Two more Preston directories added today – 1851 & 1866 (see files section of the group) We now have searchable directories for 1851, 1860, 1866, 1869, 1882, 1904, 1913, 1926-7, 1948, 1952 & 1964-5 with more to come in the next few weeks.
Barney has performed an immensely valuable service by putting these directories on line. There is, for example, only a single copy of the 1866 Mannex in the Harris Library where, following reorganisation of what was the reference library, security has become virtually non-existent.
There are several other extremely valuable items that I think could be easily stolen from the former reference library without challenge.
The items may not be particularly valuable in cash terms, but for anybody interested in Preston’s history they are irreplaceable. I will not name them for fear of creating a ‘shopping list’ for collectors.
When researching an article on infanticide in Victorian Preston I included accounts from the social activist and proto-feminist Eliza Cook and the town’s historian Charles Hardwick. I had not realised that the pair were probably close friends: he dedicated one of his books to her and wrote for her journal, she wrote poems for him.
The connection between the two was made in a long-overdue account of Hardwick’s life by Julie Foster and published in the Preston Historical Society’s Autumn 2020 newsletter. In one of her articles, Eliza Cook discusses conditions in the worst districts of Preston in a way that suggests she had gained first-hand knowledge of conditions there from a visit to the town.
When the Rev John Clay (left), the 19th-century Preston prison chaplain and social reformer, was asked to supply evidence to a Royal Commission ‘on the state of the Irish poor in Great Britain’ he responded, ‘…it would be advantageous to this town and neighbourhood if the immigration of Irish could be completely stopped.’
That was in the 1830s when the number of Irish migrants in the town was counted in hundreds. Would his attitude to the Irish have mellowed a decade later when they were counted in thousands ? More here.
The always interesting Unherd website has recently started a new series – Lost Histories of Britain – in which different authors recommend often-overlooked towns and districts and reveal their fascinating histories. They’re quirky, think Betjeman rather than Pevsner. A good starting point for anybody planning a road trip. Find it here: https://unherd.com/series/lost-histories-of-britain/
Lancashire Working Lives is a new website devoted to working class history in the county – it launched only a few weeks ago but is based on years of research and is already well-stocked with material. And what is of especial interest to anybody studying the history of Preston is that most of that material relates to Preston.
Jim Leigh, one of the people contributing to the site, explained the thinking behind its launch:
A number of people have helped create the site who share a passion for working class history, along with the struggle and suffering they have endured over the years. I myself am a committed Trade Unionist of over 40 years with a particular interest in the circumstances that led to the development of our movement as well as the political/social issues of the time.
I am not an academic and the material you see on the site has been acquired after many years researching local newspapers from the Victorian era, the Preston Chronicle and Preston Guardian. The inspiration behind this site was to create more awareness of this relatively ignored aspect of local Trade Union/political and social history. We hope to add more material in the future.
Borrowbox, Lancashire Library’s ebook service, has just made available ‘The Wharncliffe Companion to Preston: An A to Z of Local History’ by David Hunt (above). David was museum curator at the South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre until he retired in May.
He might be surprised and amused by the short biography the library has included with the book:
David Hunt is an unusually tall and handsome man who likes writing his own bios for all the books he has written (one). He has worked as an historical consultant and comedy writer for television and also has a proper job. He owns a cat and has a birthmark that looks like Tasmania, only smaller and not as far south.
Newcastle University lecturer Jack Hepworth has contributed an article on Anglo-Irish relations in mid-nineteenth-century Preston. It builds on the dissertation that he wrote for his BA degree at Durham University. Jack graduated with a first in history and was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for Academic Excellence in 2014-2015 and the Gibson Prize for History in 2015. Jack was born and brought up in Preston and South Ribble. He recalls, ‘A happy summer spent in the Lancashire Archives (LRO as it was then) in 2014 underpinned the research for this project.’ He is also a PNE supporter.
Does the district known as Little Ireland that was firmly established in Preston by the middle of the 19th century qualify as a ‘ghetto’? It was home to Irish immigrants attracted by the town’s employment opportunities and driven by the famine that was devastating their country. The map above suggests there might indeed have been an Irish ghetto in the town, but the reality was more complex: https://prestonhistory.com/subjects/irish-ghettoes-in-19th-century-preston/
A census of Catholics in Preston carried out in 1820 by Fr Joseph Dunn provides a map of the distribution of members of the faith in the town. It suggests a possible sectarian divide at that time between the Church Street and Friargate districts. The social composition of the Catholic population can be sketched by linking information from four trade directories of the town compiled at the same time with the records in the census.