I’m proud to be a patron of the Friends of Real Lancashire. Every year I get Tameside Council to fly the red rose flag from Denton Town Hall on Lancashire day, but this year we’ve gone one better. There was a little-known regulation change a few years back when Eric Pickles was the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He altered the transport regulations which previously stated that only administrative areas could be marked at boundaries to include the historic counties.
Why does it matter? On one level it doesn’t. Nothing changes. The boundaries set in the 1972 Local Government Act remain for both administration and ceremonial purposes. But our historic counties matter because they give us a fixed sense of place, identity and community pride.
The boundaries of the historic counties are ancient. Most predate the Norman Conquest of 1066. Lancashire is newer. It was created in 1182. It was given Duchy or Palatinate status in 1351. That meant that the Duke of Lancaster could exercise sovereign rights over the county as though he were King. Of course today, the Queen is Duke of Lancaster, but she still exercises Duchy rights within the historic boundaries. For example, if you die without a will and no obvious successor in Audenshaw, your property goes to the Duchy. In Dukinfield it goes to the Treasury.
People blame the 1972 Act for confusing the boundaries, but it started with the 1888 Act that created County Councils. You see, many of those councils did not follow the actual county boundaries. Towns that straddled the boundary were placed under the administration of one county council. So Stalybridge (part-Lancashire and part-Cheshire) was put into Cheshire County Council’s administration (though it retained a Lancashire Ward on the old borough council). Likewise, Mossley (part-Lancashire, part-Cheshire and part-Yorkshire) was put solely into Lancashire County Council’s administration; although to this day the Town Council has three Wards named Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.
So now we have four new signs recognising our fascinating historic boundaries. These signs sit at Stockport Road, Mill Lane and Broomstair in Denton and at Shepley in Audenshaw. None of the funding came from Tameside’s highways budget, but from several separate sources, including the Denton Twinning Association and FORL. I’m now working with the Dukinfield Councillors to get Cheshire equivalents installed at the Tame too.
But having pride in the past doesn’t mean replacing our enthusiasm for the future. We are Tameside. It’s a great place, and part of the amazing Greater Manchester City region.
As we celebrate the past, we must continue to shape the future. We need to move forward with creating better transport links, greener jobs, and a cleaner local environment. Still, whilst we’re busy creating history, it’s always nice to recognise our own.