The old and new merge in Blackburn – the old mills crowding round the canal locks and the clear-cut lines of the new multi-storey buildings rising above them. The town has been involved in the manufacture of textiles ever since Flemish weavers settled here in the 14th century (though it has now diversified into brewing, engineering, and the making of electrical equipment) and the Lewis Textile Machinary Museum traces the development of the industry. It includes a model of the spinning jenny, for it’s inventor – James Hargreaves was a Blackburn weaver.
About five miles east is Accrington, an industrial town engaged in textiles, brick making and engineering. The Haworth Art Gallery, there contains the largest collection of Tiffany glass in Europe.
Blackpool is perhaps best known for its ‘Golden Mile’ of funfair attractions on the South Shore and the 518ft-high tower, with its ballroom, zoo, circus and aquarium. Trams, the last of their kind in England, run along the front, and the famous illuminated decorations attract many visitors each autumn. The beach stretches for six miles, and there are three piers with all the usual attractions but the town also offers theatres, gardens, horsetrials, dog shows and dance festivals.
The village is the home of the Steamtown Railway Museum where the famous Flying Scotsman is one of , the most popular exhibits. Leighton Hall lies three miles to the north.
Chorley, an industrial town, was the birthplace in 1819 of Henry Tate. Having made his fortune from sugar, he used some of his wealth to endow the Tate Gallery in London. Ten minutes’ walk from the town centre Astley Hall, an exquisite Renaissance structure, stands beside a lake and has collections of furniture, pottery and paintings.
Hoghton Tower contains a magnificent banqueting hall and several state rooms. There is also a collection of antique dolls and dolls’ houses. Hoghton lays claim, as do several other mansions, to be the place where James I knighted the loin of beef, hence ‘sirloin’.
The name of the city indicates its origin: the Roman castrum, or camp, beside the River Lune. Flint tools found around the rock of Castle Hill indicate that prehistoric man had also settled here. After the Romans left, the Saxons took over the site, and after the Conquest, the town passed to Roger de Poitou, who built the first Norman castle. The keep dates from about 1100 and both King John and John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster, and ancestor of the Royal House of Lancaster (the Duchy of Lancaster still belongs to the Crown) added to the fortifications. Further additions were made by Elizabeth I.
For many hundreds of years Lancaster was an important port and in the 18th century was England’s chief port for trade with America.
At Sunderland Point, south west on the Lune estuary, Britain’s first bale of American cotton was unloaded, starting the close links between the north-western textile regions and the American South. The Customs House on St George’s Quay, designed by Richard Gillow, one of the family of furniture makers whose workshops were in Lancaster, dates from this period, as do the many Georgian houses in the principal streets. As the River Lune silted up and Liverpool expanded, Lancaster’s maritime trade declined, but in the 19th century many cotton mills were built in the southern part of the town. Most of these have now closed or been converted to other uses, but several still stand near the canal.
As the county town of Lancashire, Lancaster is an important administrative centre and in the 1960’s was selected as the site for a new university.
Standing in extensive grounds, Leighton Hall is a fine stone mansion to which an attractive neoGothic facade was added in the early 19th century; sheltered by Warton Crag, it looks north towards the Lake District. In 1822 it was bought by Richard Gillow, a member of the famous furniture-making family, and a superb collection of their early work is on display. Many birds of prey are kept in the grounds, where they are flown, weather permitting.
Miss Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth’s outstanding collection of textiles, embroideries, lace and the decorative arts is the centre of interest at Gawthorpe Hall, a late Elizabethan mansion redesigned by Sir Charles Barry in the Victorian period. The rooms contain much handsome furniture, and the ceilings of the drawing room and long gallery are elaborately decorated.
Rufford Old Hall, dates from the 15th century, though the wings were added in 1662 and 1821. It is a particularly good example of a late-medieval, timber-framed hall. The great hall has remarkable woodwork, with a notable hammerbeam roof, and contains a rare 15th-century movable screen. The hall contains 16th-century arms and armour, 17th-century furniture and tapestries, and in one Wing is the Philip Ashcroft folk museum.
Samlesbury is in the attractive Ribble Valley. The church was rebuilt in the 16th century and has 17thand 18th century box pews and a two-decker pulpit. Samlesbury Hall dates back to the 14th and 16th centuries.
An attractive village of traditional stone houses, Yealand Conyers is separated from Morecambe Bay by a limestone ridge. Its Quaker Meeting House dates from 1692, the year that George Fox, the founder of the ,movement, first preached in this part of the country. Neo-Gothic Leighton Hall has an interesting collection of early Gillow furniture.