The small city with a big story to tell

Michael Harrison
Michael Harrison

I was very pleased to attend the Lancaster Brand launch at the Storey Institute at the end of November. The strapline of SMALL CITY BIG STORY has a clear resonance with me as an architect who has lived and worked in the city since the 1980s.

The built environment is a major part of our daily lives and helps us to navigate our way in and around the city centre.

Here the scale of buildings is domestic as most of what we see as shops now were built as houses and subsequently adapted.

This scale together with the historic street layout provides much of the distinct character and appeal of this small city.

The repaving of the pedestrianised areas under the Square Roots Initiative has also added greatly to the general ambiance and should prove even more attractive to the increasing number of visitors the city is beginning to attract.

The city has a wealth of big stories relating to its buildings from the Romans to a high point of shipping and associated wealth providing the Georgian legacy through to the manufacturing era of the Victorian period when Williamsons and Storeys were world renowned.

The Ashton Memorial has long provided a beacon for Lancaster easily viewed from the city centre as well as the M6 especially when illuminated at night.

However, we have a new kid on the block sitting equally proud and firmly in the city centre.

THE big story must be opening up Lancaster Castle to visitors, few residents of Lancaster had previously seen inside the John of Gaunt gateway but I am sure that everyone wanted to.

Unravelling and telling the story has immense potential for tourism and with it the future of the small city.

Michael A Harrison is an architect and chamber director.