As most Prestonians will know, there has been a demolition of properties in an area on lower Friargate, to the north side of Great Shaw Street. The properties concerned in the demolition have been swept away to make way for a new development of student apartments being constructed by Eric Wright Group on behalf of Portergate Properties.Advertisement
It had been noticed that during the demolition work several interesting features had been uncovered below the existing ground level and the Archaeological Services, Durham University were called in to investigate these findings. A complete archaeological ‘dig’ ensued revealing an old well under what would have been the yard of a former terraced house on the north side Great Shaw Street extending up to Market Street west (both of these streets at one time were formerly known as Back Lane). The line of terraced houses extending from the junction of what was Back Lane and Friargate to where the premises latterly known as Blitz nightclub stood, were demolished many years ago to widen Great Shaw Street to enable easier traffic access. The grounds at the rear of what was Bamber’s Furniture yard revealed the footprints of various buildings that would have been built around the mid nineteenth century, along with furnaces and two reservoirs, one which would have been used by the nearby cotton mill.
It appears that in 1824, very little was built on this parcel of land as shown in the Baines Map 1824. When you then view the Myers Map 1836, you notice that a lot more has been built on the land and as time passes the land becomes more populated by houses, shops and industrial premises as indicated in the Ordinance Survey map of 1849 and 1890.
From the Ordinance Survey map of 1890 extract above you will notice that within that area there is a section which was known as Prescott’s Court (later Prescott’s Yard). According to records, this was a very densely populated residential small area. Up to around 1871 many people residing in Prescott’s Court were involved in the cotton industry in one way or another and many were of Irish decent. This very small court appears to have eventually given up in some way to engineering and blacksmith industries and possibly laundering services.
According to Marmaduke Tulket in his book ‘History of the borough of Preston’, he states that the Back Lane Cotton Mill was built by a Mr Pearson and consisted of two buildings, one of stone and one of brick and was run by Firm of Messrs. Caton and Leche. In later years the cotton mill ceased to operate and subsequently was taken over by the firm John Cockshott and Co. Mill and General Brush Works. Towards the mid twentieth century the building became vacant and eventually was used as a nightclub premises and up to this year was still used as such apart from a short period of time when it was used as a Hydroponics store.
It would have been marvellous to spend longer on the demolition site to investigate further, but alas, we only had a window of an hour or so as the groundwork operations had to continue. Of course, the records investigation will be ongoing for some time to ascertain the exact uses of all the building which existed on the site and the people who used the various industrial and residential premises and for what purpose. Time will tell on this quest.
Worth noting is Prescott’s Court, that in later times became Tommony’s Yard, as it remained until demolition. Many Prestonians will recall the yard leading to ‘Guild Motors’, an engineering firm for many years. This can be seen in the image immediately below.
You can view a slideshow of the set of images of the construction site from the Preston Historical Society Flickr gallery, below.
The photography and the research of the historical information has been compiled by Paul D. Swarbrick, Karen Doyle and Gillian Lawson of the Preston Historical Society and they would like to express their gratitude to Eric Wright Group and Portergate Properties for allowing the Preston Historical Society to be on site to enable them to create this historical account.
What do you think of the archaeological ‘dig’ images? Let us know in the comments below.