You may have heard it mentioned, or muttered rather, that Preston was the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ Hard Times.Advertisement
But how many other literary links did you know about our city?
A lecturer at UCLan and one of the students has put together a literary tour of the city and it includes visits to surprising places which have a real historical connection with famous authors.
1 West Cliff in Broadgate is the birthplace of Angela Brazil, born there on November 30, 1868. Angela Brazil entertained generations of readers with her schoolgirl stories and her books remained popular until the 1960s. She was a prolific writer, with nearly 50 books published. She is credited with being one of the first British writers of modern schoolgirl stories.
Anthony Burgess is most famous for his dystopian novel, A Clockwork Orange (1962), which was adapted into a major film by director Stanley Kubrick in 1971.Burgess was born in Lancashire, and in 1948, he was a lecturer of Speech and Drama at the Bamber Bridge Emergency Teacher Training College, near Preston. The institution was part of a post-war initiative to train ex-soldiers to be qualified teachers. During his time there, Burgess trained around 360 men to be teachers.
Thomas de Quincey was an essayist and is best known for his autobiographical book Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), where he writes about his addiction to opium and alcohol and their impact on his life.
Preston is mentioned in one of his essays, The English Mail-Coach.
Charles Dickens was the celebrity writer of the Victorian period. As a journalist, Charles Dickens visited Preston in January 1854, during the Preston strike of 1853-4 which closed the cotton industry for seven months. He stayed at the Old Bull hotel (now the Bull & Royal) on Church Street. A blue plaque was later put up for him there. Unfortunately, the plaque has since gone missing.From April to August 1854, he wrote Hard Times, which is set in Coketown, a fictional version of Preston.In 1869, while on a reading tour, he was once again in Preston, this time under much less fortunate circumstances: he collapsed, showing symptoms of a mild stroke.
Who would have guessed that one of the Founding Fathers of the United States lived in Preston for a while? Benjamin Franklin even has a blue plaque on Orchard Street in Preston. (If you look carefully, it’s above the Café Nero entrance, facing St. George’s shopping centre.)Benjamin Franklin was an abolitionist and wrote several essays on the importance of abolishing slavery.
Elizabeth Gaskell was a Victorian writer whose works involve portraits of social class, especially the poor, set in the Manchester area. The strike in her industrial novel North and South (1855) resembles the Preston strike of 1853-4 that closed down the cotton industry for seven months. The BBC made a tv adaptation of North and South in 2004.
Hoghton Tower is a beautiful Grade I listed building near Preston. Accessible by bus or an hour’s bike ride from Preston, it’s a great destination for a day out. Why the fuss? William Shakespeare is said to have stayed at the tower, and Charles Dickens, inspired by the romantic ruin, wrote the short story George Silverman’s Explanation, about a boy in a cellar in Preston who moves to the grounds of Hoghton Tower.Whether Shakespeare did indeed stay at the tower is a mystery, one Catherine Frances, a senior lecturer at UCLan, has attempted to unravel. Alexander Houghton’s will from 1581 (now residing in the Lancashire Archives) mentions a ‘William Shakeshafte’, which might or might not refer to Shakespeare.
What does Karl Marx, German philosopher and co-author of the The Communist Manifesto, have to do with Preston? Marx wrote about Preston’s lock-out and strike in 1853-4, which closed down the cotton industry for seven months.
Sir Walter Scott was a historical novelist, as well as a playwright and poet. He was first known for his poetry, before turning his hand to historical novels, helping to establish them as a literary form. During his lifetime, his works were popular and widely read, with readers in Europe, Australia and North America. His works remain classics of Scottish and British literature, such as the famous title Ivanhoe. What is Sir Walter Scott’s connection to Preston, you ask? Preston appears in his novel, Rob Roy, set during the Jacobite rising of 1715. Political turmoil was rife in the early 18th century, with tensions and conflicts high between the Jacobites, supporters of Roman Catholic King James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England), and the Protestant ruling government. Featured in the extract on the website is part of Sir Frederick’s story, a character in the novel who is a fugitive ally of the Pretender, King James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England), He tells of the surrender of the Jacobite rebels at the Battle of Preston, where their cause failed.
7 Winckley Street is the birthplace of Francis Thompson, a poet born in 1859. In the 1890s he was part of the Aesthetic art movement. His most famous poem, selling around 50’000 copies, is ‘The Hound of Heaven’, a 182-line Christian poem. Francis Thompson has gone on to inspire other poets and writers; most notably, J. R. R. Tolkien mentioned that he was influenced by him.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, well-known Victorian poet, was curate at St Ignatius Church in Preston during the 1880’s. He was trained as a priest at St Mary’s Hall in Stonyhurst, not far from Preston, where John Tolkien, J.R.R Tolkien’s son, also trained to be a priest. Elizabeth Burns is an award-winning poet and lecturer at UCLan. Her recent work and awards include the 2009 Mark Ogle Memorial Poem, commissioned by Shore Poets; words for a choral piece celebrating 25 years of the charity Cancercare; the 2009 Mirehouse Poetry Prize as part of the Ways with Words Festival, and the 2009 Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets. She wrote a poem about Gerard Manley Hopkins and St Ignatius Church, which is reproduced on the website as part of the tour.
Robert William Service was born in Preston; he wrote both prose and poetry, although he is best known for his poems. He studied literature at the University of Glasgow for a brief time but, at the age of 21, inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling, he set sail for Canada with the dream of becoming a cowboy in the Yukon wilderness. His poetry earned him the name “Bard of the Yukon”.
Joseph Delaney is a fantasy author best known for his series The Wardstone Chronicles set in ‘the County’, which is based on Lancashire. The town Priestown in the series is loosely based on Preston, where Delaney was born. Other cities in Lancashire make a camouflaged appearance: Lancaster is Caster; Blackpool is Black Pool; and Chipping becomes Chipenden. The first book in the series, The Spook’s Apprentice, has been adapted to film under the title Seventh Son and is due out in 2015, starring Jeff Bridges as The Spook.
Leo Baxendale is known for being the creator of The Beano‘s witty and popular Minnie the Minx and The Bash Street Kids. He studied at Preston Catholic College and, in 2012, a mural of characters from The Beano was painted in the Community Gardens at Ribbleton Park in Preston.
Before becoming a comic book artist and writer, Bryan Talbot attended the Harris College in Preston. Mary Talbot is an author and an academic with a PhD in critical discourse analysis. They collaborated on the graphic novel Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, which won the 2012 Costa biography prize. It was excellently reviewed by Rachel Cooke on The Guardian, where they also provided a four-page extract. The graphic novel is part biography, part memoir. It tells the tales of Lucia, James Joyce’s daughter, and Mary Talbot, daughter of the Joycean scholar James S. Atherton.
Did you know any of these connections? Let us know anything we missed in the comments below