On this day … 15 February 1879

The Preston Guardian reported that the council’s Free Library Committee had drawn up an ambitious scheme for a new Free Library, Museum and Art Gallery. Councillors were told the scheme would need Parliamentary approval and a Preston Improvement Act was steered onto the statute books the following year, paving the way for the demolition of a huge swathe of properties on the east side of the Market Place to clear a space for the Harris Museum and, eventually, a number of other public buildings.

It was part of a wholesale remodelling of the town centre from the middle of the nineteenth century, following on from the demolition of the seventeenth-century buildings at the south end of the Market Place, to make room for the new town hall. The transformation of the Market Place area was completed a few years later when another block of properties was demolished to make way for the Miller Arcade.

Such rapid change stands in sharp contrast to the previous centuries of slow, organic development that created a vernacular charm that once lost can never be regained. From the time of the first survey of Preston in 1685 until the opening up of New Street on the north side at beginning of the nineteenth century there was virtually no change to the layout of the Market Place.

The lost properties have been captured in early photographs and Edwin Beattie pictures. They included all the ones in the ancient Gin Bow Entry and the Strait Shambles, getting on for twenty inns and taverns, numerous shops and the homes of scores of townsfolk. Those public houses included the Shakespeare Tavern, the Swan with Two Necks and the old Mitre Inn

Also lost by the end of the nineteenth century was the whole of the Shambles buildings erected in 1715 by Thomas Molyneux. The Shambles consisted of a row of butchers’ shops on the ground floor with apartments above. And also lost was the nearby Golden Cross inn.

The best way today to glimpse the Market Place area before its redevelopment is to visit Barney Smith’s Preston Digital Archive and use the search box to discover the treasures within. Be warned, the content is so captivating that once entered it can be a while before you re-emerge.

For more on Preston’s lost inns and taverns go to Steve Halliwell’s site: https://pubsinpreston.blogspot.com/

Map of Preston Market Place - 1840s
1840s Ordnance Survey 60 inch map of Preston Market Place. https://maps.nls.uk/
Map of Preston Market Place - c.1910
c.1910 Ordnance Survey 25 inch map of Preston Market Place. https://maps.nls.uk/

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