An Ordnance Survey map of Central Preston in 1909 is available although it says 1912 Edition inside. On this map the items that stand out are The Yard Works across from the Prison and New Preston and Alliance Mills on New Hall Lane. Quite a few gasworks and mill reservoirs. Features that have disappeared such as the houses near the centre of town and the narrow streets, lots of terraced houses. The tramway up Deepdale Road, Ribbleton Lane, New Hall Lane, Friargate, Fishergate and North Road. The map shows the end of the Lancaster Canal at Maudland with the star shaped railway track where the coal yards met the canal. The maps are available from Alan Godfrey Maps, Consett. www.alangodfreymaps.co.uk.
On the sketch below of Preston Town Centre from the Ordnace Survey map of 1912 the most notable features are the gap between the County Sessions building and the police station in Earl Street. This is where the Town Hall now stands after it burnt down. Also the Starch Houses are shown, these were knocked down in 1913 sand replaced by Starchhouse Square which was a bus and coach terminal. Also the tram lines were a big feature.
Just after the turn of the century the County Court Building was built next to the Harris Library and has a similar finish but with ornate towers.
Engineering was developing in the early part of this time and Strand Road was developing next to the docks.
Cinemas were being built on Church Street with the Empire, Palladium, New Victoria, Ritz in a cluster.
My mother and her sister attended the Park Grammar School for Girls around 1939. Here is an extract from the annual magazine that gives a feel for the social and historic context of this turbulent time. The magazine was published in May 1939, just before the declaration of war with Germany in September. However in March 1939 Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and the Spanish Civil War had been underway since 1936 - another part of the Park School magazine thanks the girls for collecting clothes for Czech and Spanish refugees.
At this time my mother had a pen friend in Belgium who was later driven from her home by German occupation, I have a personal letter from her relating the story 5 years after the event and apologising for not writing (I thought it was on the website but can't find it).
January 1940 was one of the worst winters known in the UK. The railway was closed in Preston for a long period.
Industry in Preston was adapted to wartime production. English Electric, Dick Kerr's as it was known, in Strand Road became a 'shadow' aircraft manufacturing plant making thousands of bombers with a new plant being built at Samlesbury. Leyland Motors started producing tanks and a road called Centurion Way was built. Despite this, not much bombing occurred to Preston. Even though Preston must have been enroute to Barrow which got a lot more due to its shipbuilding. A bomb dropped on Ward Street in Lostock Hall killing several people and many theories exist about why one bomb there.
Story of a Beckton Boy Evacuated to Preston
".....That dark night in 1939, we had crossed from Manchester to Preston by branch line and then by taxi to Penwortham. I must have slept on the second train. There was snow on the ground when we arrived. Mother asked the cab-driver to sound his hooter. A squeeze or two of the big rubber bulb brought Granny downstairs to open the front-door and let Queenie the bull-mastiff out onto the snow-covered lawn. Somehow, in various ways, we managed to get to bed. My brothers and I, except for the baby, slept on a flimsy spare mattress hurriedly laid over boxes and tea-chests in the dressing room outside the bathroom. We were amused later to see an enamel plate saying “LAVATORY” on the door to our room.
The snow and cold continued for weeks. Snowdrifts blocked the rail line after our hurried journey north. In Grandpa’s orchard, snow lay over a foot deep. I could only go to see him milk the goats by stepping in my mother’s footprints while she held my younger brother. My father walked daily to Penwortham station to know when the main-line was open for trains to and from London. For a while, he was unable to return to his job at Bishopsgate Goods Station. Penwortham station, on the line to Southport, had wooden platforms.
LIFE IN PENWORTHAM
Our grand-parents in Lancashire had only oil-lamps and candles for lighting and the cooking was done on the open coal-fire. I remember the slipper-irons heated in the fire for ironing clothes. No — we didn't have warming pans — the beds were cold. When grandpa was ill in bed, two of us boys had to hold a sheet of newspaper across the opening to draw his coal-fire into a blaze. He was cold through sitting up to shoot birds through the open window. Granny had to go out to pick up shot birds from the snow. They were lined up along the kitchen dresser. Grandpa had several guns, including a big punt gun used in his younger days, wild-fowling down the Ribble Estuary......"
'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'
We lived through World War II by Philip AG Kelly. (Nice story, had forgotten about putting paper over the fire front to make it draw better. The best trick being to let the paper set on fire, stuff it up the chimney and run outside in the hope it would come flying out of the top. Boys will be boys. Chimney fires caused occasional interest and the fire brigade always made sure the that the culprits house was filled with water.)
In 1947 the magnificent Gothic Public Hall, built to display Prestons 19th Century industrial wealth and designed by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott burnt down and was left derelict until Crystal House was built.
In the 1950's the cotton mills began to close. Motorways began.
In the 1960's bold, and with hindsight unwise, decisions were made to sweep away old buildings and create high rise flats, shopping centres and new roads. Similar to many places in the UK. Secondary Modern Schools were built. Suburban sprawl began.
New buildings such as Crystal House, St Georges Shopping Centre, Harris College Technical Building, the New Bus Station and Guild Hall were built.
In October 1962 and September 1963 the Beatles played at the old Public Hall, with a springy floor, which was knocked down in 1989 except for the front which is now the Corn Exchange pub. In 1971 Led Zeppelin played there.
In the 1970's the dock closed for trade and a slow process of redevelopment started. The Electricity Power Station next to the docks closed and was demolished, gas works began to move away from coal to North Sea gas.
In 1972 the Preston Guild had a more popular entertainment theme.
The major rail route was electrified, many branch lines closed, motorways became widespread.
In 1985-6 Preston North End had their worst season ever. Finishing 23rd in the old 4th division and having to be re-elected. It was said Leicester City voted against PNE remaining in the league. Preston were promoted in 1986-7.
In the 1990's the Fishergate Centre opened and the docks took on a new look.
In 1990 the large aircraft factory formerly employing over 4,000 people in Strand Road closed and was demolished.
In 1992 the Guild had morphed again into one with an ethnic slant. Around 5% of the population is classed as ethnic.
Mosques and a Hindu Temple have been built.
University status was given to Preston Polytechnic.
Preston was declared a city at the Millenium and the main church became a minster.
Call centres became major employers.
In the 21st Century Preston is (has) developing into the main regional centre with good rail and road links, quite a good shopping area, reasonable culture with the Harris Art Gallery and Charter Theatre and a large youth culture at the University. Also the area around Winckley Square is smartish with a few decent cafes and there is a good mixture of old and new buildings throughout. In this respect it has done better than most of the nearby towns but there are still the inevitable problem areas. It's proximity to Manchester and Liverpool might be both a hindrance and help in that it isn't a bad commute, bringing in money, but then it is competing against their larger shopping and entertainment facilities. There is a big scheme to rebuild a large part of the centre and this plan is slowly moving forward. There is also a scheme to develop the river area although this doesn't seem to be moving and is probably unwise.
The area around Preston took a new look as the Central Lancashire New Town slowly filled the fields into the surburbia of South Ribble. New roads and motorways seem to create a spiders web which gets very congested for a few hours around 8am and 5pm every day. Park and Ride systems are in place at most compass points although outside the rush hour I've never experienced any difficulty driving or parking in Preston.
In 2009 Crystal House a prominent building next to the Flag Market was re-furbished after 40 years of being the pariah of the centre and now looks fairly decent.
In 2009 Preston Council is pursuing a plan called the Tithebarn Project which will add 2 large stores and other shopping and office space by knocking down the landmark bus station and building a new one near the parish church. The council has agreed planning permission in July but other towns in the area are objecting. Move onto 2011 and after ministerial approval for Tithebarn, Blackburn decided to take further legal action which they lost.
The Tithebarn Project, Winckley Square refurbishment, Flag Market refurbishment and Riversway are projects promoted by the council. Each one has vociforous objectors.
Would be interesting if Horrocks was around today, he'd get a shock from the planning process. It's a contrast from the 1960's when buildings were knocked down that should have been preserved and new ones built that today look unfortunate, at best. That's the problem of modernity and fashion, it isn't long before you say 'Did I like that?'. We need to be on our guard to keep the best of the old, and more, and build with classic style.
2011 Preston has got quite a few new hotels with another opening recently. The Harris Museum is spending a lot of money re-creating the History of Preston exhibit in time for the Guild. The Tithebarn Project is being re-aligned to a more modest scheme after John Lewis withdrew its flagship store in November 2011.
In 2012 a very successful Preston Guild was held in September. In December the council announced it was planning to demolish the bus station, a huge building which has become an icon and is only 40yrs old.
Others for a fuller picture:
There are a lot of other books although many appeal more to the nostalgia market, which is usually history in living memory and often based on photographs, than a full local history research. The books below haven't been read by myself but have been added as requested by various authors.
1. This has been added at the request of the author.
This fascinating collection of over 180 photographs reflects the many ways in which Preston has changed and developed over the last 150 years.
2. This has been added at the request of the author.
Written by author and Lancashire Evening Post historian Keith Johnson. Recalling the events that transformed Preston into a university city. The days of cotton mills, factories, public houses and endless rows of terraced homes that shaped the lives of many. The traditions of Whitsuntide, Easter, Wakes Weeks and Christmas that continued from generation to generation.
Link to History Press the publishers.
Publication Date: 01/05/2011
3. This has been added at the request of the author, Alan E. Parkinson.
The author served his two years National Service in the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment reporting to Fulwood Barracks, Preston. For ten weeks, the drill instructors shaped the platoon from a rag tag outfit to smart soldiers. From Fulwood the platoon was sent to Barnard Castle, County Durham and later to the British Cameroons, West Africa for ten months.
This true story is mixed with amusing anecdotes of growing up in post War Britain through the swinging sixties.
Link to Amazon website. (seems to be available on Kindle only).
A recent book, August 2012, about Leyland added at the request of the publisher. Sounds interesting: utilises a collection of over 40 rare archive images from all corners of Leyland, comparing them with the same scenes of today. Leyland Then and Now by David Hunt and William Waring. History Press.