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Preston’s lost Shambles, demolished to build the Miller Arcade

Posted on - 25th June, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston City Centre, Preston News
The Shambles in Lancaster Road, 1880s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Shambles in Lancaster Road, 1880s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

There once stood a long row of shops on land that is now occupied by the Harris and Miller Arcade. This was known as the Shambles. The end of the row containing the old Post Office survived until 1899, when the Miller Arcade was built. This was also the J Winn Butcher shop. Shambles means a place where animals are slaughtered, the word was also used to indicate a row of butchers shops. At the other end of the row was the appropriately named Shoulder of Mutton Inn.

Map of Preston in 1895, before Miller Arcade was built Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Map of Preston in 1895, before Miller Arcade was built Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The Harris Art gallery

The surviving end of the Shambles can be seen in the painting below.

The Harris was opened in 1893 as the result of a 1877 bequest from Edmund Robert Harris, who was a lawyer in Preston. He left the sum of £300,000 to be used in part for the building of a free library, museum and art gallery.

However, it was not until 1882 that work began. An act of Parliament had to be obtained, so that land could be purchased, and existing buildings, such as the Shambles, compulsorily purchased. The act was known as the Preston Improvement Act (1880).

Lancaster Road by Robert H Bentham, Active 1850-1900 Pic: Harris Gallery
Lancaster Road by Robert H Bentham, Active 1850-1900 Pic: Harris Gallery
An aerial view of Miller Arcade in modern times Pic: Google Earth
An aerial view of Miller Arcade in modern times Pic: Google Earth

Filming in Preston, at Miller Arcade

Miller Arcade interior in 2020 Pic: Tony Worrall
Miller Arcade interior in 2020 Pic: Tony Worrall

In the late Victorian period, shopping arcades were becoming popular and Preston built its own version in 1899 with the Miller Arcade. This is still in use today.

In 1962, the film A Kind of Loving was shot in and around Lancashire. It was a big film at the time, and proved popular at the box office. Some scenes were shot at Miller Arcade, as well as in Blackburn and Manchester. The film starred Alan Bates and June Ritchie. 

A rather bleak and bombed out Manchester was used for the marriage scenes in the ‘kitchen sink’ drama, a genre that became a film staple in the 1960s as they were cheap to make. The distribution company was Anglo Amalgamated Films, which specialised in B movies, and made the first 12 Carry On films.

The trailer can be viewed on YouTube.

The Miller Arcade is Grade II listed and has many fine Victorian features. One of the first shopping arcades was built in London, in 1819, and sold luxury goods. It later inspired many other arcades around the country. The central area of the Miller Arcade has a glass roof to let natural light into the interior. There is also an attractive tiled floor.

Follow Geoffrey on Twitter for more Preston history.

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