We have been reporting the affairs of Winckley Square since the inception of Blog Preston in 2009. It was then that a plan had been hatched and submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which subsequently took a dive. A campaign led by Adian Turner-Bishop, who was at that time Chair of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust, challenged the developed plans which eventually were thrown out as inappropriate.Advertisement
During the next two years or so, it did not appear that much was happening with Winckley Square, following the failure of the restoration plan designs. However, behind the scenes, a non-profit company was being formed by a collection of businessmen from around Winckley Square and this became known as Winckley Square Community Interest Company. This was an organisation set up to pick-up where the plans had failed, endeavouring to find a new and fresh way to revive interest in the restoration of Winckley Square and the gardens.
Working with the Business Information District (BID), WSCIC negotiated what the terms would be with the HLF to resubmit new plans. Part of the terms would be to prove how Winckley Square could work for the community and the people of Preston. The ‘Business Hangout’ event was born and along with other organised events, such as the Winckley Weekender, it was made clear that the square and surrounding area had a real practical purpose as well as being a very historic part of the city.
Things were hotting up now as more and more interest was being gained in support of a new restoration plan for the square and the Blog Preston team were creating more awareness with the rich history of Winckley Square by the introduction of the ‘A Step Back In Time Into Preston’s Winckley Square’ story. This was a series of articles telling of the story of how Winckley Square came about and some of the people instrumental in its development since 1799.
Following the Winckley Square story, another piece was produced to let people know the history of the Sir Robert Peel statue, carved by the renowned Preston sculptor, Thomas Duckett.
In 2014, a team of local renowned historians and horticulturalists were taken on board by the WSCIC and together they worked on ideas for the type of restoration work that should be done with Winckley Square Gardens, allowing for sensitivity to the surroundings and natural attributes of the area. With a great amount of research into both the social and natural history of Winckley Square, a plan began to take shape and by using public polls and social media, everything was now taking shape for a workable plan.
Even the younger sector were becoming involved by this time and school children were visiting Winckley Square Gardens to innovate and design new, fresh ideas on the educational value which Winckley Square had to offer. More recently, six schools were rewarded for learning about the history of Winckley Square and around one hundred pupils attended the Harris Museum and Art Gallery to receive their prize.
All the work involved with creating a plan sensitive to the nature and history of the area, at the same time being practical and essentially keeping the ethos of the gardens intact was absolutely worthwhile. The end result of winning the bid to the HLF which was officially announced today, was really the ‘icing on the cake’ for the whole of Preston in knowing that their city centre gem was to continue into the future with renewed vitality.
What do you think about the Winckley Square Gardens? Do you visit there and for what reason? Let us know in the comments below.