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Nicholas Grimshaw and the 1822 River Ribble drowning tragedy

Posted on - 12th February, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston News, Winckley Square
Winckley Square today Pic: Geoff Whittaker
Winckley Square today Pic: Geoff Whittaker

Preston was late to develop a Georgian quarter. In the early 19th century, it was not know for manufacture, but was the administrative centre for the County Palatine of Lancaster. As a result, there were more attorneys, proctors and notaries than in most northern towns. The River Ribble was popular with boaters and this sometimes resulted in tragedy. Preston was also the main market town for the area. Therefore, with an absence of rich merchants and trading networks there was no need to develop exclusive residential areas for the new rich.

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Winckley Square

However, this did eventually come to Preston in the form of Winckley Square. The upper middle classes increasingly wanted to move away from the dirt and grime of the old town. As a result an area of high status streets was built on, the then, outskirts of town. Townend field just to the south of Fishergate was chosen with the first house being built in 1799. The first house was built by William Cross.

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Nicholas Grimshaw

Nicholas Grimshaw as Colonel Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Nicholas Grimshaw as Colonel Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The second house on Winckley Square was built by Nicholas Grimshaw. Grimshaw served as Mayor of Preston seven times. It was a characteristic of Winckley Square that most of its early occupants were major public figures in Preston. Grimshaw was born in 1757 and was educated for the law. He lived in Church Street opposite Grimshaw Street, that was built to honour his name. He became Colonel of the Preston Royal Volunteers in 1802. 1802 was also the year that Napoleon ended ten years of warfare with Great Britain. Grimshaw held most of the public appointments in the town and died in 1838 aged 80.

Grimshaw’s house on Winckley Square Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Grimshaw’s house on Winckley Square Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Preston Guild

Grimshaw was also Mayor, for both the 1802 and 1822 Guilds. 

The Guilds usually produced a plethora of commemorative items and 1822 was no exception. Unfortunately, 1822 also saw a personal tragedy for Grimshaw.

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A Guild cup commemorating Grimshaw Pic: Preston Digital Archive
A Guild cup commemorating Grimshaw Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The 1822 drowning tragedy

Penwortham near Preston. Image taken from the History of the Borough of Preston and Its Environs in the County of Lancaster, by Charles Hardwick 1857.  Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Penwortham near Preston. Image taken from the History of the Borough of Preston and Its Environs in the County of Lancaster, by Charles Hardwick 1857. Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The River Ribble was a much busier place in the 19th century. It was a time when many boats were used for leisure. Moreover, there were few safety regulations and drownings were all too frequent. One such incident involved the young sons of Nicholas Grimshaw. Unfortunately they met their demise in the Guild year of 1822. Nicholas Charles aged 20 and George Henry aged 17 had been celebrating the birthday of George IV, when the boat they were in capsized. Along with two friends, they sadly drowned.

Follow Geoffrey on Twitter for more Preston history including links to the research material used for this article. There are some interesting websites and books on Winckley Square and Grimshaw.

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