Poverty and privilege in 1860s Preston

Ground plan of Ashton Park, the Preston home of Edward Pedder in the 19th century
Ashton Park on the 1 in 500 Ordnance Survey plan of Preston in the 1890s. The red rectangle represents the footprint of a house in Back Hope Street, in one of which Tim Pedder, his wife and six children lived.

Few places better illustrated Disraeli’s ‘Two Nations’ than Preston during the cotton famine of the 1860s. After the Lancashire writer Edwin Waugh visited Preston in 1862 to report on the famine and the plight of the town’s destitute poor he recorded that the town, ‘… has seen many a black day [but] it has never seen so much wealth and so much bitter poverty together as now’, and he contrasted life for the leisured classes strolling on Avenham Terrace with that of the poor folk in the courts and alleys off the main streets ‘who have hardly a whole nail left to scratch themselves with’.

This ‘Two Nations’ verdict on Preston is clearly substantiated by an examination of the lives of two men who shared the same surname, but little else. Timothy Pedder, an unemployed bargeman born in Thurnham, near Lancaster, died of starvation in ‘a cold, gloomy-looking little hovel’ in Back Hope Street, Preston, and was buried on 13 January 1862. He lived in the town for only a few years. Edward Pedder, a partner in the Preston Old Bank and a member of a family long-established in the town, lived in style at Ashton Park. He died on 21 March 1861, just three weeks before his bank collapsed. Edward was exposed as a swindler and the shamed family fled Preston. A great deal can be discovered about the Preston Pedders, very little about the Thurnham ones. Tim Pedder’s life would have gone almost totally unrecorded if it were not for the fact that Edwin Waugh visited his family shortly after his death.

See: Poverty and privilege in 1860s Preston

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