A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.
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Loncastre, Chercaloncastre, Dom. Bk.; Lancastre, 1161; Lancaster, 1202; Launcastre, 1292.
The position and development of the town of Lancaster have already been described to some extent. The urban area, originally a small portion of the northern edge of the township bordering on the Lune, has extended itself to east and west, filling the gentle hollow between the Castle Hill on the west and the higher land on the east, which was formerly the moor; it has also stretched southward over the border into Scotforth, and to some degree across the river into Skerton. There are still fields and open lands to the south-west, while on the east side the park and the asylum grounds check the growth of streets. The area of the township proper is 1,491 acres, but by various extensions south, east and north it has been increased to 3,506 acres, including 62 of inland water. (fn. 1) In 1901 the population of the old township numbered 36,060, having more than doubled itself in thirty years; that of the enlarged township was 40,329 in 1901 and 41,414 in 1911.
The main streets of old time continue to be the leading thoroughfares, but have been widened and otherwise improved as opportunity has allowed. The entrance to the town from the south, after descending from 'Pointer' on the Scotforth Road and crossing the canal, is by Penny Street, which leads down to the river-side; from it King Street turns off to the left to go directly to the Castle, which may be seen rising up in front. 'Pointer' marks the old boundary of the town. From it a road turns east to Bowerham, which contains barracks erected in 1876–80, the depôt of No. 4 Regimental District and head quarters of the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. On the right side of the main road, just before the canal is reached, may be seen the remains of the old militia barracks.
Opposite to them stands the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, (fn. 2) at the corner of Ashton Road. It was opened in 1896, having sprung from a dispensary established on Castle Hill in 1781, to which a house of recovery for fever patients, founded in 1815, was afterwards united. This infirmary and dispensary was accommodated in Thurnham Street, close to the new town hall, from 1833 to 1896. Ashton Road, which goes south-west, has other notable buildings. At its other corner is the old railway station; further on, at the right side, is Springfield, (fn. 3) and then comes the large and well-endowed Ripley Hospital. There are 300 orphan boys and girls in it, drawn from the neighbourhood of Lancaster or of Liverpool, who are to be educated 'in useful and practical school learning, and in religion according to the doctrines and principles of the Church of England.' The institution, which was founded in 1853 by Julia widow of Thomas Ripley, (fn. 4) a native of Lancaster, who made a large fortune in Liverpool and died in 1852, was opened in 1864; the grounds are over 50 acres in extent, and the endowments consist of about £220,000 in stocks and some small landed estates. Further along Ashton Road are Nazareth House, built in 1902, the residential district round Haverbreaks, and the Royal Albert Institution, which is within Scotforth.
Penny Street, (fn. 5) after passing the end of Market Street, is continued as Cheapside; crossing Church Street it goes on as North Road, so reaching Skerton Bridge over the Lune. The centre of the Penny Street and Market Street crossing is marked by a horse-shoe, fixed in the pavement and renewed from time to time. (fn. 6) As to its origin one story says that when John of Gaunt visited the town his horse dropped a shoe there, and the townsmen fixed it on the spot to commemorate the visit. Another story connects it with the Young Pretender. A third account supposes it to have been connected with the horse fair. The opening of the thoroughfare from Cheapside to North Road was made in 1842; North Road itself was formed to lead to the bridge in 1788. It skirts Green Ayre, (fn. 7) originally an open pasture ground between the mill stream (fn. 8) and the Lune; before being built upon the land was used as a recreation ground or promenade. (fn. 9) The Midland railway station there takes its name from it. From the centre of Skerton Bridge a good view of church and castle is obtained. From the Lancaster end of the bridge a short avenue called the Ladies' Walk (fn. 10) extends north-east and is continued along the river-side as a footpath to Caton.
King Street, leading from the entrance to the town directly to the castle, passes Queen's Square, Penny's Hospital and the Assembly Rooms. (fn. 11) Market Street leads up from the Horse Shoe Corner past the old town hall, two banks, (fn. 12) King Street, (fn. 13) the Storey Institute, the Friends' School, to the London and North-Western Company's Castle station (fn. 14); it continues, rising and falling, till it becomes a footpath called Freeman's Wood, which marks the boundary between this township and Aldcliffe, and ends at the river-side. By the Storey Institute a side street leads up to the castle and parish church. Two of the Sebastopol guns are fixed on the castle plateau. Below it, on the low ground to the west, is Giant Axe Field, used for football, shows and sports. From the church tower a footpath leads down to the river-side.
Church Street, parallel to Market Street, leads from Cheapside up to the parish church. In it are the Lancaster Bank, (fn. 15) the Co-operative Stores, the County and Conservative Clubs, the Inland Revenue Office and the Judges' Lodgings, in front of which stands the Covell Cross, (fn. 16) re-erected in 1902. Leading across to Market Street are New Street, (fn. 17) in which is the Post Office, and China Street, in which are the Young Men's Christian Association (1908) and the Marton Tower. Church Street contains houses dated 1683 and 1684 as well as some of the mansions of the 18th-century merchants—e.g. the clubs named; the gardens used to extend down to Dam Side. The County Club is conspicuous by a semicircular doorway with a fine mahogany door. The Judges' Lodgings were formerly the residence of the Coles of Beaumont Cote, purchased by the corporation and adapted for their present purpose in 1825. (fn. 18)
The lower end of Church Street ends at Stonewell, to which also leads St. Nicholas' Street, the continuation of Market Street down from the 'Horse Shoe.' Though the well has been covered up, Stonewell remains an open space. It is the terminus of the Morecambe Tramway. The streets named are continued as St. Leonardgate and Moor Lane respectively, while cross streets lead to Dalton Square and to North Road. The theatre, first built in 1781, is in St. Leonardgate; it was formerly called the Athenæum, but now the Grand.
Dalton Square, just named, lies on the east side of Penny Street. It was formed about 1784, and has been used for fairs, shows, reviews and other purposes. The upper side is filled by the front of the new town hall; other sides contain the Guardians' offices and the Hippodrome. In the centre is the statue of Queen Victoria, presented to the town by Lord Ashton. From the Square a street leads eastward up the hill to Williamson Park, passing the grammar school (rebuilt here in 1851) and the workhouse. The park covers the highest land in the township, and has been formed with great skill and taste out of the old quarries on the moor. Part of the land was laid out in 1862–3 to relieve the distress caused by the Cotton Famine. (fn. 19) In 1878 the late James Williamson undertook to lay it out as a park and present it to the town; he died the following year, but the work was completed by his son, now Lord Ashton, who provided a maintenance fund also. (fn. 20) A small observatory was opened in 1892; the instruments, &c., were given by Mr. Albert Greg. Recently (1907–9) a very graceful dome has been built by Lord Ashton as a family memorial. It stands on the highest point in the park, about 350 ft. above sea level, and rises 150 ft. to the summit, so that extensive views in all directions can be obtained from its upper galleries. It was opened in 1909. A palm-house adjoins it.
The county asylum on the slope to the east of the park was opened in 1816, and has been several times enlarged; a large supplementary building or annexe was in 1882 erected to the north-east of it on part of the former race-course. Adjoining it a fragment of the old moor remains untouched. Nearer the town is the cemetery, opened in 1855. A lane by the asylum, connecting Wyresdale and Quernmore Roads, is called Fenham Carr Lane, preserving an old name; it is the boundary of the township there.
Along the river-side is a broad street, St. George's Quay, at which small vessels can discharge. The Fishery Board offices are there. One part of the quay is lined with ancient warehouses, among which stands the former custom-house, now a factory. The appearance of decay at this point affords a curious contrast to the animation of the town in general. From the quay a narrow winding lane, exhibiting the type of old Lancaster streets, leads up to Church Street; there are a number of old houses in it. The quay and North Road are connected by Cable Street, in which are the Probate Court and the County Court.
The oilcloth industry has been mentioned above; the principal works stand on the marsh to the northwest of the town and along the canal. The chief furniture factory is near Green Ayre station. In addition the town possesses stained-glass works, pictureprint works, corn-mills, brewery and other industries.
The modern Volunteer movement quickly influenced Lancaster, a rifle corps being sanctioned in May 1859. There are now a battalion of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment and a battery of the 2nd West Lancashire R.F.A. Brigade.
There are political, social and sporting clubs, as well as literary, musical and scientific societies. An Oddfellows' Hall was built in 1844; though it has long been used for other purposes, there are still many lodges of Oddfellows and other friendly societies.
Two newspapers are issued every Friday: the Guardian, which was founded in 1837, (fn. 21) and the Observer, (fn. 22) the first penny paper, 1860. Others have been started at different times, but have ceased to appear. (fn. 23)
It is recorded in Domesday Book that in 1066 there were two manors, LANCASTER and KIRK-LANCASTER, members of Earl Tostig's fee or lordship of Halton. They were assessed as six and two plough-lands respectively. (fn. 24) They were granted to Count Roger of Poitou, who made them the head of his possessions in the neighbourhood, so forming an honour which derived its name from Lancaster. As the assessment of all or most of the manors hereabouts was reduced by half within a century from the Conquest, it is probable that the 'one plough-land' held of the lord of the honour by the burgesses was the Kirk-Lancaster of 1066. Its history is traced below.
The larger manor, Lancaster proper, seems to be the Old Lancaster of later documents, and was much subdivided. Part was probably added to Hotun to form Quernmore Forest, part was granted in alms, (fn. 25) but much was held in serjeanty by those responsible for the maintenance of the castle and other works. (fn. 26) Some of these estates perhaps escheated to the lord, as did some of the burgages, (fn. 27) or became subdivided or on the other hand merged in other holdings; but two of them can be traced down to the 17th century, viz. Highfield and Bolron or Bowerham.
HIGHFIELD was in 1212 held by Roger son of John, whose duty or office it was to sharpen the plough-shares for two of the lord's manors each year. (fn. 28) This service was afterwards commuted to a rent of 5s. About 1222 the land was held by Walter son of Walter the Smith and William son of William the Smith. (fn. 29) William son of William son of Juliana was the tenant in 1297, paying 5s. rent, (fn. 30) and was still living in 1314, when as Master William son of William son of Juliana he granted a burgage to Adam le Purser and Joan his wife at 12d. rent. (fn. 31)
Soon afterwards the estate passed to William de Slene in right of Alice his wife, he being tenant in 1323 by rendering 5s. a year in lieu of the ancient service of sharpening the lord's plough-shares. (fn. 32) He died the following year, leaving a son and heir named William, only seven years old. (fn. 33) Alice as widow put forward a claim for dower in 1325. (fn. 34) She demised a burgage in 1329, the services required from the occupier being a rent of 9s. and the finding of two labourers to reap for one day. (fn. 35) For her second husband she married John de Lancaster, husband and wife and William her son being concerned in a lease of land in 1338. (fn. 36)
William the son was still tenant in 1346, (fn. 37) but was dead in 1358, when Thomas de Goosnargh claimed a rent of 6s. 8d. in Lancaster from John Grelley, Isabel his wife—who, as will be seen, was the widow of William—and William son of William de Slene. (fn. 38) William de Slene died in 1401 holding burgages in Lancaster by a rent of 10s.; nothing is said of Highfield. A son Robert, who is mentioned, must have died before him, for no heir was known. (fn. 39) There appear to have been two co-heirs, Isabel and Alice, but their kinship is not recorded. Isabel was the wife of Robert Brockholes in 1427 (fn. 40) and of John Gardiner, possibly the benefactor, in 1440 (fn. 41); she does not seem to have left issue. Alice was wife of Oliver Southworth in 1448. (fn. 42) The descent is not clear, but in the same year various burgages formerly belonging to Oliver and Alice Southworth were transferred to Margaret wife of Matthew Southworth, with remainders to Robert, Thomas, Richard and John, brothers of Matthew, and then to the right heirs of Alice. (fn. 43) Matthew Southworth, Margaret his wife and Robert his son and heir in 1472 gave a lease of a burgage, &c., in Marketgate to Thomas Estaryk for twenty years. (fn. 44)
The Southworths are later found to have held Highfield, but the tenure became confused with that of the other property they had in the town. Robert Southworth, who in 1494 sold the marriage of his son Robert to Thomas Lawrence, (fn. 45) died in or before 1516, when the younger Robert, the heir, was thirty years old; the estate in Lancaster, Bolton, Oxcliffe and Ellel was held by a rent of 12s. 10d. in all. (fn. 46) Robert Southworth of Highfield was defendant in 1525–6. (fn. 47) George Southworth next occurs; he sold various lands between 1552 and 1576, (fn. 48) and died in 1586 holding Highfield and seven burgages in Lancaster of the queen in burgage. (fn. 49) In 1580 George Southworth, then aged sixty-eight, deposed that he had removed the mill which stood on his land to a spot on the common adjoining his house, 'because it was a fitter place for the wind,' paying 2d. a year to the mayor and bailiffs of Lancaster, because the common was part of the fee farm of the town of Lancaster. The mill was afterwards blown down and broken to pieces. (fn. 50)
Thomas Southworth, the son and heir, who was twenty-four years of age, succeeded, but only for a few years; he died in 1595, his son George being but six years old. (fn. 51) George Southworth of Highfield and Mary his wife were on the recusant rolls in 1622. (fn. 52) When he died in 1636 the tenure of Highfield and other property in Lancaster was described as in free burgage by 8s. rent. (fn. 53) His son and heir Thomas was fourteen years of age, and as 'Mr. Thomas Southworth of the Highfield' was buried on 4 April 1673. (fn. 54) The family gradually decayed in fortune, but retained Highfield for half a century more. William Stout thus relates the end:—
In this year (1728) Thomas Southworth of the Highfield in Lancaster died, being the last of an ancient and wealthy family of that name there, but reduced to a small estate. He left a widow but no child; was a man of weak capacity and made no will, and his widow expected the estate, seeing there was none to claim as heir. I had long ago known an uncle of his in London called Robert Southworth, who was poor; upon which I writ to my friends in London to inquire for him but found he was dead. But upon further inquiry found that there was one Francis Southworth, another uncle, at London, who was also dead but had left a son called Francis, whom my friends found out, who came here to claim the estate. Whom the widow made some scruple to admit at first, but was obliged to admit upon a composition; and he returned to London and gave me a power to sell the estate, which I did to Robert Gibson, esq., for above £300. (fn. 55)
The house and land around it are now held in trust for a local charity. (fn. 56)
BOLRON, assessed as one plough-land, was held by masonry—that is, the holder was to find a mason to work at the castle when required, receiving 1d. a day as wages. Vivian de Bolron is the earliest of the tenants on record; he was a benefactor of Cockersand Abbey, giving the canons an acre of land and whatever pertained to the 5 oxgangs of Halewadris. (fn. 57) His son Ralph in 1212 held Bolron by the service described, (fn. 58) and still retained possession in 1224. (fn. 59) He gave land in Old Lancaster to the priory, (fn. 60) and like his father was a benefactor to Cockersand. (fn. 61) Maud the daughter and heir of Ralph paid 1 mark on succession in 1241, (fn. 62) and her son Ralph followed her by 1245, (fn. 63) when he paid ½ mark as relief. It was probably about this time that the old service was commuted to an annual payment of 5s. (fn. 64)
There is then a defect in the evidence. Thomas de Bolron was plaintiff in 1292, (fn. 65) and paid 5s. rent, doing suit for 4 oxgangs of land and paying 3s. 8d. for another oxgang. (fn. 66) Hawise de Bolron, widow of Thomas, was tenant in 1323, (fn. 67) and in 1346 William de Bolron was recorded as holding a messuage and 60 acres in Bolron by the ancient serjeanty. (fn. 68) Robert de Bolron was from 1338 onwards Mayor of Lancaster, the first probably to hold that office, and scattered notices of the family occur, insufficient for tracing the descent with precision. (fn. 69) Thomas Bolron in 1496 made a feoffment of six messuages in Lancaster, Aldcliffe and Scotforth, (fn. 70) and probably died soon afterwards, leaving as heir a daughter Margaret, wife of Henry Duckett. She died in 1501 and her husband in 1506, and livery of the tenement in Bolron, held by masonry, was granted to their grandson Richard Duckett (son of Richard) in 1519. (fn. 71) Richard died in 1525, leaving a son and heir William, eight years old. (fn. 72) The estate at that time was called a manor. (fn. 73) The next steps are not clear; Bolron was probably acquired by Thomas Covell, and was in 1630 in the hands of John Brockholes. (fn. 74) It appears to have been forfeited and sold during the Civil War time with the lands of Thomas Brockholes of Heaton. (fn. 75)
Three oxgangs of land in Bolron had before 1200 been given to Cockersand Abbey by Benedict Gernet, who had acquired it from Vivian father of Ralph de Bolron. (fn. 76) Benedict also gave 3 acres in the same vill, for which the brethren were to pay the chief rent of 1s. (fn. 77) They should have paid 6s. 8d. a year to the Earl of Lancaster for the 3 oxgangs, but obtained an acquittance. (fn. 78) After the Suppression the Cockersand estate was held by the Crown for a time, but was in 1609–10 sold to George Salter and others. (fn. 79) Some other early alienations were made in Bolron, and rents were fixed in 1247–51, including the following: To the brethren of St. Leonard of York, 4 acres at 12d.; to the Prior of Lancaster, 1 acre at 4d.; and to William the Gardener the same. (fn. 80) In later times Penny's almshouse had the farm called Bowrams, (fn. 81) but this was sold to the War Office about 1875 for barracks. The Coulston trustees also own part of Bowerham.
William son of Matthew in 1212 held a messuage and land by gardenry (fn. 82); he is afterwards called William the Gardener, (fn. 83) and may have been an ancestor of John Gardiner the benefactor, but the surname is common in the district. The service was afterwards commuted to 5s. a year, by which the estate was held in 1297 by the heir of William the Gardener. (fn. 84) William de Slene held it in 1346, (fn. 85) and thus it may have become merged in Highfield.
Also in 1212 Roger the White (or Blundell) held 8 acres by being carpenter in the castle, (fn. 86) and Ralph de Torrisholme by grant of William de Lancaster I held half a plough-land, for which he rendered 4s. yearly. (fn. 87) Philip le Blund was carpenter in fee in 1297, (fn. 88) and still held in 1323, (fn. 89) while William son of Philip the Carpenter was a plaintiff in 1292. (fn. 90) In 1346 William Philip, possibly the same, held a messuage and 5 acres in Arnway Close by carpentry. (fn. 91) The Torrisholme estate is probably that afterwards held by Parles and Gentyl, (fn. 92) and then by Mercer. (fn. 93)
In 1346 Amery de Hest held a burgage, &c., with land in Swanholmefield, and rents of 4s. and 1s. 6d. from two burgages by charter of the lord (unnamed), being bound to acquit the lord against Sir Nicholas de Stapleton as to 4s. and against the Prior of Lancaster as to 2s. due from the tenement, and to do suit to the court of Lancaster in the manner of burgesses. (fn. 94)
The great Lancaster family, lords of Wyresdale and Kendal, do not appear to have held anything in the town from which they derived a surname beyond the half plough-land already mentioned. The local surname was used by other families in the place, (fn. 97) while Caton, (fn. 98) Aldcliffe, (fn. 99) Skerton, (fn. 100) Wyresdale (fn. 101) and other places (fn. 102) around also afforded surnames to residents in the town. Others again used the name of their business or occupation, as Cook or Keu, (fn. 103) Purser, (fn. 104) Chanter, (fn. 105) and so on. (fn. 106) In some cases an ancestor's Christian name was adopted for a surname, as Lawrence (fn. 107) or Lambert. (fn. 108)
Thomas Singleton, bailiff of the escheatery of the town of Lancaster, rendered account in 1441 of £8 4s. 7d. due from ancient rents and from various burgages and plats of land which had escheated to the king as duke from various causes. Among other matters it shows that in Arnway Close was the messuage held by carpentry formerly belonging to William Philip, as above, and then to Robert Bolron. One of the escheated plats was the site for a grange in a lane called 'Between the Barns'; another was a grange left unoccupied through the burning of the town. Various allowances reduced the net receipt to £7 4s. 3d. (fn. 109)
In Tudor times the families of Starkie (fn. 110) and Stodagh (fn. 111) seem to have been of importance; the estates of the former were acquired by Shireburne of Stonyhurst (fn. 112) and those of the latter by Southworth of Highfield. (fn. 113) The estates of Holland (fn. 114) and Balderston, (fn. 115) here as elsewhere, came to the Earl of Derby and a number of heirs. (fn. 116) Many of the greater families of the county occur. (fn. 117) The inquisitions of the 16th and 17th centuries afford further information as to the holders of burgages and lands in the town; in them the tenure is usually stated to be 'in burgage' or 'in socage.' (fn. 118)
The family of Toulson or Townson was once of note. George Townson died in 1638 holding a messuage in Highfield of the king by knight's service; his heir was a daughter Isabel, aged fourteen. (fn. 119) He was perhaps the George Tomson of Lancaster who paid £10 in 1631 on declining knighthood. (fn. 120) Another of the family acquired the advowson of the vicarage and was probably founder of almshouses formerly standing at the south entrance of Penny Street. (fn. 121) Henry Porter, a justice of the peace, recorded a pedigree in 1665. (fn. 122) He was a member of the Presbyterian Classis in the Commonwealth time, and was grandson of the Henry Porter who was vicar from 1582 to 1609. In more recent times the names of Fenton, (fn. 123) Higgin, (fn. 124) Sherson (fn. 125) and Whalley (fn. 126) may be recorded as those of prominent families.
In addition to the local priory, (fn. 127) friary (fn. 128) and hospital, (fn. 129) the abbeys of Furness (fn. 130) and Cockersand (fn. 131) and the priories of Cartmel (fn. 132) and Conishead (fn. 133) held burgages and land in the town; so also did the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. (fn. 134)
Lancaster Marsh, beside the Lune, was vested in the corporation from ancient times and the freemen had right of pasturage there. It became the custom to divide the area and assign portions to the senior freemen living in the town. By an Act of 1795 for embanking and draining the marsh (fn. 135) the pasture rights were extinguished, but the profits of the inclosure were to be divided among the eighty oldest freemen or their widows. By an Act of 1864 part was sold, and by a further Act of 1900 the eighty beneficiaries are to receive £13 a year each. (fn. 136)
The creation of the borough of LANCASTER may have been due to Count Roger of Poitou, who would thus have his castle, monastery and borough in the place he chose to make the head of his lordship, but no charter is known earlier than that of John Count of Mortain in 1193. This charter with many others is still in the possession of the corporation; but as early as 1496–7 the mayor and burgesses, in petitioning for a confirmation of their liberties, alleged that their ancient charters had been lost or destroyed. (fn. 137)
Count John gave 'his burgesses of Lancaster'—already there were burgesses and therefore a borough—all the customs he had granted to Bristol, including freedom from suit of mill, from ploughing, reaping and other servile customs. He also gave pasture right in the forest and liberty to take wood for burning and building by view of the foresters. (fn. 138) This charter was confirmed by John in 1199, just after he became king, but the liberties of Northampton were substituted for those of Bristol. (fn. 139) These charters do not mention or impose any fee-farm rent, but from the Pipe Roll of 1204–5 it is known that this rent was 20 marks. (fn. 140) No market or fair was appointed. In 1212 it was recorded that the burgesses held one plough-land in Lancaster of the king in free burgage, rendering 20 marks yearly. One Nicholas had granted two burgages in alms, and the burgesses held seven burgages for which they rendered no service to the king. (fn. 141) Henry III in 1227 confirmed the 1199 charter. (fn. 142) A reeve was acting in 1246 (fn. 143); later one or more bailiffs are found at the head of the burgesses. (fn. 144) A grant of land was attested by 'all the court of Lancaster,' (fn. 145) and in another charter the 'burmansmote' is named. (fn. 146) A common seal was used. (fn. 147)
Edmund the king's brother in 1278 granted the burgesses a much greater liberty of common in Quernmore in return for their allowing him to make a park there. (fn. 148)
The privileges enjoyed by prescription or by charter in 1292 are made clear by the proceedings under a writ of quo warranto in that year. The bailiff and commonalty claimed to be free from toll, stallage and other dues in all markets, also from suit of county and wapentake; they had a free borough, assize of bread and beer, pillory, cuckingstool, infangenthef and gallows, a weekly market on Saturday and a yearly fair at Michaelmas—viz. 28 September—12 October. The first decision was adverse to the borough, but on a further argument the claim for market and fair was allowed. (fn. 149) In 1297 the burgesses were recorded as holding the borough in fee, paying the earl 20 marks yearly. (fn. 150)
An advance was made by the borough in 1337 when Edward III, after confirming the charters of 1193, 1199 and 1227, allowed an additional market every Wednesday and a second fair at Midsummer, and permitted the burgesses to have a gild merchant with all appurtenances. (fn. 151) This charter has been lost. From that time the town has had a mayor, Robert de Bolron acting in 1338 and many later years. (fn. 152) The mayor and two bailiffs governed the community, but in course of time twelve burgesses known as the head or capital burgesses (fn. 153) acted with them. The new market and fair roused in 1345 a complaint from Robert de Nevill of Hornby that they were to the injury of his ancient market and fair at Arkholme (fn. 154); but in 1348 he withdrew all actions and undertook not to disturb the mayor and commonalty of Lancaster in future. (fn. 155) A Preston man in 1346 complained that the bailiffs of Lancaster had in May 1343 seized two of his cloaks at the Marketstead there. The defendants said they took the goods because plaintiff would not pay the toll of ½d. the load. The reeve and burgesses had held the town in fee-farm of the king for 20 marks a year, with right of fair, market and 'through toll' on goods in transit any day; more recently there had been a mayor and bailiffs. Judgement was given for the defendants. (fn. 156) The liberties of the town appear to have extended over Quernmore and Bulk. (fn. 157)
The next privilege obtained for the town was the monopoly of sessions of the justices and assizes, which was granted in 1362 by the king at the request of his son John of Gaunt, recently created Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 158) This privilege did not affect the government of the borough, but was of much advantage to the townsmen, who jealously guarded it down to last century. About the same time a borough code is said to have been drawn up, (fn. 159) but no copy is known. The charters were confirmed by Richard II in 1383 (fn. 160) and 1389, (fn. 161) by Henry IV in 1400, (fn. 162) Henry V in 1413 and Henry VI in 1430. (fn. 163) To the charter of 1389 is appended a note stating that the fine was fixed at 40s., because the town had often been burned by mischance. No new privileges were secured, but in 1410 Henry IV ordered that the men of Lancaster were to be tollfree in Ireland if those of London, Bristol and Northampton were, (fn. 164) and this seems from later history to have been admitted. In 1416 a general pardon was granted for breaches of the statute of liveries, (fn. 165) and in consequence it was obtained by the mayor (Richard Elslack), bailiffs and community of Lancaster. (fn. 166) At the same time the town recovered possession of Deep Carrs. (fn. 167)
At the request of the burgesses (fn. 168) the king in 1432 allowed the mayor and the clerk under him authority to record recognizances of debts, or 'statute merchant,' for the convenience of traders frequenting the town. (fn. 169) The ancient mayor's seal, still used occasionally, probably belongs to this time. (fn. 170) The request may be an indication that the prosperity of the town was on the wane, (fn. 171) and little is known of it for the rest of the century, apart from Gardiner's foundations of 1472–85. In 1498 the burgesses were called upon to establish their liberties by a writ of quo warranto. (fn. 172) About 1500 Henry VII warned the townsmen against adopting the liveries of noblemen or gentlemen of the district, a practice which led to many disorders. (fn. 173) Henry VIII in 1511 confirmed the ancient charters, (fn. 174) as did Elizabeth in 1563, while Philip and Mary in 1557 once more restricted the holding of sessions and assizes to the county town, the privilege having been broken through by Henry VIII and Edward VI. (fn. 175) A code of the borough customs was drawn up in 1572; it contains 142 articles. (fn. 176) The town possesses sets of standard weights and measures dated 1588 and 1601.
The by-laws of 1572 begin with the mode of choosing the mayor, bailiffs and twelve men (fn. 177) at the head court held on the Thursday after St. Luke's Day, and describe the duties of these officials, among which was the proving of bread and ale. A second head court was held on the Thursday after Low Sunday. All the burgesses were bound to attend the head courts. A court was held every Thursday at the Tollbooth.
The choice of mayor by 'the Forty' was a somewhat complicated business. No stranger was to be present during the process. The twelve burgesses were from their own number to nominate—each by himself—a suitable man for mayor, one who had already served as mayor or bailiff. The unnominated residue of the twelve were then to choose other burgesses till the number of forty was reached, and these forty elected the new mayor. Then twelve of the forty chose one bailiff and the rest of the forty chose the other. At the next ordinary court—i.e. a week later—the twelve capital burgesses were appointed; the new mayor nominated three or four of the old twelve, and these filled up their number from the general body of burgesses.
The mayor and his brethren were to have suitable gowns, and the bailiffs were to keep their banquets at Shrovetide and Easter. The mayor was not to sell victuals during his year of office. The duties of the minor officers were prescribed: the bellman seems to have been keeper of the pound, and was forbidden to 'take away the three gates belonging to the town ' at the end of his year of office; the swineherd was to keep the swine of the town upon Quernmore both summer and winter. (fn. 178) There were four keys to the town chest: the mayor had one, the bailiffs another, a burgess chosen by the commonalty a third and the twelve kept the fourth. The mayor and bailiffs were not to pay any bearwardens or minstrels out of the town funds without the consent of four of the head burgesses.
New burgesses were to be admitted only at a head court, and had to pay an entrance fine of 20s. to 40s. (fn. 179) They were to be 'of some science or craft,' and sworn to exercise it. Freedom might be lost by various offences. Stallengers were admitted to trade. 'Inmates,' vagabonds, unruly or vicious persons were to be expelled from the town. 'If any troublesome persons come to the town against the peace to vex anybody of the town the common bell shall be rung a good while or space'; hearing which the inhabitants were to assemble 'arrayed in the best manner they may for defence of their own bodies to arrest the disturbers.' In general every inhabitant was bound to keep 'watch and ward,' and to pay 'scot and lot' as he should be assessed. Innkeepers were not to refuse to sell or to lodge ' any stranger that seemeth to be honest and able to pay his expenses.' Ovens had to be licensed.
The penalties for various offences were defined. Freemen only were to be imprisoned in the tollbooth; disorderly persons in general must be placed in the stock-house. Breach of by-laws was punished by fine. For slander or brawling a man was to be placed in the gibbet or pillory and a woman in the cuckstool. The author of a 'brawl or hubleshowe' was to be fined not less than 3s. 4d., the general fine for breach of the peace; but an offence in the market or in the mayor's presence cost double, and if blood was shed the fine was 10s. for every wound. Unlawful games were to be put away, and young men were ordered to 'buy bows and arrows.'
Other rules dealt with the good order of the streets, (fn. 180) offensive occupations, (fn. 181) the use of the bridge, quarry and moor—the moor was to be driven once a year—and the times when sheep, swine, &c., must be kept out of the fields were defined. Offences against fair trading were condemned, (fn. 182) but in the case of dealings in malt buyers were quaintly bidden to 'let their eye be their chapman.' A freeman had in some cases a right of pre-emption.
James I in 1604 granted an entirely new charter. (fn. 183) While confirming the ancient liberties, fairs, &c., in general terms, he incorporated the town as a free borough by the title of the mayor, bailiffs and commonalty, and declared them capable of holding land, &c.; they were to have a common seal. The mayor was to be elected according to ancient custom; he was to act as justice of the peace and coroner. Thomas Braithwaite was to be clerk for statute merchants; after his death the common clerk was to act. A recorder was appointed; Sir Thomas Hesketh was the first, and the mayor and twenty-four burgesses were to choose his successors. The same king in 1608 and 1621 confirmed the freedom from toll in other markets. (fn. 184) The method of choosing the mayor by the Forty had become difficult, and about the time of the new charter an agreement was come to that the mayor should be chosen in rotation from seven burgesses who were the most capable to serve. (fn. 185) Thenceforward the governing body consisted of the mayor, eighteen head or capital burgesses (including the six in turn for the mayoralty) and twelve burgesses for the commonalty. By degrees the seven became known as benchers or aldermen, but they were not formally authorized before the charter of 1684. The provision was, however, recorded in the by-laws of 1652. (fn. 186)
In 1650 the mayor and community redeemed the ancient fee-farm rent of 20 marks by purchase from the Commonwealth authorities, (fn. 187) and thus became absolute lords of the manor. At the Restoration, however, they deemed it wise, as an evidence of loyalty, to surrender their purchase, and again paid the 20 marks a year. (fn. 188) To this sum was added £2 10s. for certain pasture land in Quernmore. (fn. 189) The whole rent was in 1675 sold by trustees for the Crown to Sir William Ellis, and he soon afterwards sold to Ashhurst of Ashhurst. In 1691 the Hon. Robert Boyle bequeathed the residue of his estate for charitable uses, and Sir Henry Ashhurst, one of his executors, out of this residue purchased the Lancaster rent from Thomas Ashhurst in 1697. A charity for poor freemen of the City of Oxford and for the widows of freemen and others was founded, (fn. 190) and the Corporation of Lancaster has since continued to pay the two rents, less a deduction for land tax and charges, to the Ashhursts of Waterstock and to the Corporation of Oxford for the Boyle charity. (fn. 191) The net sum of £12 16s. 10d. is now paid yearly. (fn. 192)
Charles II in 1663 granted a charter which was in the main the same as that of 1604, but had some verbal changes and new clauses. (fn. 193) The existence of aldermen was incidentally recognized by a proviso that the alderman who had last been mayor should be a justice of the peace. The same king in 1684 gave the borough a new charter, under which it was governed for more than a century. It nominated a complete corporation—mayor, recorder, seven aldermen, twelve capital burgesses and twelve burgesses for the commonalty. Elections were to be made according to the custom of the preceding seven years. A town clerk, a mace-bearer and two serjeants at mace were also appointed. (fn. 194) In accordance with the desire of James II a Presbyterian was elected mayor in April 1688 and two Roman Catholics were placed among the aldermen. Later in the year the king, in view of the storm of the Revolution, restored the charter and liberty of election, and a fresh choice was made. (fn. 195) A new charter was obtained in 1819. (fn. 196) A local board of health, apparently a voluntary association, had been formed in 1815 for watching the health of the town. (fn. 197) The old corporation came to an end through the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, and the present representative one succeeded. There are continuous records from 1664.
A long series of records of the perambulations of boundaries shows that down to 1809 it was the custom to go round Quernmore and part of Caton and Bulk, as well as Lancaster proper, on account of the ancient common rights the burgesses had in the forest. (fn. 198) An old plan shows Quernmore Common to the south of the Park, extending as far east as Pott Yeats in Caton. Friar Moss was at the southern point of the Park and Lancaster Copyholds adjoined the eastern side of Scotforth.
Under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 the town was divided into three wards, named Castle, Queen's and St. Anne's, each with two aldermen and six councillors. The first election of the councillors took place on 26 December 1835, and the mayor was elected at the first meeting, on New Year's Day 1836. There were various difficulties to be overcome, some relating to the officials of the old corporation and others to the charitable funds in its control. The arrangement of wards continued undisturbed for fifty years, but in 1888 parts of Scotforth and Skerton were added to the borough by an Act obtained in that year, and the extended area was divided into six wards, named Castle, Queen's, St. Anne's, Park, John o' Gaunt and Skerton (fn. 199); each had an alderman and three councillors, so that there was no increase in membership. The boundaries were again extended in 1900, and two additional wards were formed, called Scotforth and Bulk, some of the old ward boundaries being varied. Thus the council now consists of a mayor, eight aldermen and twenty-four councillors. The ancient tollbooth in the market-place was replaced by a 'town hall' in 1668, and this in turn by what is now the Old Town Hall in 1781–3 (fn. 200); police and fire brigade stations were afterwards added. The present town hall, the gift of Lord Ashton to his native town, stands in Dalton Square, and was opened on 22 December 1909. It is a stately edifice, with portico of six columns supporting a richly carved pediment, and having a lofty central clock tower. The interior is beautifully adorned and contains accommodation for all the municipal officers. There is also a large hall for public meetings. The architect was the late Edward William Mountford, who died in February 1908, soon after building commenced.
The arms used by the borough have varied from time to time (fn. 201); those in use since about 1700 were in 1907 formally authorized by the College of Arms. The great mace was presented in 1702; there are also a mayor's staff, presented by Thomas Fanshaw in 1613, a chain and badge given in 1878 (fn. 202) and various articles of plate acquired at different dates from 1615 onwards. (fn. 203) Two ancient brass halberds are in use.
The old borough court of pleas, though not abolished, has been replaced in practice by the county court. (fn. 204) The town had a recorder down to the establishment of the new corporation in 1835. It now has a bench of magistrates and a police force. The corporation is the port sanitary authority, and as the burial board controls the cemeteries. It began the waterworks at Grizedale in Over Wyresdale in 1852 and in 1879 purchased the gasworks, which had been established as a private venture in 1825 (fn. 205); an electric light supply was also provided in 1892, and in 1903–4 an electric tramway service, extending from Castle station to Scotforth and to the Park.
The Storey Institute, built in 1887 by the late Sir Thomas Storey, was presented to the town in 1893. It was erected on the final site (1856) of the old Mechanics' Institute, founded in 1825, and continues its work. The School of Art, established in 1856, is also accommodated in the building. The Municipal Technical School is held there, and the free library and reading rooms occupy part of the building. A school board was formed in 1893.
The market, formerly held in the square to which it gave a name, was removed to an open space behind Market Street in 1846; this was enlarged and covered over in 1880. An open vegetable market is still held in Church Street on Saturdays. The cattle market is in Thurnham Street. The tolls formerly charged on goods entering the town were abolished in 1887, Lord Ashton compensating the town for the loss of revenue. The butter and grain markets were at one time held under the town hall. The cheese fair was in 1812 removed from the market-place to Dalton Square, and in 1887 from the square to the new market. This fair is still proclaimed annually with some ceremony.
The park has been described above. Baths in private ownership were built in 1803 on the north side of Moor Lane. In 1852 the public baths were in Thurnham Street. The present baths in Cable Street were presented to the town in 1863 by Samuel Gregson, at that time a member for the borough; he died in 1865. The baths were enlarged in 1894. An infectious diseases hospital was built on the Marsh in 1880, and removed in 1891 to a site still further down the river bank.
The town is the head of a rural district council and poor law union. The workhouse, built in 1787 and altered and enlarged in 1890 and 1909, stands on part of the old moor adjoining Williamson Park. There was an older workhouse near the White Cross.
As has been stated already, the town sent two burgesses to represent it in Parliaments from the reign of Edward I to early in that of Edward III, and again from 1529 to 1865. Under the Reform Act of 1832 the boundary of the Parliamentary borough was extended to include about half of Bulk and a third of Skerton. The last election took place in July 1865; but extensive corruption was proved, the members returned were unseated, and in 1867 the borough was disfranchised. By the Redistribution Act of 1885 Lancaster became the head of a county division returning one member. This division includes the greater portion of Lonsdale South of the Sands and the north end of Amounderness.
The parish church (fn. 206) has already been described at length. It has two mission churches, St. George's on the Marsh and another in Bulk, both of recent origin.
St. John's Church, the second connected with the Church of England, was erected in 1754 on a piece of land at the edge of the Green Ayre granted by the corporation for the purpose in 1749–51; the tower and spire were added in 1784. It was consecrated in 1755 and continued to be a chapel of ease to the parish church until 1842, when a parish was assigned to it. (fn. 207) The incumbents, styled vicars, are nominated by the vicar of Lancaster. At one time this was the corporation church. (fn. 208) St. Anne's, Moor Lane, was built in 1796 by the Rev. Robert Housman of Skerton as a church for the old Evangelical party. To it also a parish was assigned in 1842, (fn. 209) and the vicars are nominated by the vicar of Lancaster. St. Thomas's, Penny Street, was founded through some dispute about the services at the parish church; it was built by subscription in 1841 and consecrated in 1845, a district having been assigned to it in 1844. The patronage is now vested in the Church Pastoral Aid Society. The Rev. John Bone, incumbent from 1873 till his death in 1906, did something to promote scientific studies in the town. Christ Church, on the Moor, was built in 1855–7 by the above-named Samuel Gregson, whose residence was close by. It was intended in part for the people of the adjacent workhouse, but an ecclesiastical district was assigned to it in 1874. (fn. 210) In connexion with it is the mission church of the Holy Spirit. The patronage is vested in five trustees. There are private chapels attached to Penny's Hospital, the County Asylum, Ripley's Hospital and the Castle.
Methodism appeared in the town about the end of the 18th century, and Lancaster was made the head quarters of a circuit in 1794. Two cottages in Damside Street, now a tobacco warehouse, were converted into a meeting-place, but in 1805 a better site was obtained in Sulyard Street, and a chapel built thereon was opened in 1806. The present large church succeeded it in 1874; a mission room in Lune Road is attached to it. The Independent Methodists built their chapel in 1829; it still remains in use. The Primitive Methodists appeared in the town early in the century, and had in 1823 a meeting-place in Under the Gardens, Damside. (fn. 211) A chapel was built there in 1836, having also an approach from Bridge Lane; but about 1862 it was quitted for a new one in Moor Lane called Ebenezer, rebuilt in 1895. The United Methodist Free Church in Brock Street was built in 1869.
The first Baptists known here were the Sandemanians, who had a meeting-room in Friar Street in 1810 (fn. 212); they died out about 1840. Other Baptists attended the Congregational Church till 1862, when they began separate services in the Assembly Rooms. Their first church was built in White Cross Street in 1872, (fn. 213) but was replaced by the present one in Nelson Street in 1896.
Modern Congregationalism here, as in many other places in the county, began with the turning of the old Presbyterians from Trinitarian to Unitarian doctrine in the course of the 18th century. A congregation was formed about 1766, and a chapel site in High Street was purchased in 1772; the most conspicuous promoter was John Dawson of Aldcliffe. (fn. 214) In 1872 several of the more active workers determined to open a mission at the east side of the town, thus marking the completion of the century. After a short time a house in St. Leonardgate was altered into a chapel, but on its becoming too small in 1877 the Palatine Hall was used until the present Centenary Church in Stonewell was opened in 1879. (fn. 215) It has a branch chapel in Bowerham opened in 1905. (fn. 216)
A Church of Christ meets in Balmoral Road; the cause was founded in 1889 and the building opened in 1897. The Presbyterian Church of England, founded in 1899, has a temporary place of worship. The Jubilee Town Mission, established in 1887, has several mission rooms. The Catholic Apostolic Church, or Irvingites, began services about 1875 and still continue them.
The Society of Friends originated in the middle of the 17th century through the efforts of George Fox himself, as his Journal shows. A meeting-house on the present site was built in 1677. Its use was interfered with in 1680, when the mayor 'ordered the meeting-house door to be locked and set a guard upon it on the First-day weekly, to prevent a meeting; yet the Friends met in the lane before it at the usual time, without disturbance for some time.' (fn. 217) In 1689 a house was licensed for the Quakers' meeting-place. (fn. 218) In 1708 the present building on the old site succeeded. (fn. 219) The Friends have an ancient burial-ground at Golgotha, where John Lawson, the friend of Fox, was buried in 1689. They have also a school and a hall for meetings, &c.
In a Puritan town there must in 1660–2 have been many sympathizers with the disestablished Presbyterianism. It is known that they had a meetingplace even during the time of repression, (fn. 220) and during the brief interval of religious liberty under James II the mayor went publicly to the Presbyterian chapel. (fn. 221) This was probably the 'upper chamber over a warehouse in Moor Lane' which was in 1689 certified as the meeting-place of the Presbyterians by Augustine Greenwood, Thomas Hodgson and William Townson. (fn. 222) The minister at that time (1689–1701) was John Carrington, concerned in the Surey Demoniac exorcisms. (fn. 223) Later perhaps came a chapel or meeting-place at the upper corner of Bridge Lane and Church Street, as is indicated in Binns' plan of 1821, but nothing further is known of this. In the 18th century there was certainly a chapel in St. Nicholas' Street, (fn. 224) and this was rebuilt in 1786. The congregation became Arian about 1760, and then Unitarian, and still remains so. (fn. 225) In the chapel are monuments to the Gaskells of Clifton and Wakefield.
During the long period of proscription adherents to Roman Catholicism were frequently able to hear mass in secret and find a priest to minister to them at such residences as Aldcliffe and Dolphinlee, possibly in the houses of the county gentry in the town itself. A few convicted recusants lived there in the time of Charles II. (fn. 226) In 1687, when one of the judges of assize was a Roman Catholic, mass was said in the schoolhouse, and he was present at it (fn. 227); and on Binns' plan the house at the lower corner of Bridge Lane and Church Street is marked as the site of a former chapel, but nothing is known to confirm this. A priest ventured to settle in the town about 1730, and a 'barn' at the rear of his house in St. Leonardgate, at the head of what is now Mason Street, was used as a chapel. Nicholas Skelton, the earliest priest there whose name is certainly known, was imprisoned in 1745 on the suppression of the Jacobites. He died in 1766, and the following year the number of 'Papists' was returned to the Bishop of Chester as 650, with James Tyrer as priest. (fn. 228) Registers have been kept from 1784. Dr. John Rigby (fn. 229) built a more fitting chapel in Dalton Square in 1797–9. (fn. 230) In 1859 the present church of St. Peter was built on the hill-side, some little distance below the old place of execution, where, as already told, fifteen priests and laymen suffered death for their religion between 1584 and 1646. The church has a beautiful spire, rising to a height of 240 ft., and has been much enlarged and adorned since its erection. St. Walburga's Convent adjoins it; the inmates, Sisters of Mercy from Mount Vernon, Liverpool, teach in the schools. The sisters of St. Catherine nurse the sick and instruct the ignorant. The sisters of Nazareth have a house for poor children and others on the southern border of the town. (fn. 231)
The Plymouth Brethren have had meeting-places.