Lancashire - forty years after the boundary changes

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 April 2014

Welcome signs can lead to confusion

Welcome signs can lead to confusion


Paul Mackenzie looks back at a time when Lancashire was a much bigger place

In the newsroom of the Gazette newspaper in Blackpool a young reporter once asked what county Blackpool is in. I told her, as patiently as I could – she was from Yorkshire, bless her – and asked how on earth she hadn’t known that. She claimed she’d thought it was in Lancashire but that she’d been confused by signs on the roads out of town saying “Welcome to Lancashire”.

It seemed fair enough but then, this was also the reporter who couldn’t recall what the new year celebrations in Scotland are called. “Is it Hogmanay or mahogany?” She didn’t last long.

But she isn’t the only one to be baffled. Even people born on this side of the Pennines and with more nous than she had are prone to misunderstandings.

The morning of April 1, 1974 saw the dawn of a new era. And the beginning of the confusion. The Local Government Act created the administrative areas of Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cumbria. It also produced a generation of Scousers, Mancunians, Boltonians, Wiganers and people in the north of the county who don’t know they are Lancastrians.

And when you also consider the varying police areas and health authority areas, political constituencies and areas under various town, borough and parish councils, it’s no wonder people can get befuddled.

Those signs added more recently on the routes out of the unitary authorities such as Blackpool don’t help much, either. Astoundingly a spokesman for the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, once claimed the new boundaries ‘go back to 1974 and it is a bit late to start changing things back now’. Lancashire, of course, dates back almost 850 years to 1168.

The fact that the newly created council areas have caught on with newspapers and broadcasters only adds to the uncertainty. In one national paper last weekend there were references to “Bolton in Greater Manchester”, “the Cumbrian town of Barrow” and “Bury in Manchester”. All wrong, of course, as was the line in one story published in the wake of the death of former Preston footballer Sir Tom Finney, which said that unlike in his heyday, there are now no Lancashire clubs in the top division. While there may not be as many as there once were, there are four: Liverpool, Everton and the Manchesters United and City. Something of an own goal for the reporter there.

So, what changed on that day 40 years ago? Everything and nothing.

The Act was designed to create a two-tier system of local government which would reflect the changes in the country since the previous boundary changes in the late 19th century. It brought a raft of new local authorities into being and helped scores of aspiring young bureaucrats find careers.

And while it did not alter the county boundaries, it seems to have played havoc with the mental map of Lancashire in the minds of people all over the country.

Lancashire Life reflects life across Lancashire – not the county council area, the whole county (we sometimes take a peep over the borders too, mainly to prove that the grass is greener here). If you’re still confused about the county boundaries, take a look at the Friends of Real Lancashire website,, which explains just about everything you could need to know. And if you have any questions, comments or just want to say how great Lancashire is, drop us a line to

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