In the middle of the 19th century, Preston shared the rapid growth of the developing industrial districts to the south and east but, as a centre of county administration and of agricultural markets retained a relatively strong middle class. It developed an increasingly dominant mechanised cotton spinning and weaving industry but with a high level of rural immigration and long surviving domestic manufacture retained certain pre-industrial social characteristics. It is suggested that the impression of the emergence of a three-class social hierarchy dominated by professionals and manufacturers supplanting a deferential but open community, and substituting for a politically active artisan class a politically submissive trade union orientated operative class, needs serious qualification.
Very active social institutions such as Friendly Societies, churches, and Sunday Schools, which gave social cohesion, fostered by middle class leadership, gradually became decentralised and an originally nucleated urban community dispersed as textile manufacturing suburbs developed.
Although the identity and organisation of political parties became more sharply defined particularly with respect to Free Trade and the Catholic question, struggles for control of elected local bodies took place across social rather than political frontiers until the late 1850s.
Basic environmental problems of urban growth were met by a small number of active leaders drawn from different political parties who shared collectivist goals from an early date. Three phases in the development of perception and response can be distinguished, leading to the creation of the basis of truly urban local government.
I owe this work to a large number of people, whose contributions to it I list in roughly chronological order. I wish to thank, first, my wife Annette (died July 1977) for giving me the best reasons for staying in the town, and the best possible support in all things, even including the research which was so boring. Second, to Father John Lea (died 1972), Vicar of the English Martyrs Church, for asking me to write the historical section of their centenary booklet, which was the start of the whole thing. Next, I wish to thank Dr John Marshall for first accepting me under his supervision, and for his friendly interest throughout, and Dr Eric Evans for continuing in that role for a very long time. To the generosity of the Governing Body and Staff of S. Martins College Lancaster, especially colleagues in the history department, I owe the year of study in which most of the research for the earlier part of the period was completed.
For constantly kind help in finding materials I thank the staff of the Lancashire County Record Office, and of the Harris Library in Preston; and for finding me pictures, especially of faces which fitted the characters, as well as his helpful and interesting ideas, I particularly wish to thank Mr Stephen Sartin, of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Similar thanks are due to the clergy of several churches and chapels, particularly Fr Courtney SJ at St. Wilfrid’s, but also the clergy and ministers of St. Augustine’s and the English Martyrs Catholic churches, and the ministers of Lune Street Methodist and Grimshaw Street Congregational chapels; to Mr J. Gerald Cartmell for allowing me to borrow the Sunday School scrapbooks of his great great uncle Henry Cartmel; and to Miss Blake at the National Society Record Office, Westminster for tolerating a frenzied visit with a tape recorder.
To two groups of people I owe the heartfelt gratitude of a researcher who finds other people interested in the same subject: the Preston History Teachers’ Group at the Curriculum Development Centre, and Miss Joy Wells who guides us; and the members of my Liverpool University extra mural class for sustaining – and enhancing – my interest through a cold winter; and especially Mr Colin Stansfield and Mr Mick Green for frequently knowing the subject better than I did.
Finally, I hope that nobody will ever find out just how much I owe to my wife Barbara, and above all to Jendy Bullman who typed the whole manuscript perfectly.
To these and others I may have forgotten I apologise for the imperfections of the result, and for the very long wait for it.