The abstract of this article begins "Historians are generally agreed that Lancashire was the most Catholic and the most Jacobite county in England at the time of the 1715 rebellion".
The Wikipedia article on "Recusancy" says "Recusancy was historically focused in Northern England, particularly Cumberland, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmoreland".
And the Wikipedia article on "Catholicism in England" says "In North West England one in five are Catholic, a result of large-scale Irish migration in the nineteenth century as well as the high number of English recusants in Lancashire".

My question is why was Lancashire and the North West of England home to so many recusants/Catholics?

  • 3
    By definition, somewhere has to be the most X for any variation of X. It would be interesting to understand the size of the variation & the Lancashire deviation. I also strongly suspect network effects - once an area trends Catholic, there is an inward pressure for Catholics. So it could be simply an artifact of random chance.
    – MCW
    Nov 10, 2023 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


Even in the early 1700s, the North of England was a long ways away from the centers of power in the South. It was a lot further away in the 1500s when Catholicism was being overthrown by Puritans who mostly Southerners and were centered in East Anglia.

(E.g., the king's power in the North was exercised through a Council of the North in York, and the Church in the North was under the archbishop of York, not the archbishop of Canterbury.)

When H8 and successors attempted to replace Catholicism with Church of England, this was seen in the North as just one more imposition by those near-foreigners from London. While London did replace the official church even in the North, it did not win the hearts and minds, and many people continued to be Catholic.

From their point of view a Catholic Scottish prince was hardly more foreign than a CofE Southerner.

  • George I was not a Southerner. He was a German. Nor was James Scottish, except as regards remote ancestry.
    – davidlol
    Nov 13, 2023 at 17:55

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