A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Approached from the south, Preston, in spite of its factory chimneys, has a pleasing appearance, as across the broad stream of the Ribble, which forms the foreground, two well-planted public parks occupy the ascending bank at the other side. The town hall, which has a lofty clock-tower, (fn. 1) is about half a mile north of the river, and from it the principal thoroughfare of the town, the wide street called Fishergate, goes west to the railway station, and then turning to the south-west descends to the riverside, (fn. 2) and bending south (fn. 3) along the Ribble reaches Penwortham Bridge. The continuation of Fishergate east from the town hall is called Church Street, (fn. 4) the parish church standing on its south side; after a short time it divides into three main branches—to the south-east and south as Stanley Street (fn. 5) and London Road, crossing Fishwick to reach Ribble Bridge, the main road southward; to the east, as Ribbleton Lane, to Ribchester; and to the north as Deepdale Road, in which stands the Infirmary. East from Stanley Street begins New Hall Lane, which goes past the cemetery and is continued as the Blackburn Road. On the north side of the town hall is the open market place, around which may be seen the Harris Free Library, the new sessions house, (fn. 6) completed in 1903, and the post-office, opened in the same year. (fn. 7) An obelisk in the square commemorates the local men who fell in the Boer War. From this square Friargate leads north-west for about a quarter of a mile, when it divides; Moor Lane leads north, past Moor Park and then across Fulwood to Garstang and Lancaster, while the Fylde road goes west to Kirkham. From Fishergate Lune Street goes north to Friargate, and from Church Street Lancaster Road and North Road run north to join Moor Lane. On the south side of Fishergate Chapel Street, passing Winckley Square, goes down to the two parks by the Ribble, already mentioned, Avenham Park and Miller Park. In Winckley Square there is a statue of Sir Robert Peel, erected in 1852, and in Miller Park one of the fourteenth Earl of Derby, 1873. In Avenham Park are two of the Russian guns captured in the Crimea. Cross Street, in which is the grammar school, begins on the east side of Winckley Square; while lower down Avenham Lane, an old thoroughfare, leads circuitously from the park, by Stonygate, to the parish church.
The whole township, which has an area of 2,127 acres, (fn. 8) is covered with a network of streets of dwellinghouses and shops, among which rise the numerous great cotton-spinning factories and other works which produce the town's wealth. There was a population of 101,297 in 1901. (fn. 9)
The different railways had formerly separate termini, but now all are made to meet at the large station in Fishergate. The London and North-Western Company's main line to Scotland is formed of the Wigan and Preston Railway, opened in 1838, (fn. 10) and the Preston and Lancaster Railway, 1840. (fn. 11) The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's system has amalgamated the lines joining Preston with Blackburn, (fn. 12) Bolton, Liverpool and Southport. (fn. 13) The two companies together hold the Wyre Railway (fn. 14) and the Preston and Longridge line, which latter has a station in Deepdale Road, its original terminus in 1840. The Lancaster Canal, first formed in 1798, begins on the north side of Fishergate, near the railway.
The railways have three bridges across the Ribble; there is only one bridge for ordinary traffic, that to Penwortham, and another for foot passengers, viz. the old tramway bridge at Avenham Park. (fn. 15)
Though the town has a pleasant aspect and a long history, its buildings are all modern. The ancient crosses and wells have gone. (fn. 16) In addition to public buildings there are banks, (fn. 17) clubs (fn. 18) and theatres. The earliest theatre of which there is any record was near Fishergate, and described as 'old' in 1762. The present Theatre Royal in Fishergate was built in 1802 and the Gaiety or Prince's Theatre in Tithebarn Street in 1882. (fn. 19) The old sports of cockfighting, bull-baiting, &c., have been suppressed. (fn. 20) The old-time punishments of cuckstool, pillory and stocks have likewise ceased. (fn. 21) Archery used to be practised on the Spital Moss. (fn. 22)
For more than a century the cotton manufacture has been the staple industry of Preston. There are, however, a number of minor ones: breweries, iron and brass foundries and engineering works, soap manufactories, and others, including one of the few in England of gold and silver laces and embroideries.
The total abstinence movement found zealous propagation in Preston, which is popularly known as 'the birthplace of Teetotalism'—of the word at least. (fn. 23)
The history of the manor of PRESTON is bound up with that of the hundred, of which it was the head. (fn. 24) Its ancient assessment was six plough-lands. The lords of Amounderness and subsequently the lords of the honour of Lancaster were lords of Preston also, (fn. 25) and though the manor seems once or twice to have been granted out, (fn. 26) the gift had no permanent result. The king, therefore, as Duke of Lancaster, became lord of the manor of Preston, but the corporation, by obtaining a grant of the feudal dues at a fixed rent, became immediate lords of the manor, which lordship was finally secured by their purchase of the rent in 1676.
An extent of the manor made in 1244 showed that if the town had remained in the king's hands it would have yielded over £20 a year (fn. 27); while another extent a century later showed that in addition to the fee-farm rent of £15 paid by the community, the Earl of Lancaster received only 51s. 2d. a year, derived, it would appear, from tenements which had escheated to him and been granted out again. (fn. 28)
The borough may have been created by Roger of Poitou, (fn. 29) and there is an allegation that Henry I granted a charter in 1100, (fn. 30) but this is probably an error. The first extant charter is one granted in or about 1179 by Henry II conceding to 'his burgesses of Preston' —the borough therefore already existing—all the liberties and free customs of Newcastle-under-Lyme, saving the king's right of administering justice. (fn. 31) John in 1199 confirmed both his father's charter and one he had himself granted while Count of Mortain, adding the whole toll of the wapentake, and a free fair on 15 August lasting for a week; also the right of pasture in Fulwood and liberty to take wood for building on view of the forester. (fn. 32) Henry III confirmed all in 1227. (fn. 33) Edward III in 1328 confirmed the foregoing acts of his progenitors, adding liberty of a weekly market on Wednesday and an annual fair of five days, 27 to 31 October. (fn. 34) This charter was granted five months after the holding of the first recorded guild merchant, at which it was expressly stated that 'the king gives the freedom to the burgesses which are in the guild and to none other.' (fn. 35) The guild is not named in any of the charters, but may be implied in the 'customs of Newcastle,' which town certainly had a guild in the time of Henry III. (fn. 36) The charters here described are known by their recital in later confirmations; only one, that of 1199, is preserved at Preston.
In 1292 the borough was called upon to show its authority for the rights of lordship exercised, and the bailiffs and community replied that their liberties and fair were granted by charter, except gallows and infangenthef, which were derived from ancient custom, this latter being also the origin of their weekly market. (fn. 37) The town had a moiety of the Ribble finery. (fn. 38)
The Custumal of Preston in its present form may date from the charter of 1328, (fn. 39) but had probably originated long before and been augmented from different sources. (fn. 40) The need of such a document had been shown by the proceedings of 1292. The first clauses, beginning 'Ita quod,' without an introductory phrase, establish the guild merchant with exclusive rights of trading, except at the burgesses' will. It appears that anyone (fn. 41) could become a burgess if he liked; all that was necessary was for him to pay 12d. to the 'prefect' and then the 'pretors' would assign him a burgage plot, which must have a frontage of 12 ft. at least, and on which, should there be no dwelling, he must build one within forty days. (fn. 42) Various clauses regulate the procedure in market (fn. 43) and court (fn. 44); a burgess was expected to attend three port-motes in the year, and must attend each great port-mote. (fn. 45) The fines, except in one or two cases, were not to exceed 12d. (fn. 46); trial by battle, fire or water was allowed. (fn. 47) The burgesses could marry their daughters as they chose, (fn. 48) and were free in the matter of milling and malting (fn. 49); they had right to common of pasture (fn. 50) and to expenses when travelling on the town's business. (fn. 51)
The titles of prefectus (or prepositus) and pretor for the chief officers are noteworthy, for the terms 'mayor' and 'bailiff' were already in use in the time of Edward II. (fn. 52) The community held the town of the king in fee farm, (fn. 53) and one clause of the Custumal ordains that the 'pretor' of the court should collect the king's farm at the four terms, and if a burgess did not pay at the second demand the door of his house was to be taken off and might not be replaced till due payment had been made. (fn. 54) The reeve had to account in the farm rent for the goods of a man who had been found carrying bad money. (fn. 55) The town court was the king's court, (fn. 56) and the common fund seems to have been called the king's purse. (fn. 57)
In 1314 began a series of grants of pavage to the mayor and town of Preston for the improvement of the ways. (fn. 58) The charter was confirmed from time to time, (fn. 59) but no change of importance was made till 1566, when Elizabeth, confirming the previous charters, decreed that the mayor and bailiffs should be assisted in the government of the town by 'twentyfour men of the more discreet and worthy men' of the borough, who should be called the capital burgesses and form the Common Council, meeting in the Tollbooth or Moot Hall. The mayor for the time being was to be the justiciary, coroner and clerk of the market. (fn. 60)
A dispute as to the right of the aulnager for the county to seal cloths and levy dues in Preston occurred in 1571, it being contended that the charter exempted the town and that the goods made there, viz. 'narrow white kerseys,' were not included in the statute. (fn. 61) The guild of 1622 endeavoured to protect the burgesses in another way by keeping 'foreigners' out of the town, it being found that their living and trading therein was 'to the great prejudice, loss and hindrance of the free burgesses.' (fn. 62)
The records of the court leet have been preserved from 1653. (fn. 63) The ancient fee-farm rent of £15 (fn. 64) was redeemed by the corporation in 1650 and again after the Restoration in 1676. (fn. 65) The guild of 1662 distinguished itself by drawing up a code of by-laws from the records of former guilds and thus providing for the orderly government of the town. (fn. 66) Immediately afterwards a new charter was procured from Charles II, substantially the same as that of 1566, but making some further provisions. (fn. 67) This was followed in 1685 by an extended charter, which for the first time recognized the aldermen, who were to be seven in number. The mayor was to be assisted in his office as a justice of the peace by the exmayor, the senior alderman and the recorder. Two markets were now allowed, on Wednesday and Saturday, and three fairs, beginning 15 August, 27 October and 16 March. (fn. 68) No other charter was obtained till 1828, when, as, owing to the growth of the town, further justices were needed, it was provided that all the aldermen should act, also that the mayor, ex-mayor and senior aldermen should be coroners. (fn. 69)
Only seven years afterwards, in 1835, the Municipal Corporations Act abolished the old constitution and the first council election of the reformed corporation was held on 26 December; the aldermen were chosen on 31 December and the mayor on New Year's Day, 1836. The borough, which included the townships of Preston and Fishwick, was at first divided into six wards, and the council consisted of the mayor, twelve aldermen and thirty-six councillors. (fn. 70) In consequence of the growth of the town parts of Ribbleton and Brockholes on the east and of Ashton on the west were taken into the municipal borough in 1880 (fn. 71) and a further part of Ashton in 1888, (fn. 72) but the number of wards, though the areas were readjusted, remained unchanged until 1900, when the enlarged borough was divided into twelve wards—St. John's, Trinity, Christ Church and Avenham in the centre or ancient urban area; Ashton on the west; Maudland, St. Peter's, Moor Brook, Park and Deepdale on the north; Ribbleton and Fishwick to the east. Each ward has now an alderman and three councillors, so that the total membership is unchanged. The township boundaries were altered in 1894, so that those of the township or civil parish of Preston coincide with those of the municipal borough. (fn. 73) Preston became a county borough under the Act of 1888. As a parliamentary borough it has been known since 1295. (fn. 74) By the Reform Act of 1832 the town continued to return two members, but Fishwick was added to the borough. No change was made in the boundary till 1888, when the enlarged municipal borough, together with the township of Fulwood, became the parliamentary borough, there being still two members.
The borough court, a survival of the old manor courts, is held every third Friday by the recorder, for the recovery of small debts. The town has also its police force and court (fn. 75) and a quarter sessions court. (fn. 76) A county court is held there, as also county quarter sessions. The county council has its offices and meetings in Preston, as the most central point for Lancashire. (fn. 77) The Preston Rural District Council also meets in the town.
An artificial water supply, in addition to the wells, was begun as early as 1729 (fn. 78); but an efficient modern supply was not opened until 1832, (fn. 79) when a private company made a reservoir at Grimsargh. In 1853 the works were acquired by the town and fresh reservoirs have continued to be formed according to the needs of the district supplied. (fn. 80)
Lamps for lighting the streets on dark nights were first supplied in 1699, the corporation providing them. (fn. 81) Fr. Dunn, a Jesuit stationed at Preston, having seen gas used at Stonyhurst, advocated its introduction in Preston, which was thus the first provincial town in England to be lighted with gas, in 1816. (fn. 82) A private company, formed in 1815 and incorporated in 1839, supplies it. (fn. 83) The Electric Supply Company supplies electric light, with which the principal streets are lighted.
The first tramways were opened in 1879 (fn. 84) and have been greatly extended. They are now owned by the town and worked by electricity. The corporation also supplies electric power.
The grammar school seems always to have been governed by the corporation; various other educational institutions and libraries have now been added. The Free Library was opened in the Town Hall in 1879, (fn. 85) but transferred to the Harris Free Public Library and Museum in 1903. (fn. 86) A science and art school are held in the Harris Institute. (fn. 87) The Victoria Jubilee technical school was opened in 1897. (fn. 88)
The corporation has carried out the usual works for sanitary purposes. (fn. 89) It has erected a large town hall, (fn. 90) a public hall or corn market (fn. 91) and a covered market. (fn. 92) It owns several parks and recreation grounds. (fn. 93) The cemetery in Ribbleton was opened in 1855. (fn. 94) The corporation has also done much to improve the navigation of the Ribble and make the town a useful port. (fn. 95)
Preston possesses valuable regalia and plate, including the great mace presented by the Duke of Hamilton in 1703, a civic sword and the hanap, or cup and cover, dated 1615. (fn. 96)
The corporation built a workhouse in Avenham about 1675 for the unemployed poor, and this was superseded in 1788 by a new house on the moor. Under the Poor Law of 1834 Preston became the head of a union. A new workhouse at Fulwood was opened in 1868. (fn. 97) The infirmary is in Deepdale Road. (fn. 98) In addition the town has various societies and clubs. There are two daily and four weekly newspapers. (fn. 99)
In addition to the church and the chantries, the leper hospital (fn. 100) and the Friary, (fn. 101) the Knights Hospitallers, (fn. 102) Lytham (fn. 103) and Burscough Priories, (fn. 104) Whalley, (fn. 105) Sawley, (fn. 106) and Cockersand Abbeys (fn. 107) had lands in the town. In resisting a claim to certain burgages and land Robert Abbot of Cockersand averred that the tenements were of the manor of Preston, which was of the ancient demesne of the Crown of England; the claimant denied this, saying that the manor was of the honour of Lancaster and an escheat of the king, as he was ready to verify by the 'book of Domusdey' and in all other ways. (fn. 108) Many of the gentry of the county had burgages and lands in the town. In some cases they were stated to hold them of the king, in others of the corporation; but often no tenure was recorded. (fn. 109)
Of the local families (fn. 110) several took a surname from the town itself, and Prestons occur constantly in the annals. (fn. 111) One of these families recorded a pedigree in 1664, (fn. 112) another acquired lands in Ireland, and Sir Robert Preston was in 1478 created Viscount Gormanston, (fn. 113) a peerage still in existence, though the title was not recognized from the Revolution until 1800. (fn. 114) Among other more ancient families may be named by way of example those of Banastre of Peel Hall, &c., (fn. 115) Blundell, (fn. 116) Burnhull, (fn. 117) Erghum or Arrom, (fn. 118) Fishwick, (fn. 119) Hacconsall, (fn. 120) Marshall, (fn. 121) Leyland. (fn. 122) Molyneux of Cuerdale, (fn. 123) Pelle, (fn. 124) Wall, (fn. 125) Walton, with lands also in Fishwick and Ashton, (fn. 126) descending by an heiress to French, Werden, (fn. 127) and Wich (fn. 128); of these the Walls recorded pedigrees in 1567 (fn. 129) and 1664, (fn. 130) and Banastre (fn. 131) and Blundell (fn. 132) in the latter year. In 1613 pedigrees were recorded by two families named Breres, (fn. 133) one of them holding the old Friary. (fn. 134) In 1664–5, in addition to those named, the families of Ashton, (fn. 135) Chorley, (fn. 136) French, (fn. 137) Hesketh, (fn. 138) Hodgkinson, (fn. 139) Johnson, (fn. 140) Kuerden, (fn. 141) Law, (fn. 142) Legh, (fn. 143) Lemon, (fn. 144) Mort, (fn. 145) Pigot, (fn. 146) Shaw (fn. 147) and Winckley (fn. 148) recorded their pedigrees as 'of Preston.' Other well-known names appear in the 17th century—as Addison, (fn. 149) Patten, (fn. 150) ancestors of the Earls of Derby, (fn. 151) Pedder, (fn. 152) Sudell (fn. 153) and Walmesley. (fn. 154) Many of these were lawyers. In later times others become prominent, as manufacturers brought wealth to the town and increased its population. (fn. 155)
The parish church has been described above. The population remaining comparatively stationary no other church was needed in the town till 1724, when St. George's (fn. 158) was built as a chapel of ease at what was then the western edge of the town. A parish was attached to it in 1844. (fn. 159) The building was encased in stone in 1845, and almost entirely rebuilt in 1885. After the lapse of nearly a century a great effort was made to provide additional accommodation, and the following churches have been built:—Holy Trinity 1814–15, (fn. 160) St. Peter's 1822, (fn. 161) St. Paul's 1823–5, (fn. 162) Christ Church 1836–7, (fn. 163) St. James's, built by a newly-formed denomination, acquired in 1838, rebuilt 1870–81, (fn. 164) St. Mary's 1836–8, (fn. 165) St. Thomas's 1837–9, (fn. 166) All Saints' 1846–8. (fn. 167) Somewhat later are:—St. Luke's (fn. 168) and St. Saviour's 1859, (fn. 169) St. Mark's 1863, (fn. 170) Emmanuel 1870, (fn. 171) St. Stephen's, first opened as a chapel of ease to Christ Church in 1869, the present church being erected in 1888, (fn. 172) St. Matthew's 1880–3, (fn. 173) and St. Jude's 1893. (fn. 174) There are mission rooms connected with several of the churches. St. Philip's Protestant Church was opened in 1894–6. (fn. 175)
Wesleyan Methodism obtained a standing in the town about 1781, (fn. 176) when it is stated that a room in St. John's Street was used (fn. 177); in 1787 a small chapel in Back Lanc was erected. (fn. 178) The church in Lune Street succeeded it about 1817, (fn. 179) and was practically rebuilt in 1862; Wesley Church, North Road, originated in 1839, (fn. 180) that at Moor Park in 1862, (fn. 181) Marsh Lanc in 1873, (fn. 182) and two others. (fn. 183) The Primitive Methodists appeared in 1810, (fn. 184) their first meeting-place being in a yard off Friargate; then they built a chapel in Lawson Street, which was in 1836–7 abandoned for that in Saul Street. A mission in Deepdale, begun about 1876, resulted in the present church there. The United Methodist Free Church (fn. 185) has Orchard Chapel, built in 1831 and rebuilt 1862, and Moor Lanc, 1873, which has absorbed the congregation of Parker Street Chapel, built in 1852.
The Congregationalists date from about 1772, (fn. 186) when, probably on account of the Unitarianism of the old Nonconformist chapel, a place of worship for the more Evangelical members was opened in Back Lanc. Lady Huntingdon helped the cause, which struggled on until in 1790 an Independent chapel was built in Chapel Street (fn. 187); it was in 1826 removed to Cannon Street. This church was enlarged in 1852 and greatly altered in 1887. A second church was opened in Grimshaw Street in 1808, (fn. 188) and this was rebuilt in 1859. A third, the result of a secession from Cannon Street, was built in Lancaster Road in 1863, a beginning having been made two years before. (fn. 189)
The Baptist church in Fishergate has sprung from a small meeting which can be traced back to 1782. (fn. 190) A church was formed in the following year, with the concurrence of the Particular or Calvinistic Baptist Church in Prescot Street near the Tower of London. (fn. 191) A building was erected in Leeming Street, now Manchester Road, in 1784–5, (fn. 192) and services went on there until about 1856; the old building was sold (fn. 193) and the present one in Fishergate was opened in 1858. (fn. 194) A division in the congregation had in 1854 led to the foundation of a church in Pole Street, (fn. 195) which had a continuous history until 1901, about which time the congregation dissolved. The trustees afterwards reopened the building, known as Carey, the new church being formed in 1905 or 1906. (fn. 196) The General Baptists had a mission in the town from 1825 till about 1840; they are thought to have used Vauxhall Chapel. This building, which had had various uses, (fn. 197) was acquired about 1845 by a body of Baptists who clung to Calvinistic tenets when the denomination in general was relinquishing them (fn. 198); in 1853 a division led to the building of a small chapel, called Zoar, in Regent Street, (fn. 199) from which the congregation has migrated to Great Avenham Street. The Tabernacle, St. George's Road, is another small Baptist church which has existed for about thirty years.
The Presbyterian Church of England has a place of worship in St. Paul's Square, opened in 1878. (fn. 200)
The Unitarian church in Preston, as in many other places, represents the old Nonconforming congregation, which had a more or less secret existence from the Act of Uniformity of 1662 till toleration was granted at the Revolution. (fn. 201) The chapel, near the east end of Church Street, was built about 1717 by Sir Henry Hoghton of Hoghton. The doctrine is said to have been Arian or Unitarian from an early period of its history. (fn. 202)
The Society of Friends can be traced back to 1680. (fn. 203) Their meeting-house between Friargate and Back Lanc was acquired in 1784 and rebuilt in 1797 and 1847. The district and county meetings of the Society are held in it. (fn. 204) There is a Free Gospel church dating from 1858, (fn. 205) and the Salvation Army has stations. The New Jerusalem Church in Avenham Road began in 1844. (fn. 206) The Catholic Apostolic Church, or Irvingites, after meeting in various rooms acquired in 1882 a small church in Regent Street (fn. 207) originally built by the Particular Baptists. (fn. 208) Some minor religious efforts failed to secure a permanent standing. (fn. 209) The Mormons also failed to establish themselves. (fn. 210)
In spite of the large number of faithful adherents of Roman Catholicism known to have lived in Preston during the times of persecution there is here, as elsewhere, the greatest obscurity in the story of their worship, (fn. 211) though rooms may have been secretly used for mass even in the town itself, particularly in the Friargate district. (fn. 212) It was here that the first St. Mary's Chapel was built in 1761. It was demolished by the mob during the election contest of 1768, and though the priest in charge managed to escape across the Ribble he died soon afterwards from alarm and horror. (fn. 213) Shortly afterwards another was built on the site, but was closed when St. Wilfrid's was opened in 1793 and it became a warehouse. However, in 1815 it was restored to divine worship as a chapel of ease, its present status, and served till 1856, when the present St. Mary's was built on its site. (fn. 214) It stands back from the street, being approached from Friargate through an archway. St. Wilfrid's, built, as stated, in 1793, was rebuilt in 1879, (fn. 215) St. Ignatius' followed in 1836, (fn. 216) and St. Walburge's, with its tall spire, one of the landmarks of Preston, in 1852. (fn. 217) These churches, with St. Mary's, are served by Jesuit Fathers. The secular clergy have St. Augustine's 1838–40, (fn. 218) St. Joseph's 1862–74 (fn. 219) and the English Martyrs' 1863–88. (fn. 220) The Sisters of Charity manage St. Joseph's Institutions, founded in 1872 by Mrs. Holland. The teaching orders of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and the Faithful Companions of Jesus have convents. (fn. 221) A society formed in 1731, but of earlier origin, exists for the relief of the poor and charity towards the dead; it is called the 'First Catholic Charitable Society.'