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The artworks that show early Preston, massive change

Posted on - 19th February, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston News, Transport
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
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

Before photography the only way to record a scene was through artwork. There are many paintings and engravings that tell the story of early Preston. Local artists often drew the town and engravings were used in print publications such as the Preston Pilot. Below, three artworks are used to illustrate the pivotal period from 1750 to 1850, when Preston grew from a small village to an industrial town.

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Lithography print of Preston in 1750

Industrialisation begins Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Industrialisation begins Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Industrialisation was already in evidence by 1750. However, the lack of bridges across the Ribble is notable. The Lancaster Canal was once meant to cross here on an aqueduct, but this was abandoned due to cost. Later a tramroad bridge and several railway bridges cluttered the scene. The Lancaster Canal had reached the centre of Preston by 1803. A tramroad was used to connect to the south end of the canal at Walton-le-Dale. It crossed the Ribble on a wooden trestle bridge. Stationary engines and an inclined plane were used to haul goods up to the Preston end of the canal. 

A colour engraving of Preston in 1829

Preston from the north, Windmills abound Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston from the north, Windmills abound Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The above image shows Preston on the cusp of massive growth. Large amounts of wind power are in evidence. However, steam driven factories and chimneys were encroaching. It was still a largely rural scene, and the state of the primitive roads is evident. The railway to Preston was still 20 years in the future. In fact 1829 was the year of the Rainhill trials. This was a competition to find the best locomotive to use on the new Liverpool and Manchester railway.

Fishergate in 1860 by Robert Clarke

Fishergate in 1860 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Fishergate in 1860 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Fishergate was neatly cobbled in 1860 and the fashions are high-Victorian, with many top hats in evidence. Prince Albert was to die in 1861 and Queen Victoria went into a long period of mourning. 

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, was Prime Minister from 1859 to 1865, when Britain was at the height of its imperial power. He was also the last Prime Minister to die in office, at the age of 80. This era saw the American Civil War and the cotton famine that severely affected Preston.

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Robert Clarke, the artist of the image above, was the son of Lawrence Clarke who ran a publishing business in Preston. Lawrence managed the Walker printing and stationery business, based at 143 Church Street. In 1815 he set up his own printing business and was the printer of the Preston Sentinel, a short lived newspaper. However, he also founded the long lived Preston Pilot. This newspaper was then handed to his son Robert who drew the sketch of Preston, above. The Preston Pilot was conservative in its outlook and probably peaked at the time of the drawing. The 1851 census shows that they employed 13 men.

Follow Geoffrey on Twitter for more Preston history.

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