Fortifications in Lancashire
In order to secure
and consolidate his new kingdom, William had immediately set about building
or strengthening forts around Lancashire. In particular at the northern
extremities of the county. Territories to the north of the county of
Lancashire, (then known as "The King's Lands in Yorkshire")
were always vulnerable and northwards of Carlisle were effectively in
Scottish hands, and it was here that William placed his main line of
fortified defences. There was, of course, another point to the building
of castles. They were intended to billet his own troops to maintain
the peace, to keep the ever rebellious Saxon peasantry in place and
to serve as a powerful reminder that the Normans had come to stay and
that Saxon rule had ended once and for all.
Norman forts in Lancashire.
© 2003 John Moss.
By the mid-12th
century these lands had become known as "the County of Lancashire".
In 1267, one Edmund Crouchback was made First Earl of Lancaster and
in 1351 the Earldom of Lancaster was raised to the status of a Dukedom
with royal powers (known as palatine powers - that is, powers belonging
to the palace). The Duchy of Lancaster appointed its own sheriffs and
judges, which were not directly answerable to the king. Henceforth Lancashire
was to be known as a County Palatine, an honour that it retains today.
Norman rule was thus visibly consolidated and all trace of a ruling
Saxon class was systematically removed or replaced by men of Norman
descent. From this time, French was to be the language of the ruling
class, and Saxon, such as it survived at all, became the dialect of
a feudal peasant underclass.
& Commerce in Post-Norman Medieval Cheshire
took a very long time for native Saxons to come to terms with their
Norman overlords, and for the best part of two centuries the land was
divided - not until the 12th century did a clear sense of being "English"
emerge. Even then, lands tended to be retained by a landed aristocracy
of Norman descent with Saxon peasantry working the land under feudal
granting of markets by Royal Charter during the 12th and 13th centuries
gives some indication that divisions had healed and that the county
had begun to increase in prosperity through its trade and commerce.
The 13th century also saw the beginnings of land enclosure when hedges
were laid down to mark the borders of land ownership. These hedgerows
and the rights of way footpaths between them formed the basis of the
old system of roads and went some way towards setting the character
of the English countryside.
Medieval Market Towns
in Lancashire. © John Moss 2003
usually grew up in the squares around churches in townships like Manchester,
Wigan, Burnley, Preston, Bolton, Kirkham and Lancaster. Even today,
most towns have places known as "Market Place" or "Market
Street". It is not coincidental therefore that these market towns
became the first real towns of any major importance within the county
and as such formed the basis of modern England - most would emerge into
great towns or cities. While goods were produced in the countryside,
the wealth was actually created through trade at market. One by one,
Market Charters were granted - Lancaster in 1200, Bolton in 1251, Manchester
in 1282, Preston in 1292, Burnley in 1294, and so on.
other smaller townships held markets without an official charter - these
included Chorley, Colne, Blackburn and Whalley, where markets grew up
unofficially and remained by tradition and custom rather than legislation.
At least 40 markets can be identified as having existed in Lancashire
before 1550, though the actual figure might have been twice that number
through such 'unofficial' or casual markets.
more than half of the known markets had failed and disappeared by 1550,
probably through fierce competition in neighbouring townships. By this
time Lancashire had developed 28 towns with borough status, and by the
end of medieval times a clear urban infrastructure was in place. Despite
this increase in trade and resultant prosperity, much of the county
was very sparsely populated and was counted as one of the poorest counties
in the land and recorded some of the lowest tax returns in medieval
and Renaissance Lancashire
In many ways Lancashire
was somewhat isolated from the rest of England. First, it lay near the
geographical northern limit of the realm. Also, it had very scant parliamentary
representation, with only 10 seats: 2 for the county and two each for
the townships of Preston, Liverpool,
Wigan and Lancaster....
and, by the early 16th century had not actually sent representatives
to Parliament in over 200 years. Lancashire was also the most fervently
Catholic county in the land during times of religious dissent, enforced
Protestantism and eventual Civil Wars.
When the Tudors forced
the break with Rome and began the English Reformation, Lancashire's
gentry closed ranks and offered stiff resistance. Many Catholic families
simply continued practicing the old faith and went on celebrating the
Mass in secret, while nominally embracing Protestantism, as new laws
demanded. Lancashire Catholics tended to send their children to be educated
on the Continent, so that only in the Parish of Manchester itself did
the Protestant faith really flourish, surrounded as it was by a veritable
sea of overt Catholicism. Official response to Catholicism was somewhat
laissez-faire, and initially at least, little was done, other than a
few fines here and there. At the very worst of times only 16 Lancastrians
were executed for their beliefs during the reign of Elizabeth I, sometime
around 1537. The county was a virtual hotbed of priests, and apart from
Manchester itself, Anglican Protestant ministers of religion were few
and far between.
of Grammar Schools in the 16th century was a decisive act in the promotion
of an Anglican-based education system. Philanthropists established many
grammar schools for boys (girls not being considered worth educating
at that time) - men like Bishop
Hugh Oldham of Exeter had founded the Manchester Grammar School
in 1515; William Haigh had left monies to establish a local school in
Wigan; a little later, in the 17th century, Sir
Humphrey Chetham had bequeathed substantial funds to establish a
grammar school, as well as a library, in Manchester - the famous Chetham's
Hospital School. In the half century before the Civil Wars, 77 grammar
schools were established in Lancashire - at Liverpool in 1515, Leyland
in 1524, at Blackrod in 1568, Ashton-in-Makerfield in 1558, Rivington
in 1566, Halsall in 1593 and Heskin in 1597.
sects also grew within the county. In the early 17th century Bolton
became an important centre for Calvanism, and by the 1620s Bury had
developed a considerable Presbyterian following. In the 1640s George
Fox had founded the Quaker movement in Pendle which quickly spread to
St Helens, Marsden and Nelson. Subsequently, in 1690, the Act of Toleration
was passed and religious antagonisms effectively ceased in the county
in the Civil Wars & After
The English Civil
Wars of 1642-1659 saw the religious divides of England come to a head.
By this time the county had divided almost in half with the north and
west remaining staunchly Royalist and the remainder being predominantly
Protestant. Bolton was a particularly fervent seat of Parliamentarianism
and anti-Royalist and many great battles were fought on the surrounding
Lancashire countryside, at Strandish and at Wigan. By 1643, battles
at Warrington, Wigan, Preston and Lancaster had secured these towns
in Parliamentary hands, though subsequently some changed hands serveral
times. In 1664 Royalists under Prince Rupert besieged and sacked Bolton
before going on to recapture Wigan and Liverpool. Oliver Cromwell himself
led his "roundheads" onto the field at Ribbleton Moor in 1648
to fight the Battle of Preston.
often changed hands, and sides, several times during the conflict, with
vicious and brutal reprisals often taken against the unfortunate inhabitants.
The Royalists were frequently led by James
Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, local hero and scourge of the Parliamentary
forces - in the end he was captured and beheaded in Bolton Market Place
for his pains. Bolton became known for the brutal savagery its townsfolk
meted out against captured Royalists. Other Lancashire Royalist leaders
were tried in Manchester in 1694. These so-called "Lancashire Plot"
trials served to emphasise the deep mistrust that the average English
Protestant still felt towards Catholics and supporters of the House
By the end
of the conflict in 1650, many Catholic and Royalist estates had been
confiscated and their former owners severely punished for their part
is supporting the losing side. Their lands were handed over to Protestants
on a 'temporary' basis. Nevertheless, hatred and mistrust still existed
between Protestants and Catholics, and the eventual downfall of King
James II embittered the latter even further so that many were persuaded
to join the Jacobite cause. The effects and divisions of the Civil Wars
were still felt many years after the peace was declared.