Preston began as an estate belonging to a priest. In the doomsday book It was referred to as priest's tun (tun was the Saxon word for farm or estate). Later the name evolved into Preston. So its history goes back more than 900 years.
In 1179 a Royal Charter was granted giving Preston 'Royal Borough' status and enabling its traders to travel the country without payment of tolls and duties and preventing other traders entering Preston. These traders were called Burgesses and were listed by the Guild Merchant.
The celebration of the granting of this Guild still continues to day more than 820 years later. The Preston Guild is celebrated once every 20 years with the next one being in 2012. Needless to day evidence of our long history can be found in the street layout, buildings and stories of the city.
Harris Museum and Art Gallery
The Harris Museum and Art Gallery is an important regional museum which holds exciting collections including fine art, decorative art, costume and textiles, history and photography. Many of the collections are of regional, national and international significance. The Harris Museum and Art Gallery is part of Preston City Council and is free to visitors.
The fine art collection includes the largest collection of work by the Devis family of painters and a contemporary photography collection which is considered to be one of the finest in the country. The decorative art collection includes the Mrs French Perfume Bottle Collection, which is the largest in the country and one of the most important in the world, and an important collection of mid-20th century fashion dresses by the famous Horrockses Fashion label.
Highlights of the history collections include the Poulton Elk, part of the Cuerdale Hoard and the famous Yard Works model which shows the extent of Horrockses Cotton Manufacturers' operations in 1913. The Harris also holds an important photography collection featuring images of Preston from 1850 and a collection of prints of the Crimea by Roger Fenton. Many of the artefacts in the museum were donated by the people of Preston and relate to local life, events and businesses making us ideally placed to tell the story of Preston.
The history of the Harris
The building that houses the museum is in itself a magnificent heritage attraction. The stunning Grade I listed Neo-Classical building which was designed by James Hibbert (1833-1903) tells an interesting tale.
A successful, local lawyer Edmund Robert Harris left £300,000 to Preston Corporation in memory of his father, the Reverend Robert Harris, who had been vicar of St George’s Church for 64 years. Some of the money was intended to be used to create a new library, museum and art gallery. The towns first library was initially located under the town hall but work started on the new dedicated library and museum building in 1882 and it was officially opened in 1893. This new building housed the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library.
The history and architecture of the Harris are of great interest to local people and visitors to Preston. The building also has many interesting features including a cast of the Parthenon Frieze, Preston’s Roll of Honour and a Foucault’s Pendulum.
A bite at Bruccianis
This local landmark has been going since 1935 and is well regarded locally. The building is full of olde world charm and is bursting with character, the traditional 1930’s exterior façade is matched by the interior décor. The menu includes selections of salads, sandwiches, cakes, milkshakes, etc. It is popular but the busy environment does not mean service is compromised.
A Little Liquid refreshment?
If you feel like a visit to one of Preston’s local hostelries after lunch, many have historical significance. The Blackhorse on Friargate is small but has been continually trading a public house since the 17th century. On the wall it displays a list of all the public houses recorded in Preston in 1907. At this time only Portsmouth had more public houses per head of population than Preston.
There has been a public house on the site of the Black Horse Hotel since at least the 18th Century, however the current building dates from 1898. It was originally known as the Black Horse and Rainbow and is the only pub in England to have entrances on three different streets.
The Assembly Pub on Lune Street. Formerly known as the Flax & Firkin. The land where the pub currently sits was the scene of the more oppressive side of industrialisation when on Saturday 13 August 1842 a group of cotton workers demonstrated against the poor conditions in the town's mills. The Riot Act was read and armed troops corralled the demonstrators in front of what was then the Corn Exchange. Shots were fired and four of the demonstrators were killed. A commemorative sculpture can be seen in front of the pub now.
Walking just across the road from Bruccianis and down the side of Preston Minister lies a blue commemorative plaque on the site of the Old Cock Pit, where Joseph Livesy, founder of the temperance movement drew up the first public pledge at a meeting on September 1st 1832.
The Museum of Lancashire
The Museum of Lancashire re-opened at the end of 2011, following a major refurbishment, and now offers a new, exciting and family friendly experience that will give you a flavour of everything Lancashire. Journey back through time and discover 2000 years of Lancashire's history.
The museum will provide your first taste of the Lancashire story and will signpost you to the diverse heritage across the county. Seven interactive galleries, along with new visitor facilities such as a shop, cafe and improved access for the disabled, are just some of the new amenities that are now on offer.
History of the musuem building
The Museum is housed in the Grade II listed former Preston Quarter Sessions House building. Built between 1825 and 1828 this building replaced the earlier courthouse situated within the neighbouring House of Correction. This building was felt to be too small and so on the 9th September 1824 justices decided to spend £10,000 building a new court house outside of the walls of the prison. The Birmingham company Rickman and Hutchison, were employed to design and build the court house. The building opened in 1828 but was not fully completed until the following year.
History - Later Years
By the 1880s it was felt that the location of the court house was inappropriate and should be relocated to the town centre. Court sessions continued to be held in the building until the opening of the new sessions house on Lancaster Road in 1900. In 1911 the building became the headquarters of a Territorial Unit of the Royal Artillery until 1958. Between 1958 and 1961 the building was converted to offices for the vehicle taxation department. The building was taken over by Lancashire County Council and after extensive renovations opened as a museum in 1987.
Wondering where to go in 2012?
As part of your heritage tour of Preston you could fill your afternoon in a couple of ways.
Option 1: Blue Badge Guided Heritage Tours
Available May - Oct, Wednesday and Saturdays.
A full programme of themed guided tours is available with Lancashire Blue Badge Guides. Evidence of Preston’s colourful history is all around us yet often goes unnoticed as we work busily through our hectic lives. These guides are fully qualified and incredibly knowledgeable about the Preston area. Above all it is their wonderful storytelling and ability to bring history alive that makes these walks so enjoyable as well as informative. Themes include Charles Dickens and Coke Town, Ghosts and Murderers, Catholic Preston, and Preston’s People to name just a few. See listings for scheduled dates.
Tickets £4 (concessions £3) All tours meet at Jacson Street, next to The Harris Museum. No need to book - just turn up! But large groups may wish to call ahead.
Option 2: Ribble Steam Railway
The Ribble Steam Railway on Chain Caul Road, Preston, is a family day out. A visit to the site will not only give you the opportunity to travel along a 1½ mile dock and riverside line in a traditional steam powered engine, but also access the newly built museum and workshop where the restoration work takes place and the lovingly restored locomotives are displayed.
Trains leave on the hour from the museum Platform (Preston Riverside) for the 3 mile, 35 minute round trip. The museum building is continually being updated and improved to give visitors a truly interactive look into the fascinating industrial railway history of the North West of England.
The Gift Shop carries a wide range of merchandise including Railway film, books and a large selection of souvenirs to please even the youngest of visitors. Light snacks and refreshments are available in the Cafe'.