The best and latest history of the town is the second edition of David Hunt’s A History of Preston, which came a century after the previous history, Henry Clemesha’s A History of Preston in Amounderness. Clemesha produced the first ‘proper’ history of the town, his predecessors tending to be antiquarians first, historians second. Their antiquarianism has, in fact, proved to be of immense value to later historians: Anthony Hewitson provides nearly 600 pages of detailed information in his history of the town; Henry Fishwick provides meticulously researched accounts of the town’s most prominent families; Charles Hardwick’s history contains a wonderful topographical tour of the town at the middle of the 19th century; Peter Whittle’s history from the early decades of the 19th century captures the excitement that accompanied the introduction of steam-powered industry; and then there is the ‘first’ historian of the town, Richard Kuerden, whose topographical guide to the town opens a window on life at the end of the 17th century.
Two county histories of Lancashire, Baines’s of 1836 and the Victoria County History of 1912, contain lengthy sections on Preston.
The offerings from these earlier historians of the town have been digitised and put on line at the Internet Archive and/or at Google Books, and can be accessed by clicking on the links below. Other useful sites for on-line books and articles: Hathi Trust, Project Gutenberg and the British Library.
General Histories of Preston
VCH Lancashire History: Preston Parish
Includes, in addition to the town itself, the histories of Ashton, Barton, Brockholes, Broughton, Cottam, Elston, Fishwick, Grimsargh, Haighton, Ingol, Lea and Ribbleton.
Edward Baines: History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, Volume 4
These are the ‘Preston pages’ from that volume.
Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire
Five articles on Preston history from the society’s journal
VCH Lancashire: Penwortham
Includes histories for Farington, Howick, Hutton, Longton and Penwortham.