August 2020: Lancaster

The relatively small, but venerable city of Lancaster (population 52,000) is situated in northwest England. The name is derived from ‘Castle on the (River) Lune’, an explanation that imparts a couple of useful facts about the place. Surprisingly, this was a first visit for me, making Lancaster the fourth and last new destination on the current road trip. (We still have some ‘old favourites’ to come.)

For this latest leg of my trip, I based myself for two nights at the Holiday Inn Lancaster, situated close to Junction 34 of the M6 motorway.

The city has a number of highlights:

Ashton Memorial

Said to be England’s grandest folly, the Ashton Memorial stands proudly at the highest point of the city’s Williamson Park. It is clearly visible from the M6, and catching a glimpse of it had in previous years marked a significant point for me on many a long journey. The building was completed in 1909 and is in Edwardian neo-Baroque style. It is used today for exhibitions, concerts and weddings.

City Centre

Here are a few general views of Lancaster city centre:

Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle is a substantial medieval fortification in the city centre. It came under attack in the 14th century during two Scottish invasions of northern England. (In the interests of balance, it was also damaged three centuries later during the English Civil War!) The castle is owned by HM the Queen in her role as Duke of Lancaster. Until 2011, under a leasing arrangement, much of the building operated as a prison; these areas are now undergoing restoration.

Cathedral & Priory

First of all, for clarity, these are two separate places of worship! Lancaster became a cathedral city in 1924, when the Roman Catholic Church established the Diocese of Lancaster and raised the existing St Peter’s Church, dating from 1859, to the rank of cathedral. The building lies on the edge of Lancaster’s central area, just a five-minute walk eastwards from Dalton Square. Sadly, it was completely locked up at the time of my visit, presumably due to Covid-19.

Lancaster Priory is a historic Church of England parish church standing close to Lancaster Castle. Most of the current building dates from the sixteenth century, but parts have been identified as Saxon and fragments are believed to be from the time of the Romans. The Priory was open to visitors during my stay and was even set up for contactless donations!