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St George’s Quay and Freeman’s Pools, Lancaster

Lune Mills, St George's Quay

In a secluded part of Lancaster lies St Georges Quay. The docks were built in 1750, when the city was a hub for shipping imports and exports. Boats involved in the Slave Trade would bring raw materials, such as sugar, cotton, rum and mahogany, leaving with furniture and manufactured goods.

When shipping declined, St Georges Quay became home to Lancaster’s linoleum business. In the 1840s, James Williamson (senior) established a successful coated fabric business. His son, James Williamson (junior), vastly expanded the company using a  site that had been a former shipyard. This ‘mammoth works on the banks of the Lune’ concentrated on coated fabric products for the low-end consumer. Cork linoleum began production in 1887. An expanded mill, covering 21 acres, housed processes for embossing, rolling, measuring, block printing and dyeing. Cork was brought to Heysham from Spain and Portugal, then transferred to the factory via rail. In 1894, the firm employed 2500 men. Lord Ashton commissioned several philanthropic works, including the Queen Victoria Monument (Dalton Square), Lancaster Town Hall, and Williamson Park, dominated by the Ashton Memorial. Since Ashton’s death (1930), the lino business fell into decline. Production ended around 1999, leaving a derelict site that has been prone to vandalism.

Freeman's Pools, The Lune Estuary Path

Freeman’s Pools are part of flood protection measures for St George’s Quay. The six hectare site provided clay for constructing the flood embankments. Afterwards, landscaping created a series of inter-connecting lakes. Completed in 2008, Freeman’s Pools are host to a manner of invertebrates, mammals and wading birds. These include frogs, water voles, great crested newts, Terns and Lapwings. Planting the lake margins with wildflowers and wet grassland has increased biodiversity. Shallow excavations known as scrapes form habitats for the invertebrates. Aquatics, such as reeds and rushes, provide cover. Over 8000 trees have been planted. The Black Poplar is an especially rare tree, with only around 7000 left in the UK. For this reason, the area has been designated a County Biological Heritage Site. Freeman’s Pools is on the Lune Estuary Path, linking Lancaster with Glasson Dock.

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