Author dives into local history in new book ‘Celebrating Preston’

Posted on - 23rd September, 2021 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Nostalgia, Preston News
Party time in 1952 in Fleetwood Street

A Preston author has highlighted community history in a new book that celebrates local life.


Keith Johnson, author of A-Z of Preston, Now That’s What I Call Preston, Preston at Work, and many other Preston-themed books, wrote ‘Celebrating Preston’ to draw attention to local celebrations past and present.

While undertaking his research, Keith discovered that residents have found many reasons to celebrate over the years. The reasons have been many, often due to local achievements rejoiced as part of national celebrations.

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Celebrating the Trades Procession of 1902

Keith said: “I was delighted when Amberley asked me to write my latest book. After all, there is so much to celebrate about the city of my birth.

“Having consulted the English dictionaries and learnt that to celebrate is to make famous; to mark by ceremony; to observe with solemn rites. I knew it was a topic rich in local history.

“Studying the history of our city, I learnt that there have been, and still are, many Prestonians who have lived a life less ordinary, and we take a glimpse at some of their achievements and exploits as they made an impression.

“How they lived and what they achieved became a source of local pride and inspiration, with deeds recalled with passion.”

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Plenty to cheer at Preston Guild 2012

Keith said some Prestonians had dull and dreary lives; others were filled with dedication, delight and duty and left a legacy.

Education has been a cornerstone of Preston’s progress, and that strategy paid dividends as the declining cotton town transformed into a thriving university city. Once ruled by cotton masters with their textile mills, Preston has become a place of learning, where professors and lecturers pass on their knowledge to students.

Prestonians have contributed to the arts and literature and have seen emerging celebrities.

Many enterprising people have dwelt in the city, and Prestonians can reflect on the achievements of architects, builders and those who have contributed to science, technology and engineering.

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Caribbean Carnival always colourful and tuneful

In entertainment, Preston progressed from the days of music halls to theatres, dance halls and cinema’s, which were part of Preston life and celebrated accordingly.

Preston’s Market Square has also offered memorable moments, and it remains at the heart of the city.

A man from the 1860s said: “If the town Hall were rebuilt, the row of shops with the butcher’s shambles at the rear removed, the block of houses on the north side of the marketplace removed, and a general market built on its site, Preston would be able to boast one of the finest marketplaces in the kingdom.’

Keith said the sporting world gave Prestonians cause to cheer, be it the footballer, thoroughbred racehorse, dirt track rider cricketer, boxers, cyclists or athletes, all responding to the roaring crowds and giving Preston cause to celebrate.

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He said: “We are fortunate that Preston has been the birthplace of distinguished poets, and others who dwelt here were inspired to write a verse or two.

“Their lyrical verses have enabled us to understand the Preston of their days and are part of the rich tapestry of our history. We like to think of Preston as a pioneering place, and some Preston firsts show it was never one to stand in the way of progress.

“There has never been a shortage of pomp, pageantry and processions when there has been cause to celebrate with civic occasions, anniversaries, festivals and feast days.

“There have been many occasions to hoist up the flags, blow up the balloons, bring out the bunting and streamers, parade in party hats, hold street parties and civic banquets. Often the pavements of the streets have been packed with cheering onlookers.”

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Keith said Preston should be noted for its patience, as residents celebrate the Preston Guild once every twenty years, but it is well worth the wait.

He said a treasure trove of Preston history is available in The Harris Art Gallery, Library and Museum. If you linger in Market Square or stroll along the city’s highways, there is plenty to remind people of the days of celebration.

Keith said: “The people of Preston have achieved so much, and proud Prestonians can rightly say that there has been lots to celebrate along the way.

“This book allowed me to look at the times when cheering crowds gathered to salute the brave, admire the exceptional and be astonished as events unfolded.

“For me, it was another enchanting and enlightening journey into the Preston archives. There is clearly much to cherish about Preston and the folk who have dwelt within it.”

To purchase a copy of the book, visit –

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