From green fields to football fields in Freehold

Freehold Juniors, 1927-28.
Freehold Juniors, 1927-28.
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Local football historian by Terry Ainsworth this week looks back at how the sport grew in one particular area of Lancaster.

In the early part of the 20th century the Freehold district of Lancaster was a hotbed of football and it is interesting to see how the district evolved from what were originally green fields.

Freehold was so named because it was created by a Freehold Land Society, a self-help organisation, fairly common in early Victorian England.

The Lancaster movement was set up to develop an area of land on the lower part of the Moor, just above Lancaster canal.

During the early and middle 1850s, the main roads and drains of what was then known as Freehold Park, were surveyed and partially laid out in the form of the new well-known rectangles based partly on hedge lines.

The first house appeared on what became Derwent Road in 1853.

Meanwhile, something had happened to the original planning layout and the frontages had been reduced to half their envisaged width although the gardens stretched behind the houses for roughly 100ft.

During the next two or three decades, the social map of Freehold began to develop with the most well-to-do and respected people attracted to houses in Derwent Road, the highest physical point of the neighbourhood.

Before World War One, Derwent Road was home to church ministers, Mr Albert Gorrill of the well-known Lancaster store, a headmaster, an estate agent and a wagon builder.

Workers at Storeys, Williamsons, Waring and Gillows along with those employed on the railway lived in much smaller homes in the central area of Freehold – mainly in Grasmere and Windermere Roads.

Then, people growing up in Freehold saw it as a village, being handy for several big workplaces in town and boasting many ‘village’ services including three pubs, a church and schools.

The Freehold Juniors team of 1927-28 is featured but before the football season got under way a notable visitor to the area bade a fond farewell to a different season.

After a good day’s sport on Marshaw Fell, His Majesty King George V said goodbye to Abbeystead after staying with the Earl and Countess of Sefton from August 20-26 during the grouse shooting season.

The royal train consisting of two engines and 13 coaches was waiting at Bay Horse Station and departed at 10.45pm for Balmoral.

A number of people watched the train leave and many more were on the platform at Lancaster Castle Station when the train passed through at 10.56pm.

The train reached Aberdeen at 8.20am on Saturday morning and after 10 minutes proceeded to the Deeside railway terminus at Ballater where the party left the train for Balmoral.

Bay Horse railway station was named after the nearby Bay Horse Inn, and later the small hamlet of Bay Horse developed around the station.

The station opened in 1840 on the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway, by a level-crossing on Whams Lane.

The station closed on June 13 1960, the last but one to close on the Preston to Lancaster section of the West Coast Main Line.

1927-28 Junior Division P W D L F A Pts

Warton 18 13 4 1 63 20 30

Bowerham Old Boys 18 11 3 4 35 25 25

Freehold Juniors 18 9 3 6 40 25 21

Bulk Juniors 18 10 1 7 44 31 21

Warison’s 18 8 2 8 41 36 18

Fairfield 18 7 2 9 34 47 16

Lancaster Park Villa 18 6 2 10 29 39 14

Bell Bank (Bentham) 18 5 4 9 28 41 14

St Peter’s 18 5 1 12 25 50 11

Bowerham Juniors 18 3 4 11 21 47 10

My great uncle, Thomas Stackhouse, was employed as a beater for the visit of King George V to Abbeystead and the recollections of his son William (Bill) who stilllives in Lancaster (2013) reveals a fascinating insight into a Royal event.

“When I was employed as a beater on the same Abbeystead estate as my father in the late 1940’s the rate of pay was about 16/- shillings per day but my father was most likely paid around 7/6d a day with a bonus of 2/6d if a certain amount of birds were killed.

There would have been a maximum of six guns and the beaters would have started walking at least 100 yards apart and by the time they got to the butts (hides for shooting about 25 yards apart) they would have been shoulder to shoulder.

The record for six guns on the Abbeystead Estate is about 2,300 birds in a day and after the day’s shoot was over the primary concern then was to transport the grouse to London as quickly as possible so the birds were on the menu the same night at hotels like The Savoy.

King George V would have been invited not because of his status but because he was a top marksman and an outstanding rider.”