The 1685 survey of Preston

An attempt at a reconstruction of a 1685 plan of Preston based on sketch plans included in the Towneley Hall Plans collection (DDX194) held at Lancashire Archives

Related plans:
Church Street lower
Church Street upper and Stoneygate
Friargate lower
Friargate upper
Main Sprit Weind
Market Square
St John’s Street area


A number of sketch plans of Preston and Lancaster and strip plans of Lancashire roads were deposited at Lancashire Record Office in 1952 and loosely attributed to the Lancashire antiquarian Richard Kuerden. They are catalogued at DDX194 and consist of 54 separate items: DDX194/1 to DDX194/54.

They are set out in the catalogue as follows:

  1. Sketch plans of the streets of Preston dated 1684: DDX194/1-8, 10 and 19 (DDX194/19 is catalogued as a plan of Lancaster and is marked as undated).
  2. A plan of Preston, no date: DDX194/9
  3. Sketch plans of the streets of Lancaster, no date: DDX194/11-18
  4. A plan of Lancaster, no date: DDX194/20
  5. Strip plans of Lancashire roads, no date: DDX194/21-44
  6. Material relating to ‘Winster, Windermere, Leven and Cartmel Shore’, no date: DDX194/45-51
  7. Plan titled ‘Wrightington Hall and Appley Moor. Shevington Moor’, no date: DDX194/52
  8. A plan of a moated house and grounds, no date: DDX 194/53
  9. Freckleton Association for the Prosecution of felons: DDX194/54

Soon after their discovery they were the subject of a pamphlet by Kenneth Docton, who provided a succinct account of the discovery of the documents and a brief discussion of their contents:

During cleaning operations in the basement of Townley Hall, Burnley, in 1952, a number of crumpled sheets of paper were discovered. Upon examination these papers were found to be connected with the towns of Preston and Lancaster and certain roads in North West Lancashire. They were in three distinct classes:

  1. Certain roads outside the towns indicated in outline showing distances and road junctions etc.
  2. Sketches of the streets of the two towns, the approximate boundaries of the premises and the names of the occupiers or perhaps the owners.
  3. Field sheets of a survey giving the necessary measurements and angles from which plans of the towns could be prepared. All the measurements were in links of 7.92 inches.

He writes, ‘From the information given on these papers I have prepared a complete map of the town.’ As well as producing his plan, Docton used the material to compile a street directory of Lancaster listing the owners or occupiers of individual properties. He states that this information relates to the year 1684, but supplies no evidence for this assertion and the relevant documents are catalogued by Lancashire Archives as ‘no date’. In his directory Docton supplied much valuable information about the people and places of 17th-century Lancaster and, presumably, by matching this with information on the sketch plans he arrived at his 1684 date. He did not provide references for the information in his directory. [1]

Docton later published his findings in a journal article in which he added the following information:

Except for the numbers of the properties inserted for reference purposes and the use of modern street names where no names were given on the 1684 plans, this directory has been compiled exclusively from the evidence derived from the papers found at Towneley Hall. The spelling is that of the papers. The plan is not a copy of the 1684 town plan [emphasis added], but, apart from a curtailment to the east of the town made necessary for ease of printing, it contains all the evidence given by the 1684 plan. [2]

The provenance of the documents prior to their discovery at Towneley Hall is unknown. Their purpose is similarly unknown, as is the identity of whoever commissioned the survey and who carried it out. On their discovery, they were loosely described as ‘Kuerden maps’, attributing them to the Preston antiquarian Richard Kuerden, possibly on the basis of his producing a topographical guide to the town at about the same time. [3] The guide, which, to judge from internal evidence, was produced a few years after the survey, makes no mention of the survey.

An examination of the documents

This examination will follow the practical path chosen by Docton. The key to unlocking the documents would seem to be to attempt to follow the steps taken by the 17th-century surveyors and use local knowledge to consider the wealth of information their surveys contain.

Docton produced a plan of Lancaster by following in the steps of the original surveyors as they charted the town with their measuring chain and theodolite. Unfortunately, in his published accounts of his work, he did not record the steps he himself took; space restrictions at that time would have restricted the amount of information he could include in his accounts. The intention here is to follow Docton in an examination of the plans in DDX194 that relate to the Preston area and to include a detailed documentation of that process.

The documents to be examined are:

DDX 194 – Miscellaneous records

DDX194/1 The church, Church Street, St. Johns Lane, Shepherd Street. Sike Hill
/2 Town Hall, Market Place east, St. John’s Wind, Lord Street, Church Street north
/3 Church Street west, Fishergate east, Market Place, Gin Bow entry, Friargate east
/4 Church Street east, Deepdale Road south, Stanley Street. Avenham House, Sike Hill, Mainsprit Wiend
/5 Fishergate north. Mainsprit Wiend west, Fishergate south
/6 Church Street west, Mainsprit Wiend east. Church Street south
/7 Friargate west. Cheapside west, Friargate east
/8 Salters Lane
/9 Plan of Preston
/10 Moor Lane, Marsh Lane. [Preston]
/19 Friary, Fryer Wind. [Preston]
/22 Ellel Moor to Howath Moor. Howath Moor to Preston
/23 Preston to Walton-le-dale. Walton-le-Dale to Langtree
/28 Preston to Ribbleton and Haighton. Ribbleton to Inglewhite
/29 Preston to Kirkham. Kirkham to Shard
/38 Ellel to Fulwood
/39 Fulwood to Standish
/44 Preston to Inglewhite

Items DDX194/1-8, 10 and 19 are street plans of the town of Preston, which can be divided into two categories:

  1. Field sheets with sight lines and the measurements and angles from which a plan of Preston could be produced, some of which also include the names of owners or occupiers of properties and the widths of the street frontage of those properties (DDX194/1 front and back, DDX194/3 front and back, DDX194/4 front and back, DDX194/8, DDX194/10 and DDX194/19).
  2. Sketches of the streets of Preston giving the measurements of the street frontages of properties in chain links and the names of the owners or occupiers of those properties (DDX194/2, DDX194/5 front and back, DDX194/6 front and back and DDx194/7 front and back). These do not contain the surveyor’s sight lines or angles and seem to cover the most densely populated areas of the town. They appear to have followed on the production of the field sheets. Some of the measurements differ slightly from those on the field sheets, possibly representing a later correction.

These plans can be dated from internal evidence. On DDX194/1 Mayor Kellett is linked to a property on Church Street. Kellett was mayor from October 1684 until October 1685. Also a torn corner of DDX194/8 bears the inscription ‘arch ye 25th’, which, taken with the Kellett mayoralty, suggests a date for the survey of around 25 March 1685.

Fig 1. The torn section of DDX194/8 showing the date. Image courtesy of Lancashire Archives

DDX194/9 is a plan of the whole town based on the measurements on the above sheets, but whether it was prepared by the original surveyors or by a later hand is unknown. It has been suggested that cross hatching on the plan is not usually found until the 19th century. DDX194/9 also includes detailed depictions of individual buildings in the town together with plot boundaries, information which is not contained on the above sheets. The source and accuracy of this additional detail is not known.

Items DDX194/22, 23, 28, 29, 38, 39 and 44 are strip plans of the roads around Preston. The first four sheets seem to be the work of one surveyor: the style is the same, as is the handwriting, which also seems to match that on DDX194/1-8, 10 and 19. DDX194/38, 39 and 44 are in a different hand and are stylistically different from the others.

None of the above sheets is mentioned by any of the historians of the town before their discovery in 1952.

Reconstruction based on the sketch plans of Preston DDX194/1-8, 10 and 19

These sheets are the working documents of the original surveyor. They were for his own use, not intended to communicate with others. As such, the writing is often little better than a scribble, corrected and erased in places. Parts of the sheets have faded and are virtually indecipherable, edges of some sheets appear to have been torn off, and at times the measurements differ between sheets. This reconstruction is thus open to correction and represents a ‘best fit’ based on the information that can be gleaned from the sheets.

The surveyor would have begun by measuring out sight lines around the town, together with the angles between them. These can be plotted from the figures contained in the rough sketches, as shown in the figure below. Some of the sketch plans also contain polar co-ordinates that allow the constructed plan to be orientated. The angles measured to plot what is now Marsh Lane seem to be slightly in error. They have been used here as they appear in the documents.

Fig 2. A skeleton plan of Preston based on the measurements of distances and angles on the sketch plans in the DDX194 collection at Lancashire Archives. The distances are shown in chain links. There are 100 links to 66 feet (the length of a cricket pitch) and each link measures 7.92 inches. Angles are shown in italics in degrees and minutes. The names of principal streets have been added to aid orientation. Also included are polar co-ordinates found on the sketch plans.
Fig 3. A section of sketch plan DDX194/3 showing some of the measurements and angles from which Fig 2 was constructed. Image courtesy of Lancashire Archives

The next stage was to plot the streets. This seems to have been done by measuring distances along the sight lines and measuring the perpendicular distances from these to the street frontages to prepare a street plan of the town, as shown in Fig 4 below.

Fig 4. A street plan of Preston based on the measurements on the sketch plans in the DDX194 collection at Lancashire Archives. The names of principal streets have been added to aid orientation.

With this framework in place the surveyor could then add detail to the street frontages. His concern was simply with the lengths of those frontages; detailed measurements of buildings other than of their street frontage are rarely made. In effect, the sketches yield a sort of exoskeleton of the streets, with little or no information about the spaces behind the property fronts. So the usual caveat applies: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and the white spaces on the reconstructed plan could have contained any number of structures. DDX194/9 purports to fill these gaps, but it is uncertain how accurate these infillings are.

Four different letters are attached to different properties or spaces on the plans: h, c, b and o. Occupied buildings would seem to be marked by h, unoccupied buildings such as stables and workplaces by c, barns by b (and sometimes c) and enclosed open spaces such as yards and closes by o. Examples can be seen in Fig 5. Only occupied buildings have the name of a person attached to them. These names could represent the owner, owner-occupier or tenant of the building.

Some public buildings, such as the town hall and the church, are distinguished, as are hostelries, windmills and dye houses. It is unclear whether these additions include all such properties. For example, there are far more hostelries mentioned in the contemporary diaries of Thomas Bellingham and Lawrence Rawstorne than appear on the sketch plans. Also, two White Horse inns appear on the plans: one on Fishergate which corresponds with entries in the Bellingham/Rawstorne diaries, and one at the top of Friargate.

The height in storeys of some buildings of more than two storeys is indicated, but again it is unclear whether all the other houses in the town were one- and two-storey. The number of chimneys on two properties is shown, as is the occupation of one householder.

Fig 5. A section of DDX194/2 illustrates the use of letters to denote property types. Image courtesy of Lancashire Archives
Fig 7. A wonderful artistic visualisation of Preston in the late 17th century by Terry Rushworth.

A treatment of the plans as they relate to the Cartmel Peninsula by Bill Shannon has recently been published. [4] The scope of his paper, which illuminates the 1685 Cartmel landscape, is shown by the abstract that appears in the journal:

The antiquary Richard Kuerden’s 1685 survey of the roads and boundaries of Cartmel  parish was carried out as part of a wider project to map the roads and towns of  Lancashire, related to his life’s work studying the history of the county. Rediscovered  in 1952, but largely unpublished since, the manuscript maps throw new light not only  on the technicalities of late-17th century surveying, but more importantly onto the  landscape, people and places of Cartmel, from the first representation of Over-Sands  routes, to the earliest date for a bloomery forge on the Winster, to the impact of the  Flookburgh fire of 1664, and probably the only surviving representation of Flookburgh  chapel. The landscape is seen to be characterised by stone walls, something virtually  unknown elsewhere in Lancashire at that date, while some 35 people are named, from  Squire Preston of Holker, to Widow Housman, the keeper of a Cartmel lodging house.

Bill takes a different position from that argued here, that the plans ‘are clearly not the work of an experienced surveyor’ and that they are probably the work of Kuerden.

Lancashire University’s Regional Heritage Centre has put some of the Preston DDX194 plans on its website. DDX194/9, DDX194/10 and DDX194/19 are missing from the site:

[1] Kenneth Docton, A Directory of Lancaster, 1684 (Lancaster, 1954): Preface.
[2] Kenneth Docton, ‘Lancaster 1684’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 109 (1957): 129.
[3] R. Kuerden, A Brief Description of the Burrough and Town of Preston, and Its Government: Originally Composed Between the Years 1682 and 1686 … (Wilcockson, 1818),
[4] William D. Shannon, ‘The Landscape and People of the Cartmel Peninsula in 1685: The Kuerden/Towneley Maps’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 18 (2018): 201–22.

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