Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

When my law firm moved to our offices on Fenton Street in 2007 we bought prints of old maps of Lancaster to hang in the “posh room” we use to see clients.

One of them was drawn by Jonathan Binns in 1821. Mr Binns was born in 1786 and during his early life he was interested in farming. In 1811 he won a cup for improvement of pasture land at Leach House Galgate. Later he moved to Lancaster to commence business as a land surveyor.

He was the first in the town to have gas installed in his house.

One of the development schemes proposed by Mr Binns was “a communication between Castle Hill and High Street” which led to the formation of Fenton Street in the early 1820’s.

Another scheme – which has yet to come to fruition – was a railway across Morecambe Bay from Heysham to Bardsea.

This was proposed in 1832 and whilst surveying the route Mr Binns came across Isaac Storey, the school master in Bardsea.

Mr Storey’s son John helped Mr Binns with the survey and after it was completed John went with Mr Binns to Lancaster to be his apprentice, which in turn led to the entire Storey Family moving to the town.

This would have a lasting impact on Lancaster. John’s brothers set up the business of manufacturing oil cloth that would make the family fortune and see them become major employers and benefactors.

The Storey Institute and Westfield Memorial Village being two of the gifts the later Storeys would make. Strange to think now he is long distant himself, but Mr Binns was interested in local history and in drawing up his 1821 map he collected a number of old people’s recollections.

Among them was this: “There was a mineral well on the Moor towards the gallows. The butcher from Manchester washed his whittle after quartering the rebels in 1715 and it was not used for drinking afterwards”.

I wonder what Mr Binns would make of the 2014 inhabitants of his native town driving slowly round the one way system following satnavs and sipping from bottled water?