A Brief History of Lancashire

At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 the County of Lancashire had not yet been defined, but its subsequent components already existed as administrative areas.

Six or seven years after the conquest (1072/3) King William gave the land between the Ribble and the Mersey, together with Amounderness to Roger of Poitou. In the early 1090s King William II (William Rufus) added Lonsdale, Cartmel and Furness to Roger's estates, thereby giving him control of all the land between the river Mersey in the south and the river Duddon in the north. Roger chose Lancaster as the site for his castle which thereby became the centre of administration for the lands that he controlled. As the area of lands held by a lord were known as his 'honour', Roger's lands became known as the Honour of Roger of Poitou or the Honour of Lancaster.

In 1102 Roger supported his brother Robert of Bellene in an unsuccessful rebellion against King Henry I and all his English estates were confiscated and given to Stephen of Blois the grandson of the Conqueror.

In 1182 Lancashire was first termed 'the county of Lancashire' in the pipe rolls (which were the main record of central government transactions) under King Henry II.

1267 Edmund Crouchback was created 1st Earl of Lancaster.

In 1351 Henry, Earl of Lancaster, was made a Duke and was also granted Palatinate powers - the royal powers, or the powers belonging to the palace.

These powers lapsed with Henry's Death, but were restored to the most famous Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt and were made hereditary.

Palatinate status was granted to Lancashire because of its strategic position in defending England from the Scots and conferred legal recognition of the extraordinary powers of the Duke within Lancashire. The county developed its own chancery, could issue writs under its own seal and even had its own dating year running from 6th March 1351, the date of the establishment of the palatine. The Duke was able to appoint his own sheriff who was answerable to the Duke, not the King. Lancaster had its own justices and the king's writ did not run within the palatine county. The king did however still collect the taxes and reserved the right to correct 'errors of judgement' in the duke's courts.

For a short period in the 16th century the Duke appointed a butler to collect dues payable to him for wine brought into the county.