A census of the Catholic population of Preston in 1820 suggests that there was a sectarian divide in the town with Catholics clustering in the Friargate area and largely absent from the Church Street area, possibly the result of the hostility the congregation had faced from the 17th century onwards.
The evidence for this view is taken from a wonderful resource prepared by De La Salle Brother Rory Higgins, and put on line with the help of the Catholic Family History Society. It gives free access to a vast quarry of information on some 275,000 Catholics and their supporters living in England between 1607 and 1840 (and beyond). 
Listed for the Preston area are 10,233 records dating from 1669 to 1892. The records include the two censuses of Catholics in Preston in 1810 and 1820, organised by the St Wilfrid’s parish priest Joseph Dunn, and transcribed and published by Margaret Purcell. 
The subject of this article is the 1820 Preston census and the mapping it allows of the homes of the town’s Catholics. The 1820 census contains the names of 5,185 Catholics in the town and identifies the streets in which 5,157 of them lived, leaving just 28 individuals whose location is not identified, 19 of whom were members of three families. The 1810 census identifies some 3,524 individuals, but provides a street address for just 522 of them, and so is of much less use in mapping the town. Fulwood was included in the 1820 census, but is not included in the above total because no addresses were given. Fulwood does not appear to have been included in the 1810 survey. Joseph Dunn did not include himself or his fellow Catholic clergymen in either census.
The national census returns for Preston give a total population in 1811 of 17,065 and 24,627 for 1821, which means Catholics made up roughly a fifth of the population.
In introducing his database, which he named for his mother, Br Higgins cannot resist supplying a nicely revisionist overview of England’s post-Reformation religious history:
The question could be asked why not call … [it a] database of papists rather than a database of Catholics because it was the name ‘Papist’ which was applied to the returns? This is a good question.
As we know, the victors write the history. If so, is this the reason why the dissolution of the monasteries is so called rather than the stealing from men and woman religious as well as the people of England who gave to the monasteries? Is this the reason why Glorious Revolution of 1688 is so called rather than the invasion of the Dutch, or even the use of such adjectives as Bloody Mary or Good Queen Bess? While, Mary burned between 300-400 Protestants, after the Northern Rebellion 1569-70, under Elizabeth far more were executed.
The decision was made that the database would have the name that those listed in the database called themselves, that is Catholic, rather than a name such as Papists, which was applied to them by forces that were not always supportive. 
Most of the records contained in the database for Preston before Fr Dunn’s censuses are just such ‘papist’ records, prepared by authorities frequently hostile to the town’s Catholic citizens, and frequently prepared with the intention of exacting heavy fines from them or for surveillance. Fr Dunn’s records, by contrast, were prepared by Catholics for Catholics.
I do not know why Fr Dunn conducted his censuses. Nor do I know how accurate the figures are, given that they are based on a transcription of a transcription. When libraries and archives reopen I will investigate further.
Around the time that Fr Dunn was conducting his 1820 census four business directories were published for the town, two in 1818 (Rogerson and Pigot), a third in 1821 (Whittle, included in his history of the town) and a fourth in 1825 (Baines).  To accompany the last, there is a map of the town in 1825, which has been used here as it best freezes the rapidly changing landscape at the closest point in time to the 1820 census. Together, the census, the directories and the map provide a basis examining the distribution and make-up of Preston’s Catholic population in the 1820s. There are, of course, the inevitable discrepancies between the various sources, but I think the overall picture is fairly accurate.
The most useful are the directories prepared by Rogerson and Baines because they include street numbers as well as names, which makes it possible to marry up a number of the individuals in the censuses with those in the directories to obtain their occupations. Of course, there are some slight discrepancies in the numbering. At the time, it would have been usual to address a letter to, for example, the Crown and Thistle, Friargate, rather than to 56 or 57 Friargate, the pub’s address given in Baines and Rogerson, or to 63 Friargate as it was recorded later by the Ordnance Survey. It could, of course, have shifted premises over time, keeping its name as it moved: by the time of Fr Dunn’s census it had even changed its name from the earlier Rose and Crown (see http://pubsinpreston.blogspot.com/2012/02/crown-and-thistle-friargate.html).
The censuses raise some interesting questions which can probably never be answered, such as, why was it noted in 1820 against both the Dobson family of 7 Tithebarn Street, and the Dickinsons, of 13 Bishopgate, that ‘this family ought to be called upon’. And what story lies behind the note against the names of the teenaged Alice and Mary Bamber, of 11 Peter Street, that ‘Parents are Protestants’? Perhaps this says something about the purpose of the census.
Another interesting question, and possibly answerable, is raised by the presence in the census list of the immensely rich John Dalton (he developed much of late 18th-century Lancaster) and his family in 1810, and their absence from the 1820 list. In 1810, the census lists John Dalton, his wife Mary and their daughters Mary, Lucy, Elizabeth and Bridget living in Winckley Place, as Winckley Square was then styled. The family relationships are not given in the census list. Also listed are John Dalton’s servants: Thomas Nicholson, Richard Rodginson, Mary Robertson, Rosella Roddice, Ann Ratcliff and Jane Watson.
Marian Roberts, in her history of Winckley Square, quotes the 19th-century Preston historian Anthony Hewitson, writing about the building of the first houses in the square in the first decade of the 19th century:
‘… Mr Dalton of Thurnham Hall, who then lived at Avenham House, Preston, built the large square house for his town residence, where he dwelt many years.’ … In the 1960s the house was demolished and in its stead we now have the Tax Office [now HM Revenue and Customs], Charles House, which is the most unfortunate intrusion into the Square. 
At least one member of the family was living in the square in 1821, according to Marian Roberts, who quotes from the diary of Agnes Addison, another resident in the square, in which amongst visits to neighbours is recorded one in February 1821 to Miss Dalton. 
The curious fact is that not only is John Dalton, who would have been one of the most prominent Catholics in the town, not listed in Fr Dunn’s 1820 census, but of the four business directories he is listed only in Rogerson’s of 1818, where his addresses are given as 4, Winckley Place and Thurnham Hall. He is not recorded by Peter Whittle in 1821, nor by Baines in 1825. It is unlikely that both Peter Whittle, who was a fellow resident of Preston and a fellow Catholic, and Fr Dunn would have accidentally omitted Dalton from their lists.
His removal from the town, along with that of other prominent residents such as the Stanleys and the Winckleys, possibly witnesses that Preston at the opening of the 19th century was no longer the resort for county society but had given itself wholeheartedly to manufacture, with the landed class being replaced by merchants and members of the professions. (See Brian Lewis’s The Middlemost and the Milltowns. )
John Dalton is something of an outlier amongst the town’s Catholic population, both socially and geographically. The map above shows the distribution of Catholics in the town in 1820 when there is only one Catholic, Margaret Sagar, recorded in Winckley Square: contrast the dense populations in the Friargate and Frenchwood districts to the north west and south east.
The social composition of the town’s Catholics can be gathered somewhat roughly but probably accurately by matching names and addresses in the Dunn 1820 census with those in the directories.
By including only adults from the census by setting an arbitrary age limit of over 16 and by excluding doubtful and ambiguous matches 116 individuals in the directories were identified as Catholics (see table at bottom of the page). The town’s Catholic priests were also excluded. The directories give trades and occupations different titles: here they have been standardised for ease of comparison.
The Rogerson directory is alone in including the details of weavers. Given the date, these would have been handloom weavers and the directory lists 239 of them. They are the largest occupational group in the table..
I think it is clear from the table in which small tradesmen and handloom weavers predominate that Dalton would have been socially isolated in the congregation at St Wilfrid’s (opened 1793) and especially so in the recently reopened St Mary’s Chapel in Friargate, which within a few decades was to become the favoured place of worship for Irish immigrants.
The closest to Dalton in the social hierarchy would have been the attorneys James Blanchard and Joseph Bushell and the cotton merchant William Talbot. The directories show that all had homes close to one another on Fishergate, with Blanchard having an office round the corner in Winckley Street and Bushell one in Chapel Street. Talbot lived in one of the elegant houses built as Fishergate Terrace, between Winckley Street and Chapel Street, a few doors away from Fr Dunn’s presbytery on the same block at the corner of Chapel Street.
Fr Dunn (above) might have been a neighbour of Blanchard and Talbot but their relationship was far from neighbourly. Dunn did not take kindly to having his actions questioned:
Dunn consistently fought to maintain the Preston mission under the control of himself and his fellow priests. This resulted in clashes with some of his wealthier parishioners. Between 1816 and at least the mid-1820s Dunn resisted the attempts of a party of laymen led by James Blanchard, attorney, and William Talbot, cotton merchant, to build a third chapel, which would be under lay rather than priestly control, and to replace the priests as trustees of St. Wilfrid’s. At the same time various members of the church hierarchy expressed concern at the independence and financial laxity of Dunn and his colleagues. 
Nor was he receptive to the ‘view from the pew’:
Dunn’s best-documented attempt at paternalism was in the building of his schools in Fox Street. He had two stated aims: to train up the Catholic children in the fold and to indoctrinate subordination to king and country. 
The proximity of the prominent Catholics, with the town’s Catholic clergy moving from their previous presbytery in Friargate to their new one at the corner of Fishergate and Chapel Street, was facilitated by the development of Fishergate and Winckley Square. Work started on the Fishergate Terrace in 1786, St Wilfrid’s Church opened in 1793 and the first house in Winckley Square was built in 1799. Possibly middle-class Catholics and their clergy were feeling the gravitational pull of the Winckley Square district. 
There are also a couple of ‘gentlemen’ in the table, Thomas Smithies in Friargate and Thomas Banks in Hill Street, but by this date the term had become generously flexible, accommodating a wide range of social gradations. The term was also self-defining for those listed in the directories: it is unlikely a canvasser would deny someone the right to style themselves ‘gentleman’. So it is difficult to be sure of their social status.
There is, as shown in the map above, a suggestion of a sectarian divide in the numbers of Catholics living in the three principal streets in the town: Friargate 408; Fishergate 114; and Church Street 89. The marked divide is between Friargate and Church Street, since both contained a similar mix of shops and, at their lower ends, terraces of smaller houses. The Frenchwood area, newly developed at the beginning of the century, would not be influenced by traditional sectarian groupings.
There were approximately 180 houses in Friargate with 53 (29%) occupied by Catholics and roughly 150 houses in Church Street with 15 (10%) occupied by Catholics.
It is possible that this division was a result of the troubles the Catholic population of the town faced throughout the 18th century when Catholics were forced to ‘lie under ye Bushel’. A Catholic chapel was opened just off Friargate in the early years of that century and it would have made sense for Catholics to gradually move into the area to swell an existing Catholic community, for mutual support in what was often a hostile environment.
The half century in which Fr Dunn served his Catholic congregation in Preston was an interlude of peace for that community, he, as noted above, was a firm supporter of King and Country: no question of doubtful papist loyalty, then. In 1768, shortly before Fr Dunn arrived in Preston, the priest at St Mary’s Chapel in Friargate had to flee for his life when a Whig mob attacked and plundered his church. Fr Dunn died in 1827 two years before Peel and Wellington ‘betrayed’ the Tories in forcing through Catholic emancipation. Their action ignited anti-papist hostility from the town’s Anglican and Nonconformist clergy (see Lewis’s The Middlemost and the Milltowns) , and including from the town’s Tory MP Robert Townley Parker.
And finally, the census shows that the Winckley Square area was not an exclusively middle-class enclave. Five of the 33 Catholics identified as weavers in the table above lived in Mount Street, half of the number of weavers listed in that street by Rogerson. The Dunn 1820 census listed 117 Catholics living in the street, which meant they probably occupied a half or more of the houses in the street, judging by the houses on the 1840s Ordnance Survey map. This means that a working-class community, largely Catholic and including a handloom weaving colony, was established in the Fishergate/Winckley district: before Winckley Square itself was developed to judge by Shakeshaft’s map of 1810.
Table 1: The names, addresses and occupations of Catholics in Preston in 1820 identified in the trade directories for the town at that period
|Marsh End||Bolton||James||coal merchant|
|Avenham Street||Sumner||Thomas||corn merchant|
|Church Street||Tipping||Thomas||corn merchant|
|Cold Bath Street||Hardman||William||engineman|
|Spring Gardens||Bamber||Hugh||flagger and slater|
|Water Street||Johnson||John||letter carrier|
|Back Lane||Richardson||John||machine maker|
|Fylde Street||Smith||William||potato merchant|
|Friargate||Holmes||Ellen||straw bonnet maker|
|Church Street||Jackson||William||tallow chandler|
|Molyneux Square||Thornton||Ellen||tallow chandler|
|Back Charlotte Street||Harrison||John||weaver|
|Back Charlotte Street||Holderness||George||weaver|
|Back Charlotte Street||Holderness||William||weaver|
|Back Charlotte Street||Holland||Patrick||weaver|
|Back Charlotte Street||Walmsley||James||weaver|
|Water Lane End||Hill||John||wheelwright|