Social and Political Leadership in Preston 1820-60

This is a transcript of the Lancaster University M.Litt thesis the Preston historian Nigel Morgan submitted in 1980. I think there are only four copies of the thesis publicly available: the one held at Lancaster University, a photocopy (with some minor amendments) that Nigel deposited at UCLan, and two copies held by Lancashire Library. This transcript is based on Nigel’s UCLan photocopy.

At first view, the task of transcribing Nigel’s somewhat battered and smudged photocopy seemed too daunting to attempt. However, the thesis, which stretches to more than 400 pages and nearly 100,000 words, is an invaluable source for the political history of the town at the period of its most rapid transformation. Nigel’s thesis and his Desirable Dwellings study of middle-class life and architecture in Preston deserve the wider audience that can only be reached by on-line publication. Please forgive the many transcription errors that must have escaped my notice.

It is principally a political history of the period. Nigel covered the 19th-century social history of the town in great detail in his three publications: Vanished Dwellings [1], Deadly Dwellings [2] and Desirable Dwellings. Of course, social and political continually intertwine.

See also: Margaret Spillane’s Reforming Preston

[1] Nigel Morgan, Vanished Dwellings (Preston: Mullion Books, 1990).
[2] Nigel Morgan, Deadly Dwellings: Housing & Health in a Lancashire Cotton Town, Preston from 1840 to 1914 (Preston: Mullion, 1993).


Abstract and acknowledgements

1. The hypothesis
2. Historiographical context
3. Institutions examined and plan of work
4. A brief outline of the growth of Preston 1800-1870
(a) Impressions
(b) Population growth and its significance
(c) The cotton industry

I Baseline characteristics of Preston about 1825
1. Economy and town
2. Religious denominations
3. Governing institutions and their members
4. Political control: the Whig/Tory coalition and its challengers before 1826

II Politics and Preston society 1826-1832
1. The social milieu in the mid 1820s
2. The election of 1826
3. Radical progress 1826-1832
4. Society and the politics of parliamentary reform 1830-32
(a) Poor Law
(b) Parliamentary reform and elections 1831-2

III The mighty cataract and the webs of influence
1. The mighty cataract
2. Cotton and class
3. Town and Community
4. Leadership

IV Reform of the old Corporation
1. Reform of the old Corporation
2. Composition of the Council 1836-60
3. Municipal electioneering

V The modernisation of local administration
1. The scale of local government, and resistance to growth in Poor Law affairs
2. Improvement Commissioners
3. Phases of change: the first phase in the Town Council and Improvement Commission
4. Deflection of purpose in the Town Council.
5. The second phase: needs recognised and Local Board formed
6. The third phase: problems of modernisation

VI Politics, parties and voters in parliamentary elections 1835-1862
1. Historiographical context
2. The electorate between the Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867
3. The emergence and ascendancy of the Liberal Party
4. Leadership and methods in parliamentary electioneering after 1832
5. Pollbook evidence


1. Preston cotton mills, with horse power and hands (PG 8 May 1847)
2. Radicalism and the masters’ right to influence voters (Preston Pilot August 1830)
3.Analysis of occupational composition of Preston electorates 1832 and 1838
4. Table: occupational composition of Preston electorate: 1832 and 1838
5. Histogram: occupational composition of Preston electorate: 1832 and 1838
6. Histograms: Social comparison of wards; 1838 register of voters
7. Preston Parliamentary Election results
8. Changes in voting of selected occupations between 1837 and 1841
9. Distribution of votes by wards 1832-62
10. Millownership and political colour of millowners 1847



3 thoughts on “Social and Political Leadership in Preston 1820-60

  1. Congratulations Peter. This is a great asset to those with an interest in local history, particularly during the times of breathtaking change in Preston. It also demonstrates why Nigel is so highly regarded both by those who knew him and those who experience him afresh through his writings.


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