Built around 1625, this is reputedly Lancaster’s oldest Town House and was once home to the chilling witch-hunter Thomas Covell (Pendle Witches 1612), six times Mayor of Lancaster and Keeper of Lancaster Castle for 48 years. In this latter capacity he was responsible for the imprisonment and death of the Lancashire Witches. The house ceased to be a family home in 1824 and became the Judges’ Lodgings house until 1975, acting as the home to visiting Assize Judges.
Today it contains two distinct museums, the Gillow and Town House Museum, where you will find displays on the history and products of the famous Lancaster cabinet making firm Gillows; and the Museum of Childhood with the nationally acclaimed "Barry Elder" collection.
Lancaster Maritime Museum displays the history of the Lancaster and Morcombe Area and tells the fascinating stories of its maritime past.The museum occupies two impressive Georgian buildings alongside the historic quayside.The Custom house,built by the Lancaster port commision in 1764,was designed by architect Richard Gillow of the famous local cabinet making family.Such a grand building with its fine palladian architecture symbolised the prosperity of the city and the success of Lancasters oversea trade in the 18th century.It was restored by Lancaster city council in the early 1980's and opened as a museum in 1985.
The museum also occupies the top floor of the asjacent five-storey warehouse built between 1780 and 1797.This would have been a hive of activity at the height of the Atlantic trade.
Originally the weigh room where goods were weighed and checked by custom officials,this area now houses a whammel boat,Hannah(c.1910),used for salmon netting on the River Lune.many boats were built locally and a range of shipbuilding tools is on display.
This is the room where the custom men would have waited for ships to arrive.Today it houses information about inshore fishing such as shrimping,cockling and musseling.The lives of fishing families were centred on the boat and on the cottage kitchen.This room features a recreated fishermens cottage as it would have been c.1925.
Transatlantic Slavery Gallery
In 1770 Lancaster was the fourth largest port in England.Part of its Prosperity came from the slave trade.Between 1736 and 1807 Lancaster's merchants transported over 29,000 captured Africans.Some of the fine buildings in Lancaster were built on the profiles of the slave trade and a single successful voyage couls make a mans fortune.
This just a part of what the museum has to show and on offer.
Facilities include a small cafe,gift shop and restrooms.
Prices are £3 for adults and free to children under age 16.
opening times-Easter to October:all week 11am till 5pm
November to Easter:all week 12.30pm till 4pm
Overlooking the river Lune, and the fabulous Georgian architecture of St George’s Quay sits Lancaster Maritime Museum. The Museum is housed in the Port of Lancaster Custom House and warehouse buildings which date from the second half of the 18th century. The buildings along the quayside developed around this time as a result of the success of overseas trade. Alongside of the Museum are buildings which belonged to prosperous Quaker slave trader Dodshon Foster.
The museum covers three floors and the full range of Lancaster's connection with the sea, including the slave trade and its abolition. Many of the exhibits have both written and spoken commentaries. The stories about the disasters on Morecombe sands are especially interesting.
Morecambe is a cool little town if you're into treasure hunting or birding or both. The public sculpture is all on the subject of birds, with the exception of the sculpture of Eric Morecambe himself. By "treasure hunting," I mean it's a fun game to see if you can find all the sculptures that are on display on the subject of birds in this town. You'll have a very full day if you try. I have a trip report on my personal web site:
It's easy to get around and fun to learn the story of Morecambe. At the right time of year, you can look for the masses of migratory birds. I was a little early but I still got a kick out of the endless Oystercatchers.
Also, if you are interested in public sculpture, this is really super cool because the art work has a theme in keeping with the natural setting.
Many locals do not like Morecambe because they think it's for old people, and there are some old folks' homes there. Advantage is that this means that even if you have mobility issues, it's very easy to get around on your scooter/wheelchair. Very accommodating town with lovely views of the bay and the mountains beyond. I had a blast. If you do NOT have mobility issues, it's easy to walk a long way looking for birds, different viewpoints and sculptures, pubs, whatever. The bay front is flat and soooo walkable, it's just really easy. People in this area are super polite and will call you "love" and try to help you if you seem lost or whatever. When we visited in late September, it did not seem "over touristed," a lot of the people enjoying the walks and views were obviously locals.
This is a tip for students studying abroad whom are interested in veterinary medicine. I set up an independent study with the Bay Veterinary Group. It was a lot of fun. I got to see both small and large animal medicine. Riding around the English countryside like James Herriot is loads of fun.
Up by the Ashton Memorial is a Butterfly House. It is a perfect way to spend a chilly English morning. The butterfly house is heated and gets you out of the wind. Walking through it is like visiting a botanical garden but a surprising amount of colorful butterflies are fluttering everywhere. A few will even land on you. It was fun.
The monument at the top of the hills can be seen from most of town. It was built by Lord Ashton for his second wife (I think). If the history of a textile merchant and his loves doesn't excite you, the climb up is a great walk and you get an amazing view of the entire city.
This is a really beautiful cycle path. It's great for the whole family, and we set off on it with 7 yr old daughter on her own bike and she had no problems getting from Lancaster to Glasson Dock and back (about 12 miles total).
We set off from the St George's Quay part of Lancaster where we left the car.
My tip is to stop off at the Stork Pub for lunch - just head off down the single track road when you reach the car park/picnic site. A great pub with a nice garden on a sunny day (check out seperate tip).
On the day we cycled it, wildlife was in abundance with herons feeding along the shore line.
The canal runs right through Lancaster, and is one of many things that helps to make this a special city.
My favourite part of the canal is the walk from the Town Centre to Aldcliffe - I used to live in Aldcliffe while studying at At Martin's College, and so have walked this route hundreds of times.
It's a great spot to stop at the Water Witch pub, or have a look at the very expensive and exclusive property across the other side of the bank in the private estate.
At the Aldcliffe you can head off down the minor road to the coastal estuary or carry on the canal path.
Glasson Dock is a small coastal village a 10 min/ 5 mile drive out of Lancaster. It's first right after passing the Stork pub (excellent stop for food).
Glasson is a quirky sort of place - a mix of the original inhabitants and the wealthy newcommers; the old working dock and the new yacht basin.
Glasson grew up around a harbour opened in 1787, following the demise of Lancaster as a port. The Lancaster Canal is linked to the port via a large basin. The canal was important in affording swift distribution of cargo landed at the port into the heart of industrial Lancashire. Glasson is still a thriving port handling over 150,000 tonnes of cargo annually. Attractive and interesting environment with walks right round the harbour. Large public car park.
Check out the smoke house at the back of the dock where you can buy fresh smoked fish & cheese.
If your're feeling energetic you can cycle or walk it from Lancaster via the coastal path.
The 15th Century Priory and Parish Church of Lancaster standing by the Castle on the hill overlooking the City is built on the site of a priory which was founded in 1094.
The interior is mostly medieval but has 13 centuries of history including traces of a Saxon Church including a Saxon doorway with Anglian cross fragments; 14th century choir stalls; superb tapestries; and King's Own Memorial Chapel with historical Regimental Standards and battle honours. The present building holds Viking ornaments, crusaders' coffins and part of Jacobean "three-decker" pulpit.
In the Memorial Chapel there is probably the most complete collection of Regimental Colours in the country.
The Refectory offers light refreshments. Guided tours are available by arrangement. Open 10am - 4pm daily all year.
The Castle is owned by Her Majesty the Queen, who is the 'Duke of Lancaster'. As well as being a fortification the Castle is also one of Europe’s longest serving operational prisons. Amongst many alleged witches to be brought to Lancaster, the most famous were the Pendle Witches, who were tried, convicted and sentenced to death here. George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, was imprisoned in the Castle for 2 years.
The Grand Jury Room includes some superb Gillow furniture, whilst in the Crown Court the branding iron can still be seen. Many prisoners convicted at the Castle’s Assize Courts were sentenced to transportation to Australia. Visitors can experience briefly what it’s like to be locked in the ancient dungeons.
In the Shire Hall is a magnificent display of heraldic shields.
Open daily for guided tours, 10 am to 5pm (Court sittings permitting). Closed Christmas/New Year. Visitors are advised to check opening times.
Amission is £4 for adults, children & concessions are £2.50. £11 family ticket (but check web site for up to date pricing).
Capture breathtaking views of the stunningly diverse landscape of Lancaster, Morecambe and the Lune Valley. The Tower, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, makes a superb viewing platform. From this exposed but beautiful location high on the fells there is a superb view over the Fylde and North Lancashire coast line and the Yorkshire Dales.
This is a really fabulous park. Even when busy, the place absorbs vistors with ease and you can always find a peaceful spot. Aroung every corner there is a surprise, and the views are the best in Lancaster.
Williamson Park comprises 54 acres of beautiful parkland with enchanting walks and play areas and breathtaking views to the Fylde Coast and the Lake District. The Tropical Butterfly House, Mini-Beasts, Bird Enclosure and Small Mammal section will fascinate all the family and add a touch of the exotic to a visit to Lancaster's leading tourist attraction. Enjoy the pleasant surroundings of the Pavilion Cafe or browse around the Gift Shop packed with all kinds of exciting gift ideas.
The Park includes the Ashton Memorial (a famous Edwardian folly on the skyline overlooking Lancaster) which was a gift to the City from Lord Ashton, set within the parkland created by his father, James Williamson. The "structure", as it became known locally, was a memorial to Lord Ashton’s first wife. The park was created out of the quarries from which came the stone for most of Lancaster’s buildings. Inside the recently restored Memorial is the Williamson Gallery, with breathtaking views to the Fylde Coast and the Lake District. All the facilities are open daily.
(See my travelogue for more photos from the park).
When I was living in Lancaster in the late 80's, the Memorial was fenced off and in a very sorry state. I'm pleased to say that it has been restored to its former glory.
The Ashton Memorial was commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife. Born in Lancaster, Lord Ashton became a millionaire producing oil cloth and linoleum which was exported from the port all over the world. It serve as reminder of the importance of Lancaster as a thriving commercial centre, not only in times past but now in the 21st century.
The first floor outdoor viewing gallery provides superb views of the surrounding countryside and across Morecambe Bay (50p charge).
From the viewing gallery, the Lakeland hills are clearly visible and it is possible to see Blackpool Tower and the Isle of Man.
The stonework reflects the colour of the sun and can be seen in hues from pale yellow through pure white to deep orange depending on the time of day.
The memorial is one of Lancaster's best landmarks and a very impressive sight.