The Wonders of Lancashire

The seven wonders of the ancient world such as the Colossus of Rhodes and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon have gone down in history and legend. But you don't need to travel back in time to see great structures which lift the spirit. We have some stunning examples right here in Lancashire. Here is our guide to the 'Wonders of Lancashire.'

WONDER 1: Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

Liverpool Anglican CathedralGenerations of mariners and their passengers have gazed upon this as their last sight of England, or their first glimpse of home. This marvel in red sandstone, Britain's largest cathedral, reputedly the greatest Anglican church in the world, miraculously defied the bombs of the Liverpool Blitz and is now a beacon of pride symbolising the renaissance of the great city in which it stands.

Its tower alone soars more than 331 feet, its bells have the highest and heaviest peal in the world and it contains the largest operational organ in the world. Its internal spaces, awe-inspiring in their vastness, stun even the most jaded visitor into silent amazement. Liverpool Anglican Cathedral is a titan by the Mersey.

WONDER 2: Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Town HallThis fabulous Gothic extravaganza is architect Alfred Waterhouse's undisputed masterpiece. Soaring nearly 300 feet above Albert Square, it is more a cathedral than a town hall. Inside, its three great spiral staircases add to the atmosphere of a medieval minster. Fantastic mosaic floors, carved capitals, stained glass windows and exquisite tracery crowd the senses. The famous series of wall murals by the eminent Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Madox Brown are the jewels in the crown of this Mancunian marvel, a beautiful embellishment to a mighty structure. Of all the proud town halls of England, none can match the Gothic glory that is Manchester Town Hall.

WONDER 3: Pendle Hill

Pendle HillVisitors to East Lancashire cannot fail to be impressed by the gaunt yet beautiful shape of Pendle Hill. All over the world from Ayer's Rock to the Matterhorn, hills and mountains that stand alone are focuses for the spiritual needs of the people. It is no different with Pendle. This weird mass of millstone grit, covered with thick peat and fragrant clusters of bilberry and cloudberry, is the mecca for thousands every Hallowe'en - drawn there by some unknown need. During the reign of James 1 Pendle was the backdrop to the strange saga of the Lancashire Witches. In 1652 George Fox experienced amazing visions as he ascended Pendle. They led him to found the Quaker movement. The distinctive outline of Pendle is visible huge distances away. Yet it has a magnetic pull that draws people from near and far.

WONDER 4: Saint Walburge's Church, Preston

Saint Walburge's Church, PrestonThis is a soaring masterpiece of Gothic inspiration. It is rare indeed for a humble parish church to be constructed in such a spirit of imaginative whimsy - with a spire that reaches towards heaven in one graceful darting shape. When people think of the spires of England, they think of Salisbury Cathedral; but when Lancastrians think of spires, it is Saint Walburge's slender outline they conjure. Designed by J A Hanson (of Hanson Cab fame), this marvel by the Ribble has the third highest steeple in the land - a white needle that seems to float in the air. But it is not the spire alone that distinguishes this architectural tour de force. Inside, the superb hammer beam roof takes the breath away. As eminent architectural critic Pevsner said: :Nothing prepares you for the shock of the interior.' This church, cathedral-like in conception, is a marvel indeed.

WONDER 5: Blackpool Tower

Blackpool TowerWhen Lancashire mills closed for the Wakes Weeks, Blackpool Tower became the beacon by the sea that drew the cotton town masses. This titanic edifice in iron and steel was not conceived as some temporary side show in the bustling resort. Rather, it took the Eiffel Tower itself as its model. Five million bricks were used to house the base alone, but building on the grand scale did not mean neglecting aesthetics. Blackpool Tower is an elegant masterpiece, especially when clothed with its annual garb of 10,000 illuminated bulbs. From its top, all 518 feet from the coastline of the Fylde peninsula, several of the other wonders of Lancashire are visible. Blackpool Tower is the most famous wonder. It dominates Europe's greatest resort. There is, quite simply, no place like Blackpool. There is no tower like Blackpool Tower. But then, there is no county like Lancashire.

WONDER 6: The Ashton Memorial

The Ashton MemorialThe gleaming white Baroque masterpiece that looks down on Lancaster's lanes and wharves. This Edwardian folly on the grand scale is architecturally of the first importance. Built by Lancaster industrialist Lord Ashton as a tribute to his wife, this is Lancashire's Taj Mahal. Surrounded by acres of lush parkland this romantic marvel dominates the Lune Valley and commands views to the distant Isle of Man. From Lancaster's bustling thoroughfares this pale, elegant vision is evident, high up in its verdant setting. Pevsner reached for the superlatives when describing this beautiful creation calling the external staircase 'reminiscent of the Sacre Coeur.' The Ashton Memorial, he declared, is 'the grandest monument in England.' London's Albert Memorial was swept into second place.

WONDER 7: Coniston Old Man

Coniston Old ManAt 2,633 feet, Coniston Old Man is Lancashire's highest ground. Surely England's best loved mountain, The Old Man dominates the skyline in this part of Lancastrian Lakeland. This mighty eminence was backdrop to Donald Campbell's doomed heroism in 1967 and is the site of vast former industrial workings - witness the shattered terrain of Coppermines Valley en route to the summit. Its majestic presence towers over the village of Coniston and its day to day business. From the summit trig point stupendous vistas open up: of silent Goat's Water in the hidden valley below; of the fearsome precipices of Dow Crags; and of the entire Lakeland massif, spread out for inspection. To the south, Blackpool Tower is a pinprick on the horizon. To the west, the Isle of Man stands in its emerald element. As Wainwright said, the Old Man is 'undisputed overlord' of this domain.

 

  WONDER 8: Lancaster Castle

This iconic castle dates back to the 11th century and adjoins a Roman Fort over-looking a crossing of the River Lune. The large Keep dates back to the construction time of the Tower of London. On the 30th June 1267 Henry lll made his second son Edmund 1st Earl of Lancaster and gave him Lancaster Castle, Town and County and thereby forming the early stage of the Royal Duchy of Lancaster. The impressive main gate was built around 1400 and is known as John of Gaunt’s Gate.  The Shire Hall and County Court were built along with numerous prison blocks in the late 18th and 19th century and the Castle became a prison. In 2011 the castle was handed back  to Her Majesty the Queen, Duke of Lancaster.

 

WONDER 9: Liverpool Road Railway Station, Manchester   

The Manchester to Liverpool railway was the World’s first inter-city steam railway and was opened on the 15th September 1830 by the Duke of Wellington and a day’s journey by horse carriage was reduced to one hours travelling.   The station and railway was designed and built by George Stephenson and his son Robert. The world famous ‘Rocket’ steam engine was used to pull the carriages carrying passengers, mail and livestock. Today this oldest railway station in the World is part of the Manchester Science museum and features a ‘Planet’ steam engine and carriages.

 

WONDER 10: Manchester Ship Canal 

Opened in 1894 it was the World’s largest river canal network and made Manchester, Britain’s third busiest port despite being 40 miles inland. It took six years to build and cost £15million [approx. £1.65billion today] The canal enhanced the role of Lancashire at the height of the global industrial revolution. Changes to shipping methods and containerisation has reduced the ports  ability and so today the canal is primarily used for recreational purposes and in Salford it houses a museum, art gallery and TV centre.

 

WONDER 11: Furness Abbey

Second only to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, in being the richest and most important Cistercian monastery in England, Furness Abbey was founded in 1127 by French monks under the leadership of Count (later to be King) Stephen of Boulogne and is now a romantic ruin of red sandstone. Located in an area known has the "Vale of Nightshade", a peaceful valley, the Abbey, originally a Savignac building in design became the inspiration for both Wordsworth's Prelude in 1805 and Turner's pencil sketch, "The Ruined Chapter House", in 1797. Medieval treasures were discovered discovered in 2012 in a undisturbed grave of a abbot and are now being examined before hopefully being displayed.

 

WONDER 12: Hill Top

Hill Top Farm was the 17th century Grade II listed, home from home of children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter.  The 34 acre farm was managed by John Cannon who with his family lived in a newly created left wing afterMiss Potter bought the property in July 1906 with the proceeds from her first book, the Tale of Peter Rabbit. John Cannon's children Ralph and Betsy, along with his wife appear in illustrations in "The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck" which was dedicated to them. Hill Top was left to the National Trust on her death and is a time capsule of how she lived with her favourite things on display which, along with the surrounding countryside and her garden she gained inspiration for many of her tales.

 

WONDER 13: Speke Hall

Speke Hall, Lancashire is considered to be one of the finest examples of a timber framed medieval house in England. Dating from 1530, the hall was built over an existing building by the Norris family has a status symbol of their wealth and importance in the area. Being devout Catholics the buildings design incorporated a priest's hole and a peephole in the bedroom chimney so that servants could watch out for any approaching authorities.  The Hall was extended in 1547 and 1597 but little has changed since then. The gardens were designed in the 1850s and contain "Adam and Eve" a pair of yew trees mentioned in documentation from 1712.  It is said Mary Norris who inherited the Hall in 1791, took her own life and that of her new born son after her husband gambled away the family fortune, haunts the Tapestry Room to this day