History of Lancaster’s Damside Street | HPA | Projects

The History of Lancaster’s Damside Street 

The important civic buildings on Damside Street are rich in history that embodies the commercial and cultural core of the city.

Dating back to the 18th and early 19th century, a wider group of masonry-built properties, were constructed over a mill race, a channel of water that drives a mill wheel, and then widened to form a mill dam. The site of the mill, which was demolished in 1769, is partially beneath Damside Street numbers 12 and 14 and the road outside of these properties.

This group of properties are three-stories high and built in pairs from coursed millstone grit blocks with slate roofs and twin front doors.

All the properties now have shopfronts at ground floor level, which are thought to have been added in the late 19th or early 20th century, with some having been updated more recently.

The Dyehouse

Properties from numbers 2-4 on Damside Street, were originally part of a dyehouse owned by Jeremiah Wane, a celebrated dyer, non-conformist, and town councillor during the first half of the 19th century.

During the 18th century, dyeing was reliant on the overseas trade for the importing of natural dyestuffs and large quantities of water were required for the dyeing process, which explains why this dyehouse was built adjacent to a watercourse.

The Dyehouse was sold to Thomas Cunningham in 1887, by Jeremiah Wane’s son John. Thomas Cunningham’s notebook provides an insight into the dyeing business at the time, in which he lists the colours and supplies purchased, and records the business accounts for the four years prior to his purchase. Within this notebook there is also a small watercolour painting found that shows the property prior to the insertion of the shopfront. Notably, the reference to Jeremiah Wane has been retained in this illustration, despite two changes in ownership, which suggests Wane was a well-respected name in the local area.

The Watchmaker and Jeweller

Thomas Cunningham’s second son James was first listed as a watchmaker in the 1901 census and later a jewellery dealer in 1911 and it is likely that the current historic shop fronts date from the late 1800s or early 1900s when James started his watchmaking business.

The father of the current owner bought the property from James Cunningham in 1945 and the business still retains the Cunningham name and has since extended into No.2 during the 1970s.

Historically, No 2. Damside Street had been ‘Beaty’s Complete Tailors’ in the 1930s as well as ‘Sutton Glass and China Merchants’ in the 1950s.

Restoration and Repair of the Traditional Shopfront

The changes being implemented by HPA to Damside Street are designed to positively impact the character and appearance of this historic and commercial heart of Lancaster City centre.

The first stage of works on site commenced in January 2023. The work being carried out includes repairing timbers to shopfronts, repointing with lime, securing slipped roof slates and the reinstatement of pilasters to replicate the historic pattern.

As part of the restoration work current UPVC windows will be replaced with painted timber sashes on second and first floors. Guttering and downpipes will be replaced with traditional round cast aluminium alternatives and fabric awnings will be replaced with canopies extending shops, using historic ironmongery and fabric designs.

We look forward to sharing the conclusions when works are completed.

Read more about our about HPA’s commission for the Lancaster High Street Heritage Action Zone Programme: https://www.hpa.ltd/lancaster-high-street-heritage-action-zone-damside-street/

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