On this day … 16 April 1887

The Preston Chronicle reported on a meeting of the town’s butchers who were fighting plans by the Corporation to build a public slaughterhouse and close many of the town’s seventy-one private slaughterhouses because of their threat to public health.

At an earlier meeting of the town council, councillors had been told:

… it was impossible for any slaughterhouses … occupying nearly the whole of backyards of dwelling-houses and shops, to be anything but detrimental to the health not only of the people themselves, but of the very large number of persons who surrounded them, because it frequently happened that these slaughterhouses were in densely populated localities.

The butchers won, and plans were shelved, showing the power that the butchers, and other agricultural interests wielded in the town. The public nuisance that the butchers represented had been a constant cause for concern for the townsfolk, as shown in the stream of complaints to the town’s court leet from the middle of the seventeenth century onwards mentioned in previous posts.

Not for nothing were the districts where the butchers traded known as shambles.

But the complaints and the court’s orders were routinely ignored by the butchers, possibly because of the importance of their trade to the economy of the town. Well into the nineteenth century, Preston was as much a market town as it was a cotton town. Preston built a corn exchange when other towns were building cotton exchanges.

At the end of the nineteenth century there were still six cattle fairs a year held in the town. These had their origin in the foundation of the borough in the twelfth century, and throughout the centuries, when massive herds of cattle were brought south from Scotland, hundreds would be sold at each of Preston’s annual cattle fairs.

Property deeds and poor rate books from the early eighteenth century show that many of the town’s butchers rented fields around the town, where those purchased cattle were kept to fatten before slaughter.

The cattle were brought to town along the ancient drovers’ route from Scotland that bypassed the main road from the north to Preston (the present A6) and swung on an arc through Goosnargh from just south of Garstang, crossing the River Brock near Inglewhite and reaching Preston across the still unenclosed Ribbleton Moor.

Traces of the route can still be seen in place names such as Scotch Green near Inglewhite, where the cattle could be rested overnight. There would be plenty of free or cheap grazing for these overnight stops, as for example off Cumeragh Lane between Longridge and Whittingham, where there is a Halfpenny Lane, ‘so called because of a toll charged to cattle drovers for an overnight stay’, as Janet Rigby noted in her A Journey In Time Through Goosnargh, Whittingham & Inglewhite.

The importance of this route can be gauged by the fact that it was one of those that surveyors who were mapping routes through Lancashire at the end of the seventeenth century traced in great detail. A reconstruction based on their measurements and rough sketch plans is pictured below.

Section of a 17th-century road map of Lancashire from Ribbleton, Preston, to Inglewhite
maps of the routes from Riblleton to Inglewhite in lancashire
Two routes shown on the modern Open Street Map, courtesy of OSM contributors, and the corresponding section of Greenwood’s 1818 map of Lancashire (https://www3.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/oldmap/greenwood/greenwood.asp).

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