On this day … 13 February 1628

unknown artist; Preston Market Place, 1820
unknown artist; Preston Market Place, 1820; Harris Museum & Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/preston-market-place-1820-152481
The Jenkinson house occupies the three central bays.

John Jenkinson signed his will and, according to the Preston historian William Dobson, died the same day, leaving to his wife, Ann, the task of completing his major building project. This was to be a magnificent house on the town’s market place, where Crystal House now stands. He had obtained a lease on the site eighteen months earlier and had already acquired the ‘divers and sundrie materials for and towards the said building’.

Ann moved quickly. Within five weeks she had bought the freehold of the site ‘unwilling probably to place so good a building as was contemplated on land held only by a lease …’ And a year later the work was complete, and the house now dominated the south end of the market place.

William Dobson has left a description of the building before its demolition in the 1850s to make way for a new town hall:

Its framework was of oak, and, with little exception, the whole was as sound as on the day it was put in. Every piece of wood in the frame was “tenoned,” fitted into a mortise, and firmly fixed by a wooden peg. In the construction of this house so much care was taken that each tenon and mortise throughout the building were numbered, and the duplicate numbers were distinctly visible not only in the interior of the dwelling, but in several places on the outside, the storms of two centuries and a quarter having failed to obliterate the marks.

There is a tradition in the town firmly believed in by many old people, that the framework of the house in its entirety was made in Holland, and that when it was brought here in the first instance it was put together on Gallows-hill, to see whether all was complete … The oak of which the house is erected, is however English oak. At that time the Dutch were noted for their skill in carving, and were accustomed to attend our fairs with their wares; so that probably foreign artists contributed the sculptured work, and perhaps it was near Gallows-hill where the great bulk of the carpentry was performed.

The house was of four stories, besides the cellar, and each story projected over the lower one … The overhanging floors and projecting windows were no doubt necessary to protect the lower part of the houses from the weather, and in the case of shops this made the lowest story all the better for the exhibition of wares.

The beam upon which each story rested was most elaborately carved, and they were all of different patterns; and, in addition, there is much other carved work in front, each beam being supported by brackets, bearing heraldic or other carvings, Among them are representations of a stag, a griffin, a huntsman, dogs running, a hewer of wood, and a curious figure, the lower part being the body of a man, with the head of a stag, as if a representation of Herne the hunter …

The date of the erection, 1629, was marked in two different parts of the building: one over a lower window, “1629 I – I” [John Jenkinson]; and one over the entry or passage to the back of the house, “1629 I I A” [John and Ann Jenkinson,].’

Ann was presumably honouring her husband’s memory in including his initials.

A much fuller history of the house, its inhabitants and the site it stood on can be found in William Dobson’s pamphlet

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