Lancashire should start promoting and preserving its true roots before they fade into a forgotten history – with the first step being for Lancashire County Council to drop the word ‘county’ from its name.

That is the fresh call from the Friends of Real Lancashire - an organisation dedicated to defending the red rose county's identity which existed for nearly a millennium before a major shake-up of local government 50 years ago.

County Hall lost huge swathes of the patch it had been responsible for since its formation in 1889.

While the new county council area was intended purely for administrative purposes, it soon became closely – and, for some, inextricably – linked with the concept of Lancashire.

Fifty years ago Lancashire incorporated an area stretching from the Lake District down to the northern tip of Cheshire – featuring the likes of Barrow-in-Furness, Bolton, Southport and Salford.

Cities including Liverpool and Manchester were part of what was – and still is – a historic Lancashire that can be traced back to 1182.

But because they were major areas in their own right, they had their own local authorities, as did even Preston, Blackburn and Burnley.

For Philip Walsh, 71, chair of the Friends of Real Lancashire, there is now “too much emphasis on Lancashire being the Lancashire County Council area”.

He said: “But the authority only covers about half of the area of the historic county palatine.

"It does not cover the whole south of the county, including such famous Lancashire places as Oldham, Rochdale, St Helens, Bury or Wigan."

He says now is the time to end the “confusion” and make it clear Lancashire exists within the same expansive borders it always did – whatever local government boundary lines might say.

He would like to see Lancashire County Council become simply 'Lancashire Council'.

The 500-strong friends' group is also keen for signs marking the boundaries of ‘historic Lancashire’ to be erected across the county palatine – but has often found itself thwarted by reluctant councils that lie beyond Lancashire’s administrative borders.

“If we had proper signage and maps, that would go a long way,” says Blackpool-born Philip, who now lives in Preston.

Philip says there are plenty of Lancastrians still clinging to their traditional identity – despite the fact their towns have long since been formed standalone local authority areas.

“People in Bolton and Wigan talk more about being Lancastrian than people in Preston, Blackpool and Blackburn do, and you’d be surprised how much interest young people [show in the issue] when we are out and about at events.

“Ultimately, if we as a friends group don’t shout up about real Lancashire, no one else will. We’re all volunteers and we promote, protect and preserve the county palatine of Lancashire as it has been for all those hundreds of years – because it’ll be lost if we don’t do something."

But one outcome could be the entire Forest of Bowland and parts of Pendle around Barnoldswick and Earby returning to Yorkshire.


Curiously Philip reckons Lancashire could learn a thing or two from its near neighbour and historic arch rival Yorkshire.

He says if Lancashire traded off its traditional geography like Yorkshire does, it would have even more to boast about than the attractions within its arbitrary administrative borders.

 “They have this brand, ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’  – and if we had a ‘Welcome to Lancashire’, we’d be able to push places like Bury, Rochdale and Wigan," he said.

"Manchester and Liverpool would still probably want to do their own thing, but that [wouldn’t stop us] taking on those places as well.

“Just recently, for instance, a BBC article referred to LS Lowry as being born in Salford, Greater Manchester. The friends group secretary got in touch with them to say Salford might be in Greater Manchester now, but Lowry was born in Lancashire – and he’d be turning in his grave [to hear it being said otherwise].”


Peter Boyce, chair of the Association of British Counties (ABC), says the areas are “an important part of our history, geography, and culture”.

He is encouraging people to do the “most effective thing” they can to promote counties like Lancashire – which he believes is to use it within their postal address.

 He added: “It was a huge mistake to call local government areas ‘counties’ and to give any council a historic county name when it had an area radically different to that county.

“The geography of a thousand years was swept away and replaced by an administrative geography that lasted only 20 years before it started to fall apart. Confusion reigned."

The government actively promotes the celebration of historic counties, which Peter welcomes – but he is calling on ministers to go much further in their support.

He said: “[They] should back this up by rectifying the mistake made in 1974. Local government needs a set of terminology and names which give it a distinct identity to the historic counties.

“The term ‘council area’ rather than ‘county’ should be used to refer to local government areas. A council should only make unqualified use of a historic county name if it is close in area to that county.

Lancashire Day is celebrated on November 27 each year.


In its guidance on celebrating historic counties, the government describes them as “an important element of English traditions which support the identity and cultures of many of our local communities, giving people a sense of belonging, pride and community spirit”.

“They continue to play an important part in the country’s sporting and cultural life as well as providing a reference point for local tourism and heritage. We should seek to strengthen the role that they can play,” the document adds.