Kuerden’s Preston

A superb artistic visualization of Kuerden’s Preston by Terry Rushworth. Image courtesy Preston Historical Society
A plan of Preston based on the 1685 sketch plans of the town in the DDX194 collection at Lancashire Archives with the places mentioned by Kuerden labelled.

A topographical description of Preston at the end of the 17th century by the antiquary Dr Richard Kuerden was published in 1818 with an introduction and notes by John Taylor, who was unaware that Kuerden was the author. [1] In his introduction, Taylor says the manuscript ‘had been accidentally thrown in the way of its present possessor’, but gives no further indication of its provenance. He adds, ‘From internal evidence, it seems to have been compiled about the year 1682, or perhaps a few years later.’ The location of the original manuscript is unknown.

There were at least two manuscript copies of Kuerden’s description of the town, which differed in some details. Baines, in his history of the town, had access to a different copy of the manuscript in the Heralds College and gives the reference as Kuerden‘s MSS Vol.vi. fo.121.Cap. ii [2]

A reference in the Taylor manuscript to the ‘now intended’ guild of 1682 suggests that it was compiled at or shortly before that date. [3] However, as can be seen in the extract below, the Taylor manuscript records the estate of the Preston family, including their hall at the bottom of Friargate, as having been sold to Mr Rigby of Paternoster Row, London. The 1685 survey of Preston records the hall as still in the possession of the Prestons.

The Heralds College manuscript that Baines makes use of includes information that dates from after 1690 for it mentions the extension to the school which, according to Heppel’s history of the school, was built in July of that year. [4]

The following is a section of Taylor’s copy of the manuscript:

The first street as you enter upon the south side from the bridge, is Fenkell-street, unto the barrs; and from the barrs proceeding to the town’s hall, is styled the Church-street, all though the other part below the barrs hath been, and is, vulgarly taken for part thereof.

From the Church-street, in a straight line proceeding westward, the whole street is called the Fishergate-street.

And over against the church, proceeding northward to Salter-lane, was esteemed to be Vicars or Vicarage-street or alley, by reason that at the end thereof the antient vicarage stood before delapidation: and the Tyth Barne were adjacent.

From the end of Vicarage-street or lane, a specious street past westward, and this is called St. John’s-street; and from thence a back-lane passing beside the town, falling into the Fryergate below the Fryergate-barrs.

And from the west end of St. John’s-street and the little short street or alley passing southerly, into the lower end of the Market-place, and this is call the Fryers’ Weend.

And likewise from the midst of St. John’s-street, passing by the horsemill southward, into another square with a draw well in the midst thereof; into which square the mayor and counsell did intend to translate their fish-stones or fish-market, out of the larger market-place.

And from this lesser square (most of which belongs to that worthy person and purchaser of the town-end, the antient estate formerly belonging to the family of Prestons, but now in the possession of Mr. Rigby, Paternoster-row, in London) is another alley lately adorned with new building passing into the Market-place, at the upper end of the corne market; and this alley or passage from the aforesaid lesser square hath been antiently called Gin Bow Entry.

There is likewise below the Churchgate-barrs another publiq footway southward, leading towards the bridge over Rible into London Road; and this passage at its entrance out of the town was called Cockerhole.

Another remarkable foot passage toward Rible Bridge is through the Church yard southward by the publiq schoole and antient place called Chappel of Avenam, over the Swibrook southward, by Westfeld to the aforesaid Bridge of Rible; and this passage is called the Stonygate, being the greatest foot tract to the Burrough of Preston.

Another passage southward about the midst of Church Street more privatly passing either towards the bridge or bote, — and is at present styled the passage through Cockshutts backside.

Another foot passage southward is over against the Shambles or Town hall, and leadeth by the Minspitt well, and over Avenam to Rible side, passing along the river to the boate or ferry of Penwortham ; and this is called Minspitt-lane or Pettycoat-alley [Mainsprit Weind], by reason of the frequent carrying of water from this well by woemen, and milk maids bringing dayly their milk and butter to the town this way, from beyond the river Rible.

At the west end of the Fishergate, there is one lane or foot path, likewise leading over Avenham, from the Almes house to the aforesaid boat at Penwortham, and this is called the Almes house-lane or Passage to the boat.

From the Church-street or Town hall westward in a direct line continues another spacious street leading towards the river of Rible or Broadgate, as they call it; and this street as far as the buildings extend, is called the Fishergate-street, and the end thereof, at the ford over the Rible or the horse way to the boat, when the river is not fordable, is called Broadgate, from whence going southerly they pass over the river, there devided into 3 streams; a very secure passage if the water be not too deep by fresh or flood: in such cases, when they come to the river side at the aforesaid Broadgate, then must follow up the river side eastward, about a quarter of a mile, untill they arrive at the key or wharf over against the boat house, where diverse boats are ready, as occasion may require, for horse or foot to waft them over to the other side, from thence to pass through Leyland-Lane to Eccleston; and from thence to passe to Wigan by Standish, or by Maudsley to Ormschurch, and so to Liverpoole : or westward unto Croston; or when over the ford or boat, upon the right hand road, through Penwortham, Longton, Hoole, Ormschurch and so to Liverpoole.

Now from the lower end of Market-street or square, passing by the north west through a fayre long and spacious street cal’d the Fryergate-street, by reason upon that side of the town was formerly a larg and sumptuos building, formerly belonging to the Fryers Minors or Gray Fryers, but now only reserved for the reforming of vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and petty larcenary thieves, and other people wanting good behavior: it is now the country prison to entertain such persons with hard work, spare dyet, and whipping: and it is called the House of Correction. And at the upper end of this street, without the barrs, is a passage westward, either for horse or foot, by this Fryery or House of Correction, to the upper end of the Marsh, where there is a lower ford to passe over the water to the Church or Hall of Penwortham, though not altogether so safe as the aforesaid Upper Ford; and this passage betwixt the Burrough and the said Pryory is styled the Fryers’-wind.’

When you pass the barrs towards the Townsend-Hall now belonging to Mr Rigby, of Pasternoster-rowe, upon the left hand westward lyeth the publiq road by Preston Marsh unto the Fyld Contry, or plain and western part of the said Amounderness Hundred, following allong the side of the river of Rible twards the market town of Kirkham, and toward that of Poulton.

But upon the right hand northerly, lyes the great road towards Lancaster by the way of Garstang.

There is likewise, when you enter the town upon the south or eastern side, a way to pass by the body of the town over Preston More and Fulwood, by Broughton northward, by Garstang aforesaid, towards the Burrough of Lancaster.

This burrough is likewise adorned with a spacious wel built or rather re-edifyed church, for the decent and more comodious solemnization of religious rytes and instruction of the people in sound and healthfull Christian doctrines, and nere unto this church there is likewise built a large and hansom schoole house, for the better education of their children, and bringing them up in humane learning, making them fitter for trade or other better preferment in the world.

Adjacent unto which is lately raised a publiq workhouse, to employ the poorer sort of people especially women and children in a worsted trade of yarn, thereby better to maintaine their family from begging.

And there is likewise 3 other hospitalls or publiq alms houses erected for the habitation of many old, impotent, decrepit, and other of the most needy persons, to preserve them with charity from starveing and extreme necessityes; and these, for many familyes apeece, are placed at the ends of three severall streets for the more comodious assistance.

Baines (p320-2) adds the following information: ‘ … for the more eas of the people, there has lately been built on the south side of the church a large spacious and well adorned gallery, for the gentry, who were farmers.’ What can ‘for the gentry, who were farmers’ mean?

Baines further adds, ‘there has been annexed to it [the school] an handsome fabrick adjoining to it as a fitting habitation for a schoolmaster, for convenience and ease over the school, a fitting place for the scholars’ retirement, for making their exercises, as likewise upon occasion if needful for a scrivener to make use of with least prejudice to the scholars, as to their absence or attendance.’

Baines quotes from the Heralds’ College manuscript information about the town’s almshouses:

1st. At the East end of the town for 8 or 10 almspeople.
2nd. Next near the end of St. John Street out of Lemon’s Charity.
3rd. At the end of Fishergate, consisting of 8 rooms, erected by the Widow of Bartho. Worthington & Eliz. Harrison, Widow.

[1] 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), 8–15, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KCAwAAAAYAAJ.
[2] Edward Baines, History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, vol. 4 (Lancashire: Fisher, son & Company, 1836), 293, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ncs3AQAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y.
[3] Kuerden, A Brief Description of the Burrough and Town of Preston, and Its Government: Originally Composed Between the Years 1682 and 1686 …, 79.
[4] James Heppell, The History of Preston Grammar School (Preston: Carnegie Publishing, n.d.), 18.


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