Preston Guild has been held every 20 years for centuries. The 1862 Guild was the first to be photographed. This was also an important year globally. The American Civil War was raging and the local textile industry was to be severely impacted.Advertisement
Photography was in its infancy and exposure times were long. Therefore, the photograph above was posed. That is why all the participants are looking at the camera, in a rather unnatural way. As a result of the long exposure, the crowd had to stay still for up to 30 seconds, to avoid motion blur. The gentlemen on the far left and right did not get the memo! Note the ghost images. Stove-pipe hats were the height of fashion as were the caps that the workers are wearing.
Prior to photography, engravings were often used to represent news and events. Periodicals were popular and the Illustrated London News was distributed nationally. The magazine covered the Preston 1862 Guild, with a series of engraved images.
For the 1862 Guild, two triumphal arches were built. One on London Road and another on Fishergate. Part of the celebration for the event was a trade procession, shown in the above image. The Borough Fire Brigade is prominent at the front. Preston’s original Fire Station was on Tithebarn Street. The Fire Station opened ten years before the Guild, in 1852. Unfortunately, the enlarged building was demolished in the 1960s. Fire brigades still used horses well into the 20th century.
Many events took place in September 1862 to celebrate Preston Guild. The famous French tightrope walker Charles Blondin appeared. His real name was Jean Francois Gravelet but he went under the name Blondin due to his blond hair. There was also a fireworks display at the site, on Ashton Marsh. Tickets were sixpence with reserved seats at 2 shillings.
Another 1862 event covered by the I.L.N. was the laying of the new Town Hall foundation stone. A crowd of 2,000 gathered in the market square to witness it. A block of ancient houses had been demolished, along with shops and inns. The first Town Hall had been situated over rows of butcher shops. These partly fell down in 1780 and were then renovated. It was this original hall that was demolished to make way for the 1862 building. The new Town Hall was designed by Gilbert Scott. The splendid Victorian building lasted until 1947 when it was destroyed in a fire.
Despite the cotton famine it was decided to go ahead with the 1862 Guild. The above image features the Blondin poster, shown earlier in this post, on the right. The crowd gathers in front of the new-fangled glass plate camera, in the smoky September atmosphere.
Follow Geoffrey for more Preston history.
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines