View over Lancaster, with the Ashton Memorial in the distance and the spire of Lancaster Cathedral
|Lancaster shown within Lancashire|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North West England|
Lancaster //, or // is a city and 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 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 in her capacity as monarch. 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".
With its history based on its port and canal, Lancaster is an ancient settlement, dominated by Lancaster Castle, Lancaster Priory Church and the Ashton Memorial. It is also home to the campus-based Lancaster University and a campus of the University of Cumbria.
- See also: History of Lancashire
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.
Roman and Saxon eras
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. The coin evidence also suggests that the fort was not continuously inhabited in these early years. The fort was rebuilt in stone around 102 AD. The fort underwent a few more extensions, and at its largest area it was 9–10 acres (4–4 ha). The evidence suggests that the fort remained active into the early 5th century, which was the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.
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. Archaeological evidence suggests that there was a monastery on or near the site of today's Lancaster Priory by the 700s or 800s. 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.
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. 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.
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". Lancaster also figured prominently in the suppression of Catholicism during the reformation with the execution of at least eleven Catholic priests. A memorial to the Lancaster Martyrs is located close to the city centre.
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.
Lancaster gained its first charter in 1193 as a market town and borough, but was not given city status until 1937. 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. One prominent Lancaster slave-trader was Dodshon Foster. However, Lancaster's role as a major port was short-lived, as the river began to silt up. 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.
In March 2004, Lancaster was granted Fairtrade City status.
Lancaster was also home to the European headquarters of Reebok. Following their merger with Adidas, Reebok moved to Bolton and Stockport in 2007. In May 2015, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Lancaster Castle, her first visit in more than a decade.
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.
|Morecambe Bay, Barrow-in-Furness||Slyne, Hest Bank, Bolton-le-Sands, Carnforth, Milnthorpe, Kendal||Caton, Halton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Wennington|
|Glasson Dock, Pilling, Knott End-on-Sea, Fleetwood, Poulton-le-Fylde, Blackpool||Lancaster University, Galgate, Bay Horse, Garstang, Preston||Abbeystead, Forest of Bowland, Dolphinholme|
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. The Bay Gateway opened in 2016, linking Heysham and the M6 with a dual carriageway.
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 airports are Manchester Airport, Liverpool Airport and, until October 2014, Blackpool International Airport.
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. Considerable improvements to cycling facilities were made throughout the city until the money ran out in 2010.
Lancaster, as a historic city, has a wide range of historic buildings and venues. 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 city has numerous museums,including Lancaster City Museum, Maritime Museum, the Cottage Museum, and Judges' Lodgings Museum. Lancaster Friends Meeting House dating from 1708, is the longest continual Quaker meeting site in the world with the original building built in 1677. George Fox, founder of Quakerism, was near the site several occasions in the 1660s and spent two years imprisoned in Lancaster Castle. The meeting house today holds regular Quaker meetings and a wide range of cultural activities including adult learning, meditation, art classes, music & political meetings. The Lancaster Grand Theatre is another one of Lancaster historic cultural venues, under its many names, has been a major part of the social and cultural life of Lancaster since being built in 1782.
Lancaster is known nationally for its Arts scene. There are 600 business and organisations in the region involved directly or indirectly with arts and culture. In 2009 several major arts organisations, based within the district, formed a consortium called “Lancaster Arts Partners” (LAP) to champion and promote the strategic development of excellent arts activities in Lancaster District. Notable partners include Ludus Dance, More Music, the Dukes and among others. LAP curate and promote “Lancaster First Fridays”, a monthly multi-disciplinary mini-festival of the arts under their brand “Lancaster Arts City.” Lancaster University has its public arts organisation, part of LAP, known as Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University which programmes work for the public into campus venues including; Lancaster's 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 the Lancaster International Concerts seriesLancaster International Concerts series attracting nationally and internationally renowned classical and world-music artists. The Gallery within the Storey Creative Industries Centre is now programmed and run by Lancaster City Council. In 2013 the previous incumbent organisation “The Storey Gallery” moved out of the building and reformed to become “Storey G2”. The Storey Creative Industries Centre is also home to Lancaster's Litfest which organises and runs an annual literature festival. In the summer months Williamson Park hosts a number of outdoor performances including the annual Dukes ‘Play in the Park' which over the past 26 years has attracted 460,000 people making it the UK's biggest outdoor walkabout theatre event.
There is a strong pub scene with Lancaster known as the Northern City of Ale, with almost 30 pubs serving cask ale which has grown in popularity locally in recent years Such pubs include the White Cross, the Three Mariners, the Borough and the Water Witch. There are two cask ale breweries in Lancaster: Lancaster Brewery and a microbrewery run by the Borough. There is also a local CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) branch being Lunesdale CAMRA.
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, Robert Gillow, The John O' Gaunt and The Bobin. Throughout the year, various festivals are held in and around the city, such as the Lancaster Music Festival, Lancaster Jazz Festival, The Maritime Festival and Chinese New Year Celebrations in the city centre as part of the Lancaster Chinese New Year Festival.
Every November the city hosts a two daylight and art festival entitled “Light Up Lancaster” which includes one of the biggest fireworks displays in the north west.
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. The Gregson Centre is also known for small film screenings and cultural events.
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.
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 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. 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.
Notable music venues include The Dukes, The Grand Theatre, The Gregson Centre, The Bobbin and The Yorkshire House 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 or Stylus.
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.
Places of interest
- Lancaster Castle
- Lancaster Priory
- Lancaster City Museum
- Lune Millennium Bridge
- Williamson Park
- Ashton Memorial and Butterfly House
- Blades Street, LA1
- The C.A.R.D. Corporation Worldwide HQ, LA1
- Lancaster Cathedral
- The Music Room, Sun Street
- Storey Gallery
- The Judges Lodgings
- The Cottage Museum
- Lancaster University's Ruskin Library
- Penny's Hospital, 18th century almshouses on King Street
- Quayside Maritime Museum
- Lancaster Royal Grammar School
- Duke's Playhouse
- The Gregson Centre
- Lancaster Grand Theatre
- Dalton Square: Queen Victoria Memorial and the town hall
- Westfield War Memorial Village
- The Three Mariners public house – the oldest pub in Lancaster, dating back to the 15th century, and one of two pubs in the UK with original gravity-fed cellars
- The Golden Lion, Moor Lane – the last drinking place of the Pendle Witches in 1612
- Duke of Lancaster
- Duchy of Lancaster
Lancaster is twinned with:
- Aalborg, Denmark
- Almere, Netherlands
- Lublin, Poland
- Perpignan, France
- Rendsburg, Germany
- Växjö, Sweden
- Viana do Castelo, Portugal
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