Dr Derek J Ripley on Lancashire’s ever changing boundaries

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 17:49 19 January 2016

A map of Lancashire in the 17th century (courtesy Lancashire County Council)

A map of Lancashire in the 17th century (courtesy Lancashire County Council)

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Our resident historian Dr Derek J Ripley uses a map to chart our history and manages to get hopelessly lost

Satellite technology has become so commonplace that nowadays it’s rare to see anyone in a car consulting a Reader’s Digest Book of the Road on the byways and lanes of our fine county. It seems as if we’ve forgotten the pleasure of driving whilst one’s wife peruses a detailed map - yet old maps of Lancashire can take us on a journey to a hidden past, offering up clues to a forgotten history. Any historian worth his salt knows that the county boundary has fluctuated throughout the years, particularly and most dramatically during the Wars of the Roses when the residents of Leeds or Manchester could find themselves living in Yorkshire one week and Lancashire the next.

This has continued down the years due to local government re-organisation. In 1891, the border town of Todmorden had to be moved 50 yards east whilst Barnoldswick moved in the opposite direction as part of the same arrangement. The residents of Barnoldswick refused to budge until they were forced to surrender after they were cut off by the Lancashire Electricity Board.

More recently, in 1962, Saddleworth became part of Lancashire, but the cost of moving the small Pennine villages of Diggle and Dobcross brick by brick was such that subsequent changes have involved moving the boundary rather than the buildings.

Towns such as Stockport and Birkenhead were once part of the historic county of Lancashire which stretched from the Irish Sea in the west to the North Sea in the east; Cheshire in the south and Durham in the north. Even today, there are those who claim that the Cheshire is part of Lancashire.

In these enlightened times, the boundary with Cheshire is less controversial and has remained more or less the same for more than 1,000 years. The two counties were once separated by Adrian’s Wall, a defensive fortification built by Adrian Fortescue-Smythe, a local leader, to keep out marauding tribes from the north. It was destroyed by the Mancae in 652AD. Historically, it marks the line beyond which lived the Poshae, a tribe whose men drove expensive four wheeled chariots. Their women dyed their hair blonde and grotesquely exaggerated their eyebrows with charcoal, painting their bodies orange and wearing coats made of fur but no undergarments.

Today the population of Cheshire has been swelled by the southward migration of wealthy Lancastrians in search of cleaner air and cheaper salt.

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