The lengthy title of the 19th-century journalist and historian William Dobson’s ‘A history and description of the ancient houses in the market place, Preston; with notices of their successive owners, etc., from their erection to their demolition’ obscures the fact that it is in truth the story of just one house: that occupying the central three bays in the picture above. Other properties are accorded scant entries (although these prove quite useful). The house, and its neighbours on either side, were demolished in the 1850s to make way for a new town hall, which, having burned down, was replaced in the 1960s by ‘Preston’s ugliest building’, Crystal House. 
On 13 February 1628, John Jenkinson signed his will and, according to Dobson, died the same day, leaving to his wife, Ann, the task of completing his major building project. This was to be a magnificent house on the town’s market place.. He had obtained a lease on the site eighteen months earlier and had already acquired the ‘divers and sundrie materials for and towards the said building’.
Ann moved quickly. Within five weeks she had bought the freehold of the site ‘unwilling probably to place so good a building as was contemplated on land held only by a lease …’ And a year later the work was complete, and the house now dominated the south end of the market place.
Wiliam Dobson’s description of the building before its demolition in the 1850s to make way for a new town hall includes the following:
Its framework was of oak, and, with little exception, the whole was as sound as on the day it was put in. Every piece of wood in the frame was “tenoned,” fitted into a mortise, and firmly fixed by a wooden peg. In the construction of this house so much care was taken that each tenon and mortise throughout the building were numbered, and the duplicate numbers were distinctly visible not only in the interior of the dwelling, but in several places on the outside, the storms of two centuries and a quarter having failed to obliterate the marks.
There is a tradition in the town firmly believed in by many old people, that the framework of the house in its entirety was made in Holland, and that when it was brought here in the first instance it was put together on Gallows-hill, to see whether all was complete … The oak of which the house is erected, is however English oak. At that time the Dutch were noted for their skill in carving, and were accustomed to attend our fairs with their wares; so that probably foreign artists contributed the sculptured work, and perhaps it was near Gallows-hill where the great bulk of the carpentry was performed.
The house was of four stories, besides the cellar, and each story projected over the lower one … The overhanging floors and projecting windows were no doubt necessary to protect the lower part of the houses from the weather, and in the case of shops this made the lowest story all the better for the exhibition of wares.
The beam upon which each story rested was most elaborately carved, and they were all of different patterns; and, in addition, there is much other carved work in front, each beam being supported by brackets, bearing heraldic or other carvings, Among them are representations of a stag, a griffin, a huntsman, dogs running, a hewer of wood, and a curious figure, the lower part being the body of a man, with the head of a stag, as if a representation of Herne the hunter … The date of the erection, 1629, was marked in two different parts of the building: one over a lower window, “1629 I – I” [John Jenkinson]; and one over the entry or passage to the back of the house, “1629 I I A” [John and Ann Jenkinson,].
Ann was presumably honouring her husband’s memory in including his initials.
Dobson, William, A history and description of the ancient houses in the market place, Preston; with notices of their successive owners, etc., from their erection to their demolition, 2nd ed. Published Preston: Dobson (Printer), 1879. There are twelve copies at Lancashire Archives and one at Leyland Library: LD42/DOB
 ‘The Ugliest Building in Preston’, 31 August 2005, https://www.lep.co.uk/news/latest/the-ugliest-building-in-preston-1-56021.
THE OLD BUILDINGS IN THE MARKET PLACE
[transcription of William Dobson’s pamphlet]
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the ancient buildings facing the Market Place, and forming a portion of the pile fronted by the old Town and Guild Halls were razed (1855), yet among our old townsmen, considerable interest is yet felt in the history of those interesting, picturesque, and historic structures.
The buildings that were for so long a period a distinguishing feature of our Market-place, were interesting to the antiquary as excellent specimens of the domestic architecture of two centuries ago, and to the artist from their quaint picturesqueness, and could not be removed without exciting a feeling of regret in even the most ardent admirer of municipal improvement, or the most earnest advocate of architectural innovation. The operations of the workmen engaged in removing the materials accordingly were witnessed by many of our townsmen, who visited the spot to take a last look at a place familiar to them from childhood, and almost the only edifice, in the centre of the town, which had been unchanged, in the lifetime of an octogenarian.
The circumstance naturally induced the gossip of ancient recollections and the associations of “old times,” when the Preston Market-place numbered many picturesque dwellings, some of them older even than those then being removed, although none were so stately in their proportions or afforded so good an idea of the domestic arrangements of a well-to-do burgess in the days of the Tudors and the Stuarts. Many a story was accordingly told of early days, when besides the rude black post (the predecessor of the then lately razed obelisk), which was dignified by the name of the Market Cross, the inhabitants were entertained with the national pastime of bear baiting; and when occasionally justice punished its victims and entertained the public by an exhibition in the pillory or a scourging at the whipping post. It is not many years since the “bull-ring” was removed from the Market-place, and the stone in which it was set yet remains there, but no bull-bait has occurred there within modern recollection.
It required scarcely the memory of the “oldest inhabitant” to narrate these events; or to tell how in these “good old times” the “conscript fathers” of the town assembled round the cross “as was their custom in an afternoon,” to talk the politics of the day, and to quaff from the foaming jug supplied from the neighbouring “Three Tuns” or “Anchor;” or to tell how the Preston volunteers flocked to the Market-place to the standards of Watson and Grimshaw in defence of the nation from the anticipated French invasion. Many a tale of olden time, and of the changed condition of Preston from the time when its first Factory was erected, and the population was not more than 6,000, was elicited from the chords thus struck; but ‑ to the building, which is more within our present purpose to notice.
The use of brick in the construction of houses was scarcely known until the Tudor era. They were generally composed of a framework of timber ‑ principally oak, ‑ and the interstices were filled with a sort of plaster, formed of clay, mixed with straw, reed, or rushes. These dwellings were generally rudely formed; but on the cessation of the wars of the Roses, and the consequent cultivation of the arts of peace, the mansions and halls of the wealthy in the country, and the houses of the richer inhabitants of towns began to be more highly finished, and great taste and artistic skill were sometimes employed in their decoration. We have in this county some excellent specimens of this class of domestic architecture; among them Ince Hall, near Wigan, Samlesbury old hall, Astley hall, and Rufford old hall. Some few of the Market-places of our ancient towns contain good specimens of a lowlier class of dwellings of this era, Warrington, Manchester, and Bolton have yet each a few; Chester is very rich in them, but as an individual specimen of a dwelling of the early part of the seventeenth century, the houses razed a quarter of a century ago, in our Market-place, could compare with any.
There were four shops and houses on the south side of the Market-place: one, a comparatively modern one, formerly occupied by Mrs. Stanley, and possessing neither in appearance nor construction any remarkable feature; two occupied by the late Mr. Gardner and the late Mr. Cookson, which were originally occupied as one dwelling (except the lower part, which was divided into two shops), and which we shall now speak of as one house, erected in 1629, and one to the east which had been occupied by Mr. Banks, erected in 1618. The latter house possessed in its structure something in common with the neighbouring dwelling; had a framework of timber; had the interstices filled up with the same substitute for mortar; had projecting stories; and wainscoated rooms; but the east house was a dwelling of a much humbler character. It was more rudely constructed, and less elaborately finished, and was evidently originally the residence of a person of less distinguished position in the town and district. The house to the east bore in front the date of its erection and the initials of its first owner carved upon the beam over the shop window ‑ I.A 1619 [James Archer.]
The centre house in the pile, whose picturesque appearance has afforded to sketcher and photographer many a picture, was erected, as we have said, eleven years later, in the year 1629, the third year of the reign of Charles the First. Its framework was of oak, and, with little exception, the whole was as sound as on the day it was put in. Every piece of wood in the frame was “tenoned,” fitted into a mortise, and firmly fixed by a wooden peg. In the construction of this house so much care was taken that each tenon and mortise throughout the building were numbered, and the duplicate numbers were distinctly visible not only in the interior of the dwelling, but in several places on the outside, the storms of two centuries and a quarter having failed to obliterate the marks.
There is a tradition in the town firmly believed in by many old people, that the framework of the house in its entirety was made in Holland, and that when it was brought here in the first instance it was put together on Gallows-hill, to see whether all was complete. We have also heard parties speak of the frame having been made in Ireland; we presume this to have been a vulgar corruption of the word Holland. The oak of which the house is erected, is however English oak. At that time the Dutch were noted for their skill in carving, and were accustomed to attend our fairs with their wares; so that probably foreign artists contributed the sculptured work, and perhaps it was near Gallows-hill where the great bulk of the carpentry was performed.
Noble forests of oak were then growing both at Fulwood and Myerscough. The house was of four stories, besides the cellar, and each story projected over the lower one. This is the case with all ancient timber houses. The overhanging floors and projecting windows were no doubt necessary to protect the lower part of the houses from the weather, and in the case of shops this made the lowest story all the better for the exhibition of wares. The beam upon which each story rested was most elaborately carved, and they were all of different patterns; and, in addition, there is much other carved work in front, each beam being supported by brackets, bearing heraldic or other carvings, Among them are representations of a stag, a griffin, a huntsman, dogs running, a hewer of wood, and a curious figure, the lower part being the body of a man, with the head of a stag, as if a representation of Herne the hunter, ‑
There is an old tale goes that Herne, the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns.
Latterly the building had been apportioned between the tenants of the two shops, but, before the removal of the materials, the partition which had divided the principal room of the building was taken down, and there was then seen the splendid old room, occupying the whole space over the two shops. It was thirty-seven feet long by twenty-one feet wide; and although the fine old oak beams had suffered in appearance from repeated whitewashing, and the ancient wainscoating had been hidden under paper, there were yet some traces of medieval grandeur about it.
Many a merry meeting had no doubt been held in that room; many a hospitable banquet been spread there; many a toast been drunk to Stuarts and Hanoverians; many a pledge no doubt given for royalty and republicanism, for puritanism and church and state; aye, and many a time, we doubt not, have the mayors and aldermen of yore feasted there, and pledged the standing toast, “Prosperation to the Corporation.” Two Charleses, two Cromwells, the 2nd James, two Williams, a Mary, an Anne, four Georges, and a Victoria have swayed the sceptre of these realms since first the framework of this house was set up. Preston has been the scene of more than one civil war; Cromwell and the royalist troops fought close at hand; in front of this very dwelling the first Pretender was proclaimed King of Great Britain and Ireland; and on the same spot, a few days later, his army surrendered to the troops of George the First. The “Young Pretender,” the unfortunate Charles Stuart, was also proclaimed here, and here he reviewed his troops; and the “Mitre Inn,” facing the Market-place, [the premises long occupied as the Chronicle office, and those afterwards occupied as the Shakspere Tavern,] was his head quarters during his stay in Preston, on the route of his army southward.
The date of the erection, 1629, was marked in two different parts of the building: one over a lower window, 1629 I – I [John Jenkinson]; and one over the entry or passage to the back of the house, 1629 I I A [John and Ann Jenkinson,]. These are the names of the persons who erected this structure. We may, however, state that the site of this building originally belonged to the “Chantry of the Crucifix of the Parish Church.” On the dissolution of the chantry at the Reformation, the site became the property of the Crown, or rather of the Duchy of Lancaster, which, in this county, possesses all the privileges and rights ordinarily accruing to the Sovereign. We are not certain who was the first grantee of the property, but we find that, in the year 1616, it belonged to “Henry Hodgkinson, of Preston, draper,” a person of considerable possessions in the town, and who held a lease from the duchy for this and other property, for which he paid a ground rent.
The Hodgkinsons appear to have been, from an early period, persons of considerable station in Preston. The name frequently occurs in our municipal records; several members of the family have filled the office of chief magistrate, and in 1662, James Hodgkinson served the office of Guild Mayor. There are many descendants of this family yet in the town, though in a much humbler sphere. The last member of the family who was Mayor of Preston, was Thomas Hodgkinson; he served the office in 1680-1. Some notion of the influence the family possessed at one time may be judged from the fact that in 1668 four persons of the name of Hodgkinson ‑ Luke, Richard, James, and Thomas ‑ were members of the corporation at one time, and all had served the office of mayor. The last mayor of the family bequeathed to the corporation the sum of £50, the interest of which was to be yearly distributed for “the better support, provision, and maintenance of the poor of the borough” as the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses should think fit. This, known as “Hodgkinson’s charity,” is annually dispensed to the old people of the borough.
In October, 1615, Henry Hodgkinson, who had four sons, William, Richard, Roger, and Thomas, bequeathed his property to his wife and his children, and in his will which was proved in April, 1616, there occurs the following passage:
Item, I give more to the said Thomas and his heires, one Burgage or tent in the Markett Place, in Preston, now in the occupacon of James Breres, with all backromes and other romes thereto belonging, and all the shopps underneath the said house, paying therefor yearlie to my sonne William Hodgkinson and his heires to the use of his Mate his heires and successors for ever twentie and two shillings; vidz., for the said house per annum eight pence, and for the said shopps in number four [afterwards two] per annum twentie one shillings and four pence payable att the Feaste daies of the Annunion of the Blessed Virgin Marie and St. Michaell by even and equel portions.
Mr. Hodgkinson’s devises comprise property in almost every part of the town. The following are amongst them ‑ a close of land called the Brookfield; two closes called Greystock heys; some property in St. John’s Wiend [Lord-Street] These were chantry lands, and liable to a ground rent to the Duchy. The house he lived in, with both gardens [the locality is not stated]; Mooreside house, with lands thereto belonging; two fields, the great St. Mary hey and little St. Mary hey and the Intack; several burgages in Friargate; “the two raw mores and parcell of land lying in the Mowdlands;” the Washing steed hey, called the Corner Cappe; two parcels of lands called Avenham ends; a meadow under Aram Sykes; a burgage in Church-gate; the croft of land called the Woodholme; one piece of meadow ground under the Little Clif; another piece of land under the Cliff; land “over against Haighton Lane;” a barn, barn croft, and garden near the Friargate bars; one acre of land lying in the “raw mores;” the “mylne field adjoining upon the Sykes;” another parcel of land “beyond the Freares;” a parcel near to Hoppe Greene called the “Crooked Acre;” another between the town and Maudlands; several closes of land “called the Dishes;” Balshaw-house and lands, which he had leased from the Corporation ; a house in Fulwood; a croft in St. John’s Lane; a burgage in Fishergate, “together with the barn, barn croft, and garden;” “land on the other side Broadgate, next on Ribble;” property in Salter Lane; some land called “Banks and Bottoms;” a close in Sandy Lane, near the North More Gate, which he had purchased “from the Worshipful Sir Richard Houghton, Knight and Barronett;” a piece of land in Fishwick, which “had been delivered” to him in lieu of his “part of the wast in Fishwick,” &c. Soma of our readers curious in such matters may perhaps be able to identify the estates then held by Mr. Hodgkinson. It is easy to see, that had this property, like the estates of our nobility and gentry, been held together and descended under an entail, the present head of the Hodgkinson family, would, from the greatly increased value of land in this town, have occupied a high position.
The will of this Henry Hodgkinson is a singular production. It gives a most elaborate confession of christian faith, and the following curious but very cogent reason for making his will. After thanking God for his possession of “good and perfect health and remembrance,” he proceeds as follows; excepting that we modernize the orthography:
Perceiving daily the frailty of man’s life, and how suddenly men die and depart this world without any will and testament by means whereof it happeneth many times great suits and contentions do arise and grow between the mother and the children and very often amongst the children themselves whereby great hatred and malice do arise and much money spent to the impoverishing of their estates and increasing the unnatural quarrels and uncharitable dealings; for the preventing whereof it may please Almighty God of his goodness, I do hereby make this my last will and testament.” Very good advice to those who have property and have no will made!
Thomas Hodgkinson, who received the Market-place property among other bequests from his father, executed on the 20th September, 1626, a lease to John Jenkinson, draper, of all that “messuage, burgage, scyte, or houstid, scytuat, lieing, and beinge in the Markett Place, in Preston aforesaid, adioyneinge on the east pte [part] thereof unto a house of James Archer, the south pte thereof unto a house in the occupacon of one Roger Walshman, and on the west pte thereof unto certain shops in the cccupacon of Adame Morte.”
[Adam Morte and his son fell while fighting for the king in the engagement between the royalists and the parliamentary troops, in Preston, in December, 1642. The corporation generally were in favour of Cromwell, and it was probably on account of having no political sympathy with his colleagues that this brave royalist refused to accept the office of mayor when elected thereto in October, 1642. For this refusal, he was fined one hundred marks, and the mayor of the preceding year continued in office at the request of the council, who agreed to “secure, and save him harmlesse, costlesse, and indempnified” for the discharge of his duty in “theis troblesome tymes,”]
The same lease conveys a barn in Saint John’s Weind, and the conditions are the 22s. a year rent to the king for the Market-place property, and 4s. a year for the barn, which we have seen they were subject to, and 12d. a year to the lessor. The lease was for a “term of one hundred yeares, if Ann Jenkinson, now wyffe of the said John Jenkinson, Grace Jenkinson, and Elizabeth Jenkinson, or anie of them soe long shall fortune to live.” This John Jenkinson is the person whose initials were in two places inscribed on the front of the house. Mr Jenkinson leased this property, it would appear, for erecting thereon a house.
In less than a year and a half from the time of making this purchase he died, and in his will, bearing date the day of his death, the 13th February, 1628, is the following passage respecting the erection of the house, the subject of this notice. The will says
“Whereas, I hould to mee and my assignes a mesuage with the appurtenances situat lyinge and being in Preston aforesaid in the Markett Place, late in the possession of James Breeres, and one barn and croft in St. John’s Weind now or late in the possession of Christopher Banister, Esquire, all being of the yearly rent of twentie six shillings eight pence or thereabouts” &c., &c.; and whereas I had a purpose and intente by the sufferance of the Almightie God to build and erecte an house uppon the fronte towards the streete of the said mesuage and have provided divers and sundrie materialls for and towards the said building. It is my mynde and will that the said buildinge and FRAME intended to bee erected as aforesaid shall bee accomplished and p.formed in convenient tyme at the direction and discretion of my said loving wyfe or her assignes and that the charge disbursed in the said erecon and of all things thereunto belonginge shal be taken had and received out of the whole personall estate of me the said John Jenkinson undevyded.
He then proceeds to bequeath the messuage thus to be erected to his wife Ann during her life, and afterwards to his two daughters Grace and Elizabeth.
Within five weeks of the death of her husband, Mrs. Jenkinson (whose maiden name was Worden), unwilling probably to place so good a building as was contemplated on land held only by a lease for lives, purchased from Thomas Hodgkinson the freehold of the Market-place messuage and with it the barn in St. John’s-weind, subject to the ground rent to the duchy. Since this date the rent due in respect of the “barn in St. John’s-weind” has been transferred to the Market-place property, and the twenty-six shillings is still paid to the Duchy by the Corporation as owners of the fee. The description of the house in the deed of sale states that the tenant of the house on the west side was, instead of Adam Morte, as in the lease, “Seth Blackhurst, wollen draper.” [Seth Blackhurst was mayor in the year 1648-9; and again in the year 1667-9]. The sum she paid for the reversion of the property was “three score pounds.”
This Mrs. Jenkinson afterwards married again. The name of her second husband was Fleetwood: by this marriage she had two daughters, Ann and Catherine, the latter of whom was married to Henry Blackhurst.
Elizabeth Jenkinson died young and her sister Grace, the only surviving daughter of Mr. Jenkinson succeeded to the ownership of this house, She married a Dr. Cole, They had two daughters, Grace and Anne. Anne married a Thomas Mayor, and they had two daughters, who had a legacy from their grandmother of £170 charged upon this property. Grace married John Prescott, who, in right of his wife became the owner of the house subject to the bequest above-named. Mrs. Grace Cole, in her will dated October 3, 1666, described the property as “the messuage and shops in the Markett-place in possession of myself and Thomas Whalley, and Edward Crooks.” The two latter were tenants of the shops, so that the large room which we have described was at this date a portion of the dwelling-house unconnected with the shops. John Prescott died without a will. On the 15th April, 1702, letters of administration were taken out by his son, William Prescott, who is described in the family pedigree as “the stationer,” being doubtless then the only one in the town.
We find that William Prescott was in monetary difficulties, though ‘the amount is not large, and in consideration of a loan from “Jeofery Rishton,” who lived in one of the shops, he granted the said Jeofery a lease of the property for twenty-one years, at a rent of £11 15s. as a security. [Geoffrey Rishton was mayor of Proston in the year 1702-9]. This William Prescott, who married a Mary Smith, left, by his will, directions that the property should be sold to pay his debts. The executors named in the will did not act, and there is a memorandum in the family pedigree that “Mary, ye widow being expert in ye business of a stationer, which her husband followed, kept on the business nearly thirty years after his decease, and by the forbearance of ye creditors paid off and discharged all ye debts owing by her said husband, so that no part of the estate was sold.” They had three daughters; Dorothy, who died unmarried; Grace, who married a Henry Smith; and Elizabeth, who married one Thomas Lucas; and to these two the property descended.
In the year 1731, Richard Addison, woollen draper, became a tenant of one of the shops. This gentleman who was the great grandfather of our late townsmen, Mr, T. B. Addison, recorder of Preston, and Mr. John Addison, judge of our county court, served the office of mayor in the year 1727-8, and again in 1735-6. During the first mayoralty of Mr. Addison, he had for his bailiff Sir Edward Stanley, who himself afterwards was mayor, and who subsequently succeeded as eleventh Earl of Derby. A seat in the council could only be obtained after serving the office of bailiff; and in olden times one of the conditions to be observed by the bailiff during his year of office, was, that when he waited upon the mayor he was to go the back door, and the tradition is that when Sir Edward Stanley called upon Mr. Addison, he fulfilled the requirements of official etiquette by going to the back door of his worship’s residence. In 1765 the two shops were tenanted by the two sons of this Richard Addison, viz, Thomas Addison, draper, and Richard Addison upholsterer, the latter the grandfather of the late Mr. T. B. Addison and the late Mr. John Addison. There was a George Addison, who as three times elected mayor, between 1682 and 1700, but he was of another family. The Gorsts are, we believe, relations of this gentleman. There was also a Matthew Addison, chosen mayor in 1645, but he was not connected with the present family of that name.
We have now traced the ownership of the property to the two daughters of William Prescott, and we next find that, by a covenant entered into in the year 1738, Henry Smith, the husband of one of them, had conveyed to him the freehold, by the imposition of a fine at the Lancaster assizes, as was then customary on conveyances by married women. In 1765, the date of his will, he bequeathed this and other property to Mary, wife of John Wilkinson, and her sister Hannah Lucas. Smith, the testator, was, for thirty years, town clerk of Preston, viz., from 1718 to 1748, and on his resignation of that office the John Wilkinson named above was appointed to it, and he held the post for nineteen years. We believe there was relationship between Mr. Smith and the two sisters to whom he bequeathed the property, but we do not know what it was, nor are we aware whether the legatees were in any way connected with the Jenkinsons in whose descendants hitherto the house had been vested. The relationship is not named in the will. Probably they were his wife’s nieces, as her sister married a Thomas Lucas, Mrs. Wilkinson having survived her sister became possessed of the house, and she left it, charged with various legacies, to her grandson, John Colquhoun, [who married a daughter of Mr. Alderman Lyon, of Preston], and he, in 1808, sold it to Mr. Richard Walmsley [father of the late Alderman Walmsley] for £2200. At that time Mr. John Todhunter and Mr. Henry Fayle were the tenants, In1822 Mr. Walmsley sold the property to the Corporation for £2,350. Mr.Chambers and Messrs, S. and T. Clarke were then the tenants. Mr. Walmsley was solicited to sell the property to the council, as then they would own the entire pile, and at that time they professed to be anxious to pull the whole down to make way for buildings more worthy of the town. Since that time their demolition had often been suggested, but these views never took a practical shape for very many years.
We have thus traced the possession of this interesting structure, from its erection to its becoming a portion of the corporation estate, and noticed incidentally some of its occupants, a sketch, which we believe, will not be without interest to our townsmen. The other shops facing the Market-place, came at a much earlier period into the possession of the Town Council; but, there is, we believe, little in their history to interest the antiquary.
No time was lost in erecting the pile of buildings connected with the new Town Hall, Elegant as the new structure is, we feel assured that for many years the picturesque dwelling which occupied its site, and which with its associations we have essayed to describe, will long be remembered by old Prestonians.