Lancashire is a large and heavily populated county, in population second only to Yorkshire, and frequently exceeding Yorkshire in past censuses. Its towns and cities are children of the Industrial Revolution, which took root here more than anywhere else.
Lancashire runs up the English west coast from the Mersey north to Morecambe Bay with a further part of the county north of the sands at Furness. Lancashire was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, its cotton mills supplying the Empire and the World. Although competition and changed technology have swept many of the great mills away nevertheless Lancashire is still home to industrial might, and the great towns and cities which grew up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries still thrive.
Away from the industrial and urban areas, Lancashire contains scenery of much beauty and jarring contrasts. The Furness district in the north sits on the sea at Barrow in Furness, a shipyard and industrial town. Behind Barrow though is a land of lakeland fells, forested and mountainous, forming part of the Lake District. Coniston Water, and most of Windermere lie in this part of Lancashire. The county’s highest point is here, in the Furness Fells.
In the northern part of Lancashire’s main body lies Lancaster itself, a modest county town tumbling charmingly down its hill from the Castle to the River Lune. Here the county is fairly narrow, the Pennine Mountains approaching the sea, and the Yorkshire border with them. Between Morecambe Bay and the Ribble Valley, Fylde reaches westward, a broad, flat peninsula whose inland parts are farmland but whose coast is a string of holiday resorts centred on the best known of them all; Blackpool.
Lancashire broadens further south. The coast from the Ribble towards the conurbations of the south has more modest coastal resorts. Inland farmland begins to jostle with industrial towns, the latter becoming bigger and closer together until the great industrial conurbations of south Lancashire. In the southernmost part of the county are Liverpool and Manchester, two of the greatest cities in Britain, whose suburbs spread across not just Lancashire but into Cheshire too.
Liverpool, founded in 1207, was built around its vast docks from the Irish trade then the Atlantic and African trade routes. King John founded his new port at a marsh on the Mersey, at the point where the great gulf of the Mersey narrows again into a pinch before entering the Irish Sea. Now though great buildings stand on the waterside, the “three graces”, and the city has spread all along the Mersey gulf and up the Irish Sea coast. Manchester is an older and a younger city; it was a town in Roman days and a fortress borough in Saxon times, but it only became a town of national and indeed world significance in the Victorian period, as the heart of the manufacturing revolution. An inland city, its civic arms show a ship and the crest shows the world covered in bees; Manchester’s industry reaching the world. The Manchester Ship Canal does indeed link Manchester to the oceans, by way of the Mersey.
County Town: Lancaster
Main Towns: Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bolton, Bury, Liverpool, Manchester, Lancaster, Oldham, Preston, Rochdale, Salford, Southport, St Helens, Todmorden (part), Ulverston, Warrington, Widnes.
Main Rivers: Mersey, Ribble, Lune, Calder, Hodder, Wyre.
Highlights: Liverpool Anglican Cathedral; Manchester Town Hall; Pendle Hill; Ashton Memorial, Lancaster; Old Man of Coniston; Blackpool Pleasure Beach; Martin Mere nature reserve.
Highest Point: The Old Man of Coniston, 2,633 feet.
Area: 1,880 sq miles
County Flower: Red rose
County Day: 27th November (First Lancashire representatives to Parliament 1295)