Preston Past: Fishergate,100 years of change (Part 1)

The three oldest streets in Preston are, Churchgate (now Church Street), Friargate and Fishergate. The latter has always been a thriving area for shoppers, places of entertainment and eventually the emergence of the railway station.

The image below shows a photograph of Fishergate taken by Robert Pateson in 1862. The photographer would have been situated with Butler Street a little further behind him to the right. The image would have been from the time of the Guild Merchant as can be seen by the Triumphal Arch spanning across the road. To the left the tower of the Baptist Chapel can be seen rising upwards from the buildings and to the right William Robinson’s Theatre Tavern is just visible on the corner of Theatre Street.

This establishment would become the Theatre Hotel in later years. In close proximity to this location is the tunnel which goes underneath Fishergate and carried the Preston & Summit Tram Railway. This tunnel still exists today in an enlarged form which is used to enable vehicles to enter the Fishergate car park from Corporation Street.

It is quite interesting to observe the dress of that period and to see how the attention of everyone is focused on the photographer, as this would have been quite an outstanding occasion and would have created immense interest due to photography being a rare activity in the streets at that time.

Fishergate 1862 near the railway station. Photograph by Robert Pateson

Fishergate properties on the opposite side to the railway station. 1865

The adjacent image is a photograph of the opposite side of Fishergate to the existing railway station in 1865.  This was a time before the station and the Fishergate bridge was extended.
The Stoneleigh Abbey Hotel (left) and the Yorkshire Temperance Hotel (right) stood directly opposite the present approach ramp to Preston Station. They, and the two houses to their right, were demolished to allow for the construction of the present day girder bridge.

Work being carried out on the new Fishergate bridge and the railway station extensions. 1877

With these buildings cleared away in the 187o’s, the railway station and the Fishergate bridge were extended and an image of the necessary works at that time was captured. This is illustrated in the adjacent image. At this point in time the bridge had already been constructed across where the railway extension was going to be and the old tunnel which allowed the passage of railway traffic was partially demolished, the remaining portion being there to temporaraly shore up the buildings on the south side of Fishergate. The existing railway is still using the old rails through the small portion of the tunnel and under the new bridge until the new rails were installed.



The Theatre Royal 1922.................................................................... The ABC Cinema 1986

A little further along from the railway station stood the rather grand looking Theatre Royal on the corner of Fishergate and Theatre Street, which had a fair share of rebuilding and remodeling during its long life. One incarnation of the theatre is shown in the above left hand side image and was captured during the 1922 Preston Guild. This splenderous place of entertainment had many famous artists who performed there in the various periods of its lifetime but alas in 1957 it was demolished to make way for a new development (nothing new there then!).
In 1958 a new building was erected on the same site which was the ABC Cinema, shown in the above right hand side image, and opened to the public on 14th March 1959 with Rex Harrison in “The Reluctant Debutante”. Film star Richard Todd appeared in person on the opening night. The cinema was a modern building with seating provided in stalls and circle levels. There were troughs in the ceiling, which extended down the side-walls and contained concealed lighting.
ABC was closed on 7th April 1973 to allow for a Painted Wagon pub to be constructed in the rear stalls area beneath the circle. It re-opened on 6th May 1973 with 637 seats in the circle area only. The cinema was closed on 11th September 1982, following the final feature double bill (X) certificate programme.
The building was demolished in October / November 1986 and the land became part of the new Fishergate Centre, thus ending a 180 year history of entertaining the townsfolk.
The image below shows what was probably a typical market day on Fishergate in 1903. The most recognisable building being the Baptist Church on the left side which has not changed significantly

Fishergate 1903

in looks since it was erected in 1858. The portico of the Theatre Royal can be seen on the right side, and notice that the main form of transport at that time was horse driven and hand carts along with the horse driven trams that would run on the lines in the centre of the road. It is also quite interesting to observe the various headwear styles from the fancy hats of the ladies and gents wearing boaters and bowlers, to the ordinary working men and lads wearing flat caps.


You may just notice the steeplejack hanging on to the Baptist church spire in a rather precarious manner! Quite obiously there were no real health and safety precautionary measures at that time.



Next Week:  Part 2 of ‘Fishergate, 100 years of change’.

This is a weekly series showcasing photos each week from the brilliant Preston Digital Archive which is an online archive of images of Preston’s past

Sign up below to receive Blog Preston's weekly newsletter. It wings its way into your inbox every Sunday with a round-up of our best content from the last week and a look ahead to what's happening in the city.