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  

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:

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

Preston, Ireland and the Glorious Revolution

Portraits of King William III, Col Thomas Bellingham and King James II
William III, Col. Thomas Bellingham and James II

When James II fled England following William of Orange’s invasion in 1688 his forces regrouped in Ireland to contest the Glorious Revolution settlement. Under the command of Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, they took control of most of the country and provoked an exodus of Protestant gentry, who abandoned their estates in fear for their lives. Their accounts of atrocities inflicted on the Protestant community by Irish Catholics and Tyrconnell’s forces stoked already inflamed anti-Catholic feelings in England.

Many of these Protestants passed through Preston after arriving in England, and some settled there to wait out the conflict. Their visits, and accounts of their sufferings, were recorded by the diarist Thomas Bellingham.

Preston trade directories

Barney Smith, who curates the Preston Digital Archive of more than 16,000 items on Flickr, has added to the collection of Preston trade directories that he has been putting on line on the Preston Past and Present Facebook group:

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.

More on Preston’s trade directories.

Charles Hardwick — Preston’s historian

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.

Irish not welcome in 1830s Preston

The Rev John Clay Preston prison chaplain

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.