Desirable Dwellings

See also: Nigel Morgan’s Social and Political Leadership in Preston 1820-60

The Preston historian Nigel Morgan became an expert on the living conditions in his adopted town in the 19th century, and planned three books, the harvest of a lifetime’s study, to make public his painstakingly acquired knowledge. At the time of his death, in 2006, he had published two of them under his imprint Mullion Books (Vanished Dwellings [1] and Deadly Dwellings [2]). The third, Desirable Dwellings, has never been published.

He could not publish the third volume himself, ‘for various reasons (mainly economic)’, as he explained in an introduction to the typescript of the book that he deposited at the University of Central Lancashire. [3] Nigel must have been delighted when he was approached by Johns Hopkins University in 1996, offering to publish all three volumes, including Desirable Dwellings, as one ‘massive tome’. He sent them his typescripts and accompanying illustrations, including more than 90 for Desirable Dwellings. How disappointed he must have been that at the time of his death there was still no prospect of the ‘massive tome’ being published.

Now, more than ten years after Nigel’s death, there appears to be even less likelihood of publication. The offer to publish came from The Center for American Places, a venture founded in 1990 by George F. Thompson, and based at Johns Hopkins, where Thompson had been an editor at the university press. Since then the centre has moved homes and now resides at Columbia College, Chicago.

I decided to put Desirable Dwellings on line here for two reasons. Firstly, it is far too important a contribution to Preston’s 19th-century social history for it to languish unread on some university shelf now that the planned publication appears to have been postponed indefinitely. And secondly, in recognition of the help and encouragement I received from Nigel, who briefly taught me history at Preston Grammar School back in the 1960s and, many years later, encouraged me to study the subject at university. Our paths crossed several times over the years. In the 1970s we met again when I interviewed him for an article on English Heritage’s re-survey of listed buildings, on which he was working. Later we lived round the corner from each other and briefly planned a local history magazine, bringing it to ‘dummy’ stage before, wisely, recognising that it would be a financial disaster.

The typescript of Desirable Dwellings that Nigel deposited at UCLan contained guidance to which illustrations should accompany the text. I have attempted to supply these, but some buildings mentioned in the text have since been demolished, and I have not sought permission to take photographs of interiors.

Neither have I sought permission from the copyright holders to publish here. I was encouraged in this course by a recent article in the Guardian by George Monbiot in which he skewered the deplorable restrictions that beset the dissemination of research material ( If the copyright holder should object I will, reluctantly, remove Nigel’s work from this site. The Guardian also provided a warm obituary for Nigel, written by Martin Wainwright:

A fitting tribute to Nigel’s contribution to the social and architectural history of Lancashire was provided by Clare Hartwell, who dedicated her North Lancashire volume in the Buildings of England series to Nigel’s memory, and noted, ‘Nigel Morgan had a deep knowledge of the architecture and history of North Lancashire. He put the results of many years of research and experience at my disposal; it was only his untimely death which prevented me from taking full advantage of this.’ [4]

Another example of Nigel’s generosity was provided by Margaret Spillane, who in an email wrote:

I met him in the summer of 1980 in the Harris Library where I was researching information for my undergraduate dissertation on the development of Preston after the municipal reform act. He was a great help to me and, as a research novice, he pointed me in the right direction on many occasions. I am happy to report that I received a First for my dissertation from Cambridge University. I was very sad to hear of his death through your website. I remember him as a very amiable and helpful man.

[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).
[3] Nigel Morgan, Desirable Dwellings: Middle Class Housing in Preston in the First Half of the 19th Century (Preston: The author, 1995),,contains,Desirable%20Dwellings:%20Middle%20Class%20Housing%20in%20Preston&offset=0
[4] Clare Hartwell, Lancashire: North: The Buildings of England (London: Yale University Press, 2009), xix.



Chapter One: Choice Locations

  1. Migration of the new middle classes (to Avenham, not Fulwood)
  2. Desertion of the old town houses
  3. Middle-class Distinctions (ie social zoning in a small area)
  4. The Architectural Characteristics of Middle-Class Houses

Chapter Two: Grand Mansions

  1. Lark Hill and Samuel Horrocks
  2. Penwortham Hall and John Horrocks
  3. The Larches and John Lawe
  4. Ashton Lodge and Edward Pedder

Chapter Three: The Stylish and the Comfortable

  1. Winckley Square: Setting the Style
  2. Social Amenities of the Winckley Square Area
  3. Houses and Households of the Stylish . . .
  4. . . . and the Comfortable
  5. Middle-class Housing Elsewhere

Chapter Four: The Merely Respectable

  1. Housing and the Respectable Middle Class
  2. Building Societies
  3. The Houses

Chapter Five: Material Standards

  1. Contrasts (ie. in domestic possessions, between middle and working-class)
  2. Upstairs
  3. Downstairs
  4. Lighting
  5. Cooking, Storage and Laundry
  6. Relative Standards

2 thoughts on “Desirable Dwellings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s