The earliest description of Preston, tour the village as it was in 1690

Posted on - 26th February, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston News
Artist's impression of Preston in 1690 Pic: Preston Historical Society
Artist’s impression of Preston in 1690 Pic: Preston Historical Society

The earliest description of Preston dates from the 1690s. It was written By John Kuerden, an antiquarian who had an interest in local history. He describes a journey from the bridge at Walton Le Dale to the west side of Preston. As an historian he frequently mentions the more ancient buildings that he passes. The map below is based on his description, as is the artist’s impression of Preston as it was, long before the industrial revolution. 

Nationally, William III had become king in 1689. He was a protestant of Dutch decent and invaded England to claim the throne from James II, an unpopular Catholic monarch. It was still a largely agricultural society although some signs of industrialisation were appearing. For example, the first primitive steam driven pumps were being used in mines.

Kuerden’s description

Map based on Kuerden's description of Preston, Pic: Preston Historical Society
Map based on Kuerden’s description of Preston Pic: Preston Historical Society

A tour of Preston in 1690

You can follow Kuerden’s journey by referring to the map and artwork above.

The first street Kuerden entered was the now lost Fenkell Street, which was the continuation of Church Street, after the toll bars, heading east. The toll bars blocked the way to Church Street, and were used to control access to the main streets of the town. 

Kuerden next mentions Fishergate, which was then known as Fishergate Street. In front of the church heading north was Vicarage Street, which continued as Salter Lane. Both of these no longer exist. In Kuerden’s day this led to an ancient vicarage that was in a state of dilapidation even then. 

Next he headed north up Vicarage Street and turned left into St Johns Street; this eventually led to the marketplace and Friargate. There were originally two marketplaces with a smaller one just off St Johns Street. This  was used as a fish market in 1690. Just off the fish market was a snicket that led to the main marketplace. This was known as Gin Bow Entry and was surrounded by new buildings at the time. 

The Medieval Town Hall Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Medieval Town Hall Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The marketplace also housed the Town Hall or Shambles. Shambles was an archaic term for an outdoor slaughter house or meat market. It was also sometimes used as the street name for butchers shops.

Two of the more ancient areas of Preston that still exist are Stoneygate and Avenham, originally Chappel of Avenham. Stonegate can be seen heading down from behind the Church in the drawing above. 

Petticoat Alley and the Penwortham Ferry

The old ferry stage at Penwortham in 1937 Pic: Red Rose Collection
The old ferry stage at Penwortham in 1937 Pic: Red Rose Collection

Heading south from the marketplace was Petticoat Alley. This was also known as Minspit lane and led to a well and then down to the Ribble. Here a ferry crossed the river to Penwortham. The name Petticoat Alley was derived from the fact that women brought water from the well and milk off the ferry along this lane into the town.

There was no bridge at Penwortham until 1751 and the fords were notoriously dangerous. Alternatively, you could use the ferry that had been in service since at least 1388.

A Georgian report states that the fords were:

“…so much worn and become so deep and founderas that his Majesty’s subjects even at low water especially in the winter season, cannot pass the same on horseback or with carts or carriages without imminent danger, and several persons have lost their lives in endeavouring to pass the said river.“

Follow Geoffrey on Twitter for more Preston history.

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