Prior to the occupation of Britain by the Romans there were no purpose-built roads or streets, merely tracks trampled into being by the feet of people and animals. After the Romans built their roads they classed them in order of priority as Iter I, Iter II, and so on: it was the later Anglo-Saxons who gave them their now familiar names of Watling Street, Ermine Street, Stane Street, etc.
In present day usage the name ‘street’ describes a thoroughfare that is confined to a town or village, lined on either side by dwellings or other buildings, while a road is a highway going from place to place. It seems contradictory for the Anglo-Saxons to call them streets, but as these Roman roads went from place to place in straight lines, they used the Old English word straet, derived from the Latin strata = straight. The distinction was made later that a street used for wheeled traffic was a radweg = wheelway, curtailed to rad, leading to its present form as road.
Centuries before the priest had his tun or estate that gave the name to Preston, Celtic families were already established on the site that is now the town centre. The name of this community, according to Ptolemy, was Tibo Dunum or Tigo Dunum. To the west of this settlement, the deep wooded valley of a stream, close to its confluence with the River Ribble (this stream is now culverted and known as Moorbrook) was to the Celts Twl Coeth, the wood in a deep hollow, now anglicised as Tulketh.
Across the river on a hill now called Castle Hill, the Celts had a strategical camp with a commanding view of the river, this they called Pen y Wyrddn, the green headland, now Penwortham. It is through these Celtic ‘Prestonians’ that Preston got its first street, this was the well-trodden path between the river and the settlement in line with the present Fishergate. There is no doubt that other such tracks branched off the original one into the surrounding forests where they hunted and obtained timber for fuel and building, and that these are now the town centre streets.
The early Preston street names have an interesting historical and geographical origin, their name-plates tell us of events local, national and international and, in some cases, the dates at which the streets and estates were built, by the names of persons, places and events that they bear. Royalty, local dignitaries, statesmen, landowners, explorers, poets, dramatists, artists, scientists all figure prominently in some districts, while in others trees, plants, fields, farm and house names are favoured. Holiday resorts and other place-names are in evidence in the names of streets and estates built by the council in later years. Private estates often take the names suggested by the builder or his agent and in some cases the residents have a say in the matter, but it was not unusual to find a street name-plate with the addition “unadopted”.
With a little research, most names can be identified with some degree of accuracy, but there are always some that defy interpretation, being fanciful or meaningless.
Some of the names chosen by the Central Lancashire Development Corporation fall into this category. For instance, it is hard to believe that anyone with an interest in the district could saddle a place with a name like Golf Village.
Another name that could have been suggested by a comic strip is Kidsgrove, this being the name of a road that leads to a new primary school. While it may be argued that there is a town called Kidsgrove in the Potteries, it had no bearing on the choosing of the name for this road. Another inflicted name is the so-called Tanterton Village which is almost entirely within the boundary of Higher Bartle, an existing village with a history and a name going back over 1000 years, while the name Tanterton is taken from Tanterton Hall Farm, merely a farmhouse only built at the turn of last century. It was purchased and demolished by Preston Corporation for the development of their Ingol Estate, the surplus land passed to a private contractor and eventually to the Central Lancashire Development Corporation. The name Tanterton given to the farm had no connection with any known person or place and was purely a name invented by the original owner. Why this name should be foisted onto Higher Bartle, two miles away, is hard to comprehend.
Some names that cannot be found on any map or plan of Preston are those used by locals and especially the older generation who, for instance, would be unable to identify Brockholes Bridge or Brockholes Brow, to them Ha’penny Bridge and Ha’penny Brew.
Similarly, Lower Penwortham was always referred to as Bunnock and the dock-side area off Watery Lane as Little Wigan. Plum Pudding Hill is well-known as the steep path that leads up from Eaves Brook to the Moor Park Serpentine, but very few people know it by its official name of Park Walk.
In my distant school days, one of the favourite play sites was Sandy Moor, an area of sand-hills and clay-pits now lost under the North End Football Club’s training-ground and the built up district off Harewood Road and Lowthorpe Road.
Stoney Moor to us was an open stretch of land between Deepdale Road and St. Paul’s Road, officially where the Corporation Streets Department kept their paving setts and cobbles, but to school-children it was an adventure playground.
Nearby were the Canary Islands, so-called from the fact that all the streets there have bird names, the only one missing, however, is Canary Street!
Older people still refer to the Blackpool Road/Pedder’s Lane corner as Lively Polly Corner, which was also named as a bus-stop. The name originated from a hoarding around Ashton Park, which at that time was Dick Kerr’s Football Ground, advertising Lively Polly, a soap powder, in 3 ft. high letters.
Scott’s Court had two narrow entrances, one from Mill Bank and the other from Edmund Street, it was well-used by mill workers as a short-cut to and from the cotton mills in Stanley Street, New Hall Lane, and London Road areas. Although the name was displayed on the headstone above the Edmund Street entry, to all and sundry it was Jerry Lobby. Marsh Lane could at one time boast of a Buckingham Palace, the local name for a run-down cul-de-sac called Buckingham Place, the name now retained in the rebuilt Buckingham Street.
Shoppers could always find bargains in Delphi, the affectionate name for Adelphi Street, but the little shops have succumbed to the demolition hammers, never to return. There have been three major development periods in Preston since the beginning of the 18th century, when the Town Hall was rebuilt on a new site and the buildings around the market place demolished and new ones erected. About the middle of the 19th century, the whole town was revitalised, starting with the Parish Church which was completely rebuilt between 1853 and 1855. In 1882, the foundation stone of the Harris Free Public Library and Museum was laid, the cost of the building defrayed from the estate of Edmund Robert Harris, who died in 1877. In 1884, work had started on the new and imposing Gothic-style Town Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1947. Crystal House now occupies the site.
The Broad Shambles were demolished to make way for the Miller Arcade and Chadwick’s Orchard was cleared for the erection of the Covered Market. A new Police Station and Magistrates’ Court were built nearby and, at the turn of the century, the Sessions House and the Head Post Office were completed. In 1870, on land that at that time was on the outskirts of the town, the Royal Infirmary was opened to replace the old House of Recovery.
The present redevelopment plan, which was started in earnest in the 1950’s by Preston Corporation and continued by the Central Lancashire Development Corporation has resulted in a complete re-arrangement of some of Preston’s streets. Although some of the names have been retained, their original locations can be pinpointed only on pre-World War II maps and plans. Even some of the older inhabitants have difficulty in finding their way about for not only have familiar landmarks disappeared, but streets that have not been entirely obliterated have become cul de-sacs or have changed direction A notable example is the council estate between Park Road (now Ringway) and Deepdale Road, where Newton Street and Edmund Street originally ran from west to east, but now run north to south.