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Preston on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, 1774

Posted on - 19th June, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston News
Penwortham Bridge by Edwin Beattie Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Penwortham Bridge by Edwin Beattie Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Preston was founded as a market town and was still largely agricultural, on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The American War of Independence was coming to a close and this was reported in one of Preston’s first newspapers, the oddly named,¬†The True British Courant¬†or The Preston Journal.¬†

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The Derby interest still dominated the town. Notably, Lord Derby owned large parts of the district. This included much land in the Fylde and many buildings and shops in Preston. The ‘new money’ industrialists were yet to make an impact

It’s almost medieval

The oldest buildings in any town are either churches or pubs and Preston is no exception. The largely medieval nature of Preston was maintained well into the 19th century.

Lang's Inn, The Shambles, Preston Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Lang’s Inn, The Shambles, Preston Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The well known Lang map of Preston shows little change since the 15th century. The market place is central. A survey was also carried out in 1774, and the pattern of land ownership was highlighted.

Lang's map of Preston in 1774 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Lang’s map of Preston in 1774 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The land was mostly arable with meadow and common moor grazing for livestock. The farmyard nature of Preston’s buildings persisted. The better off merchants farmed their fields, while even the poorest had their animals grazing on common land.

Wills also provide an indication of land ownership. Richard Pedder a former mayor, listed his possessions in the town. He died in 1759 leaving his house on Friargate, two burgesses in Friargate, and other houses in Preston. Lands included plots in Maudlands and Broadgate Lane.

Lord Derby’s estates

By far the biggest land owner was Lord Derby and the Stanley family. At the top of the social order was the Earl of Derby, with estates going back to 1459. Preston was the de-facto capital of Lancashire and the Derby interest also extended to the Fylde.

By the 17th¬†century the Stanleys owned 200 cottages, 20 watermills, 10,000 acres of land and 2,000 acres of woods. The Stanley’ used carefully crafted marriages to bring more property into the family. As the Industrial Revolution took off, land values increased and Stanley land in Preston was used for the new factories and workers’ housing.

18th century Guilds

A typical 18th century fair Pic: The British Library
A typical 18th century fair Pic: The British Library

A major social event of 1762, was the Preston Guild Celebrations. The Preston Journal reported:

‚ÄúThere was on this occasion, an amazing concours of people, from many parts of the Kingdom, and from all parts of the country. This spectacle was allowed to surpass anything ever seen in the country, and exceeded the expectation of everyone present.‚ÄĚ

For the lower orders, performing artists crowded the streets. Additionally puppet shows and rare beasts were on show. Events were held at the new Guild Hall and food and drink was distributed to the populace. 

The Preston Journal, founded in 1745

The first British daily newspaper, 1702 Pic: Wikimedia
The first British daily newspaper, 1702 Pic: Wikimedia

The first British daily newspaper was named The Daily Courant and was initially printed in 1702.

In 1745, the local printer Robert Moon, said that his Preston newspaper:

‚ÄúContaining authentic news both foreign and domestic will be continued weekly, and may be had at his shop on Cheapside Preston, every Friday for eighteen pence per quarter‚ÄĚ

The Castle and Commercial Hotel, Cheapside Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Castle and Commercial Hotel, Cheapside Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The beginning of the modern world can also be traced back to the late 18th¬†century. Advertisements in the Preston Journal included quack remedies: ‘Sold only in Preston by Mr Anthony Devis, in Church Street: The true Scotts Pills’.

The paper also contained local announcements, such as the dates of the winter fair and local job advertisements such as one for an usher at Preston School, which asked for ‘any applicant to show himself well recommended as to his moral character and that he has a competent knowledge of the classic authors’.

The late 18th century marked a watershed both locally and nationally. The American deceleration of independence came in 1776, while Horrockses first spinning mill, in Preston, opened in 1791.



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