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Friargate Preston on a busy weekday afternoon - - 1710831.jpg
Friargate, Preston
Location: 53°45’32"N, 2°41’56"W
Population: 114,300  (2008 est.)
Post town: Preston
Postcode: PR1-PR2
Dialling code: 01772
Local Government
Council: Preston
Preston, Wyre and Preston North

Preston is a city in Lancashire, standing on the north bank of the River Ribble. It is a developed town which obtained city status in 2002, becoming England's 50th city in the 50th year of Queen Elizabeth II's reign.[1] The town itself has a population of some 114,300, while the wider area has a population of 132,000.

Preston and its surroundings have provided evidence of ancient Roman activity in the area, largely in the form of a Roman road which led to a camp at Walton-le-Dale. The English established Preston; the name Preston is derived from Old English words meaning "Priest settlement" and in the Domesday Book appears as "Prestune".

During the Middle Ages, Preston formed a parish and township in the hundred of Amounderness and was granted a Guild Merchant charter in 1179, giving it the status of a market town. Textiles have been produced in Preston since the middle of the 13th century, when locally produced wool was woven in people's houses. Flemish weavers who settled in the area during the 14th century helped to develop the industry. Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the spinning frame, was a weaver born in Preston. The most rapid period of growth and development in Preston's history coincided with the industrialisation and expansion of textile manufacturing. Preston was a prospering town of the Industrial Revolution, becoming a densely populated engineering centre, with large industrial plants.

In the early 18th century Edmund Calamy wrote that Preston was "a pretty town with an abundance of gentry in it, commonly called Proud Preston".[2] Preston's textile sector fell into a terminal decline from the mid-20th century. Preston has subsequently faced similar challenges to other post-industrial northern towns, including deindustrialisation, economic deprivation and housing issues.



The River Ribble provides a southern border for the city. The Ribble is tidal here, at the head of a long estuary reaching westward towards the sea. The Forest of Bowland forms a backdrop to Preston to the north-east while the Fylde lies to the west. Preston stands some 27 miles north-west of Manchester and 26 miles north-east of Liverpool, Lancashire's two greatest cities. It is 15 miles east of the coastal town of Blackpool, on the Fylde coast north of the Ribble's final discharge of its water into the Irish Sea.



Preston is recorded in the Domesday Book as "Prestune" in 1086.[3] Various other spellings occur in early documents: "Prestonam" (1094), "Prestone" (1160), "Prestona" (1160), "Presteton" (1180), and "Prestun" (1226). The modern spelling occurs in 1094, 1176, 1196, 1212 and 1332.[4] The town's name is derived from Old English Presta and Tun, the Tun (enclosure, farmstead, village, manor, estate)[5] of the Presta (priest or priests).[6]

Early development

During the Roman period, the main road from Luguvalium (Carlisle) to Mamucium (Manchester) forded the River Ribble at Walton-le-Dale, ¾ mile south-east of the centre of Preston. Here was a Roman camp, probably a regional depot for military equipment or other supplies. At Withy Trees, 1½ miles north of Preston, the road crossed another Roman road from Bremetennacum (the Roman fort at Ribchester) to the coast.[7]

In Ripon in AD 705 the lands near the River Ribble were set on a new foundation, and the parish church was probably erected. This parish church was probably situated on the grounds of the present parish of St John the Evangelist on Church Street, which was originally dedicated to St. Wilfrid and then later St. John the Baptist. Later, Edward the Elder endowed the lands to the Cathedral at York and then, by means of successive transfers the lands were exchanged between lesser churches, hence the origin of the name Priest's Town or Preston. An alternative explanation of the origin of the name is that the Priest's Town refers to a priory set up by St Wilfrid near the Ribble's lowest ford. This idea is supported by the similarity of the Paschal lamb on Preston's crest with that on St Wilfrid's.[8]

When first mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book, Preston was already the most important town in Amounderness (the area of Lancashire between the rivers Ribble and Cocker, including The Fylde). When assessed for tax purposes in 1218 – 19 it was the wealthiest town in the whole county.[9]

Guild Merchant

The right to hold a Guild Merchant was conferred upon the Burgesses of Preston by a charter of 1179; the associated Preston Guild is a civic celebration held every 20 years.

Pre-Industrial Preston

In the mid-12th century, Preston was in the deanery of Amounderness and the archdeaconry of Richmond. The name "Amounderness" is more ancient than the name of any other hundred in Lancashire, and the fort at Tulketh, strengthened by William the Conqueror, shows that the strategic importance of the area was appreciated even then.[10]

Served by the River Ribble which flows through the city, Preston was so much the principal port of Lancashire that in the run-up to the English Civil War King Charles I demanded a quarter more Ship money from Preston than from nearby Lancaster and twice as much as from Liverpool.

The location of the city, almost exactly mid-way between Glasgow and London, led to many decisive battles' being fought here, most notably during the English Civil War at the Battle of Preston (1648), and then the first Jacobite rebellion, whose invasion of England was brought to a conclusion by the defeat of the Jacobite army at the Battle of Preston in 1715, which remains the last major battle fought in England.

In the last great Jacobite Rising, on 27 November 1745 the Jacobite "Young Pretender" Prince Charles passed through Preston with his Highland Army on the way south through Chorley and Manchester to Derby intending to take London and the Crown. Preston was the first of quite a few places in England where the Prince was cheered as he rode by and where he was joined by some English volunteers for his Army. One Jacobite eyewitness noted that from Preston onwards, "at every town we were received with ringing of bells, and at night we have bonfires, and illuminations".[11] Another Jacobite eyewitness noted in a private letter from Preston on 27 November 1745: "People here are beginning to join [us] very fast; we have got about sixty recruits today".[12] From 10 to 12 December the Prince gave his retreating Army a rest in Preston on their long, last and fatal retreat from Derby through Lancaster and Carlisle towards their ultimate annihilation on the following 16 April on Culloden Moor near Inverness.[13]

Industrial Revolution

The 19th century saw a transformation in Preston from a small market town to a much larger industrial one, as the innovations of the latter half of the previous century such as Richard Arkwright's water frame (invented in Preston) brought cotton mills to many northern English towns. With industrialisation came examples of both oppression and enlightenment.

The town's forward-looking spirit is typified by it being the first English town outside London to be lit by gas. The more oppressive side of industrialisation was seen on Saturday 13 August 1842, when a group of cotton workers demonstrated against the poor conditions in the town's mills. The Riot Act was read and armed troops corralled the demonstrators in front of the Corn Exchange on Lune Street. Shots were fired and four of the demonstrators were killed. A commemorative sculpture now stands on the spot (although the soldiers and demonstrators represented are facing the wrong way). In the 1850s, Karl Marx visited Preston and later described the town as "the next St Petersburg".[14] Charles Dickens visited Preston in January 1854 during a strike by cotton workers that had by that stage lasted for 23 weeks. This was part of his research for the novel Hard Times in which the town of "Coketown" is based on the city of Preston.

The Preston Temperance Society, led by Joseph Livesey pioneered the Temperance Movement in the 19th century. Indeed, the term teetotalism is believed to have been coined at one of its meetings. The website of the University of Central Lancashire library has a great deal of information on Joseph Livesey and the Temperance Movement in Preston.[15]

Preston was one of only a few industrial towns in Lancashire to have a functioning corporation (local council) in 1835, its charter dating to 1685, and was reformed as a municipal borough by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.

Preston since the early 20th century

By 1901, nearly 120,000 people were living in Preston, a booming industrial town. However, the centuries-old cotton industry collapsed after the end of First World War in 1918, resulting in a sharp rise in unemployment across Preston.

New industries arrived in Preston during the interwar years which helped ease the pain felt by the sharp decline of the cotton industry. Electrical goods manufacturing and engineering arrived in the town, and the building sector enjoyed a boom with nearly 3,000 council houses being built between 1920 and 1939. Some 1,500 houses were built for private sale.

Despite its heavy industry, Preston endured only a handful of Luftwaffe air raids in Second World War and there were no fatalities in the town, although an air crash in the Freckleton district claimed the lives of 61 people in 1944.

For some 20 years after 1948, Preston became home to a significant number of Asian and Caribbean New Commonwealth immigrants, who mostly worked in the manufacturing industry. However, an economic decline hit the town once again in the 1970s, capped by the closure of the Courtaulds factory in 1979 (nearly 3,000 job losses) and the decline of the docks on the River Ribble, which finally shut down in 1981. Mass unemployment was firmly back in Preston by the early 1980s, although it was now very much a national - if not global - crisis due to the recession of that time.

The rehousing of families from town centre slums to new council houses continued after Second World War, though it slowed down to a virtual standstill after 1975. The face of the town centre began to change in the 1960s, with old developments being bulldozed and replaced by modern developments such as the St George's Shopping Centre, which opened in 1966, and the Fishergate Shopping Centre which was built nearly 20 years later. The remains of the Victorian town hall, designed by George Gilbert Scott and mostly destroyed by fire in 1947, were replaced by an office block (Crystal House) in 1962, and a modern-architecture Guild Hall opened in 1972, to replace the Public Hall.

The town was by-passed by Britain's very first motorway which opened in 1958 and within a decade formed part of the M6 - giving Preston a direct motorway link with Manchester and Birmingham.

Guild Merchant and Guild Week

The right to hold a Guild Merchant was conferred upon the Burgesses of Preston by a charter of 1179; the associated Preston Guild is a civic celebration held every 20 years, with the next one due in 2012.

Before 1328 a celebration had been held on an irregular basis, but at the Guild of that year it was decreed that subsequent Guilds should be held every twenty years. After this there were breaks in the pattern for various reasons, but an unbroken series were held from 1542 to 1922. A full 400 year sequence was frustrated by the cancellation of the 1942 Guild due to Second World War, but the cycle resumed in 1952. The expression '(Once) every Preston Guild', meaning 'very infrequently', has passed into fairly common use, especially in Lancashire.

Guild Week is always started by the opening of the Guild Court, which since the Sixteenth century has traditionally been on the first Monday after the feast of the decollation (the beheading) of St John the Baptist celebrated on 29 August. As well as concerts and other exhibitions, the main events are a series of processions through the city. Numerous street parties are typically also held in the locality.

In 1952, the emphasis was on the bright new world emerging after Second World War. The major event held in the city's Avenham Park had every school participating, and hundreds of children, from toddlers to teenagers, demonstrated different aspects of physical education in the natural amphitheatre of the park.

In 1972, participants at the Avenham Park celebrations were treated to a low level, low speed, flyby by Concorde.


Minster Church of St John the Evangelist
Central Methodist Church

Preston has a strong Christian history and tradition. The name Preston is believed to come from 'Priest's town' and the lamb and flag on the city's shield is a biblical image of Christ. The "PP" on the shield stands for "Princeps Pacis" (Prince of Peace), a title for Christ invoking Him as protector of the city, though it is also often taken to stand for the city's nickname "Proud Preston". In fact there were originally three letters "P" on the coat of arms, with one being lost over time.[16]

Preston has a proportionately significant Roman Catholic community; the Reformation did not take hold in Lancashire as strongly as in the rest of Great Britain. It also has a strong nonconformist heritage, including of Methodism. The city has seen a recent emergence of new evangelical churches. There are currently four Free Methodist churches in the area. Preston's Guild Hall plays host to a large evangelical worship music event called 'Encounter' every year.

Many Anglican and Roman Catholic parish churches are to be found throughout the city. Churches include:

  • Church of England:
    • Saint John's Minster
    • Church of the Ascension
    • Christ the King Chapel
    • Emmanuel
    • St Andrew's
    • St George the Martyr
    • St James
    • St Jude's With St Paul's
    • St Margaret's
    • St Mary Magdalene
  • Baptist:
  • Carey Baptist Church
    • Fishergate Baptist Church
  • Independent / Evangelical:
    • Calvary Christian Fellowship
    • Preston Church 4 You
  • Methodist:
    • Ashton Methodist Church
  • Pentecostal:
    • City Church Preston (North Road Pentecostal Church)
    • Elim Pentecostal Church
  • Roman Catholic:
    • Blessed Sacrament
    • St Gregory The Great
    • St Teresa's
    • Holy Family
    • Sacred Heart
    • St Walberge's


Skyline of Preston City Centre viewed from Cuerdale Lane

Preston's most imposing landmark is the Roman Catholic Church of St Walburge, designed by Joseph Hansom of Hansom Cab fame. At 308 feet, it boasts the tallest church spire in England that is not on a cathedral.[17] There are also many notable buildings dotted in and around the city centre including the Miller Arcade, the Town Hall, the Minster Church of St John the Evangelist, the former Corn Exchange and Public Hall, Fishergate Baptist Church, and many beautiful Georgian buildings on Winckley Square.

HMP Preston is also a good example of a typical Victorian radial-design prison. Modern architecture is represented by the Guild Hall and Preston Bus Station.

The chimney of the Grade II listed Tulketh Mill,[18] recently fully exposed on the Blackpool Road, provides an impressive reminder of Preston's industrial heritage. The mill itself, designed by engineer Fred Dixon of Bolton for the Tulketh Spinning Company, dates from 1905.[19] The huge chimney has been lowered twice – in the 1930s and again in the 1960s.


The Harris Museum
  • Harris Museum and Art Gallery
  • The National Football Museum
  • The Museum of Lancashire
  • The Queen's Lancashire Regiment Museum
  • Broughton Cottage Museum
  • Ribble Steam Railway


Avenham Park
  • Winckley Square
  • Miller Park, Preston
  • Ribbleton Park (formerly known as Waverley Park)
  • Avenham Park
  • Moor Park
  • Ashton Park
  • Haslam Park

Designated Nature Reserves

  • Fishwick
  • Grange Valley
  • Haslam Park
  • Hills and Hollows
  • Pope Lane Field and Boilton Wood

Grade I Listed Buildings

  • Old Lea Hall Farmhouse, Blackpool Road, SD4822929822
  • Harris Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Market Place, PR1 2AR. SD5405929424
  • Church of St Walburge, Weston Street, PR2 2QE. SD5296129868

Preston Docks

Riversway Docks
The marina

The former Preston Port, known as Riversway or The Docks, has been the site of an expanding commercial and residential complex since 1988.

The Marina is just north of the River Ribble which flows on several miles further west to enter the Irish Sea, but at Preston is still tidal and well sheltered at the head of the estuary and between hills. This marina has its own chandlery and coffee shop, training courses and boat sales.

There are multimillion-pound plans to redevelop Preston's Docks (as well as large sections of the River Ribble running through the city) to introduce leisure facilities (watersports), new landmark buildings, a new central park opposite Avenham Park, office and retail space, new residential developments and the re-opening of some of Preston's old canal. However, these plans, collectively known as Riverworks, have yet to undergo public consultation, and have already raised concerns amongst locals due to the potential loss of green space and increased risk of flooding.[20]


  1. "'Proud Preston' wins city status", BBC News, 14 March 2002. Retrieved 6 June 2006.
  2. "The parish of Preston', A History of the County of Lancaster". A History of the County of Lancaster: 7: 72–91. 1912. Retrieved 2009-03-13 
  3. Hunt, 1992. p. 9.
  4. Hunt, 1992. p. 10.
  5. "History of English Place-Names". 2005-10-01. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  6. Hunt, 2003. p. 31.
  7. Hodge, 1997. pp. 3–5.
  8. Walsh and Butler, 1992.
  9. Hodge, 1997. pp. 6–10.
  10. John Moss, for Papillon (Manchester UK) Limited. "The County of Lancashire, England, UK". Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  11. SP 36/75, fol.84, fols.177a, 179, Alexander Blair to Mrs Blair, 5 Dec.1745.
  12. [SP 36/75, fol.87, – to Lady Gask, 27 Nov.1745].
  13. Fitzroy Maclean, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' 1988
  14. "Karl Marx in the New York Daily Tribune 1854". 1854-08-01. Retrieved 2006-09-20. 
  15. "The Livesey Collection". Archived from the original on September 11, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-20. 
  16. "Civic crest". Preston City Council. 
  17. "Guide to Preston". Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  19. [datea Tulketh Mill at]
  20. "Flood plain housing plan slammed". Lancashire Evening Post, 30 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-01. 


  • Hodge, A. C. (1997) [1984]. History of Preston: An Introduction. Preston: Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 1-85936-049-1. 
  • Hunt, D. (1992). A History of Preston. Preston: Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 0-94878-967-0. 
  • Hunt, D. (2003). Preston: Centuries of Change. The Brredon Books Publishing Company. ISBN 1-85983-345-4. 
  • Sartin, S. (1988). The people and places of Historic Preston. Preston: Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 0-94878-925-5. 
  • Walsh, T. and Butler, G. (1992). The Old Lamb and Flag. Preston: Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 0-94878-979-4. 

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Preston)
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