On this day … 14 March 1617

Plans were unveiled to convert the old Preston Friary, dissolved by Henry the Eighth, into a house of correction that served until the opening of the present Preston Prison in 1789. The county magistrates, meeting at Lancaster, passed the following resolution:

It is ordered that a Howse of Coreccon shall bee erected and found out att and in the Towne of Preston in Amounderness, wch shall serve for the whole countie, and that the charges for conveyinge and cariage of rogues and other malefactors sent by the Justices of Peace of the countie shall be made and borne at the equall charge of ye Hundred wheare such a rogue or malefactor shall bee ap’hended. And that the some of five hundred pounds shall be collected within the whole countie for the erectinge and furnishinge of the same howse.

Preston’s first historian, Richard Kuerden, provided the following in his description of the town, written in the 1680s:

Now from the lower end of Market-street or square, passing by the north west through a fayre long and spacious street cal’d the Fryergate-street, by reason upon that side of the town was formerly a larg and sumptuos building, formerly belonging to the Fryers Minors or Gray Fryers, but now only reserved for the reforming of vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and petty larcenary thieves, and other people wanting good behavior: it is now the country prison to entertain such persons with hard work, spare dyet, and whipping: and it is called the House of Correction.

The building which served as the house of correction had previously been the private home of the Breres family, who had set up house on the site after the friary had been dissolved by Henry the Eighth in 1541 and most of the building stone carted away by Sir Thomas Langton, whose men:

… with “swords, bylls, and long pyked staves,” entered upon the premises and took away a thousand wayne loods of ston called walle-ston or stone for walles,” and in consequence the land was “beaten, worn, and trodden, as welle with the fete of the beastes and cattail, as with the wheles of the waynes.” The defence set up by Sir Thomas Langton was that the king had sold the wall stones to him.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century:

… the shell of the old chapel, divided into cottages, was still in existence, and three of the original lancet windows at the east end remained, but the whole was described as “now degustingly filthy”.

Preston Friary sculpture
A sketch of a rare surviving statue from Preston’s Franciscan Friary, on display in the Harris Museum (source: Lancashire Past website: https://lancashirepast.com/2013/11/07/prestons-lost-medieval-friary/)

The friary had been established in the middle of the thirteenth century on land given to the friars by the Prestons of Preston, the family who settled in Preston in the twelfth century and owned a large estate at the bottom of Friargate.

According to the Lancashire Past website:

In 2007, part of Brunel court near Ladywell street was excavated, before the Legacy Preston International Hotel was built, and this turned up medieval glass and floor tiles. Most interestingly, the dig revealed the site of the friary cemetery. Thirty graves were found, and five of these had coffin boards. Twenty two different skeletons were identified, twelve of which were virtually complete. The skeletons were of men, women and children which leads the archaeologists to think that the friary had an infirmary or hospice on the site. Joint disease was observed to be common in the skeletons.

One of those skeletons could have been the body, but not the head, of Sir Robert de Holland, for, according to A history of the family of Holland of Mobberley and Knutsford in the country of Chester.:

… in October 1328, Sir Robert de Holland was seized by a body of men in a wood near Henley when on his way to Windsor. This force is said to have been led by Sir Thomas Wither, an adherent of Henry, Earl of Lancaster, who overpowered Sir Robert’s followers and murdered their master. His head, we are told, was sent to the Earl of Lancaster, then at Waltham Cross, while his body was sent to Preston in Lancashire and buried there in the Church of the Grey Friars.

Much of the information for this post came from Henry Fishwick’s History of Preston

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