Book review: Lancaster Through Time by Jon Sparks

With its long history dating back to a permanent Roman settlement, an imposing hilltop castle and a rich variety of architectural gems, Lancaster has much to be proud of.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 9th May 2013, 10:00 am
Lancaster through time
Lancaster through time

Award-winning photographer Jon Sparks from Garstang takes us on a nostalgic journey in his new book Lancaster Through Time which features a fascinating selection of photographs showing how Lancaster has changed and developed over the last century.

By juxtaposing photographs of the city as it was with how it looks today, Sparks offers us a stark reminder of the wholesale destruction of much of the city’s housing and employment during the 1960s and 1970s.

The huge riverside development, Lune Mills, which specialised in coated fabrics and linoleum and represented the heart of the Williamson industrial empire, once employed a quarter of the city’s workforce but now lies derelict.

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Large swathes of housing were pulled down and the old Market Hall, which disappeared in a catastrophic blaze in 1984, was sadly never rebuilt and so missed out on the recent revival for artisan foods and crafts.

However, there is still much to celebrate including architectural gems like the elegant quayside Customs House, the distinctive Ashton Memorial and the majestic 15th century Priory Church.

And there are fine examples of change, like the sympathetic redevelopment of the White Cross Mill site, which manages to marry the best of the old with the best of the new, and historic St George’s Quay probably looks better than at any time in its history.

And more improvements are planned for the freshly cleared site just west of Carlisle Bridge.

Most promising of all for the city is the closure of the castle prison which has opened the door, and maybe even the magnificent John O’Gaunt Gateway, to a new and exciting future as a tourist mecca.

In the meantime, Lancaster Through Time offers us a nostalgic remembrance of how the city looked long before time and development took its toll.

(Amberley, paperback, £14.99)