Lancaster, Lancashire

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Rooftops of Lancaster.JPG
View over Lancaster, with the Ashton Memorial and Lancaster Cathedral
Lancaster is located in Lancashire
 Lancaster shown within Lancashire
Population 52,234 [1]
Demonym Lancastrian
OS grid reference SD475615
District Lancaster
Shire county Lancashire
Region North West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district LA1
Dialling code 01524
Police Lancashire
Fire Lancashire
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament Lancaster and Fleetwood
List of places

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Lancaster /ˈlæŋkəstər/,[2][3][4][5][6] or /ˈlæŋˌkæstər/[7] is the county town of Lancashire, England. It is situated on the River Lune and has a population of 45,952. Lancaster is a constituent settlement of the wider City of Lancaster, a local government district which has a population of 138,375 [8] and encompasses several outlying settlements, including neighbouring Morecambe.

Long existing as a commercial, cultural and educational centre, Lancaster is the settlement that gives Lancashire its name. Lancaster has several unique ties to the British monarchy; the House of Lancaster was a branch of the English royal family, whilst the Duchy of Lancaster holds large estates on behalf of Elizabeth II, who herself is also the Duke of Lancaster. Lancaster was granted city status in 1937 for its "long association with the crown" and because it was "the county town of the King's Duchy of Lancaster".[citation needed]

With its history based on its port and canal, Lancaster is an ancient settlement, dominated by Lancaster Castle. It is also home to the campus-based Lancaster University and a campus of the University of Cumbria.


The city's name, first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Loncastre, where "Lon" refers to the River Lune, and "castre", from the Old English cæster and Latin castrum for "fort", refers to the Roman fort which stood at the site.[9]

Roman and Saxon eras

Roman bath house on Castle Hill

It is known that there existed a permanent Roman fort on the hill where Lancaster Castle now stands by the end of the 1st century AD, and possibly as early as the 60s, based on the Roman coin evidence.[10] The coin evidence also suggests that the fort was not continuously inhabited in these early years.[11] The fort was rebuilt in stone around 102 AD.[12] The fort underwent a few more extensions, and at its largest area it was 9–10 acres (4–4 ha).[13] The evidence suggests that the fort remained active into the early 5th century, which was the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.[14]

Little is known about Lancaster between the end of Roman rule in Britain in the early 5th century and the Norman Conquest in the late 11th century. Despite a lack of documentation from this period, it is likely that Lancaster was still inhabited. Lancaster was on the fringes of the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria, and over time control may have changed from one to the other.[15] Archaeological evidence suggests that there was a monastery on or near the site of today's Lancaster Priory by the 700's or 800's. For example, an Anglo-Saxon runic cross found at the Priory in 1807, known as "Cynibald's cross", is thought to have been made in the late 9th century. Lancaster was probably one of the numerous monasteries founded under Wilfrid.[16]

Medieval and Modern eras

Lancaster in the 19th century

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, Lancaster fell under the control of William I, as stated in the Domesday Book of 1086, which is the earliest known mention of Lancaster in any document. The founding charter of the Priory, dated 1094, is the first known document which is specific to Lancaster.[17] By this time William had given Lancaster and its surrounding region to Roger de Poitou. This document also suggests that the monastery had been refounded as a parish church at some point prior to 1066.[17]

Lancaster became a borough in 1193 under King Richard I. Its first charter, dated 12 June 1193, was from John, Count of Mortain, who later became King of England.[18]

Lancaster Castle, partly built in the 13th century and enlarged by Elizabeth I, stands on the site of a Roman garrison. Lancaster Castle is well known as the site of the Pendle witch trials in 1612. It was said that the court based in the castle (the Lancaster Assizes) sentenced more people to be hanged than any other in the country outside London, earning Lancaster the nickname, "the Hanging Town".[19]

Lancaster in 1728

The traditional emblem for the House of Lancaster is a red rose, the red rose of Lancaster, similar to that of the House of York, which is a white rose. These names derive from the emblems of the Royal Duchies of Lancaster and York in the 15th century. This erupted into a civil war over rival claims to the throne during the Wars of the Roses.

In more recent times, the term "Wars of the Roses" has been applied to rivalry in sports between teams representing Lancashire and Yorkshire, not just the cities of Lancaster and York. It is also applied to the Roses Tournament in which Lancaster and York universities compete every year.[20]

St. George's Quay

Lancaster gained its first charter in 1193[21] as a market town and borough, but was not given city status until 1937.[22] Many buildings in the city centre and along St. George's Quay date from the 19th century, built during a period when the port became one of the busiest in the UK; the fourth most important in the UK's slave trade.[23] One prominent Lancaster slave trader was Dodshon Foster.[24] However, Lancaster's role as a major port was short-lived, as the river began to silt up.[21] Morecambe, Glasson Dock and Sunderland Point served as Lancaster's port for brief periods. Heysham now serves as the district's main port.

Lancaster is primarily a service-oriented city. Products of Lancaster include animal feed, textiles, chemicals, livestock, paper, synthetic fibre, farm machinery, HGV trailers and mineral fibres. In recent years, a high technology sector has emerged, as a result of Information Technology and Communications companies investing in the city.

A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of Bowerham Barracks in 1880.[25]

On 5 March 2004, Lancaster was granted Fairtrade City status.[26]

Lancaster was also home to the European headquarters of Reebok. Following their merger with Adidas, Reebok moved to Bolton and Stockport in 2007.[27]


Lancaster Town Hall, Dalton Square

Lancaster and Morecambe have grown into a single conurbation. The former City and Municipal Borough of Lancaster and the Municipal Borough of Morecambe and Heysham along with other authorities merged in 1974 to form the District of Lancaster within the shire county of Lancashire. This was given city status in the United Kingdom and Lancaster City Council is the local governing body for the district. Lancaster is an unparished area and has no separate council.

Lancaster is divided into several wards, such as Bulk, Castle, Dukes, Ellel, John O'Gaunt (named after John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster), Scotforth East, Scotforth West, Skerton East, Skerton West, and University.

Political representation

King Street with the castle in the background

The city lies in the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency for elections of Members of Parliament to the House of Commons, and the North West which elects nine Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The current MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood is Cat Smith of the Labour Party.

In the late-1990s and early-first decade of the 21st century, the city council was under the control of the Morecambe Bay Independents (MBIs) who campaigned for an independent Morecambe council. In 2003 their influence waned and Labour became the largest party on the council. They formed a 'trafficlight' coalition with the LibDems and Greens.

At the May, 2007 local elections, Labour lost ground to the Greens in Lancaster and the MBIs in Morecambe resulting in a no overall control, with all parties represented in a PR administration.

The 2011 elections saw Labour emerge as the largest party. They formed a 'joint administrative arrangement' with the Greens.

Lancaster is one of the few places in the country where the Greens have a significant number of councillors (8 in 2011). They were first elected to the council in 1999.


Lancaster is the most northerly city in Lancashire, located three miles 4.8 km inland from Morecambe Bay. The city is located on the River Lune (from which it derives its name), and the Lancaster Canal.


Lancaster railway station

The M6 motorway passes to the east of Lancaster, with junctions 33 and 34 to the south and north respectively. The A6 road passes through the city leading southwards to Preston, Chorley and Manchester and northwards to Carnforth, Kendal, Penrith and Carlisle.

The A6 is one of the main historic north south roads in England. It currently runs from Luton in Bedfordshire to Carlisle in Cumbria. The road passes through Lancaster giving access to nearby towns such as Carnforth, Kendal and Garstang.

Red pog.svg Railway station
Pink pog.svg Site of former railway station

Lancaster is served by the West Coast Main Line which runs through Lancaster railway station. This station was formerly named Lancaster Castle railway station in order to differentiate it from Lancaster Green Ayre railway station on the Leeds–Morecambe line, which closed in 1966. There are through train services to and from London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Barrow-in-Furness as well as a local service to Morecambe. The Caton–Morecambe section of the former North Western railway is now used as a cycle path.

The main bus operator in Lancaster is Stagecoach, which operates over thirty services from Lancaster Bus Station to Lancaster and Morecambe as well as frequent services in Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and services throughout the North West of England.

The Lancaster Canal and River Lune also pass through the city. The nearest airport is Blackpool International, some 21 miles (34 kilometres) away.

In 2005, Lancaster was one of six English towns chosen to be cycling demonstration towns to promote the use of cycling as a means of transport.[28] Considerable improvements to cycling facilities were made throughout the city until the money ran out in 2010.


Lancaster Royal Grammar School

At Bailrigg, just south of the city, is Lancaster University, a research university, with an annual income of £184 million.[29] The university employs 2,250 staff and has 17,415 registered students. It has one of only two business schools in the country to have achieved a 6 star research rating[30] and its Physics Department was recently rated #1 in England.[31] InfoLab21 at the University is Centre of Excellence for Information and Communication Technologies.[32] It is consistently the highest ranked university in the North West in newspaper league tables. In 2010 it was rated 10th nationally in The Times newspaper league table, 8th by The Independent and 6th by The Guardian. In the same year it was rated 124th worldwide in the Thompson Reuters league table, and 31st worldwide for arts and humanities.

Lancaster is also home to a campus of the University of Cumbria – on the site of the former St Martin's College – which was inaugurated in 2007. It provides undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the arts, social sciences, business, teacher training, health care and nursing.

Further education colleges

Secondary schools


Lancaster Museum, Market Square

Lancaster, as a historic city, offers an unusual level of contemporary cultural activity. The city is fortunate to have retained many fine examples of Georgian architecture. Lancaster Castle, the Priory Church of St. Mary and the Edwardian Ashton Memorial are among many sites of historical importance.

The Lancaster Grand Theatre and the Dukes are two of the city's most notable venues for live performances as well as the Yorkshire House. Lancaster also hosts 'The Play in the Park', a series of open-air performances in the award-winning Williamson Park. The university hosts public performances of theatre, music, exhibitions, contemporary dance and live art from UK and international companies. The university venues include the Nuffield Theatre, one of the largest professional studio theatres in Europe; the Peter Scott Gallery, holding the most significant collection of Royal Lancastrian ceramics in Britain and finally the Lancaster International Concerts series attracting nationally and internationally renowned classical and world-music artists. The Storey Gallery, sited in the Storey Creative Industries Centre, is a contemporary art gallery showing work by international artists. The Storey Creative Industries Centre also holds Lancaster's Litfest which organises and runs an annual literature festival. Lancaster also offers numerous museums, including Lancaster City Museum, Maritime Museum and Judges' Lodgings Museum.

Throughout the year, various festivals are held in and around the city, such as the Lancaster Jazz Festival, The Maritime Festival and Chinese New Year Celebrations in the city centre as part of the Lancaster Chinese New Year Festival.

Cinemas in Lancaster are the independent Dukes Theatre and the mainstream VUE multiplex in the city centre. The 1930s art deco Regal Cinema closed in 2006.[33]

Lancaster has a large arts community.[34][35]

Every November the city hosts one of the biggest fireworks displays in the north west.


Giant Axe Ground, Home of Lancaster City F.C.

Lancaster's main football team, Lancaster City, play in the Northern Premier League Division One North. They play their home matches at the Giant Axe which can hold 3,500 (513 seated) and was formed in 1911 originally under the name Lancaster Town F.C. Lancaster City are 6 time Lancashire FA Challenge cup winners, have won the Northern Premier League once and in 2010 - 11 won the Northern Premier League President's cup for a second time. Lancaster John O' Gaunt Rowing Club is the fifth-oldest surviving rowing club in the UK, outside of the universities.[36] It competes nationally at regattas and heads races organised by British Rowing. The clubhouse is located next to the weir at Skerton.

The city entertains contestants in the Lancaster International Youth Games, a multi-sport 'Olympic' style event, featuring competitors from Lancaster's twin towns: Rendsburg (Germany), Perpignan (France), Viana do Castelo (Portugal), Aalborg (Denmark), Almere (Netherlands), Lublin (Poland) and Växjö (Sweden).

Lancaster Cricket Club is sited near the River Lune in Lancaster and they have two senior teams that participate in the Northern League. Rugby union is a popular sport in the area with the local clubs being Vale of Lune RUFC and Lancaster CATS.

Lancaster is home to many golf clubs, including the Ashton Golf Centre, Lansil Golf Club, Forest Hills and Lancaster Golf Club. Lancaster also has a swimming club called 'Lancaster Amateur Swimming and Waterpolo Club' and they compete in a variety of competitions in the North West.They train at Salt Ayre, and at Lancaster University Sports Centre. Lancaster is home to a senior team in Great Britain. Water polo is also popular in the Lancaster area.

The local athletics track situated near the Salt Ayre Sports Centre in which the track is home to Lancaster and Morecambe AC. The club regularly fields athletes across athletics disciplines, including Track and Field,Cross Country, Road and Fell Running. The club competes in a number of local and national leagues including the Young Athletics League, the Northern Athletics League (with Kendal AAC) and the local Mid Lancs League (Cross-Country in Winter, and Track and Field in Summer).

Lancaster is home to SMARTAC Gym Club, specialising in acro and with a trampoline subsidiary named SMARTAC Trampoline Club. As well as national competitions, the gym club has competed in two World Gymnaestradas. The club trains at the University of Cumbria Sports Complex, and contact and other details can be found on their recently revamped website.[37]


Lancaster has produced a number of successful bands and musicians since the 1990s, notably the drummer Keith Baxter of 3 Colours Red and folk-metal band Skyclad, who also featured Lancaster guitarist Dave Pugh, the thrash metal band D.A.M. were all from Lancaster, recording two albums for the Noise International label, with Dave Pugh appearing on the second.

The all-girl punk-rock band Angelica. used the Lancaster Musicians' Co-operative, the main rehearsal and recording studio in the area.[38]

The city has also produced many other musicians, including singer and songwriter John Waite, who first became known as lead singer of The Babys and had a solo #1 hit in the USA, "Missing You". As part of the band Bad English, John Waite also had a #1 hit in the Billboard top hundred in the 1970s called "When I See You Smile". Additionally, Paul James, better known as The Rev, former guitarist of English punk band Towers Of London who is now in the band Day 21 and plays guitar live on tour for The Prodigy; Chris Acland, drummer of the early 1990s shoegaze band Lush; Tom English, drummer of North East indie band Maxïmo Park and Steve Kemp, drummer of the indie band Hard-Fi.

Lancaster still continues to produce many bands and musicians, such as singer songwriter Jay Diggins and acts like The Lovely Eggs, 19ninetynine and The Adventures of Loki all receiving considerable national radio play and press coverage in recent years.

Lancaster is also the founding home of the dance-music sound systems The Rhythm Method and The ACME Bass Company. Pioneers in the field of the free party, these two systems, along with others, forged one of the strongest representations of the genre in the North West of England during the 1990s.

Since 2006, Lancaster Library has hosted a regular series of music events under the Get it Loud in Libraries initiative. Musicians such as The Wombats, The Thrills, Kate Nash, Adele and Bat for Lashes have taken part.[39] Get It Loud in Libraries has gained national exposure, featuring on The One Show on BBC1, as well as seeing its gigs reviewed in The Observer Music Monthly, NME and Art Rocker.[40]

Notable music venues include The Dukes, The Grand Theatre, The Gregson Centre, The Bobbin and The Yorkshire House[41] which since 2006 has hosted such acts as John Renbourn, Polly Paulusma, Marissa Nadler, Baby Dee, Diane Cluck, Alasdair Roberts, Jesca Hoop, Lach, Jack Lewis, Tiny Ruins and 2008 Mercury Prize nominees Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. Other venues such as The Dalton Rooms, The V Bar, The Park Hotel and The Hall, China Street also play host to Lancaster's diverse music culture, such as the Lancaster Speakeasy[42] or Stylus.[43]

The Lancaster Jazz and Lancaster Music Festivals are both respectively held annually every September and October, based at various venues throughout the city. In 2013 the headline Jazz act was The Neil Cowley Trio who performed at The Dukes, whilst one of the Lancaster Music Festival headline acts was Jay Diggins who performed at The Dalton Rooms.[44]


The Bay is based at St. George's Quay in the city and broadcasts on three separate frequencies: 96.9 FM (Lancaster), 102.3 FM (Windermere) and 103.2 FM (Kendal).

The city is also home to the film production company A1 Pictures, which founded the independent film brand Capture.

Commercially available newspapers include The Lancaster Guardian (a popular tabloid, having changed from broadsheet in May 2011) and The Visitor (a tabloid newspaper mainly targeted at residents of Morecambe). However, the Lancaster Guardian is no longer based in the city after its office in Common Garden Street was closed by parent company Johnston Press in June 2011 and the paper's staff relocated to The Visitor's office on Victoria Street, Morecambe. Both newspapers are now based on the White Lund Industrial Estate in Morecambe.

Freely available newspapers in Lancaster include The Reporter and, previously, The Lancaster & Morecambe Citizen, which ceased production in January 2009.

There is also Virtual Lancaster, a non-commercial volunteer led community online resource website that hosts local news, events and visitor information. The web site was founded in 1999 by a small local collective and the project sprang from the past success of two alternative print news magazines circulated in local venues and retail outlets, Off the Beat (which began as On The Beat in 1984) and Something Completely Different, the latter founded by now well-known SF author Jo Walton and her then partner Ken Walton.

Lancaster is also the home of RINF Alternative News, one of the first British independent news websites.

The city's university, Lancaster University, also has its own student radio station, Bailrigg FM, broadcasting on 87.7 FM, and an online student-run television station called LA1:TV (formerly[45]

Places of interest

Lancaster Castle
Ashton Memorial, Williamson Park
Penny's Hospital almshouses
Lune Millennium Bridge
Myles Standish was born in Lancaster

See also

Notable inhabitants

  • J. L. Austin (1911–1960) - philosopher and developer of the theory of speech acts, was born in Lancaster.
  • Henry Cort (1741?–1800) was an English ironmaster and inventor.
  • Thomas Edmondson – inventor of the Edmondson railway ticket.
  • Edward Frankland – chemist. Born near Lancaster, educated at LRGS, specilised in water quality and analysis, and originated the concept of valence.
  • Richard Owen – biologist. Renowned for coining the term "dinosaur". Lived on Brock Street.
  • James Crosby – Chief Executive of HBOS until 2006.
  • Buck Ruxton – infamous murderer who resided and practised medicine at 2 Dalton Square until trial and subsequent hanging in the 1930s. Pub on Great John Street named after him until renaming 'The Square'.
  • James Williamson (1842–1930) businessman and politician noted for textiles and creating Williamson Park and the Ashton memorial. Gained a peerage in 1895 to become 1st Baron Ashton.
  • Professor Paul Wellings – Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University.
Media and sport

Twinned cities

Lancaster is twinned with:

See also



  1. Lancaster City is made up of 9 wards (Bulk, Duke, Castle, Skerton East and West, Scotforth East and West, University and John O'Gaunt
  2. "Lancaster" at
  3. Lancaster in Wiktionary
  4. "Lancaster" at DictionaryOne
  5. "Lancaster" in Collins English Dictionary
  6. "Lancaster" at
  7. Roach, Peter; Hartman, James; Setter, Jane; Jones, Daniel, eds. (2006). Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (17th ed.). Cambridge: CUP. ISBN 978-0-521-68086-8.CS1 maint: display-editors (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Evans, Jacqueline. "Lancashire's Population, 2011". Lancashire County Council. Lancashire County Council. Retrieved 30 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ekwall, Eilert 'The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Placenames' (1960), 4th edition, p285
  10. Shotter, p.5
  11. Shotter, p.9
  12. Shotter, p.10
  13. Shotter, p.14
  14. Shotter, p.27
  15. White 2001, p. 33
  16. White, p.34
  17. 17.0 17.1 White, p.57
  18. White, p.35
  19. Lancaster Castle
  21. 21.0 21.1 TIMELINE: Lancaster
  22. Former Mayors of the City of Lancaster
  23. Cato, Johns – The Slave Trade
  24. Andrew White (2003). Lancaster: A History. Phillimore & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> page 63
  25. "Army: King's Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster - Regimental Depot". BBC. Retrieved 9 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Cities win Fairtrade recognition". BBC News. 5 March 2004. Retrieved 7 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Reebok in plan to quit town
  28. Celebrating Cycling in City, Coast and Countryside
  29. Anon. "University of Lancaster Annual Report" (PDF). University of Lancaster. Retrieved 13 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. RAE 2008: Business & Management Studies
  31. RAE 2008: physics results
  32. Info Lab
  33. [1].
  34. Virtual Lancaster's "What's on"
  35. Studio Arts Events and Exhibitions
  36. British Rowing Almanack and ARA Year Book 2003. Hammersmith, London: The Amateur Rowing Association. 2003. pp. 351, 352, 355, 356. ISBN 978-0-7146-5251-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Smartac". Retrieved 15 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Lancaster Musician's Co-op
  39. "Lancashire County Library and Information Service – Get it Loud in Lancaster Music Library". Lancashire County Council. Retrieved 26 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. The Yorkshire House
  42. Lancaster Speakeasy
  43. Stylus
  44. Lancaster Music Festival – Something for Everyone
  45. LA1:TV
  46. "Aalborg Twin Towns". Retrieved 19 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  47. "Miasta Partnerskie Lublina". Urząd Miasta Lublin [City of Lublin] (in Polish). Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help); External link in |work= (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  48. "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 11 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Shotter, David (2001), "Roman Lancaster: Site and Settlement", A History of Lancaster, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 3–31, ISBN 0-7486-1466-4<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • White, Andrew (2001), "Continuity, Charter, Castle and County Town, 400–1500", A History of Lancaster, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 33–72, ISBN 0-7486-1466-4<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Lancaster Media