From the Guardian files

Lancaster Castle's magnificent John o'Gaunt gateway
Lancaster Castle's magnificent John o'Gaunt gateway

Here’s what was happening in the Lancaster district five, 10 and 25 years ago this week.

5 years ago

Overcrowding at Lancaster Castle had led to prisoners sharing single cells, according to an independent report. The concern was highlighted by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in its annual report.

Chairman for HMP Lancaster Castle said the issue had been caused by a rise in the prison population nationally. However, the monitoring board praised the prison for its strong security, the fair treatment of its inmates and the provision of education and teaching of skills, which the inspectors said was good and geared to prisoners’ needs.

Skerton Methodist Church was to host its very last service in June after nearly 150 years on the Owen Road site. Church minister the Rev Russell Rigby said it would be a sad day for the congregation, which had not taken the decision to close it lightly.

The site was to go up for sale once it had been valued. The original Methodist Church was built in 1868 but was demolished in 1979 and the Sunday School building behind the church became the main meeting space.

10 years ago

Lancaster police were planning to arm themselves with hand-held video cameras to film people in pubs and clubs. The move was part of Lancashire Constabulary’s campaign to crack down on binge drinking. Police were waiting to hear if they had secured funding for the video cameras which would be used during routine visits to nightspots.

Angry residents on Bulk Road, Lancaster, were fighting plans for a 150-bedroom student accommodation block near their homes. Protesters presented a 50-name petition to ward councillors. The land involved was opposite the former Kingsway baths and bus depot in Back Caton Road.

Firefighters from Lancaster and Morecambe were called to a major blaze at Middleton Business Park. Despite the best efforts of 25 officers, four disused storage tanks on the premises of TP Aspinall and Sons went up in flames. It was thought the fire was started deliberately.

Two fire crews each from Morecambe and Lancaster arrived to find pallets and plastic sacks near the empty tanks ablaze. Flames spread to the fibre glass tanks and officers in breathing apparatus fought for more than an hour to bring the fierce blaze under control.

Lancaster City Councillors discussed a report recommending that the Charter Market be banished from Market Square. The committee had liaised with Lancaster Chamber of Trade since December to investigate the market’s impact on the square. The chamber carried out a survey of store traders in Market Square, Market Street and Cheapside, and found a majority favoured relocating the market to Church Street.

25 years ago

Parents of Lancaster Royal Grammar pupils had voted to go it alone and take their school out of county council control to become an institution directly funded from Whitehall. The result of the three-week ballot conducted by the Electoral Reform Group on behalf of the school found 602 parents in favour of opting out – 58.4 per cent of votes cast. Supporters of the scheme pointed out that the school’s identity as a selective “centre of excellent” would be assured against any moves by the Labour-run, comprehensive-minded county education authority to undermine it.

City council car parking fines were technically illegal for a week, councillors heard. Red faced council officers admitted to the city environmental services committee that they had put up car parking charges without the final approval of councillors.

The full council had referred the matter back to the environment committee for it to hear objections but an error occurred which led to the ticket machines in the council’s 31 car parks being altered a week early.