With the recent announcement of the planned development of the Horrocks Yard Works site, I thought that it would be interesting to see how the Yard Works developed over time and to take a nostalgic trip around the factory site to see it as it was over the 150 years of its history.Advertisement
Since 1791 the Horrocks Yard Works site on Stanley Street in Preston has been host to one of the largest cotton manufacturing plant’s in the UK until the demise of the cotton industry in Preston. John Horrocks, a man with a remarkable entrepreneurial flair, built a cotton mill on the site in 1791 which eventually gained the colloquial name of ‘The Yellow Factory’, this was because of the yellowish tint of the exterior brick wash and can be seen in the picture above. Over time the number of buildings on the site expanded and eventually covered an area surrounded by Church Street, Stanley Street, Queen Street and Grimshaw Street. An aerial view of the factory as it had developed by the early twentieth century is shown immediately below.
Around 1815 the company was renamed Horrocks, Miller & Co due to two new partners, Thomas Miller and John Whitehead, joining the company.
In 1887, further amalgamation with Crewdson, Cross and Co, resulted in a name change to Horrocks, Crewdson and Co.; from then the company grew rapidly and the factory expanded into a large and complex cotton milling manufacturers plant.
The plan diagram below shows the layout of the various buildings and departments that made up the whole factory by the 1940’s.
The following four images below show the remarkable changes at the front gates of Horrocks Yard Works in Stanley Street. The 1912 image shows a view that many people will probably recognise even if they have only seen it in pictures. When the majority of the works had closed down and had been swept away, only the office building remained, being subsequently purchased by Barclay’s Bank and used as one of their branches for quite some years which can be seen in the second image. The third image shows an interior view of the offices prior to the close down. The fourth image is of a photograph taken in 2010 of the site of the former offices which have been completely demolished; the site remains the same to this day. It has never been clear to me why nothing was ever constructed in place of the former offices.
Further along Stanley Street, to the right of the Factory gates, there is a road extending to the south west called Dale Street; a small stretch of this road remains to this day. At one time Dale Street was not only another way into the factory but also had several residential properties along its length and also led to a small area known as Golden Square, which was between Dale Street and the Factory main entrance. it was in Golden Square that a house was built by John Horrocks in 1794 and was given to Thomas Miller senior in 1801 when he became a partner in the firm; years later the house became the Refuge for Friendless Girls.
The following two images below show Dale Street as it was in 1939 and a view of how it looks nowadays. The next image is of Golden Square in 1949 where Thomas Miller snr., his wife and son Thomas Miller jnr. lived.
Sadly, the remaining buildings of the whole Horrocks Yard Works site were demolished in April 1965 to make way for new developments. Apart from three or four buildings, nothing else was built on the site up to this day; it has been a Mecca for urban street artists and photographers though over the years.
I look back with fond memories of the Yard Works, particularly as a young lad when I used to play around the mainly abandoned site with my pals, running through the maze of alleyways, popping into the mill sheds and ‘borrowing’ old shuttles and such, then taking them home to investigate their workings; all good stuff for young lads to do, although, it was a tad dangerous at times!
If there is anyone reading this article who has worked at Horrocks Yard Works in the past, then I especially hope that you have enjoyed this little excursion and that it has brought back some good memories and recollections for you.
The remaining images in this article refer to various times and locations within the Horrocks Yard Works factory site. Finally. an image of a desolate concrete and asphalt desert, which is as it stands today; no longer the thriving and industrious complex that is once was. It will truly be the end of an era in Preston; however, let’s hope that the newly planned retail park will be more pleasant to look at than what remains there now.
There are lots of interesting Horrockses images and many more of old Preston on the Preston Digital Archive
You can also view a fabulous scale model of the Horrocks Yard Works as it was with many other cotton mill related artifacts at the Harris Museum in Preston.
Did you ever work at Horrockses or do you have any memories of the Yard Works to share? Let us know in the comments below.