1842, 'Barclay's Complete & Universal Dictionary' described Lancashire
county of England, lying on the Irish Sea, and bounded by Cumberland,
Westmoreland, Yorkshire, and Cheshire. It is 75 miles in length, and
30 in breadth. It is divided into 6 hundreds, which contain 27 market
towns, 62 parishes, and 894 villages.
This county comprises a variety of soil and face of country; there
being mountains of more than 2000 feet high, in the north and eastern
parts, with wide moorlands or heaths amongst them; extensive bogs
or mosses, which yield only turf for fuel, and are very dangerous;
and some most fertile land for agricultural purposes. it yields iron,
coal, slate, and other building-stones; salt, etc. Grazing is more
attended to than agriculture.
The fisheries, both in the rivers and the sea, are valuable. As a
commercial and manufacturing county, Lancashire is distinguished beyond
most others in the kingdom. Its principal manufactures are linen,
silk, and cotton goods; fustians, counterpanes, shalloons, baize,
serges, tapes, small wares, hats, sail-cloth, sacking, pins, iron
goods, cast plate-glass, etc.
Of the commerce of this county, it may suffice to observe, that Liverpool
is now the second port in the United Kingdom. The principal rivers
are the Mersey, Irwell, Ribble, Lune, Leven, Wyre, Hodder, Roche,
Duddon, Winster, Kent, and Calder, and it has two considerable lakes,
Windermere and Coniston Water. Lancaster is the
county town. Population, 1,667,054. It returns 26 members to parliament.
the Iron Age the lands now known as Lancashire were part of the territory
of a loose confederation of ancient Celtic tribes known as the Brigantes,
including the Setantii, who lived along the Fylde Coast of Lancashire,
and the Carvetii who occupied lands around Carlisle. Several Brigantian
hill forts are known to exist in the county, including those at Warton
Crag, Skelmore Heads in Cumbria and Ingleborough and Stanwick in Yorkshire.
Tribal sociology tended to revolve around a predominantly agricultural
lifestyle in small settlements, surrounded by small fields and pastures.
excavations at Lathom have revealed at least two houses dating from
around 2000 BC. Roadways, such as existed at all, would have been
little more than footpaths and animal droving routes which linked
farmsteads and settlements. Apparently Brigantian tribes operated
more-or-less autonomously and independently, only coming together
for ceremonial purposes, or in the event of war, when they combined
to form powerful guerrilla armies.
conquest of Britain and its incorporation into the Roman Empire began
in AD 43 when the Emperor Claudius landed on the south coast and fought
a campaign northwards to overcome native opposition. Certain native
tribes aided the gradual invasion and an eventual treaty was made
with Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes. Under subsequent generals
the Roman army penetrated north across Brigantia and established a
permanent presence with the construction of the first forts in the
northwest, at Ribchester and Carlisle around AD 72. Under the Governorship
of Julius Agricola the forts at Kirkham and Lancaster, and along the
Lune Valley were established. Agricola also constructed the fort at
Mamucium (sometimes Mamuciam - modern day Castlefield) in the City
of Manchester. Other camps later appeared at Warrington, Wigan and
Walton-le-Dale. Roman roads were soon constructed to connect these
forts, and these still underlie the major road networks that criss-cross
the County of Lancashire today.
Lancashire in Roman
times, showing forts, other settlements and major roadways. ©
2003 John Moss
Celtic & Saxon Lancashire
Roman withdrawal from Britain in the fourth century AD, the lands of
Lancashire returned to what they had been before, populated by a now
Romanised British people of the tribe known as the 'Cumbri' (from
which Cumbria is derived). They spoke a Celtic dialect, similar to Welsh,
and this is reflected in many Lancashire place names. For example, places
ending in the suffixes "-keth", "-cheth" or "-teth", (as
in Penketh, Toxteth, Culcheth, Tulketh), reflect the old Welsh "coed",
indicating a large wood or forest. The Celtic word "penno",
meaning a hill, is reflected in places like Pendle.
created by Roman withdrawal was filled in the late fifth century by
King Rheged, whose kingdom stretched from Scotland through present day
Cumbria to the River Ribble. Within a century these lands had been absorbed
into the Kingdom of Northumbria. Lands to the south were held
by the Kingdom of Mercia, which included all of present day Cheshire.
By the seventh
century immigrant Scandinavian peoples, many ejected from Ireland, gradually
settled in Lancashire and Cheshire,
and a mixed Anglo-Saxon culture had already begun to emerge. Southwards,
in Cheshire, Scandinavians had been granted a settlement on the Wirral
by peace treaty with the Mercians.
By the middle
of the 7th century Anglo-Saxons had already begun to convert to Christianity.
It is known that sometime around 680 AD, St Cuthbert had begun a ministry
in the southern Lake
District, which at that time was still included in the lands
that would eventually become known as Lancashire. From around this time,
Saxon place names occur. Old Saxon spellings like "-ecles" or
"-eccles" indicated a church, as in the township of Eccles (now
in Salford), Eccleshill, Eccleriggs and Eccleston (meaning a "church
The Danes in Lancashire
frequent raids over two centuries by Scandinavians (Danes, Norsemen
or sometimes called Vikings) had a depressive effect on the maintenance,
administration and security of the region, so that by the 9th century
they were in a very vulnerable condition and ripe for invasion and plunder.
The Book of Common Prayer for several centuries following contained
the prayer that God would "…deliver us from the North Man (Norseman)".
By 874 AD, Mercia to the south had fallen to the Danes and it was not
until the end of the century that the lands would be reclaimed by King
Alfred of Wessex (Alfred the Great). Irish Norse settlers were later
granted lands on the Fylde Coast and south of the Ribble by King Eathelred,
(who had married Alfred's daughter, Aethelflaed) in an attempt to halt
Danish raids and to reach a peaceful accommodation with them.
Over time, Danish
settlements were to contribute greatly to the wealth and prosperity
of the region. As accomplished sailing peoples, they traded with Ireland
and Europe and amassed considerable wealth in the region, becoming an
important economic ingredient in an otherwise rural farming culture.
Their wealth was evidenced when, in 1840, the largest collection of
Scandinavian jewellery, coins and silver ever unearthed was excavated
from the banks of the River Ribble near Preston.
were gradually absorbed into the racial mix that would eventually become
so distinctively Lancastrian. Norse influence is also, unsurprisingly,
reflected in place names. Places ending in "-by" (such as Formby,
Crosby, etc) and "-dale" (as in Ainsdale and Birkdale) are decidedly
Scandinavian in origin. Norse immigrants were also converted to Christianity
as evidenced in many Scandinavian religious place names. Names like
Kirkham, Ormskirk and Kirkby demonstrate the prevalence of religious
institutions - "kirk" being old Norse word for church. There
is actually evidence for many Christian churches existing well before
the Norman Conquest of 1066, including Bolton, Burnley, Hornby, Poulton-le-Fylde,
Prescott, Gressingham and Heysham, to name but a few.
A well established
parochial system seems to have been in place by 850 AD - the Parish
of Whalley in Lancashire being the second largest in England, encompassing
45 townships under its authority, including Whalley itself, as well
as Accrington, Haslingden, Colne and Clitheroe. Evidently, Scandinavians
also eventually took to agriculture and farming and many place name
endings reveal their association with the land. Endings like "-scale"
(as in Windscale), or "-side" (as in Woodside, Ambleside
and Affetside), all come from the Norse meaning 'grazing land'. In north
Lancashire the Norse ending "-thwaite" (as in Rosthwaite and
Seathwaite) indicates a clearing in a wood.
By 900 AD
the Northumbrian Kingdom had collapsed and the lands were reclaimed
by the Mercians, who set about defending them against potential threats
from the Viking Kingdom based at York (Jorvik) in the east, by building
fortified settlements throughout Lancashire and along the River Mersey
border with Cheshire, or by reinforcing existing or dilapidated city
fortifications and strongholds.
"burghs" or "burys" (from which we get the modern
word "borough"), are also evidenced in place names - for example, Bury,
Disdsbury, Esddisbury, Pendlebury (the latter indicating a stronghold
on a hill). The map of Mercian Cheshire Forts clearly shows their determination
to protect their reclaimed lands. Even, the fort in Manchester (Castlefield)
was strengthened after almost five centuries of dereliction, and at
least one new fort was created at Penwortham in the Ribble Valley. When,
in 919 AD, the Mercian Kingdom was annexed by the Kingdom of Wessex,
all but one remaining ingredient had been added to a people who were
to become Lancastrians, and recognisable in every sense as English -
it's people a mixture of Celtic Britons, Romans, Saxons, Irish, Scandinavians
and, finally, by the addition of the Norman French into the melting
after the Norman Conquest © John Moss 2003.
The Norman Conquest
At the time of the
1066 Norman Conquest of Britain Lancashire did not yet exist as a recognisable
entity. Soon after the conquest, however, William the Conqueror doled
out parcels of land as he had promised to those Norman barons who had
supported him in the invasion. The lands between the River Ribble and
the River Mersey, (which would eventually become the Salford Hundred),
were granted to Roger de Poitou. Sometime around 1090, his son, William
Rufus, added Lonsdale, Cartmel
and Furness (now in Cumbria in the southern Lake
District) to these estates, and the boundaries of what came to be
known as the County of Lancashire were set down. Lancaster was chosen
as the headquarters of the region and a castle built there from which
to administer the lands that Poitou now oversaw.
For his part in an unfortunate and abortive rebellion In 1102 against
King Henry I saw all of his estates confiscated by the crown and given
to Stephen de Blois.