A Student's History of Lancashire

"An Intelligent Student's History of Early Medieval Lancashire" or:
"How the Red Rose County first came into being".

Many Lancashire schoolkids learn about the history of our splendid shire – everything from the War of the Roses to the cobbles and chimneys of the Industrial Revolution - but few know about Lancashire's earlier history. If you're one of them and would like to know more, read on…

When people say "the old things are the best" they're obviously not thinking about Lancashire because it is one of the newest of all English counties – if you can handle something that's over eight centuries old being described as new! Lancashire wasn't formed when the Normans came over in 1066, whereas most of the other English counties were around by then. But by about 1180 our splendid shire had gained an identity of its own. Let's not jump the gun, though. The history of our lovely part of the world goes back way beyond then…..

The Romans were here in Lancashire (in the two or three centuries immediately after the birth of Christ!) We've got proof because of the remains archaeologists have found – everything from pottery to pickaxes. The Romans built towns too, some of which survived and developed into places that are still around today. Places you might just have heard of. Places like Lancaster and Manchester! Other Roman towns disappeared, or ended up as tiny villages, such as Burrow (in the Lune Valley near Lancaster). You can always tell a Roman town because its name often ends in caster or cester or chester.

Roman towns also tend to have these rather straight roads arrowing across the landscape towards them. The Romans obviously wanted to get to places in a hurry – usually because some of the Ancient Britons (or Celts) were causing a spot of bother. They probably didn't appreciate the Romans coming all the way from Italy to take over their country. After a while though they did start to realise that the Romans had brought the odd benefit to this country. Things they had never had before. Things such as proper roads, proper drainage, well built housing, well organised farming, public baths, central heating, law and order, civilisation…….I could go on.

In those days the Ancient Britons spoke British (or Celtic) while the Romans spoke Latin. Only posh Britons spoke Latin. The British language is still around today, and is spoken not a million miles away from Lancashire. You see, it developed into the modern day Welsh language. To understand how it got there you need to know about the Anglo-Saxons.

The Anglo-Saxons invaded Britain from the continent when they cleverly noticed that the Roman Empire was on its last legs. The Romans were packing up and leaving for Italy while the Ancient Britons were shaking in their boots wondering how they'd get on without the Roman army to protect them. They were right to worry because the Anglo-Saxons were total barbarians – good grief, they weren't even Christians! They were pagans who believed in strange gods like Thunor (or Thor) and Wotan (or Odin). They spoke a language called Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) which later developed into the modern English which we use. The only places they didn't take over were the bits that were furthest away from where they first landed (which was near London). So they didn't invade Cornwall, Wales and northern Scotland. That's why these places still have their own languages – Cornish, Welsh and Gaelic – which are what is left of the languages of the Ancient Britons.