The small county town of Lancaster is built on the site of a Roman encampment (Castrum), constructed to guard the crossing over the River Lune. It later became a prosperous port from the proceeds of the slave trade. A short distance from the town's railway station stands Lancaster Castle. A magnificent Norman Fortress, originally built to keep Scottish invaders at bay.
The network of streets below the castle are lined with wealthy Georgian houses. The fine Georgian Town Hall, situated in the market place, has been converted into a first class local history museum and also the King's Own Royal Regiment museum. Not far away from the castle in Church Street, stands the 17th century Judge's Lodging, which is the setting for the Town House Museum and the Museum of childhood.
Lancaster's rich maritime history can found in St George's Quay, surrounded by great stone warehouses - the most magnificent of which is the 18th-c Custom House. Now an award-winning museum that tells the fascinating story of the port's long maritime past and the fishing communities of Morecambe Bay. A footpath from the Custom House leads to an impressive 200-year-old stone aqueduct, which carries the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune, on five wide arches.
Other sights of interest include the grandiose green copper dome of the Aston Memorial, which is visible for miles from its prominent location on a hill, within the splendid Edwardian Williamson Park. Erected by the linoleum magnate and politician Lord Ashton, the memorial's setting provides wonderful panoramic views of the city. A popular backdrop for photographs.
Lancaster's fine Georgian Town Hall, located in the market place, is home to the City Museum, which explores the history and archaeology of the city from prehistoric to Roman times and onwards. The museum of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment is also housed there.
This grand Norman castle was constructed around 1170, on the site of three Roman forts, above the River Lune. The towers, gateway and halls were added later in the 14th century. The Grade I listed Shire Hall, noted for its Gothic revival architecture, contains a glorious display of heraldry and shields.
The castle has been a crown court and a prison since the 18th century and is still in use today. Its most famous detainees were the notorious thirteen Pendle witches, who were later convicted and hanged at York in 1612. The Crown Court was once notorious as having handed out the greatest number of death sentences of any court in the country.
Many of the castle buildings are not open to the public, however, it is still possible to see much of the old fortifications and learn about its long and fascinating history, by joining one the guided tours which operate between 10:30am and 4pm daily. Tour routes may vary on weekdays depending on usage of the Crown Courts.
Lancaster's oldest town house is home to both the Museum of Childhood, exhibiting games and toys from the 18th century, and the Town House Museum, which contains a outstanding collection of period furniture. Built around 1625 it was once home to Thomas Covell, the notorious witch hunter and Keeper of Lancaster Castle.
Opening times: Jul~Sep: Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat/Sun 12-4pm, Oct~Jun 1pm-4pm. Admission Charge
Location: Church Street, Lancaster, LA1 1YS - Tel: (+44) 01524 32808
The ornately columned Custom House, built in 1764 to control imports and exports on the quay, now houses Lancaster's award-winning Maritime Museum. Inside, the museum illustrates the history of Lancaster's early transatlantic trading industry, the Lancaster Canal and the fishing industry of Morecambe Bay.
Opening times: daily, Apr~Oct: 11am - 5pm, Nov~Apr: 12.30 - 4pm. Admission Charge
Location: Custom House, St George's Quay, Lancaster, LA1 1RB - Tel: (+44) 01524 382264