Before the University

Before Bailrigg succumbed to the student invasion, it fulfilled all manner of functions ranging from arable farming to gentlemanly recreation. Here you can discover the secret history of the campus land, hundreds of years before the university arrived.

Ancient settlement

The University is located on an area known as Bailrigg, a hamlet within the town of Scotforth, which lies two miles south of Lancaster. The name Bailrigg has two possible meanings, it signifies either a living space or something that is adjacent to a ridge or boundary. “Bal” and “Balla” means an abode and “Bail” signifies a certain limit in a forest. The suffix “rigge” means ridge, or raised ground.

The vast majority of what became the campus was part of “Bailrigg Moor”, a rough grazing land that the farmers in Scotforth had common rights to, until 1809 when the site was improved.

Bigforth farm and the fields to the north-west of the site were already in existence at this time. The name “Bigforth” represents the old Norse “bygg-thveit” which translated into modern English means barley clearing. This would suggest that the farm originated in the period of Scandinavian colonization between the tenth and the twelfth centuries.

Bailrigg, in the early 19th century

The landscape altered dramatically after 1809 when Joshua Hinde created rectangular fields of pasture on the former moor.

Hinde (1761-1825) was part of large Lancastrian slave-trading family, he sold cargoes of enslaved people landed by English slave ships in the West-Indies, worked as the manager of a sugar plantation in Grenada, and invested in a slave ship with his cousins. The wealth Hinde acquired through the slavery business enabled him to enclose former moorland and turn Bailrigg into a private agricultural estate.

While the University has no direct connection to the Hinde family, it is important to acknowledge the history of the ownership of the land on which the campus now sits, and since 2020 staff and students have been working with Lancaster Black History Group to acknowledge this history.

The fields were likely subject to paring, burning, re-seeding and field drainage to improve their quality. This was done at the height of the Napoleonic wars, so Hinde probably aimed to improve the land in order to increase food production during a time of shortages and high prices.

By 1833, the land had been developed extensively, largely through the plantation of a shelterbelt of woodland on top of the hill which would become the west side of the new campus.

As a 'sporting estate' in the mid-19th century

By 1841, the whole Bigforth estate had passed to William Treasure Redmayne of Amwell, originally from Bury in Hertfordshire.

Leonard Redmayne (William’s father) raised himself from an obscure position to the head of the firm of Gillows. He was also one of the first directors of the Lancaster Banking Company. He was Mayor of Lancaster in 1842 and died in 1869. William Treasure Redmayne was Leonard’s only son. William, a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, died in London on November 30th, 1849, aged 42 years.

William Treasure Redmayne was likely responsible for the conversion of the site into a sporting estate. The framework of woodland had been planted as cover for game, and parts of this have survived to the present day.

New money, new landscapes

In 1887, the estate was purchased by Sir Thomas Storey and, on his death in 1897, it passed to his son, Herbert Lushington Storey. At that time, the estate comprised of 523 acres of land and three farms, Hazelrigg, Bigforth and Bailrigg, and Burrow House.

Between 1899 and 1902, Herbert Storey built Bailrigg House where he lived until his death. Bailrigg House was designed by the architects Woolfall and Eccles of Liverpool. Herbert also re-orientated the land, adding additional elements to the landscape and later hiring the famous local landscape architect, Thomas Mawson to do additional work.

The field boundaries in front of Bailrigg House were removed in order to create an area of parkland. Some of the fields adjoining the house were used to create kitchen gardens, a cricket pitch and a lawn tennis court. The existing framework of the woodland plantations was retained but the construction of a gentleman’s residence necessitated the estate’s conversion from open fields into a domestic pleasure ground in the style of a typical Edwardian county house. So for instance, the farmstead was moved from Bigforth to Bailrigg Farm and an ornamental and fishing lake was built. This is now named Lake Carter, after the first Vice-Chancellor of the university.

The Storey Family

The 20th century

In 1921, the land and estate were sold at auction and purchased by Townley Parker. The sale catalogue for the estate and Bailrigg mansion gives a vivid impression of what the house was like, as do the pictures of the house’s interior.

By the time of the 1930s Ordnance Survey map, the estate had all the features of a small landed estate.

In 1963, Bailrigg Estate and most of the surrounding land succumbed to the student invasion. The Townleys were approached by Don Wadell, the Town Clerk of Lancaster, to see if they would sell the house and its property for the construction of the new university. They were eventually persuaded to sell their mansion and Bigforth farm for £50,000.

Bigforth farm consisted of around 200 acres. Later, 50 acres at Hazelrigg Farm were bought, and then 90 acres at Bakers Farm in 1967. The area of land chosen as the site of the new university was a rich tapestry of copses, small patches of water and grassland with a number of stone farmhouses and buildings typical of North Lancashire and the Lake District. During the construction process, many of the belts of woodland along the north and east sides of the campus were preserved and can still be seen today.