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Lancaster celebrates 'Lino King's'; generosity and Cycling Link

John Freeman
Lancaster City Council will be celebrating the centenaries of Lancaster Town Hall and the Ashton Memorial over the weekend of 26th- 27th September.

In 1909, James Williamson II, Lord Ashton, Lancaster’s millionaire manufacturer and ‘Lino King’, presented the town with both a new town hall and the baroque edifice, the Ashton Memorial, built in Williamson Park (itself donated to Lancaster by his father). Both buildings were opened to the public in the same year.

The Memorial stands in 54 acres of parkland, adjacent to an original palm house, now serving as a tropical butterfly house. A 'mini-beast’ centre, shop and café complete the complex.

While Lord Ashton himself remains, like many Victorian millionaires, a subject of controversy - despite paying union rates to his factory workers, working conditions were far from the standards of today - there's no doubting his lasting legacy on the town. (The Council has a feature on Lord Ashton on its own web site here, citing how he reacted to challenges to his power).

To celebrate the centenaries, Lancaster City Council has organised some extra special events, starting on Saturday 26th September with a reincarnation of Lord Ashton receiving visitors at the Memorial (presumably untroubled by dissenting or disgruntled workers) and leading a tour of Williamson Park.

A free Lord Ashton's Lancaster Guided Walk will take place on Saturday. Join a Blue Badge Guide for a tour of the ancient city, highlighting buildings and places associated with Lord Ashton and his industrial rivals. The walk starts at Lancaster Castle’s John O’ Gaunt Gateway at 3.00pm.

The celebration continues on the Sunday, with his lordship presiding over a full day of popular entertainment from Edwardian times, presented in marquees, adjacent to the Memorial.

A fascinating connection between Lord Ashton and present day Lancaster, is also acknowledged. Lord Ashton was an early bicycle enthusiast, spending much time cycling in the grounds of his Lancaster residence and as regular readers know, by coincidence, Lancaster was one of just six places, designated as ‘Cycling Demonstration Town’ in October 2005.

Since then, through the efforts of the Celebrating Cycling Campaign, Lancaster District can arguably claim to have achieved the status of cycling capital of the North West.

This 100 year link is commemorated with Planet Bike – a celebration of all things bike, past and present.

Located at the foot of the Memorial’s impressive western steps, Planet Bike will feature cycle themed events, stalls and activities, throughout the Sunday.

The Edwardian entertainment, to be presented next to the Memorial, will include:

• Sir Henry and Lady Greatham with their ‘Greatham’s Grand Puppet Show’, a patriotic history of great British heroes and events

• Hautbois – Mr and Mrs Heavisides, singing songs from the music hall and variety theatre, accompanying themselves on a great variety of instruments

• The Duo of Mr Morgan and Mr West, commonly known as Bamboozlement, demonstrating their magical powers

• The favourite puppet show of Punch and Judy, presented by the renowned Professor Robanti

Down the hill from the Memorial, Planet Bike features:

• The Trials Display Team’s Amazing Cycling Stunt Show

• A Unicycle Extravaganza, including world record skipping on a unicycle

• Cyclemagic, a duo who, attired in period costume, present and demonstrate a collection of historic bicycles, ranging from a replica 1820s hobby horse to a restored 1880s tricycle.

There will also be a variety of displays and stalls, such as Dr Bike’s free basic bike repairs, virtual bike racing and pedal powered smoothie making! The Cycling Demonstration Team stand will provide lots of cycling literature, information and advice.

Up at the Memorial, Dyno Start, Carnforth’s cycling shop, will be displaying a selection of historic machines from their own bike museum.

The Centenary Celebration starts at 11am on Sunday 27 September and finishes around 5.30pm.

All events and activities are free of charge. The day formally begins with a cycling cavalcade, leaving the Park’s Wyresdale Road gates, en route for the Memorial, and led by Lord Ashton on a unicycle! Everyone is invited to join in with their bike or follow on foot.

In addition to events taking place in Williamson Park, Lancaster City Council and a range of local organisations will be celebrating the centenaries as part of the annual Lancaster Unlocked weekend.

• Full details of all the events are available from Lancaster and Morecambe Visitor Information Centres (Tel. 01524 582394 / 582808) or by visiting