I’d never been to Lancaster until yesterday. In tremendous contrast to my previous post, it seems like a town which ideally, all Northern towns would seek to replicate in terms of atmosphere, beauty and entertainment.
Late Georgian architecture adorns the high street, crowds make their way up and down the tiled pedestrianised area that makes up the town centre. It’s refreshing to see so many independent shops on the high street, somehow Lancaster has not yet succumbed to the homogenisation that afflicts other British towns. It has found a way to accommodate high street institutions (Topshop, M&S, HMV) as well as provide an outlet for small business owners. Furthermore it was inspiring to see such niche interests represented; sauntering down the high street I saw advertisements for a Joe Meek themed clubnight and a French film society. I challenge anyone to find similar pastimes catered for in another town of similar size.
I think the secret to Lancaster’s beauty is it’s ability to effortlessly combine elements of the past with the modern. This collocation never seems contrived, and while the aforementioned shops are prevalent on the high street, they are housed in original shop fronts, their letters embossed in the old stonework. Lancaster’s bygone years as a market town means that it has a long history in trade and commerce on a public level. Perhaps this means that it has adapted more readily and comfortably than some of the worn out mill towns in this part of the UK. Despite the architectural eyesore that is Lancaster University (very good academically, but I’m not sure the architect would top many “best in show” lists) it is truly a lovely town to look at. Open country is but a bus ride away, and there seems plenty of cultural investment in the form of the Lancaster Grand Theatre and Lancaster Castle.
While the current levels of poverty would betray the portrait I’m painting (second in Lancashire with regard to “Households accepted as homeless”) I still think that Lancaster has a lot more going for it than other places in the region. All it needs is some investment, as currently it lives very much in the shadow of it’s noxious Lancastrian neighbouring cities.
Go on, pay it a visit.