleford, a little below St. George's quay; and prior to the Reformation belonged time immemorially to the abbot of Furness, subject to a claim to a third draught, in part of it, and to an alternate draught in all the other parts, by the prior of Lancaster. A neat custom-house, with an Ionic portico, was erected on the quay in 1764.

The chief manufactures are of mahogany furniture and upholstery, cordage, sailcloth, and cotton goods, for which last there are six factories; a silk-mill, and a worsted-mill, are also in operation. The Lancaster Canal opens a communication with the mining district, and supplies the neighbourhood with coal and other necessaries: about a mile to the north-east it is carried over the river Lune by an aqueduct of stone, consisting of five semicircular arches, each 70 feet in the span, total length 664 feet, erected under the direction of Mr. Rennie, at a cost of £50,000. The Lancaster and Preston Railway, twenty miles in length, and constructed by Mr. Locke, was commenced with a capital of £250,000 joint-stock, and £208,000 loan, and was opened to the public in June, 1840. The Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, 70 miles in length, was opened in December, 1846. Proceeding from Scotforth, south of the town, and by the Penny-street station at Lancaster, the line runs through a deep cutting to the Castle station in Meeting-House lane, whence, by two embankments, it passes on to the river Lune, which it crosses by a viaduct of three laminated timber arches, each of 120 feet span; besides these, there are a number of stone and brick arches of 53 feet span. This viaduct is remarkable for comprising along one of its sides a public footpath, which is partitioned from the space appropriated to the locomotive vehicles, by a railing: the height of the viaduct from the level ground to the rails is 53 feet, and the length 780 feet. The Castle station is in the Elizabethan style, and built of white freestone, from the designs of Mr. Tite, under the direction of Mr. Hembrow. An act was passed in 1846, for making a railway to Settle and Skipton, in the West riding of York; and thus Lancaster will be connected with Bradford, Leeds, &c. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday; the fairs, which are chiefly for cattle, cloth, cheese, and pedlery, and continue for three days each, are on the 1st May, 5th July, and 10th October.

The first charter granted to the borough was in the 4th of Richard I., by John, Earl of Morton, afterwards King John, who bestowed on the burgesses similar liberties to those enjoyed at Bristol. In the year 1199, King John conferred upon the town "all the liberties which the burgesses of Northampton had the day that King Henry died," instead of those of Bristol; and this charter was confirmed by several subsequent sovereigns, one of whom, Edward III., allowed the mayor and bailiffs the privilege of having the pleas and sessions held here to the exclusion of every other place in the county. Other charters were granted by James I. in 1604, and Charles II. in 1665 and 1684; but they were suspended by that obtained in the year 1819, under which the corporation consisted of a mayor, recorder, seven aldermen, twelve capital burgesses, twelve common councilmen, two bailiffs, a town-clerk and clerk of the peace, and others. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the government is now vested in a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors, and the borough is divided into three wards, being co-extensive with the township of Lancaster, with the exception of the precincts of the castle. Eleven justices have been appointed by the crown, who hold a petty-session several times in the week. The corporation seal comprises the arms of the town, with the inscription "Sigillum comune Burg. sive Vill. Lancastrie." The freedom is obtained by birth, and apprenticeship to a freeman. Among the privileges may be reckoned an interest in the tract of ground called Lancaster Marsh, consisting of 210 acres, inclosed in 1795, the rents of which are divided amongst eighty of the oldest resident freeman, or their widows. The borough first exercised the elective franchise in the 23rd of Edward I., and continued to make returns till the 1st of Edward II.; it afterwards intermitted till the reign of Edward VI., since which time it has regularly sent two members to parliament. The parliamentary boundary of the borough was extended under the Reform act: the mayor is returning officer. The court of pleas and the assizes for the whole of the county palatine were formerly held here, twice in the year, before the judges on the Northern circuit; but the business of the assizes has been divided, and that for the northern division only is now transacted in Lancaster. The general quarter-sessions for the hundred of Lonsdale are held in the town, which is also the place of election for the northern division of the shire. The powers of the county-debt court of Lancaster, established in 1847, extend over the greater part of the registrationdistrict of Lancaster.

The town-hall is a neat building, erected in 1781, at an expense of £1300, and embellished with full-length portraits of William Pitt and Admiral Lord Nelson, painted by Mr. Lonsdale, a native of the town, and presented by him to the corporation; and with a portrait of George III. and one of the Duke of York, presented by Mr. Henderson, also a native of the town, in 1842. The borough prison for the temporary confinement of offenders, who are subsequently sent to Lancaster Castle, occupies part of the town-hall. The remains of the ancient castle are used as the county gaol, and additional buildings have been erected upon a very extensive scale, at a cost of £140,000. The entrance, through a gateway of beautiful design, over which is a statue of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, is flanked by octagonal towers, and leads into a spacious court-yard, inclosed with embattled walls strengthened with towers; opposite to the entrance is the square keep, a building of prodigious strength, to the north of which are the shire-hall and courts, with the room for the grand jury, and other apartments. The hall is of a semicireular form, and commodionsly arranged for the business of the assizes: the nisi prius court, in which are full-length portraits of Colonel Stanley and Mr. Blackburn, presented by the late Sir Robert Peel, Bart., exhibits some architectural beauty; and in the crown court is a portrait of George III., painted by Northcote, and presented to the county by James Ackers, Esq., when high sheriff. The Castle hill and terrace afford a fine promenade, commanding extensive views of the surrounding richlydiversified scenery, including the Lake mountains, Black Combe, the peninsula of Furness, the Irish Channel, the bay of Morecambe, and Ingleborough mountain.

The parish comprises, partly by measurement and partly by computation, 54,120 acres, whereof about 11,000 are arable, 18,000 pasture, 7000 meadow, 1120 wood, and the remainder uninclosed common. It includes the chapelries of Bleasdale, Caton with Littledale, Gressingham, Overton with Sunderland, Quernmoor, Stalmine with Staynal, and Over Wyersdale; also the townships of Aldcliffe, Ashton with Stodday, Bulk, Fulwood, Heaton with Oxcliffe, Middleton, Myerscough, Preesall with Hackensall, Poulton-le-Sands with Bare and Torrisholme, Scotforth, Skerton, and part of Thurnham. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £41; net income, £1709; patron, George Marton, Esq.; impropriators, the Duke of Hamilton, the vicar, and others. The tithes have been commuted under a private act. The church, to which the privilege of sanctuary was anciently attached, was originally erected by Roger de Poicton, who founded a Benedictine priory here as a cell to the abbey of St. Martin de Seez, in Normandy, which, on the suppression of alien priories, was by Henry V. annexed to the abbey of Sion, in Middlesex. The present edifice is in the later English style, with a square tower, and contains some fine specimens of screen-work and carvings in oak, which are thought to have been brought from Cockersand Abbey, on its dissolution. This venerable pile has just undergone a thorough repair; the interior walls and pillars have been stone coloured, and the whole now presents a very beautiful appearance: a fine east window of stained glass was inserted in 1847, at a cost of £420. In the churchyard is a reclining figure in Italian marble, to the first wife of W. Talbot Rothwell, Esq., of Foxholes; the figure was carved in Italy, and the pedestal by Knollys, of Manchester. St. John's church, built by subscription in 1755, was thoroughly repaired in 1836, and in 1843 Miss Tomlinson left the interest of £500 for incidental expenses: the living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £203; patron, the Vicar of Lancaster. St. Ann's district church was erected in 1796, at the expense of the Rev. Robert Housman: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar; net income, £155, with a house. St. Thomas's district church was consecrated on the 14th June, 1841. Its style is early English, and it forms a good specimen of Mr. Edmund Sharpe's acknowledged skill, for, though devoid of ornament, its proportions are symmetrical, and its appearance both within and without strikingly elegant; the edifice is of beautiful white freestone obtained in the neighbourhood, and the cost of its erection was about £3000. The living is a perpetual curacy, endowed through the liberality of Mrs. Elizabeth Salisbury, in whom the patronage is vested, with £1000, to which the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty have added £500. In the rural parts of the parish are eleven separate incumbencies, nine of which are in the Vicar's gift. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.

The free grammar school, which stands below the Castle terrace, existed prior to 1495, and was rebuilt in 1683: in 1615, Randall Carter bequeathed to it £10 per annum for an usher. The Blue-coat charity school for boys, established in 1770, has been incorporated with a national school for boys, for which a spacious stone building was erected in 1817, by subscription, at an expense of £1100, and which in that year was endowed by Mr. Matthew Pyper, one of the Society of Friends, with £2000 Navy five per cent, annuities. A national school built in 1820, a Lancasterian school, and a charity school for girls established in 1772, are severally supported by subscription. The purchase and enlargement of a building which bounds the east end of St. Thomas's churchyard, have been effected for the institution of daily and Sunday schools for the children of that district: the cost, including the purchase of an adjoining property as a master's residence, with a small garden, and playground for the younger scholars, was about £1600, and instruction is thus provided for 800 children; boys, girls, and infants. To each of the dissenting places of worship are also attached schools. Gardyner's almshouses, founded in 1485, are appropriated to four aged men. Penny's almshouses were founded by a bequest from William Penny, Esq., in 1720, and endowed with land yielding a rent of about £340, for twelve aged men or women; and eight houses were founded in 1790, by Mrs. Anne Gillison, who endowed them with land and money producing about £40 per annum, for unmarried women. There are numerous other bequests for distribution, of which the most considerable is that of William Heysham, M.P., who in 1725 left an estate producing £256 per annum, for the benefit of eight poor men; and several bequests are appropriated to the relief of prisoners for debt confined in the castle. The county lunatic asylum, on Lancaster Moor, established in 1816, is a spacious quadrangular structure of stone, with a handsome portico of the Doric order, and, with the gardens and grounds, occupies 50 acres of land; it was erected at an expense of £175,000, including the furniture. A dispensary, instituted in 1781, is supported by subscription; and there is an infirmary. The union workhouse, built on the moor in 1787, is healthily situated. At Golgotha is a chalybeate spring. The dukedom of Lancaster belongs to the Crown.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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