Carnforth is a small town and civil parish near Lancaster in the north of Lancashire, England, situated at the north east end of Morecambe Bay. The parish of Carnforth had a population of 5,350 recorded in the 2001 census,[1] and forms part of the City of Lancaster. The 2011 Census measured a population of 5,560.[2]


Carnforth railway station
Shown within the City of Lancaster district
Location within Lancashire
Population5,560 (2011)
OS grid referenceSD499704
Civil parish
  • Carnforth
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtLA5
Dialling code01524
AmbulanceNorth West
EU ParliamentNorth West England
UK Parliament

Due to the closeness of the coast and the hills, Carnforth is a popular base for walkers and cyclists exploring the area. The River Keer, the West Coast Main Line (WCML), the A6 and the Lancaster Canal pass through the town. The M6 motorway passes just to the east, linked to Carnforth by the A601(M).


The name "Carnforth" is thought to derive from its old function as a ford of the River Keer on which it is situated. Over time the descriptive name "Keer-ford" may have morphed into the modern "Carnforth". An alternative explanation is that the name derives from 'Chreneforde' and is Anglo-Saxon in origin, as cited in the Victoria County History of Lancashire.

Much of the history of Carnforth revolves around the railway and ironworks. Vast deposits of limestone located locally made Carnforth an ideal place for an ironworks, as limestone is a key component of the smelting process. In 1846 the Carnforth Ironworks Company established a works, located near the railway station. In the same year a recession occurred in the Earl of Dudley ironworks in Worcestershire, this meant there was a surplus of workers. A number of workers moved to the ironworks and lived in the nearby company village of Dudley (now called Millhead). In 1864 the Carnforth Haematite Company took over the works and production was vastly increased due to iron ore that was brought in by rail from the Furness Peninsula. By 1872 steel production became the main focus for the works using the new Bessemer process. By 1889 this process had failed. Iron production continued at the works until 1929 when it eventually closed down. The site was taken over by the War Department as an ordnance depot and remained as such until the 1960s. From then to the present the site is now an industrial estate consisting of several businesses.[3]

In the 19th century, Carnforth grew from a small village into a railway town when it became the junction of three major railways. With the closure of Carnforth MPD in 1968, the railway station facilities were reduced – the main line platforms were closed in May 1970 and subsequently removed when the line was electrified two years later. As a result, no express services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) call at the town. The railway station is nowadays served by trains from Lancaster to Barrow and Leeds.

An important motive power depot was located to the west of the WCML and was one of the last to retain an allocation of steam locomotives until mid-1968. The buildings are now occupied by West Coast Railways[4] who still maintain and overhaul steam locos in their premises. The concrete locomotive coaling tower is a rare survivor.

From the 1920s to the 1980s Morphy's Mill, in Oxford Street, was a major employer of women in Carnforth. Contrary to its name it was not a mill but a factory making blouses and other garments.[5][6]

David Lean film

In 1945, Carnforth railway station was used as a set for the David Lean film Brief Encounter, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. Fans of this film were one of the major factors in the recent refurbishment of the railway station, including construction of a refreshment room to match the studio set used in the film, which is now run by the Carnforth Station Trust.[7][8]

Gallery of film locations


The town has a rugby club Carnforth RUFC and football team Carnforth Rangers.


Primary schools:

  • Our Lady of Lourdes RC Primary School
  • North Road Primary School
  • Christ Church C of E Primary School

Secondary schools:

There is also a small public library within the town.[9]

Health service

There is a general practice surgery in the town with eleven partners and four associate GPs. It has smaller surgeries in Arnside, Bolton-le-Sands, Halton, and Silverdale, to serve patients in outlying villages.[10] It is within the North Lancashire clinical commissioning group and patients are served by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

There is also an NHS clinic, adjacent to the GP practice, used for a variety of services.[11][12]



An electoral ward in the same name exists. This ward is smaller than the parish with a total population of 4,439.[13]

Notable people

The Conservative Party politician Cecil Parkinson was born in Carnforth in 1931 and became Baron Parkinson of Carnforth in 1992.

See also


  1. "Parish headcount" (PDF). Lancashire County Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 December 2006. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  2. "Town population 2011". Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  3. "Carnforth Canal Walks" (PDF). Simon Holt Marketing Services. p. 16. Retrieved 8 October 2007.
  4. "Yorkshire and Scotland Steam Train Trips – Online Booking Now Available all operated by West Coast Railways". Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  5. Jones, Sheila (2013). "Morphy's Mill (Part One)" (PDF). Mourholme Magazine of Local History. 63: 4–10. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  6. Jones, Sheila (2013). "Morphy's Mill (Part Two)" (PDF). Mourholme Magazine of Local History. 64: 4–10. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  7. "Carnforth Station Heritage Centre – Home of Brief Encounter". 17 October 2003. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  8. "Carnforth Station Heritage Centre – Home of Brief Encounter". 17 October 2003. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  9. "Carnforth Library". Libraries. Lancashire County Council. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  10. "Home page". Ash Trees Surgery. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  11. "Carnforth Clinic". NHS Property Services. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  12. "Open repair clinics". Audiology. University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  13. "Ward population 2011". Retrieved 7 June 2015.
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