White Cross

Walk along George Street to the canal bridge.  Take a look at the canal and the White Cross mills before making your way down to the tow path.

Lancaster Canal


Begun in 1792 with John Rennie as chief engineer, the Lancaster section of the canal opened in 1797.  The building of the M6 motorway severed the canal to the north and it is now not navigable north of Tewitfield.  Southwards, recent moves have been made to connect the canal with the Ribble at Preston, finally completing the scheme envisaged 200 years ago.  You can learn more about the canal and its history at the Canalcaholic web site.

White Cross Mills

The Storey family, oilcloth and table baize manufacturers, had their mills at White Cross.

The White Cross mills from George Street canal bridge.

White Cross Mills and the canal
1890 map

The first mill at White Cross, a steam powered cotton mill, was built by Thomas Mason with the backing of Thomas Burrow in around 1802. Mason died in 1827 and the mill was taken over by George Burrow (the son of Thomas) and his partner Thomas Housman Higgin.  Cotton manufacture declined in the 1840s and the mill passed through several hands before being bought by the Storey brothers and re-equipped for oilcloth manufacture in 1856.  The map  shows Springfield Barracks and the White Cross Mills in 1890.  The original mill can now be seen in the middle of the complex.

Springfield Barracks were built, to the design of Edmund Sharpe, during the Crimean War as a training depot and stores for the Lancashire Militia.  They were taken over by the Storeys as part of their White Cross complex.

Springfield Barracks

South Road

Climb up from the tow path onto South Road at Penny Street Bridge.

Penny Street Bridge

Penny Street Bridge was opened on 24th May 1900 as one of a series of improvements made at the start of the 20th century.  The Farmers Arms (originally the White Cross) and the Alexandra hotels (in the background of this photograph) were built in 1901 on the sites of two existing inns.

Plaques on Penny Street Bridge.  The one on the left reads "Borough of Lancaster. This bridge was opened by Councillor Preston (Mayor of Lancaster) on the 81st anniversary of the birth of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria. May 24th 1900".  The one on the right is the Borough coat of arms.

Commemorative plaqueLancaster coat of arms

A cross stood at this site when Speed produced his map in 1610 (no. 21)

White Cross 1610

Lancaster Canal

The Canal, looking west from Penny Street Bridge.  Queen's Mill formerly occupied the site of B&Q.  Armstrong-Siddeley occupied Queen's Mill during the war to make aircraft components.

Penny Street Bridge, looking east from the canal. Penny Street Bridge

Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway Terminus

Cross the road at the traffic lights and walk a short distance along South Road.  A plaque on a building marks the site of the first railway station in Lancaster.

1845 map

The first railway to reach Lancaster was the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway which opened on 25th June 1840. The day was marked by a public holiday. The first train for Preston left with 200 guests and was hauled by 2 locomotives. A royal train carrying Queen Adelaide and her party left Lancaster on the following month. Competition with the Canal caused problems which were resolved by the Canal company leasing the railway. More problems came following the opening of the Lancaster and Carlisle railway in 1846. The two lines were joined but the Canal company refused to surrender the L&PJ to the Lancaster and Carlisle. This situation eventually led to an accident at Bay Horse when an L&C express ran into the back of an L&PJ slow train. The Lancaster and Carlisle railway took over the running of the line in 1849.  The South Road station was then closed to passengers and used as a goods terminus until the late 1960s.

The terminus building looks more like a private villa than a railway station.  It was designed by Edwin Gwyther of Birmingham.  The front (shown in this photograph) contained the main entrance and offices and the back opened onto the platforms.  It is now part of a nurses home and offices for the hospital. 

Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway terminus building

Walk back along South Road to the hospital.

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary was built, to the designs of Paley and Austin, on land belonging to Springfield Hall (see map above).  The oilcloth manufacturer and MP Norval Helme bequeathed the Hall to the hospital which was built between 1888 and 1896.  Its building was funded by public subscription and it was opened on 24 March 1896 by the Duke and Duchess of York.  It replaced inadequate premises on Thurnham Street which the dispensary had occupied since 1833.

Royal Lancaster Infirmary
Good Samaritan

Relief depicting the good Samaritan.  This relief used to stand over the entrance to the original dispensary on Castle Hill.

Stained-glass window

Stained glass window inside the entrance to the old part of the hospital.  It depicts the healing of a sick woman by the touch of Jesus' cloak.

Cross South Road again at the traffic lights and head for Penny Street.

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