Winckley Square in Preston is one of those places that is ubiquitous to most Prestonian’s. However, in general people take it for granted in one way or another. I have no doubt that some will have taken a little time to study the surroundings and may well have wondered where it all started, why and how. To this end and with the current ongoing Conservation Management Plan of the area, I thought that it may well be worthwhile taking a step into the past to discover how the gem we call Winckley Square came about.
Up to the very late 18th century, Winckley Square did not exist as we know it now. The main area taken up by Winckley Square was in fact just a plain old field, known then as Town End Field. You can see this illustrated above on the sample portion of George Lang’s map of Preston 1774 and at that time the field extended from Ribblesdale Place to Fishergate.
During this period of time a prominent and wealthy gentleman of Preston’s legal profession, William Cross, bought this piece of land from a Thomas Winckley. What Mr Cross had in mind was to create a magnificent square just like the ones he had seen in London on his frequent visits there. It should be noted that when Mr Cross initiated his project in 1799, Winckley Street and Winckley Square had already taken shape to a certain extent inasmuch as an occupied Winckley street and Chapel Street were now existent with properties extending between these two streets.
Initially, the first house on the square was built by Mr Cross himself; although, this house appeared on the square at the corner of Winckley Street and Winckley Square or Winckley Place as it was known to be then.
The address of this house was 7 Winckley Street, as that’s where the entrance appeared; it was later to be numbered 11, as it is today.
Mr Cross eventually left 7 Winckley Street removing to a beloved property he had purchased, Red Scar House. His house in Winckley Street was then sold to the Addison family, another very prominent family in the legal profession who will be appearing later in this series of articles.
Not long after William Cross had built his house, Colonel Nicholas Grimshaw had a house built on the opposite side to Cross’s house, on the west corner of Winckley Street and Winckley Square, only this time the main entrance was to be on the actual square. The address of this house was to be 4 Winckley Square.
It is of interest to mention here that Colonel Nicholas Grimshaw was an extremely prominent and important character of the town, not only as a successful and wealthy member of the legal profession but for his military connection and the fact that he was elected Mayor of Preston seven times, of which he became Guild Mayor twice over.
In later years (from 1906 to 1973) this house was occupied by the Preston and County Catholic Club.
Within the next few years, more houses were to spring-up around the square and the northern part of Winckley Square from Chapel Street to Winckley Street would soon be almost complete, with the next house being built by a Joseph Seaton Aspden in around 1801. This house can be seen in the above photograph image, which is the first house entrance to the right of centre. Following the construction of this property, a leading solicitor and good friend of Mr Aspden, Mr Edward Gorst, had an adjoining property built which became his residence, the address being 1 Chapel Street.
There was a vacant space between Mr Aspden’s and Colonel Grimshaw’s properties 1 and 4 Winckley Square which remained there for some years. It was only around 1835/6 that properties were built there, adjoining 1 and 4, which were accordingly numbered 2 and 3. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are now as one house, that being owned by St. Wilfrid’s Church and in use as the presbytery.
In part 2 of this series about Winckley Square, we will examine properties that were built successively along the remainder of the northern side and the eastern side of Winckley Square. Also discussed in the next part will be the original purpose of the gardens in the centre of the square.
Part 2 can be found here.
I would sincerely like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the late Marian Roberts for her book ‘The Story of Winckley Square’ which truly inspired me to write this series of articles. Marian was one of Preston’s leading historians during her later life and much loved by all who knew her.
Do you like to take a stroll down to Winckley Square and enjoy its rich heritage or do you just use it to have your lunch? Let us know in the comments below.