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.

A tale of two belvederes

Earl of Derby statue in Miller park Preston Lancashire UK
View from the original site of the Avenham belvedere in Miller Park, looking towards the site of the Walton Hall belvedere a mile away across the Ribble. The statue of the 14th Earl of Derby now surveys the scene. Image: Karl Davison at Wikimedia Commons.

For a brief period in the middle of the 19th century two belvederes or summer houses faced one another a mile apart across the Ribble at Preston: one newly built in Miller Park and the other falling into ruins at Walton Hall. Together, they symbolised a shift in the social and political leadership of Preston from the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century, from the landed gentry of the county to the cotton lords of the town.

Another parallel between the two districts was the fountain a gentleman in Walton-le-Dale built in his back garden that was the same size as the one in Miller Park. The gentleman was cotton lord William Calvert, probably the wealthiest resident in the village. Possibly he took his inspiration from the Miller Park fountain.

Full story: A tale of two belvederes.

Lancashire Past website

This well-written and well-presented website has just added two articles on the castle and the abbey at Tulketh: https://lancashirepast.com/

Lancashire Past website

From the site description:

This website is about historical places that can be visited in Lancashire. It was started in September 2013 and is regularly added to. There are currently around 180 places described in detail.

It is one of two websites written by brothers A & R Bowden. Each of us takes a lead on one of the websites, and this one is mainly written by Adrian. The focus is the historical county of Lancashire, including the modern counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside (as both used to be part of Lancashire until 1974). The region known as ‘Lancashire North of the Sands’ is also covered. This extended from Barrow to Coniston.

Many of the places are free to visit, some charge a small entrance fee. For each site a brief history is given and a summary of what remains today. Where to park is also mentioned, as are other historical places of interest nearby.

Click on the historical time period that interests you on the header menu above and this will lead to a list of all the sites from that period that the website covers to date. The most recent posts can be seen on the ‘What’s New’ page. The ‘Lancashire Links’ page gives links to many of the local history and archaeology groups throughout the region, and local museums.

Our other website is Lancashire at War. This covers the hidden history of war sites in Lancashire. Richard is the lead author on Lancashire at War.

Platford Dales — a medieval Preston field

Fig. 1. A section of a reconstruction of Lang’s 1774 plan of Preston. A modern map of the area can be found at the end of the article.

The plan above based on Lang’s 1774 map of Preston captures the field pattern of part of the landscape north of the town on the eve of the industrialisation that was to cover the area in houses and factories in the course of the next century. The names of the fields allow for a tentative reconstruction of the landscape in previous centuries, stretching back to Norman times. The fields on the map are enclosures of one of Preston’s large medieval town fields: Platford Dales. There are two important buildings missing from the map: Preston’s first cotton mill, to be built in the next few years, pointing forward to the rapid expansion of the industry that was to transform the town, and Preston Hall, demolished some years earlier, pointing back to the town’s medieval origins.

Fig. 4. Possible extent of the medieval Platford Dales town field, with the suggested incursion by the Preston family

Full article: Platford Dales — a medieval town field