Friends of Real Lancashire
The Friends of Real Lancashire (FORL) are an outsider pressure group affiliated to the Association of British Counties calling for the wider recognition of the historic boundaries of Lancashire. Its chairman is Chris Dawson.
The Friends of Real Lancashire are concerned to promote what they view as, the true boundaries of the county, namely those of the County Palatine of Lancaster. The current local government boundary of Lancashire was established in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. Lancashire saw more upheaval from this Act than most counties, having most of its population transferred to the new counties: Manchester and the rest of south east Lancashire became part of Greater Manchester; Liverpool and the rest of south west Lancashire became part of Merseyside; Furness became part of Cumbria; and Warrington and Widnes became part of Cheshire.
According to the FORL website, in 1974 "the Government at that time stated that the "new counties" were administrative areas only, and that the boundaries of traditional counties such as Lancashire had not been changed. Unfortunately, the media refer to these administrative areas all too frequently and ignore the fact that places such as Barrow-in-Furness, Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, etc. are still in Lancashire." 
The boundary changes were not intended to affect loyalties but they caused concern in some areas and in practice it is the new boundaries which are now shown on maps and marked by road signs. They have also been widely adopted by the media as geographical designations, despite that many within the new counties continue to regard themselves as Lancastrians. The historic county boundaries continue to be used as the basis for organisations such as the Duchy of Lancaster, Lancashire County Cricket Club and Lancashire Football Association (although its area overlaps with Manchester Football Association).
The area under the control of Lancashire County Council, or shire county, became even smaller in 1998 when Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen became unitary authorities. Although they remain part of the ceremonial county, they are often no longer mapped as part of Lancashire and "Welcome to Lancashire" road signs have been placed on their boundaries with the shire county.
The group counts at least six MPs amongst its supporters and has been mentioned in Hansard. It has received limited support within local government, and its campaign has also mentioned in the local press. Lancashire Life magazine identifies itself as an enthusiastic supporter of the group and continues to cover the historic county area.
FORL has the following aims:
- The restoration of the historic boundaries of the Lancashire ceremonial county with the Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire covering everywhere within the historic borders.
- Road signs to mark the historic boundaries with Cheshire, Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland.
- The historic boundaries to be shown on Ordnance Survey and other maps rather than the current boundaries.
The group also campaigns to have public bodies named in accordance with historic rather than contemporary county names e.g. NHS ambulance authority reforms.
FORL's campaign has met with limited success. In 1994 it raised a petition with 30,000 signatures calling "for the restoration of Lancashire's historic boundaries" – the petition requested that the "Metropolitan Counties of Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cumbria be abolished and the real and historic county of Lancashire be restored". In response to other suggestions of restoring former boundaries, the Government has commented that although it has no plans to restore the historic borders of counties, boundary changes which have occurred need not affect loyalties.
The Local Government Commission for England made draft recommendations in as part of a review of the structure of local government in Cumbria that the "areas of Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council and South Lakeland District Council formerly in Lancashire should be returned to historic Lancashire for ceremonial and related purposes". The final recommendations noted that "the Commission heard from few people on this subject during the consultation period, although support was indicated by the Friends of Real Lancashire", and consequently proposed no change.
The group succeeded in having signs erected near Clitheroe, Nelson and Colne marking the traditional border with the West Riding of Yorkshire, on roads which are currently managed by Lancashire County Council, and paid for at no expense to the that body. A similar request to Cumbria County Council, to mark the historic borders between Westmorland and Cumberland and Lancashire was denied in 1996.
In 2001, the leader of the council was presented with a framed map, created by the group, depicting the historic boundaries. It was put on display at County Hall. Lancaster City Council endorsed the group's position in June 2002, resolving that the Council "support the Friends of Real Lancashire’s campaign to restore the former geographical county boundaries".
The Royal Mail no longer require the use of their former postal counties when addressing letters and instead use the postcode and post town to direct mail. As part of their flexible addressing policy, anyone may now include "Lancashire" as part of their address. Where a county is provided however, it will be ignored and to this end, an alias file supplement to the Postcode Address File cross references county and other postally-not-required information to the correct postal address.
As part of its campaign the group has adopted 27 November as Lancashire Day, this being the day in 1295 when Lancashire sent its first representatives to Parliament. It was first celebrated in 1996 with the Loyal Toast to "The Queen, Duke of Lancaster". Lancashire Day paralleled the similar Yorkshire Day, first held in 1975.
- Vision of Britain - Ancient county boundaries
- Vision of Britain - Shire county boundaries
- Elcock, H., Local Government, (1994)
- Barlow, I., Metropolitan Government, (1991)
- Arnold-Baker, C., Local Government Act 1972,(1973)
- The Friends of Real Lancashire
- Kingdom, J., Local Government and Politics in Britain, (1991)
- Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Aspects of Britain: Local Government, (1996)
- Bryne, T., Local Government in Britain, (1994)
- Lancashire FA - Senior Cup
- Manchester FA
- UK-SI 1996-1868. - The Lancashire (Boroughs of Blackburn and Blackpool) (Structural Change) Order 1996
- "4 December 1995". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). col. 116.
- South Lakeland District Council - Minutes of meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee held on 26 September 1995
- Lake District News - Atkinson, D., Changing boundaries prompt timely research!, (2004)
- Lancashire Life magazine
- "21 April 1994". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). col. 1146.
- Cumbria is actually a shire county
- "31 January 1996". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Commons). col. 821.
- Local Government Commission for England. The Future Local Government of Cumbria: Draft Recommendations. June 1994.
- Local Government Commission for England. Final Recommendations on the Future Local Government of Cumbria. October 1994.
- Ancient boundary signs to be revived Telegraph & Argus. January 8, 2000.
- Cumbria County Council Economy and Environemtn Sub-Committee minutes 7 May 1996
- This is Lancashire - County map shows 'real' borders, (2001)
- Lancaster City Council minutes 10 July 2002
- Royal Mail, Address Management Guide, (2004)
- BBC - Lancastrians' pride in heritage
- Lancaster City Council - Meeting of the Lancaster City Council. 17 December 2003 (PDF)
- Wyre Borough Council - Lanky Rules OK On Wyre’s Lancashire Day
- Lancashire County Council - News: Lancashire Day Fun