Lancashire (lăngˈkəshĭr, –shər) [key], county (1991 pop. 1,365,100), 1,878 sq mi (4,864 sq km), N England, on the Irish Sea. The county town is Lancaster. The northwestern portion of the county is part of the Lake District; in the west and south are lowlands (the Lancashire plain) and occasional moors, with deposits of coal, slate, and sandstone. The principal rivers are the Mersey (which forms much of the county's southern border), the Lune, the Wyre, and the Ribble. The coastline is low and broken by estuaries. Morecambe Bay separates Furness from the rest of the county. Lancashire's principal cities are Manchester and Liverpool. The chief manufactures are textiles, paper, chemicals, rubber goods, and glass. Vegetables and dairy products are also economically important, and market gardening is a major source of income near the Ribble estuary. Lancaster and Preston are industrial hubs. Lancashire in Anglo-Saxon times was part of the kingdom of Northumbria. In 1351 it was made a county palatine, and in 1399 the palatine rights were vested in the king. Lancashire's economic growth began in medieval times with the introduction of the woolen industry. The process was accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, and the population increased rapidly in the 19th and early 20th cent. In 1974, Lancashire was reorganized as a nonmetropolitan county.
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