Ribble Steam Railway trains at Easter

Ribble Steam Railway on Preston Docks will be running steam-diesel trains on Good Friday, Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday from 11am.  Trains every 45 minutes or thereabouts.

Museum and Workshop, Shop and Cafe to enjoy as well.

Ribble Steam Railway at Easter 2017

Ribble Steam Railway at Easter 2017

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Preston North End 8th in the Championship

After 40 games out of 46 on the 6th April PNE are within striking distance of the play-offs. Let’s record this position as a sign of a good season and well done to the players, manager and owner. 

Three of the remaining games are against clubs above them in the league so it seems the play-offs is a big ask.  PNE will need to get 100% or 18 points if 6th placed Sheffield get 13 points.   Post script: PNE’s defeat at Leeds means they need 15pts if Sheffield get 10pts.

PNE 8th in the Championship

PNE 8th in the Championship

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Preston’s Building Year

2016 has been quite a year for the centre of Preston.  The biggest thing to be noticed is that Fishergate looks a lot more attractive.  As a pedestrian it’s now a pleasing place to be.

Winckley Square has been re-modelled and has an attractive heritage feature in the middle highlighting points of interest.

The Victorian Market Canopies have been refurbished and look very smart.

The Guild Hall is having a makeover and at the front looks a lot more attractive.

The proposals for the Harris Building are being drafted and as a Grade 1 listed building this needs to be done very sympathetically.

The entrance to the Bus Station Car Park is being rebuilt at the Ringway end.

The Trampower light railway has built some test track and the council gave approval for trials.

Work continued at UCLan around the demolished Fylde Building and Adelphi roundabout.

Primark have submitted plans to extend their shop front.

A new traffic flow round St John’s and the Covered Market is proposed.

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Fulwood Barracks to be closed

Fulwood Barracks, Preston

Fulwood Barracks, Preston

Grade 2 listed Fulwood Barracks, one of the few intact from its time, is to be closed as a barracks.   This follows a property revue by the Ministry of Defence who are to close several other older and smaller barracks.

The barracks was completed in 1848 after the Chartist riots and now holds the 42nd Infantry Brigade who will be moved to Weeton Barracks near Blackpool.

What will happen to the Infantry Museum on site is another matter.  The Museum of Lancashire is currently closed and has a similar collection.

What will become of the site is a bigger matter.  It certainly is an interesting looking building made of large blocks of stone and with the old quarters still in place.  The Ministry is suggesting they are creating building land.  If that is to be the case let’s hope it’s a sympathetic plan and that some interesting use can be made of the barracks.

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Victorian Slum

In October on BBC2 a four part re-enactment of life in an East London Victorian Slum through 1860 to 1890.  Hard to believe this was only 120 years ago.  Living hand-to-mouth with no income for no work and no health provision. The whole family working at home doing piece work up to 20 hours a day.  Being turned out for not paying the rent and moving to the doss house with a choice of coffin bed or hang-over rope. Eating bread dipped in fat for a meal. Next down was to do a runner or head for the workhouse.  The population of London was rising fast and immigration, largely of Irish, was keeping wages down.

How did it compare to Preston?  It is known that conditions in the mills were hard with people working long shifts from an early age in noisy and dangerous conditions.  Yet it was warmer and dry and the terraced houses gave at least a small area of ‘castle’.   Watching the programme it seemed those Londoners would have been better moving north.  Although comparing Preston to life in London is perhaps unfair as big cities, including Manchester, have a much broader range of poverty and wealth.

It might be wondered how we got from there to where we are 120 years later.  Whether there was a time that was better than now for more people.  What we have now is amazing, the NHS has equipment and drugs costing millions of pounds available to every individual without charge at use.  Schools and libraries have banks of computers available to every family without charge at use.

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Museum of Lancashire On Ice

The Museum of Lancashire in Stanley Street closes on the 30th September except for school visits.  Negotiations are underway with a group who could re-open it in the new year.

Other Lancashire County Council operated museums in a similar situation are Fleetwood Museum, Queen Street Mill Burnley, Helmshore Cotton Museum, Lancaster Judges Lodgings.  We’ve been to all these and they’re all very good.   They’re all in areas that need tourist attractions and jobs.

Our website contains reports on visits to them all, except our visit to the Judges Lodgings.






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Winckley Square Restoration Visit

Winckley Square is being restored and work is well underway.  Paths are being resurfaced and a direction marker will be placed in the centre pointing to items of historical interest around the square.  The Peel statue will be cleaned and an illuminated walkway across the square created.

Until the work is completed Groundworks are running a guided tour at 12noon every Friday from the Winckley Street entrance.

More information about the Winckley Square area is on our website including some sketches of lost buildings.


Winckley Square restoration work

Winckley Square restoration work

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Winckley Square, Covered Market and Harris Museum

Several interesting projects are moving ahead in Preston as reported only 2 months ago and now we have 3 more with progress to report.

Work has started to restore Winckley Square which will have as its main feature a lit walkway from the Peel Statue to a central area and then straight across to the other side. Barton Grange, known best for their top quality garden centre, are doing the work.

Also the council approved the covered market proposal which will create an indoor market inside the larger canopy and a market made of containers under the smaller one.   As the canopies are listed buildings and their full extent is one of their major features care is being taken to ensure they can be appreciated, we hope.

Also Hemingway Design have been been appointed to interpret the public interface of the Harris Museum, Library and Art Gallery along with Purcell to be architects.  It will be interesting to discover what is being proposed.

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Heritage Open Days in Preston 2016 – 8 places

In 2016 Heritage Open Days are Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September.   Here is the list of Preston venues:

Lancashire Conservation Studios,  Saturday 10th September, Tours 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm.

Harris Museum & Art Gallery,  Saturday 10th September, 10am to 5pm. Architectural Gem Tour 12noon.  Egyptian Balcony 1pm t0 3pm.  Virtual Egyptian Balcony Tour 1pm and 2pm.

Haslam Park & Local Nature Reserve,  Saturday 10th, Sunday 11th walks at 11am and 2pm.

Hidden Art Nouveau, 1&2 Lune Street,  Saturday 10th September, 10am to 5pm.  Sunday 11th September 11am to 3pm.

Lancashire Archives,  Saturday 10th September,  10am to 4pm

Museum of Lancashire, Saturday 10th September tours at 11am, 12noon, 1.30pm, 2.30pm.

Preston Playhouse, Sunday 11th September, 10am to 4pm.

Winckley Square Gardens,  Saturday 10th September and Sunday 11th September, tours 11am, 1pm, 3pm.

For full information and any booking details where necessary, download the pdf that is on our website click on this link:



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Preston pipped by Lancaster for the highest EU Remain Vote in Lancashire

In the EU Referendum all 14 Lancashire areas voted to leave.   By percentage votes it went Preston 53/47 for leave,  Lancaster 51/49 for leave.  Highest leave was Blackpool 67/33 with Burnley next 66/34.

Preston and Lancaster have large student populations which are said to swing the vote towards Remain.  Whereas areas with big retired populations or higher unemployment are said to vote to Leave.

Nigel Evans MP for Ribble Valley was probably the most prominent MP of this area on television at the results, and was overjoyed.

Some £200 million is said by the Lancashire Evening Post to be allocated by the EU to Lancashire in the next few years.  Many would say it is money we’ve already paid to the EU.   However it was said in the campaign that all UK funding to the EU including an extra sum to cover the unpaid rebate will be allocated to the NHS,  so this Lancashire funding perhaps won’t go beyond the leaving date currently potentially September 2018.

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June is bustin’ out with Preston Building Proposals

June brought us four interesting proposals for existing major buildings in Preston.

First we had a proposal to turn the historic Corn Exchange into a swish VIP bar and nightclub.

Next came a plan for the iconic Park Hotel building overlooking Miller Park, realising the potential of one of Preston’s outstanding features.  This is to turn it from offices to being a hotel with a bridge to the railway station.  Also to knock down the 1960’s building next door, a wonderful idea giving full prominence to the hotel’s features and location.  This sounds a great scheme from every aspect assuming it has a financial basis or even if it hasn’t maybe to those who enjoy Preston’s vistas.  The plan includes transferring the building  to Lancashire County Council Pension Scheme.

The proposed hotel overlooking Miller Park Preston

The proposed hotel overlooking Miller Park Preston

Then it was announced that Signature Living of Liverpool were in the process of buying the old Post Office building next to the Cenotaph for use as a boutique hotel.  They already have two hotels in Liverpool.  This fits well with the leisure schemes for the area.

Finally in late June there is a proposal to change the frontage of the Guild Hall and introduce a bowling alley and other features.  The frontage being moved to face onto the redeveloped bus station.

Completing four out of four will be rated outstanding with 5 stars.

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Lancashire Archives funding campaign for Horrocks Collection

Horrocks Collection Funding Campaign

Some of the pattern collection

John Horrocks – A Textile Pioneer

The Lancashire Archives are held in Bow Lane Preston and contain an extensive collection of textile information reflecting Lancashire’s position as the centre of the world’s textile industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The plan is to hire an archivist to catalogue and promote the collection.   An appeal for £12,000 has been made and donations can be made either on line or by post.  Please read more on the Friends of Lancashire Archives Website linked below.


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Preston Bus Station Design Changes

It was announced that the proposed Youth Zone building was too close to the listed bus station building (something we commented on in our first post on the subject).  The building has been moved to retain the integrity of the  Grade 2 listed bus station design and reshaped from the rather ugly rounded shape to a square one.  This is quite an improvement although it seems a bit blank on the upper section.

Preston Bus Station and Youth Zone modified design

Preston Bus Station and Youth Zone modified design


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Transport Improvements all around Preston


Trams, trains, roads are in the news.

Trampower, the company who have been promoting a light rail system in Preston, are pushing to be allowed to run a one mile test track in Deepdale. This will use the old Longridge line.  PWA Planning are providing consultancy and Pre-Metro Solutions will operate the system.  Pre-Metro Solutions operate the Stourbridge Light Railway which links Stourbridge town centre with the national rail system at Stourbridge Junction every 10 minutes on a one mile track using bus type diesel railcars.  There are big ambitions for the tram route. Preston has quite a bit of old rail track hardly used and it could save digging up the roads.  Although Manchester is increasingly ambitious with its light rail and the city centre roads seem to have been semi-closed for years with expansion after expansion.  Blackpool is to expand its tram route to North Station which will dig up a stretch of road in the town centre, daring stuff.

Electrification of the line to Manchester is now restarted, after a new contractor was selected, with overhead wire supports being installed near Bolton.  In April the Northern Rail franchise was taken over by Arriva Rail North and the Trans-Pennine Express franchise remained with First.  A new livery has been applied to Trans-Pennine trains and orders have been placed for new trains that will see the end of the old Northern Pacer bus-style trains.

Preston station is to have improvements as part of Virgin Rail’s £20m station improvement plan.  The Preston element includes changes to the Ticket Area and new Ticket Vending Machines and a new entrance at Butler Street by platform 7 to improve customer flow.  Retail opportunities are to be offered.

On the roads discussions are advanced on the Preston Western Distributor linking the M55 and Riversway and in  Broughton the by-pass is being built.  The completion of the dual carriageway from the M65 to the A59 east and west of Penwortham will make the missing link more obvious – the western Ribble crossing.   Regular closures on the M6 due to road accidents is showing an increasing need for a relief road.   Although it could be argued that the better roads become the further people will commute.  Also the government insistence on building new homes regardless of apparent job opportunities is also adding to transport needs.

As this is written the M6 has been closed in both directions at Junction 31, which appears to have been started by a diesel spillage, and the West Coast Main Line is closed between Preston and Carlisle until midday.  How much time for delays do you add in to your journeys?

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Changes on Fishergate and Winckley Square

The new road layout on Fishergate is looking good.  Friendly to pedestrians which is what city centres should be about.   But it is more pleasant for walkers overall.

Work in Winckley Square has been started. It will restore the garden look of the square.  Some of the big trees are being felled and will be replaced with smaller ones.  A  heritage budget of £1.2m has been obtained.

Autumn View in Preston, Winckley Square

Autumn View in Preston, Winckley Square

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Progress on re-imagining the Harris

The re-imagining of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery is underway and a survey has been issued to enable people to provide their opinion.

Click here to read more about the survey and respond.

The vision is to make the Harris a big regional tourist attraction.  There must be a lot of opinions ranging from academic and cultural interest to all out commercial interest.  How would the Virgin Harris Museum sound?  How do you fit in the Lancashire Library or should it be there at all.  Madame Tussaud’s hasn’t got a library.  Click on the survey and have a say.

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PNE 9th in the Championship

Friday 26th February 2016 Preston North End are 9th in the Championship.  Don’t sound so surprised they said, let’s make the most of it and hope it gets even better.

Preston 9th in the Championship in Feb 2016

Preston 9th in the Championship in Feb 2016

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New Roads, New Houses in and around Preston

As part of the City Deal, Preston will get new homes in the centre at Avenham and Winckley Square, plus new homes at the north west corner.

New roads including a Broughton by-pass and western link road from the M55 and potentially a Penwortham by-pass and later a new western bridge over the Ribble.

Couple that with the electrification of the railway and nearly 300 new trains on order, change is going to come.

Developments Planned around Preston

Developments Planned around Preston


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Christmas Holiday Rain Brings Floods on the Ribble

The River Ribble broke its banks twice over the holidays reaching its highest ever level at Walton Le Dale.

The Environment Agency records that 40 significant events have been recorded since 1600. The most significant was in 1866 when flooding occurred on the Ribble, Calder and the Darwen, when newspapers recorded widespread flooding of businesses and properties. More recently in 1995, 38 properties were flooded in Preston, Walton le Dale and Ribchester and a similar event in 2000 also flooded Padiham, Barrowford and Blackburn affecting 33 properties. In 2002 the Calder and Darwen flooded affecting 18 residential and 40 commercial properties around Blackburn and Burnley.

The Environment Agency report in 2009 said 2,300 properties are at high risk of flooding in Preston and Walton Le Dale.  This will grow to over 5000 due to climate change.

The sources of flood risk vary, from the risk of direct flooding from the River Ribble in areas of Preston and Walton-le-Dale, to the flood risk associated with culverts in Preston such as Moor Brook, Swill Brook, and Eaves Brook. In addition, the influence of the tidal Ribble estuary, into which many of the rivers in this area drain, can lead to rivers ‘backing up’ during high tide conditions, which can increase flood risk as flows start to build up at tidal outlets.

Large amounts have been spent on Watery Lane near the docks improving drainage.  These projects are big, expensive and disruptive.  The Ribble reached its previous record in 2012 and you might wonder if dredging the Ribble will be an option long after the last Port of Preston dredgers and sand pumps were disposed of.

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What’s my train franchise, announcement for North of England

Photo of Northern Rail train and station 2015

Northern Rail train and station 2015

The new rail franchises for the north of England effecting most Preston services, except Virgin, were announced this week and beginning 1st April 2016 the train operators will be:

Arriva / Rail North to operate the Northern Rail Services until March 2025.

First Trans-Pennine Express, no change until March 2023.

Arriva have offered to increase services, improve stations, improve ticketing, operate 281 new carriages.   The old 142 type, Pacer, locos which are like buses on rails are to be replaced by December 2019.

First Trans Pennine are to receive new trains and increase services between Liverpool and Manchester to Scotland and more services all round.  The routes cover Newcastle, Leeds and York who will also get improved services.

Preston station is operated by Virgin although the smaller stations around about tend to be operated by Northern.

Services from Preston to Manchester, Liverpool, East Lancs, Blackpool are operated by Northern. While services to Manchester Airport, some Scotland and some Manchester are operated by First Trans-Pennine.  Virgin operate the London, Midlands to Scotland trains.

As part of devolution to the north the Arriva services will be jointly managed by DfT and Rail North representing 29 local authorities.  A big objective is to move the services from needing a subsidy to providing the government with a premium.


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