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Preston from the air, then and now

Posted on - 30th July, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Transport
Preston town centre in 1949 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston town centre in 1949 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The town centre

There are many aerial views of Preston from the past, and comparing them with today’s views is interesting. The first image was taken in 1949 and shows the old Town Hall. The first thing to note is how black the buildings are. In The 1940s there were many domestic coal fires, not to mention all of the industry that still burnt coal. Moreover, there was no legislation to control emissions.

Modern day Preston city centre Pic: Google Earth
Modern day Preston city centre Pic: Google Earth

The main changes in the modern image are the new Town Hall and the buildings around the marketplace. St George’s Shopping Centre replaced a number of earlier buildings. The centre is the large, red brick building at the bottom right-corner of the image. The structures opposite Preston Minster have also been remodelled.

North Road

North Road in 1929 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
North Road in 1929 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

In 1929 the area around North Road was still dominated by mills and terraced housing. While much has changed, there are a number of original buildings still in use. These are shown above and in the modern image below. They are, from top to bottom, Hanover Mill and Foundry, Park Mills, St Ignatius Church, and the North Road Wesleyan Chapel that is now a Mosque.

The modern changes include the loss of a lot of terraced housing around All Saints Church and along Lancaster Road, at the bottom left, the Court Centre and Ringway cut through a lot of original housing in front of the current Mosque / Chapel. Also, the reservoirs next to Park Mill have gone and are now replaced by car parks. 

North Road in modern times Pic: Preston Digital Archive
North Road in modern times Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The East Lancashire line into Preston

Preston Station in 1948 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Station in 1948 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

One of the biggest changes after World War II was the shrinkage of the railways. The once extensive sidings seen in 1948, above, have been replaced by car parks and a shopping centre. In fact, the East Lancashire Line was the sixth line to enter Preston. It was so named because it was built by the East Lancashire Railway Company. This company later merged with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. However, the line was originated by the Preston and Blackburn Railway.

The main line through Preston was operated by the North Union Railway, which charged other companies high tolls to use their section of the line. As a result, the East Lancashire Railway built its own line into Preston Station. The line can be seen in the centre of the 1948 image. Preston Corporation demanded that the new embankment be decorative as it bisected the town’s parks. The East Lancashire part of Preston Station opened in 1850 and was run as a separate enterprise.

Preston Station in modern times Pic: Google Earth.
Preston Station in modern times Pic: Google Earth.

The East Lancashire Railway bridge is still in place and used as a footpath. However most of the original arches to the south of the river have been filled in, and now form an embankment. The East Lancashire part of the station closed in the 1960s and the trackwork was removed.

Follow Geoffrey on Twitter for more Preston history.

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