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Preston’s ‘Woman of Firsts’ is honoured with blue plaque

Posted on - 6th November, 2022 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - City Centre, History, People, Preston News, Proud Preston, Winckley Square
A blue plaque honouring Avice Pimblett OBE Pic: Paul Rushton
A blue plaque honouring Avice Pimblett OBE Pic: Paul Rushton

A pioneer of women in civic life and campaigner on the needs of women and children has been recognised at her former home in Preston city centre with a blue plaque marking her achievements.

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Avice Pimblett OBE was a woman of ‘Preston firsts’. She was the first woman town councillor, first woman alderman and first woman mayor.

She also had a major impact on the lives of Prestonians, concerning herself particularly with women and children’s social, educational and welfare issues.

The plaque, commissioned by the Friends of Winckley Square (FoWS) and endorsed by Preston Historical Society, was unveiled at a ceremony at her former address, no7 Ribblesdale Place, in the Winckley Square quarter. 

Read more: A new blue plaque for Preston and it’s a world first

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A portrait of Mrs Avice Margaret Pimblett (1880-1963) by painter Anthony Devas Harris
A portrait of Mrs Avice Margaret Pimblett (1880-1963)

The building is now the offices of leading architecture, design and masterplanning practice FWP Ltd. Preston’s blue plaque scheme celebrates the links between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked.

Guests at the unveiling included Preston’s current mayor councillor Neil Darby, who carried out the unveiling, members of the historical society and the Friends of Winckley Square and staff from FWP.

It was also attended by city councillor Salim Desai, county councillor Joan Burrows and Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.

Patricia Harrison, who chairs the Friends and is also a member of Preston Historical Society’s committee, said: “I am sure everyone who reads about the life of Avice Pimblett will agree she deserves a blue plaque.

Read more: Appeal for information as blue plaque could honour former Preston North End player Arthur Wharton

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Preston Mayor unveils plaque Pic: Paul Rushton
Preston Mayor unveils plaque Pic: Paul Rushton

“We have been working with the historical society to address the gender imbalance when it comes to blue plaques dedicated to women in Preston.

“This is not just a Preston issue. In 2018 English Heritage survey found that only 14 per cent of blue plaques commemorated the lives of women. This imbalance is now being addressed throughout the country.”

David Robinson, managing partner of FWP, said: “We are honoured to have the plaque recognising the many achievements of Avice Pimblett on our building and pleased to play our part in making it happen.

“As a Preston business it is great to mark the history of our city and the life of such a special person in such a way. Anyone who reads the story of Avice recognises she was a principled and determined woman who did so much for its people and achieved so many firsts. She remains an inspiration.”

Read more: Cherry blossom saplings being given away for Queen’s Green Canopy

A photo of the pioneer in Harris museum
A photo of the pioneer in Harris museum

Preston’s current mayor Councillor Neil Darby, said: “It is important we remember our history and Avice Pimblett was an important figure in Preston’s history.

“This blue plaque recognises her role as our first female mayor as well as all the hard work she did for the women and children of the town, as it was then.”

Tracey Whalley, practice manager at FWP, told the guests at the unveiling: “FWP is honoured to accept this blue plaque from Preston Historical Society in recognition of Avice Pimblett. She was a truly inspirational woman.”

Friends of Winckley Square member, Susan Douglass, has carried out extensive research on the life of Avice, who was also a JP.

Read more: Preston Hindu temple brought community together for joyous celebrations 

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people gathered for the unveiling in Preston City Centre
People gathered for the unveiling in Preston City Centre Pic: Paul Rushton

Born in 1879 she lived at the address from 1919 until her death in 1963. During her long career in local politics, she worked hard to promote infant welfare schemes, including a daily morning welfare centre for the under-fives.

The highlight of her mayoral year was a three-day fête on Avenham and Miller parks in aid of a new maternity hospital.

It was estimated that the crowd numbered about 60,000 on the third day, so many that food and drink supplies ran out. 

The fête raised £6,030, a fifth of the cost of the new maternity wing of Preston Royal Infirmary and Avice laid the foundation stone in July 1934.

Preston’s blue plaques honour a wide range of people with city links, including the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward (Bonnie Prince Charlie), Benjamin Franklin and suffragette, Edith Rigby.

You will be able to read Avice’s whole story on the Friends of Winckley Square website soon.

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