On this day … 17 April 1858

The Preston Guardian reported the closure of the former Avenham Street police station and lock-up, which had also served as the borough fire station. It was built in 1832, replacing the town’s first police station in Turks Head Yard, and when it opened the borough police force got its first official uniforms, which, according to Hewitson’s history, ‘were deemed so precious that they were worn on Sundays only’.

1840s map of Preston showing location of Police Station
1840s map showing location of the police station. National Library of Scotland: https://maps.nls.uk/view/231280359

The building’s closure and eventual demolition followed the opening of a new police station and magistrates court in Lancaster Road (the building that faces the Covered Market). The fire brigade had already moved to its new station in Tithebarn Street.

The police station in Turks Head Yard was reached by a lobby some forty to fifty yards down on the west side. Hewitson has the following account from one of the early recruits to the force, ‘old Sam Norris’:

He was a member of the old and new police forces, was pensioned off several years ago, and is now living, in the 80th year of his age, on the northern side of the town. Norris, who says the way into the old police station was ‘as dark as bellows’, got to be a policeman, at Preston, through a curious, though practically qualifying, circumstance.

One Sunday morning, about the time the parliamentary contest between the Hon. E. G. Stanley and Henry Hunt was going on, Sam, while walking along Church-street, heard that a row was taking place, in Water-street [now named Manchester Road], amongst some rough characters.

He hurried to the scene of strife, quickly landed amid the crowd, and observing that the Chief Constable and some of the policemen were being awkwardly handled, he, without any appeal from them, rushed into the fight, knocked down four roughs engaged in the fray (making energetic use of a pair of new clogs he had bought the previous night), and helped to convey them to the police station.

When the roughs had been duly locked up, the Chief Constable looked at Sam, from head to foot, put various questions to him, and , amongst other things, asked him if he would like to be a policeman. Sam was, at this time, a factory operative – a weaver – and, as being a policeman was deemed an unpleasant sort of job, he made no reply to the question put to him on that point.

On the following day he appeared at the Town Hall to give evidence as to the roughs in custody, and for his courage during the disturbance named he was awarded the sum of 7s. Next day – particulars as to his general character having been obtained – he was appointed a policeman.

During the riot in Lune-street, in 1842, Sam was a very active constable: in connection with this affair, he apprehended, single-handed, and in succession, 26 of the rioters.

During an earlier riot, ‘the old lock -up, in Turk’s Head-yard, was broken open, the prisoners were let out, and the books and top coats of the constables thrown upon the fire’.

Preston police station in 1904
Images: ‘The old Preston Police Station and Magistrates Court. Opened in 1858 and enlarged in 1901. The vacant space seen at the far left is today occupied by the Town Hall (formerly the New Municipal Buildings)’: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/6221105581/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s