Lancashire Day

There is, I understand, a blogging phenomenon known as ‘newsjacking’, in which you get a post out on the coat-tails of some topical event, thereby (hopefully) sending your views sky high. It is this sort of thing that convinces me I have no journalistic skills: in search of a subject for the New Year I’ve found several half-written posts that might have fitted into that category – if I’d only got round to finishing them at the time. This one is dusted off from November.

Lancashire Day is celebrated on 27th November: founded by the Friends of Real Lancashire (FORL) it was chosen as the date in 1295 when the ancient and honourable county of Lancaster sent its first representatives to the ‘model’ Parliament of King Edward I. It’s the day when we celebrate our county’s history and achievements as well as all those things that makes it both distinctive and individual. All over the historic county, towns and villages will be holding events that mark them out as firmly rooted in Lancashire – whatever local government officials may say.

The reason for this, and the foundation of FORL, is the result of local government re-organisations in the Seventies, which pretty much made a mess of the UK’s 92 historic counties With traditional, and mostly medieval, forms of local government struggling under the population growth that followed the Industrial Revolution, nineteenth century Acts of Parliament established County Councils to administer the practicalities of day to day life in their region and, as the name suggests, jurisdiction was pretty much based on the historic county boundaries. Increasing growth throughout the twentieth century, however, meant that certain major cities, such as Manchester, Hull and Bristol, spilled over into adjoining counties, so that by 1972 it was deemed more practical to create separate regions of administration around them, such as Greater Manchester, Humberside and Avon. The towns and villages of South Lancashire were particularly badly affected: the creation of Merseyside (the area around Liverpool) and Greater Manchester (the area around Manchester) swallowed much of that part of the county and the ‘left-over’ area in the middle, around Warrington, now completely cut off from Lancashire, was tidily ‘moved’ into the jurisdiction of Cheshire County Council.

Athough it was stressed at the time that all this was for purposes of practical administration only, and that, though your town or village was now being ‘managed’ by Merseyside or Humberside as the case may be, you were still actually living within the historic county of Lancashire or Lincolnshire, confusion reigned. The media had a field day, Royal Mail adopted the new administrative areas for postal addresses and, of course, once computerisation took hold the errors were multiplied ad infinitum.

Many people, myself included, believed that as a result of these changes Warrington was no longer part of Lancashire and that the ancient county borders had actually been moved to rope it into Cheshire, something I heard a lot of complaints about throughout the Seventies. It was difficult to correct the idea with our services now being provided by, and branded, Cheshire County Council at all day-to-day levels; though the inhabitants of the Wirral Peninsula in Cheshire probably felt more annoyed about being shunted into an artificially created ‘Merseyside’. In terms of public relations the changes seem to have failed dismally.

Naturally, therefore, it wasn’t long before people decided they had had enough of this and the Association of British Counties was formed in 1989 ‘to fully re-establish the use of the historic counties as the standard popular geographical reference frame of Britain and to further encourage their use as a basis for social, sporting and cultural activities.’ From their website, they seem to be taking a pressure group approach, providing a good breakdown of the legislation and all the confusion in various articles, together with suggestions as to how cross-county local government administration could operate in tandem with the ancient geographical areas.

Another body, The Historic Counties Trust, seems to be taking a more scholarly approach; it ‘aims to promote public awareness of the history, geography, natural history, architecture and traditions of the historic counties of the UK.’ and has not only produced a fascinating gazetteer  in which you can look up how your county has been described, but is also working on the Historic County Borders Project to produce a series of downloadable maps showing each county as it was before all the local government changes.

There is a particularly splendid description of Lancashire, in beautifully Wainwright-ish tones:

(transcribed by myself; copyright The Historic Counties Trust.)

50 LCS Lancashire

Lancashire is a large and heavily populated county, in population second only to Middlesex. Lancashire runs up the English west coast from the Mersey north to Morecambe Bay with a further part 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. 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.

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, 2633 feet

Area: 1,880 sq miles

As the river Mersey is the dividing border of the two Counties Palatine of Lancashire and Cheshire, Warrington, on its north bank, sits firmly in Lancashire. Administratively, however, it spills over into North Cheshire, as development has linked the villages up to six miles away on the river’s south bank, into suburbs of Warrington, their nearest town.

With its bridge over the river a key strategic point throughout history, Warrington was, until the twentieth century, simultaneously the main gateway to Lancashire and the North, and to Cheshire and the South.

In 2008 FORL canvassed local authorities in Lancashire, in conjunction with the Association of British Counties, to get their views on the importance of the traditional counties. Warrington’s response was surprisingly positive in recognising its Lancashire roots:

The authority does not have any specific policies aimed at promoting the identity of the relevant historic counties for the area. There clearly is the historic side (which) applies to the northern part of Warrington which was a rural district until 1974 when it was administered by Lancashire. The old Warrington Borough Council crest is still to used on civic occasions and the crest depicts the Cheshire wheatsheaf and the Lancashire rose.

I like the way that the crest acknowledges the Council having a foot in both counties, rather than just the one. The current designation of Warrington as a Unitary Authority, in the latest Local Government reshufflings, seems to better underline its adminstrative jurisdiction over parts of the two counties and a good way of avoiding the confusion for people in the area – ‘our town/village is in Lancashire/Cheshire, but we come under Warrington Unitary Authority.’

I was also pleased to find out that Warrington takes part in the Lancashire Day proclamation, which is read out by Town Criers all over the historic county on November 27th, although I couldn’t find any mention of any commemorative events or Warrington restaurants doing Lancashire menus that day – which seems like a wasted tourist opportunity for our town.

The official tourist information website for the county Visit Lancashire had some details of interesting things going on around other parts of the county and there’s an interesting ABC of Lancashire at the FORL website which has lots of nice Lancashire trivia and would make a good commemorative tea towel once the typos were corrected.

One way in which you can raise awareness of our real place in our historic county is by adding ‘Lancashire’ to the address on your envelopes every time you send a letter. The two key pieces of information for the Sorting Office are the Postal Town and the Post Code, both of which should be in capitals. Royal Mail are now allowing use of all the historic counties, which should be on a separate line between the two, as an ‘optional extra’ in postal addresses. It won’t mean your letters go to the ‘wrong’ place and may even assist in getting them to the right one.

Let them know you’re proud to be Lancashire!





I have just finished James Rebanks’ The Shepherd’s Life, perhaps the best book I’ve read this year and a beautiful account of the traditional life and perspective of a Lake District fell farmer.  At the centre of the story is a very deep seated attachment to the mountain area where James’ forebears have farmed for six centuries and this has inspired me to write my next blog about the issue of “place.”

As a shepherd James uses a lovely word “hefted” to describe the genetic attachment which a flock of fell sheep have to the particular part of the mountainside where they have grazed for generations of summers.  Place too has an enormous role to play in the human psyche, although increasingly less so since the start of the Industrial Revolution  when the forces of capitalism began to uproot us from the patterns of settlement and work which had…

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What’s Going On in Bridge Street? – Warrington Borough Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order

It’s taken me quite a long time to unravel the 148 pages of Warrington Borough Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order for development on Bridge Street, but what it appears to boil down to is the following:

The Council is calling on its powers under Section 226 (1) (a) and Section 226 (3) (a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) and Section 13 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Section 226 (1) (a) gives rights to a local authority, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, to compulsorily purchase any land in their area if the LA thinks that by doing so it will make easier the carrying out of ‘development, redevelopment or improvement on or in relation to the land’.

Section 226 (3) (a) gives rights to a local authority, on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State, to compulsorily purchase any land adjoining the land purchased under Section 226 (1) which is required for carrying out works which will make development or use of the land purchased under Section 226 (1) easier.

Section 13 enables the LA, on being authorised by a Minister of the Crown, to acquire ‘new rights’ that they themselves specify, over the land compulsorily purchased.

(My italics.)

So. The CPO describes 11 rights that the Council wishes to acquire for the following purposes:

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What’s Going On in Warrington??

It’s inevitable I suppose, seeing the way my life’s going at the moment – or should that be ‘not going’ – that no sooner do I feel I’ve wrestled the latest obstacle in the way of working towards a PhD into manageable proportions, than another one crops up in its place.

I wrote the previous post last week and left it on my computer until I could find a space to add in some links. (This also helps with the typos. Being trained to spot them doesn’t stop you making them; it just annoys you even more.) While I was looking for something aposite for the Bridge Street Quarter development Google threw up an article at the local paper, the Warrington Guardian.

It seems to be implying that, as part of the development, the Council is making draconian use of its powers to compulsory purchase most of Bridge Street. Now, to my mind, you don’t compulsory purchase a building unless you’re planning to do something the owners are probably going to object to – like knocking most of it down?? – so this is immediately ringing alarm bells.

More Google searches found the Compulsory Purchase Order offered for consultation on the Council’s website and a‘final’ CPO buried somewhere in its depths, but the Order Maps referred to, outlining the buildings, that would make things clearer, aren’t attached to either. It needs going through in detail but, at nearly 150 pages, I haven’t yet had time. First impressions, though, are that they’re making a clean sweep on the relevant side of Bridge Street.

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Fugitive Time and Shopping in Warrington

Just back from a shopping trip to Warrington, on which more another time, but it reminded me that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. Life has been getting in the way rather too much for the actual life I am trying to lead – researching, gardening, writing, with innumerable breaks for tea, cake and a middlebrow novel – and I need to get myself back on track.

I decided some time ago that work on my book had become bogged down and that I was merely amassing piles of information as I followed some interesting side-trail. What I needed was Focus and it seemed that the best way of doing this was to turn my book into a research proposal and embark upon a PhD. (As you do.) As each stage of my academic career has been marked by some ridiculously over the top life crisis I was rather reluctant to set the wheels of Fate in motion once more, but went ahead and made enquiries anyway. (Ave, etc. etc.)

Amazingly, I found the right chap at the right place first crack out of the bag but the difficulty now is in finding time for the interview. All my MA work is on obsolete technology (anyone remember those little hard rectangular ‘disks’?) and my potential supervisor, though gratifyingly interested in the research outline I sent, naturally wants to see some academic bona fides beforehand. Earlier in the year, I decided that the way forward was to write some More and Better essays but am now (obviously) looking back at such gay innocence (1930s sense) with the hollow laugh of a Bertram Wooster caught sans Jeeves.

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Writing a Book Proposal for a Publisher

When writing a book, you inevitably feel at some point as though you’re grappling with a large mass of material that’s rapidly getting out of control. I’ve been trying to take a few steps back with my own work, recently, by writing a post outlining my research, how I came to start it and the key points that interest me in comparing the urban development of Warrington and York.

It’s proving a very useful exercise: cutting down my initial 11 pages to just two is helping me focus only on the core elements of my argument; and thinking of what I’m writing in terms of a blog post, rather than an academic essay, is also making me focus on my potential readership.

It was while I was thinking along those lines that I started to wonder what publishers looked for in book proposals and a little internet research threw up these rather comprehensive guidelines from Palgrave Macmillan.

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Somerset Day

While you are *still* waiting for me to finish my latest post on Warrington, here is a rather nice article I recently found about ‘Somerset Day’ on the engagingly written Zanyzigzag’s Blog, with some interesting bits of information about Somerset’s local history.

Zanyzigzag's Blog

As some of you may already know, despite having lived in London for the past couple of years, I am actually from Somerset, a beautiful county in the South West of England. Although I absolutely loved being in London, a part of me has always felt drawn back to the place where I grew up and I still think of Somerset as my true home.

I read an online article by the Somerset County Gazette a few days ago, which announced that in 2015 we will have the first ever “Somerset Day” – a day to celebrate all that the county has to offer in terms of business, tourism, natural beauty etc. I assume the idea is to make it an annual event from next year onward. I personally think it’s a wonderful idea, because Somerset does have a lot going for it, as a county, and it could be…

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