1. Introduction

1.1 A Pen Picture

Silverdale is a village of some 1500 people located at the extreme northern border of present day Lancashire, equidistant to the historic city of Lancaster and Kendal on the edge of the Lake District.  It benefits from a location that is both off the beaten track and accessible, being only some 10-15 minutes from the M6 and having a railway station on the Manchester to Barrow line.

Completion of the railway line in 1857 led to the expansion of the village from a small scattered farming and fishing community to a village in which lived several wealthy businessmen from Lancashire industrial towns and to which people, including the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, would come for holidays and relaxation. The railway, together with availability of limestone also led to the expansion of industry in the area, notably quarrying and the first tar-macadam plant in the country.

A further boost to residential development was given in 1938 when a piped water supply was at last provided to the village, one of the last settlements in the County not to have piped water until that time.

Nowadays the industry and quarrying has gone and the parish forms part of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It continues to attract visitors, most notably to the nearby Leighton Moss Bird Reserve and to various caravan sites, of which the largest is the Holgates site just outside the village (and county) boundary to the north. It is also a popular location for ramblers and some of these visitors are attracted to Silverdale as a place to live in, either in retirement, or as a base from which to commute.

With the growth of wealth and mobility Silverdale became a place to retire to and, during the 1960s and 70s it expanded northward and eastward, mostly in the form of bungalows and suburban style housing. Although often characterised as a retirement location, it also has a great number of younger families and a thriving village school.

It is indeed a very popular residential location for all age groups and this has led to a mixed and lively community, with a great variety of sports and recreational activity and facilities. There is a wealth of voluntary organisations, a village school, several local shops, two churches, and provision for visitors in hotels and other accommodation. Caravan sites in or close to Silverdale bring visitors and trade to the village. Three care homes, two residential special schools, and a nursing home are also important elements of village life.

The rest of this section gives some more detail about the key elements that contribute to Silverdale’s character, namely its environment, population / housing, and economy.

1.2 Environment

Silverdale is noted for the beauty of its landscape, with limestone cliffs and pavements, luxuriant woodlands with many rare plants, trees and wildlife and superb views of distant hills and across the estuary and out over Morecambe Bay, not to mention the attractive and ever-changing shore line itself, with its receding salt marshes, coves and sand flats .

A Landscape Assessment of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB was undertaken in 1997 on behalf of the Countryside Commission.  This described Silverdale village as lying “within a basin of lower-lying sheltered land which separates higher ridges of faulted Park Limestone to the north and south. It has a distinctive landscape character which is considered by many to represent the essential qualities of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB.”

The key characteristics of the area are listed as:

  • Low wooded limestone hills
  • Open pastures and small sheltered paddocks
  • Rough grazing land with species-rich grasslands and rocky outcrops
  • Narrow, undulating lanes and a dense network of footpaths, often flanked by limestone walls
  • Considerable semi-natural woodland and amenity planting
  • Historic wells
  • Victorian and Edwardian dwellings and more recent bungalow development.

The Landscape Assessment laments that demand for housing has adversely affected the character of the area, with development that does not reflect the siting, form, scale or materials of the older housing stock.  It also comments that the village centre “lacks distinction”, despite having one of the finest village halls in the area.

The assessment also describes the importance of the Morecambe Bay coastland, both to the setting of inland areas such as Silverdale and as having a distinctive character of its own:

“In places, low cliffs, such as those west of Jenny Brown’s Point, define the coastline. They back the inter-tidal foreshore, where extensive sand-flats, slabs of limestone and beaches of pebble and shingle are exposed at low tides. Tidal movement constantly changes the visual character of the coast, through shifting patterns of colour and texture, and the play of light across the water’s surface…..The coastal zone is particularly dynamic with tidal erosion and deposition, leading to significant changes to the pattern and  balance of salt-marsh and silty sand… “

From a nature conservation perspective, Silverdale has several recognisable habitats which are of special scientific interest, for example the saltmarsh and coastal mudflats, the mixed deciduous woodland, extensive reedbeds fringing freshwater meres, a pattern of small pastures bounded by dry stone walls, and abundant tracts of limestone pavement with its own unique flora and fauna. Such a diverse and scientifically important landscape, one of the most important in Western Europe, one moreover of exceptional scenic beauty, needs every bit as much respect and consideration as better-known areas such as the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales or the Welsh Marches.

1.3 Population and Housing

Age Structure

The 2001 Census gave the population of Silverdale village as 1544.  Of these 591 (28.3 %) were over 60 years old, which is a higher proportion than average (the figure for the North West is 21.1% and for Lancaster 26.5%), but not perhaps as high as might be imagined for a village with an image as a retirement location and where 90 people were residents of communal establishments such as care homes.

On the other hand only 39 (4.4%) were between 20 and 29 years old, compared with 14% in Lancaster and 12% in the North West.  This may be accounted for by the difficulty which young people have in affording housing in Silverdale.  The number of young children and teenagers aged 0-19 was 266 (19.3 %), compared with 25.1% in Lancaster and 25.8% in the region.

The “middle aged” bracket (30-59) was about the local and regional average, but with a higher number in the 45-59 range (380 people, while 239 were between 30 and 44).

Birth / Origin

Only a very small proportion (2.8%) of Silverdale residents were born abroad (compared with 4.2% in Lancaster and 5.1% in the North West).  93.6% were born in England and 3.6% in the rest of the U.K.  Over 99% Silverdale’s residents describe their ethnic origin as white, just above the figure for Lancaster and compared with 94% in the North West as a whole.

Marital Status

Silverdale has a higher proportion of married and remarried people (50% and 12% respectively) than in Lancaster (39% and 8%) and in the North West (43% and 7%). The village also has a higher than normal number of widowed people (12.4%, compared with 7% locally and regionally).  It has a correspondingly low number of single, separated and divorced people (25% compared with 44% in Lancaster and 41% in the North West).

Household Composition

Reflecting the marital status information, 136 (20%) households in Silverdale comprised a married couple with children, while a further 131 (19%) were married without children and another 137 were married pensioners. There were also 72 single pensioner households, making the proportion of pensioner households 39.4%, which is considerably higher than the figure for Lancaster (26.2%) and for the North West (23.5%). The numbers of single non-pensioner households and households with cohabiting couples were lower (11% and 5% respectively) than in Lancaster and the North West (in both of which the proportions were about 16% and 8%). The number of single parent households (15, or just over 2%) was also lower than the local and regional figures (10% in Lancaster and 11% in the North West).

Socio- Economic Characteristics

Silverdale has a preponderance of people in managerial and professional occupations, making up nearly 34% of over 16s (compared with 22% in Lancaster and 24% in the North West), whereas only 11% were in routine occupations (20.5% in Lancaster and 22% in the North West).
Housing Characteristics

413 Silverdale dwellings, or 60% the total, were detached houses or bungalows.  This contrasts markedly with only about 19% detached properties in Lancaster and the North West. The percentage of semi-detached and terraced housing was correspondingly low, comprising about 27% (186 dwellings) and 15% (106) respectively.  There were only 53 flats or maisonettes, although at 1.3% this about the local and regional average.

86% households owned their own homes either outright or with a mortgage; most of these (377 households) owned their property outright, reflecting the high proportion of retired people and the affluence of the area generally. In Lancaster the owner-occupation level was 73% and in the North West 69%.  Only 23 dwellings in Silverdale (3.3% of the total) were rented from the Council or a Registered Social Landlord, whereas 10% in Lancaster and 20% in the North West were in this sector.  The level of private rented accommodation – 73 or 10.6%- equates to that in the region as a whole, but is lower than the 17% level in Lancaster (where the student housing market is an important factor).

Car Ownership

Reflecting relative prosperity as well as remoteness, car-ownership in Silverdale is high with only 85, or 12%, households not having access to a car (compared with over 28% in Lancaster and over 30% in the North West), while 40.5% had two or more cars.  The proportion of households with 2 or more cars in Lancaster and in the North West was about 26%.  In total there were 954 cars or vans in the village.

1.4 The Economy

The main employers in the village are the four care/ nursing homes for the elderly and the three schools. Employment is also provided by the shops, garden centres and hotels, as well as the caravan parks and the RSPB visitor centre. The small number of local firms in the City Council’s database also includes a plumbing, a landscape gardening, a wine import and a financial services business. Many jobs are done by people from outside the village while the majority of residents work outside Silverdale. However, there are also an increasing number of small businesses comprising one or two people working from home in fields such as I.T. and consultancy.

Travel to Work

The 2001 Census shows 98 people, or 16.6% of those in employment, working mainly at or from home. The equivalent figures for Lancaster and the North West were 9.7% and 8.4%.  It can be assumed that about another 40 people worked in the village, since this was the number travelling to work on foot, with another 14 going by bicycle.

A relatively high number of people (410 or over 69%) travel to work in a private vehicle, nearly all driving themselves.  This is slightly above the figure for Lancaster (64%) and the North West (67%) and partly reflects the very small number (just 7) using the bus.  A further 19 people commute by train but even this low figure is higher than the proportion using the train in Lancaster and regionally.

Economic Activity

1074 people in Silverdale were aged 16 or over on Census day.  Of these 298 or 27% were retired, 68 (over 6%) were students and 54 (5%) were looking after the home/ family. The proportion of retired people, at 27%, is well above the figure for Lancaster (15%) and the North West (14.3%).

This accounts for the relatively low percentage (57% or 577 people) who were classed as economically active (including some of the students). Of these some 296 (28% of the total) were in full time employment, 139 (13%) were self-employed and 142 (13%) were part-time employees. The number of self-employed people is relatively high, with the equivalent figures for Lancaster and the North West being 8% and 7%. On the other hand only 1% of adults in Silverdale were unemployed, compared with 3.6% in Lancaster and the North West.

Industry of Employment

Of the 594 Silverdale residents who were in employment in 2001, the majority (52.2%) were in public sector type industries (including the privatised power and water industries), with a high proportion of these being in the health and education sectors (16.7% and 16.3% respectively). These figures contrast with public service employment levels of 33.8% in Lancaster (with its major hospital, university and colleges) and 25.6% in the North West.

The retail and wholesale trade, hotels and catering and transport, storage and communication between them account for 138 jobs amongst Silverdale residents, but in percentage terms (23%) this is below the 30% figures for both Lancaster and the North West.  The next most significant grouping was financial mediation, real estate and business activities, covering 82 jobs or 14% Silverdale’s employed people, which was slightly below the regional figure but above the 10% in these fields in Lancaster.

It is interesting that only 41 people (7%) were in manufacturing industry (compared with 11% in Lancaster and 17% in the North West) and that only 20 people (3.4%) were in the primary industries normally associated with a rural area, 17 in agriculture and forestry and only 3 people still in the once strong mining and quarrying business. Even this was however above the 1.4% in these industries in the North West.


The employment base is reflected in, and largely accounted for by, the very highly qualified nature of the workforce living in Silverdale.  40% of the population (428 people) have a university degree or similar, compared with 20% in Lancaster and 17% in the North West.  At the other end of educational attainment, 18% Silverdale residents over 16 years old have no qualifications, well below the 27% in Lancaster and 32% in the North West.