ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Bonnie Prince Charlie visits Lancaster
By late November 1745 the Jacobite army had reached the North West of England. Early on November 24th, Murray, Elcho and the vanguard left Kendal to prepare for BPC's entry into the county town of Lancaster where James II had received such warm support in 1715. They moved at speed, covering the thirty odd miles from Kendal to Lancaster in six hours, on the old Roman road.
Murray took the most direct route to the town and Elcho and his men travelled via Hornby Castle (9 miles up the river from Lancaster), looking for forage and provisions for the army. The first soldiers to reach Lancaster were cavalry, crossing the Lune river at about 11am on the morning of November 24th. The bridge they crossed was swept away some years later but the road on the bank, Bridge Lane, is still partly there. At the time there were three men in Lancaster whose actions were to have consequences for the Jacobite cause.
Dr. Bracken was a "trusted friend" to the Jacobites, who was also a spy for the Hanoverians. He was sending information to Cumberland (busy fortifying Newcastle) about the strength and arms of BPC's army.
Dr Burton was a Jacobite supporter, but many thought he was a spy and he was not allowed near the Prince's entourage until he had met Elcho at Hornby Castle and proven that he was actually a friend of Drummond of Perth.
Dr. Fenton was the local vicar and a keen supporter of the Hanoverian cause; he denounced the Jacobites and had his house ransacked on the army's retreat in December 1745.
On November 24th, Dr Burton rented rooms in the inn on the riverbank, the Red Lion to watch the Jacobite army approach. This inn is now the Three Mariners, (decent Guinness and trendy folk music), and Bridge Lane is now the beer garden. BPC spent the night at the King's Arms in Kendal (at that time famous as the best inn in the North of England; maybe it still is!) before travelling on to Lancaster, arriving about 3pm on November 25th. One of the first things Murray did was to recruit spies whom he sent to Newcastle and to London. This is the first recorded instance of Murray using spies (although he no doubt did so before!). He also arranged the release of all the debtors in Lancaster prison, mainly to annoy the magistrates who were all Hanoverian sympathisers. Before BPC actually arrived, Murray had also arranged for soldiers to collect all the revenues due to the crown, amounting to £153, 12 shillings, 8 pence and three farthings. One reason they were able to collect this money was that the Jacobites did not take provisions by force: they were popular because they paid for all their food and drink, with a ready supply of French gold. Murray also imposed a curfew of 9pm to ensure the magistrates had no cause to arrest any of the soldiery, not that they would have had much success as the army numbered 7,000 men, about 2,000 more than the citizens of Lancaster.
On November 25th, BPC unfurled his father's standard (said to have been a pelican feeding its young, and previously used in the 1715 Uprising in Lancaster, but this claim is not substantiated) at the market cross and proclaimed him James II, and no-one took any notice. This was because many of the local wealthy Catholic families, such as the Daltons and the Gillows, had supported the '15 Uprising and had been ruined as a consequence. Any support BPC received in Lancaster was covert as people remembered the 1,800 men imprisoned in the castle prison after the '15. Those who didn't die of jail fever were transported to the West Indies.
Murray and Elcho stayed at the Sun Hotel in Church Street where they discussed strategy. At the time this was the second largest hotel in Lancaster and had a very good reputation, nowadays it is more spit and sawdust than elegant but still serves a decent pint once the barman wakes up (try the Mild!). BPC was quartered across the street, probably in the handsome Georgian townhouse of a prominent local Catholic family. The house is still standing, with one set of railings intact (the others were removed in WWII). It is ironic that this lovely building is now the Conservative Club. During the evening of November 25th, BPC disappeared, much to the consternation of his bodyguards. When he returned, he explained he had been for a walk in the gardens. The gardens to this house are actually across the street, just at the back of the Sun Hotel. The summer house, (built 1730)whose lower story is in the form of a Roman triumphal arch with music rooms above is still there, off Sun street. Nowadays it houses a designer wedding dress shop but the original music room can still be visited and you can hire the roof-garden flat from the Landmark Trust (probably for the same price per week as one of the wedding dresses).
From Lancaster BPC and his followers marched on to Preston and thence to Derby. As he left Lancaster, the army, in an extended file, in front of him and behind, stretched from Burton to Garstang - a length of seventeen miles! The rapidity at which the army moved, and the clever strategically manoeuvring that left Cumberland building up forces in the Midlands, while Wade was out-flanked at Newcastle, left BPC in a position to strike directly at London. There was a run on the Bank of England (legends tell of cashiers heating the money up so investors could not handle it!), and many government supporters fled.
BPC stayed another night in Lancaster on the retreat to Scotland, Friday 13th December1745. The house he stayed in on this visit is not recorded.

Many thanks to Kenneth Docton, of Lancaster Tourist Board, who compiled the information on which his "Rebellion Tour" of Lancaster, and this article, are based.
Article complied by Duncan and Liz Bell

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