Garstang is an attractive, popular market town situated on the banks of the River Wyre and close to the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from where the river springs.
Garstang was recorded in the Domesday Book as Cherestanc and received a Royal Charter to hold an annual fair in 1288 and a market from 1314. The weekly street market continues to this day every Thursday. In 2001 Garstang became the world’s first Fairtrade Town.
The town has a population of 5,000 and is a true mixture of the old and the new with historic buildings and medieval weinds (passage ways) alongside contemporary shops and services.
Until 1926, when the first by-pass was built, the main A6 road from north to south went through the town and over the River Wyre at the Stone Bridge. It formed the Drove Road for the Highland Cattle being walked from Scotland to markets in London and the Midlands. Robert the Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Oliver Cromwell all brought their armies through the town, and when travel was mainly by horse drawn coach, up to twenty-four a day stopped here to change horses. All these animals and people needing rest, food and drink accounts for the large number of inns, which existed here – at least thirteen – many of which survive today.
Garstang was also a focal point for the local area and was well known for its own horse fairs, livestock and grain markets.
Historic landmarks include Greenhalgh Castle the remains of which overlook the town from a small hillock in the east. During the Civil War it withstood a twelve month siege before surrendering and being dismantled by Cromwell’s men. In the High Street the Town Hall was built in 1680 but burnt down in 1750 and again in 1939, fortunately much of the Georgian exterior remains. Another landmark is the old grammar school built in 1756, now the Arts Centre. In addition to the River Wyre, the Kendal – Preston Canal runs through part of the town. Originally constructed in 1791 for the passage of freight it is now a leisure amenity for pleasure craft, long walks and even fishing.