On this day … 10 January 1866

'Old Betty' Redhead of Preston
‘Old Betty’ Redhead

The Preston Guardian reported the death of ‘Old Betty’ Redhead at the age of 91.

Betty, born 21 March 1774, kept a ‘cakes and toffee’ shop at the corner of Fishergate and Mount Street, paying the ground rent to Lady Shelley, the daughter of Thomas Winckley. She owned three more properties in Mount Street.

She was a lifelong Tory and devoted to the leader of the Lancashire Tories, the earl of Derby, and to the rest of the Stanley clan, as Jean Rigby described in an article in the February 2014 issue of The Preston Magazine (from which the image is taken):

‘Her proudest moment was the occasion of the run up to the election of 1852 when the Hon. Frederick Arthur Stanley visited the town. As his carriage passed along Fishergate, Old Betty stood at her shop door, and called for cheers from the crowd. This prompted Mr R T Parker, of Cuerden Hall colloquially known as “The Cuerden Cock” … to go down Fishergate to persuade Betty to return with him and be introduced to Stanley.
They were an unlikely pairing, she with her enormous mob cap and print gown, grinning with delight and he said to be ‘spruce as a young beau, in blue frock coat, white hat, white trousers and a canary vest – long the conventional rig of the staunch True Blue – enjoying with unfeigned pleasure the astonishment of the spectators at him and his incongruous companion.’They both proceeded arm in arm to the Bull Hotel where Old Betty was introduced and then driven home in a cab.’

Frederick Stanley went on to contest the seat himself, winning the election in 1865. From then on the Conservatives held both of the town’s parliamentary seats for forty years. Later in life, he became Lord Stanley of Preston and then the 16th earl of Derby.

Frederick Stanley, 16th earl of Derby
Frederick Stanley, 16th earl of Derby

Jean recounts that:

One of the many surviving anecdotes about her was that she was once deceived by a mischievous neighbour into believing that two gaudily dressed strangers walking down Fishergate were ladies of the House of Stanley.
Betty … tripped out of her shop and, confronting the ladies she made a low curtsey and sycophantically enquired after the health of Lord Derby. Thinking that she was mocking them, one of them said, ‘Get out of the way you silly old lunatic.’ In reply Betty unleashed a torrent of abuse on the terrified woman, who fled down the street with her companion.

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