Lancashire County Day also referred to as Lancashire Day in this article can trace its origins back to the 13th century. Now it is officially on the 27th November. A society under the name of Friends of Real Lancashire are the organisers and there is more about them below. Many people my age (ssshhhhh!) maintain that Wigan has never left Lancashire. Only my opinion but I am inclined to agree. In fact there is a difference between the modern administrative boundaries of Lancashire post 1974 as opposed to the ceremonial or historic county before then. To find out more about Lancashire County Day 2023, the origins of the and development of the historic county and how to view maps going back centuries, then read on. There is also a great source of additional information at Wigan Libraries and Museum.
A Brief History of Lancashire
Going Back As Far As We Know
Hey I’m not that old and merely drawing on recorded history while highlighting any ambiguities. I will refer to Lancashire before 1974 as historic or ceremonial Lancashire. After that date I will refer to it as administrative Lancashire, when the administrative Greater Manchester and also Merseyside came into existence. Please be aware there are still some differences between historic and ceremonial Lancashire too.
The land we now consider as Historic Lancashire was originally part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. It was one of three key kingdoms; Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria. At that time historic Lancashire wasn’t even a county. It bordered Mercia to the south. All this can be deduced from the writings around the time of Julius Caesar. The inhabitants were known as Brigantes, a Celtic tribe. At that time the most populous part of Britain occupying land stretching from the Humber to Mersey and Tyne to Eden. Roman writings also referred to other tribes that nay have been subsets of the Brigantes including the Segantii. Before Caesar’s time there is little in the way of certainty. The Romans observed that the Brigantes followed Druidism.
The written word in the time of the Celts was severely limited, perhaps adopting the form of Runes. So it isn’t too surprising that we have only started to learn with more certainty following the Roman visits and also writers such as the the ancient Greek Ptolemy.
Roman Remnants Across Lancashire
You may already be aware of stories around Coccium although there are conflicting theories on its location. Clearly there are Roman remains in Wigan as discovered in 2005 when building the Grand Arcade. Further archaeological investigations uncovered evidence of a substantial colonnaded building dating back to the 2nd century AD.
There are definite records of Roman forts at Burscough (Lathom), Manchester, Lancaster, Kirkham and several other Lancashire settlements. If you’ve ever caught a train from Wigan to Manchester Piccadilly, you may well have seen the Manchester remnants on the left just before arriving at Deansgate station.
While there isn’t too much of a fort visible at Burscough at ground level, Historic England confirm the detection of the fort’s defences by geophysical mapping and aerial photography. There are claims that one corner is discernible as a bank and ditch. #WWO has provided a link later if the historian in you want to investigate further. The mapping also reveals two prominent Roman roads.
On to Medieval Britain
With the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Dark Ages, records once again may be conflicting. However in medieval England Palatinate powers were devolved royal powers for use in regions where central government was difficult. Just as we have devolved powers for Scotland with its Scottish Parliament and to a lesser degree Wales with its Assembley. So Lancashire came into its widely recognised form way back in 1295. The date of Lancashire Day is significant in that it marks when Lancashire first sent representatives to Edward I New Model Parliament on November 27th. One popular theory is that Edward III created the County Palatine as part of a protective barrier against the Scots.
The Domesday Book does not refer to Lancashire as a county in the as such. However the lands in its ancient boundaries are mentioned on a number of levels. As an example some of Lancashire lands were treated as part of Yorkshire. Inter Rippam et Mersam (between the Ribble and Mersey) references that area as as returns for Cheshire. However other records are indicative that the Mersey was the boundary between ancient Lancashire and Cheshire. So the same area was surveyed in a unit of 100s. That included Amounderness, Blackburn, Derby, Leyland, Newton, Salford and Warrington.
Derby is pretty much West Lancs and Sefton in modern geographical terms. Travel from Wigan to Liverpool via Rainford and Prescot and you will see many references to West Derby including the names of several pubs. Indeed West Derby is still an area in Liverpool today.
Lancashire County Forms
The county came into existence in the late 1100s and eventually the Palatine of Lancashire in the 1200s. It included Liverpool, Manchester and Cartmell. Boundaries have changed over time. Some areas that were previously Yorkshire such as Bowland, parts of Pendle and Todmorden also became part of Lancashire. Further changes occurred when borough counties were added, particularly around borders with Yorkshire.
A fascinating book by Edward Baines from 1876 digitized courtesy of Google. You can read it free online or download it as a PDF. I warn you, it’s not an easy read, but it is a fascinating one. A link for the motivated is available at the end of this article.
Lancashire as a County Today
In 1961 Lancashire had the densest population outside of London. Eventually 1974 saw a huge change to the administrative boundaries. Wigan, St Helens, Widnes, Warrington, Southport, Manchester and Liverpool all now part of Greater Manchester, Cheshire or Merseyside. Without this we the Friends of Real Lancashire would not have developed its key objectives.
A government statement did indeed state that the new administrative boundaries would not remove the traditional county boundary.
In its earlier form Historic Lancashire had two separate areas. The larger part including Manchester and Liverpool stretched up to the Lake District. A Separate, smaller part includes Furness and Cartmell. Westmorland including Kendal and Morecambe Bay split the two.
Before 1974, the historic county was 76 miles north to south and 45 miles at its widest. Furness and Cartmell added to that with a north to south distance of 25 miles and east to west with 23 miles. The Old Man of Coniston was the historic county’s highest peak at 2,633 feet.
Friends of Real Lancashire Backing Lancashire County Day 2023
An organisation that pushes for the recognition of the original Lancashire County borders is the Friends of Real Lancashire. It is affiliated to the Association of British Counties which advocates recognition of the UK’s traditional counties and associated heritage.
- Reinstatement of Lancashire’s historic boundaries.
- County boundary road signs. They would exist at the crossover from Cheshire, Cumbria, Westmorland and West Yorkshire,
- Ordnance Survey and other maps to dislay the historic Lancashire county boundaries rather then the administrative ones the the government introduced in the 70s.
The group also campaigns to have public bodies named in accordance with historic rather than contemporary county names e.g. NHS ambulance authority reforms. However, they do not propose any changes to administrative boundaries.
Maps of Lancashire
‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’
The current day administrative boundary of our country has changed massively since it was first created. In fact the biggest change was probably under the Thatcher government when she created both Greater Manchester and Merseyside. At that point much of the southern part of Lancashire changed. Towns including Widnes and Warrington also moved into Cheshire.
There is a great resource that you can search called Scottish Maps. Here you can view an online archive of some of the oldest maps of Lancashire and also other parts of the UK. The example in the picture above dates back to 1767. Go online using the link at the end of this article to zoom in. Scottish Maps have a huge collection you can delve through. Some at different scales as well as different years through history. All free too. The picture below shows a zoom in of Wigan from the 1767 map. Pre railway and canals, it shows how small Wigan was, though Goose Green, Pemberton and Orrell are visible. Note the unusual spellings too including Billing and Charley.
‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’
Lancashire County Day 2023 – Relevant Links
If you want to find out more about our county then feel free to take a look at the links below. WWO would also welcome any comments or additional information you may have.
Also we would welcome any input that you think would help add to the accuracy of the article. Please, enjoy.
History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster – By Edward Baines published 1836 Digitized 28th July 2014