Poverty and privilege in 1860s Preston

Ground plan of Ashton Park, the Preston home of Edward Pedder in the 19th century
Ashton Park on the 1 in 500 Ordnance Survey plan of Preston in the 1890s. The red rectangle represents the footprint of a house in Back Hope Street, in one of which Tim Pedder, his wife and six children lived.

Few places better illustrated Disraeli’s ‘Two Nations’ than Preston during the cotton famine of the 1860s. After the Lancashire writer Edwin Waugh visited Preston in 1862 to report on the famine and the plight of the town’s destitute poor he recorded that the town, ‘… has seen many a black day [but] it has never seen so much wealth and so much bitter poverty together as now’, and he contrasted life for the leisured classes strolling on Avenham Terrace with that of the poor folk in the courts and alleys off the main streets ‘who have hardly a whole nail left to scratch themselves with’.

This ‘Two Nations’ verdict on Preston is clearly substantiated by an examination of the lives of two men who shared the same surname, but little else. Timothy Pedder, an unemployed bargeman born in Thurnham, near Lancaster, died of starvation in ‘a cold, gloomy-looking little hovel’ in Back Hope Street, Preston, and was buried on 13 January 1862. He lived in the town for only a few years. Edward Pedder, a partner in the Preston Old Bank and a member of a family long-established in the town, lived in style at Ashton Park. He died on 21 March 1861, just three weeks before his bank collapsed. Edward was exposed as a swindler and the shamed family fled Preston. A great deal can be discovered about the Preston Pedders, very little about the Thurnham ones. Tim Pedder’s life would have gone almost totally unrecorded if it were not for the fact that Edwin Waugh visited his family shortly after his death.

See: Poverty and privilege in 1860s Preston

Contributed articles

portrait of Abbot John Gerard Eaves

When David Eaves, of Clitheroe, was researching his family history he came across a manuscript of a memoir written by John Gerrard Eaves, who became a Benedictine monk and rose to become Abbot of Fort Augustus Abbey at Loch Ness before becoming vicar-general of Sweden. The memoir contains an account of the Southworth and Eaves families of Lancashire, and of Saint John Southworth. The abbot, who was born in Bamber Bridge, had many relatives and friends in the Preston area. David published it as a booklet a few years ago, which has now been republished here: https://prestonhistory.com/sources-2/abbot-john-gerard-eaves-o-s-b-1909-1975/

This website aims to provide a platform for similar articles. All contributions considered.

Edwin Waugh’s portrait of Preston

The Lancashire writer Edwin Waugh visited Preston in the 1860s and recorded his impressions in a book, Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk During the Cotton Famine. He was shown round the town by charity workers. One of them recounted the following sad tale:

In the course of his round, this visitor called upon a certain destitute family which was under his care, and he found the husband sitting alone in the house, pale and silent. His wife had been ‘brought to bed’ two or three days before; and the visitor inquired how she was getting on. ‘She’s very ill,’ said the husband. ‘And the child,’ continued the visitor, ‘how is it?’ ‘It’s dead,’ replied the man; ‘it died yesterday.’ He then rose, and walked slowly into the next room, returning with a basket in his hands, in which the dead child was decently laid out. ‘That’s all that’s left of it now,’ said the poor fellow. Then, putting the basket upon the floor, he sat down in front of it, with his head between his hands, looking silently at the corpse.

Waugh’s book contains dozens of similar distressing accounts that reveal what life could be like for the working class in Victorian Preston. Waugh’s verdict on the plight of the town’s poor was that Preston ‘… has seen many a black day [but] it has never seen so much wealth and so much bitter poverty together as now.’

The Preston sections of his book are here

Map of places Edwin Waugh visited in Preston Lancashire UK in 1862
The places Edwin Waugh visiited in 1862

A disturbing view of Victorian Preston

Map of Victorian Preston Lancashire UK showing route taken by visiting reporter

One of the most graphic accounts of the awful conditions in which many Prestonians lived in the middle of the 19th century was provided by two lengthy articles that appeared in The Builder magazine in December 1861 as part of a series titled ‘Condition of Our Towns’. Short quotations from the articles are frequently found, but the articles really are worth re-publishing in full. Unfortunately, Victorian magazines are usually not very reader friendly — large slabs of tightly-set unbroken text would deter all but the most committed modern reader.

I have transcribed both articles and broken up the text to improve readability. And to help readers follow the reporter on his journeys round the town I have added maps.

Find the articles here

Prestonians who profited from slavery

Aidan Turner-Bishop has added a comprehensive introduction to the Lancashire slave trade to the Preston Historical Society website, with particular reference to the Preston people who profited from it. Find it here: http://www.prestonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/members-articles.html

A flavour of the article is provided by the following extract:

Probably the Preston family most deeply involved were the Athertons of Greenbank. Their estate, including the house was sold in 1850 for development (Preston Chronicle, 5 Oct, 1850). It was the land north of Fylde Road. ‘Greenbank’ mansion stood near the site of the UCLan car park in Greenbank Street, formerly Goss’s printing machinery works. Richard Atherton (1738-1804), a ‘draper and woollen merchant’, inherited the Green Park Estate in Jamaica. He was Guild Mayor in 1782, celebrated in doggerel by Mr Wilson: “Joy sparkled and smiled in the face of the Mayor / As he marched through the streets with a right worshipful air”. He is said to have donated some silverware to Preston Corporation’s civic plate collection. He was one of the partners of the Old Bank founded in 1776. This was originally called Atherton, Greaves, and Denison. It stood on the site of the former Trustee Savings Bank, Church Street. He was buried, age 66, on 2 September 1804, in the Minster churchyard. He left the income from his Jamaican estates to his wife Mary. On her death his estates went to his son William, with some payments to his children Lucy, Mary, Edward, Elizabeth and Catherine. Lucy married Sir James Allan Park, a lawyer and judge.

Mr and Mrs Atherton of Preston
Devis, Arthur; Mr and Mrs William Atherton; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/mr-17031745-and-mrs-william-atherton-97053

John Noble — Preston’s Catholic radical

John Noble, by religion Catholic by politics a radical, was a worthy opponent in the early 19th century of the arch-Tory Preston MP and leading member of the Orange Order Robert Townley Parker: the man whose tolerance extended just so far as to declare that he was not ‘one who would flog alive all Roman Catholics’. When Parker lost his seat in Parliament it was Noble who organised a parade of thousands through Preston to celebrate the defeat.

One of Noble’s principal allies in radical politics was the social reformer and temperance advocate Joseph Livesey. A somewhat strange alliance since while Livesey was fulminating against the demon drink Noble was busy promoting the brewing trade in the town as its major supplier of malted barley.

Full story: https://prestonhistory.com/subjects/john-noble-prestons-catholic-radical/

Barley, beer and the Lancaster Canal

Map of part of UClan university campus Preston, Lancashire UK
The Maudland Maltkilns buildings superimposed on the modern Open Street Map showing the UCLan buildings that now occupy the site.

When the Lancaster Canal arrived in Preston at the end of the 18th century one of the first enterprises to take advantage of its services was the Maudland Maltkilns. Barges laden with barley began to feed the kilns to provide the raw material for the brewing industry to supply the hundreds of public houses that quickly sprouted in the town.

Full story: Barley, beer and the Lancaster Canal

What happened to Sir Henry’s mummy?

Advert for sale of Egyptian mummy at Walton Hall Walton-le-Dale Preston lancashire UK in 1835

When Sir Henry Hoghton, the last resident lord of the manor of Walton-le-Dale, died at the age of 67 in 1835 the contents of his manor house, Walton Hall, were put up for sale, including his Egyptian sarcophagus containing the mummy of a ‘princess’. It was ‘knocked down for £50’ to a man from Chorley.

The details of the auction give a fascinating glimpse into the life of the leisured class in the Preston district in the first half of the 19th century: The last days of Walton Hall.

Friends of Tulketh Hall

A little while ago a Facebook group was set up for people interested in the history of Tulketh Hall in Preston. The site, which once was home to a Norman castle and a medieval monastery, now faces the threat of being redeveloped for housing. And so the group has reinvented itself as the Friends of Tulketh Hall with the aim of preserving the site and developing it as a community hub: a much needed facility in the district.

For a detailed account of the site and its history see: The story of Tulketh and Tulketh Hall by Kim Travis.

Below, in more detail, are the proposals the group is putting forward to support its case.

Friend of Tulketh Hall Objectives

This site is, without doubt, the most interesting historically in Preston and surrounding areas. It has been a royal castle; an ancestral hall for over 800 years;  and possibly a Roman settlement.  It was also the beginnings of Furness Abbey. 

The site has been largely undeveloped since Tulketh Hall was demolished in 1959, which makes the possibility of uncovering its rich history highly likely.

It has, however, been The Star community centre and resource  for many decades.  We believe it should remain so and we are determined to give it a bright future, with much improved facilities and wider remit.

The decision to sell this space and community building for housing, in a tightly built area, with few such amenities is certainly not the right way forward, especially during these pandemic times, when the value of such amenities is so precious to communities. Doubly so, when such a rich history is just waiting to be uncovered.

We understand the budget constraints that Lancashire County Council are under and that it cannot afford to maintain this now underused space.

We would like to offer an alternative – The Friends Of Tulketh Hall, a charitable organisation, taking custodianship and responsibility for the maintenance and development of the site into a fantastic amenity. 

We will …

    • reopen The Star building as a meeting space for community groups, an arts centre, teaching resource and general hub for the area. 
    • Significantly  improve the facilities over time and make this a bustling centre.
    • fully explore the wealth of history contained within the external parts of the site and preserve it for future generations. 
      • This will involve excavation and an archaeological exploration of these external areas to  reveal the foundations of the Hall and potentially the Castle, so this history has visibility for people to explore and interact with. 
    • continue to manage and develop this site, so it becomes an attraction for the whole of Preston and the region in general.

We believe that if the current auction goes ahead, this will be of huge detriment to the local community and the people of Preston and furthermore means we will lose a unique site of regional interest and a significant link to our past.

We ask that LCC withdraw the site from the current auction, as we cannot compete financially with housebuilders and enter negotiations with our group to secure this precious resource for future generations.

We believe that people can make a difference and together we can achieve these goals. 

If you would like to offer support to achieving these goals, please share our objectives and help us build momentum. Please get in touch if you think you can offer assistance. Like and follow our Friends of Tulketh Hall Facebook page or write a letter of support and email us at hello@tulkethhall.co.uk.  

We particularly want to hear from groups or organisations who may want to use the space or would like to show us support. Everything strengthens our case.  Time is short to achieve the first part of this goal, so please help.