The Lancashire Evening Post, Saturday, 29th March 2003
'Crystal Palace' of Preston

One building...many different roles.

IT may not be made out of glass, but the building once dubbed as Preston’s very own Crystal Palace still has a remarkable history.

The Corn Exchange has always been a focal part of city living.

In recent times it has become more commonly known as a popular drinking haunt rather than an exhibition centre and public hall which it has been in the past.

The front of the historic building, now called The Assembly, on Lune Street, is all that remains of its original construction.

It was built in the early 19th Century with a clock tower to the front and incorporating assemble rooms which were used for public meetings.

There were also rear buildings which surrounded an open court.

The Corn Exchange Preston
Inspired by a visit to the Great Exhibition, in Hyde Park, in 1851, members of the Town Council hit on the idea of bridging over the huge area of the court yard using the same caste and glass building technique.

It finally opened as the town’s first exhibition centre in 1853 and in the early years was labelled Presto’s Crystal Palace.

Thirty years later, after several changes of use, it was transformed into a huge public hall, used for political meetings and social occasions, including recitals by several famous musicians – including the Beatles.

The exterior walls of the court yard were demolished to open up the entire width of the building for balconies of seats around the hall.

Sadly, its dancing days ended with the opening of the new ringway road and it was refurbished as a public house in the 190s.

It enjoyed its first success with revellers as the Flax and Firkin before more recently being transformed into a trendy pub The Assembly.

One of its main features, to date, are the glowing exterior red lights which bring the building to life at night.

The Corn Exchange Preston

The Corn Exchange was opened in 1824 and originally included an open court yard.

In 1853, after major refurbishment, it was opened as the town’ first exhibition centre.

In 1882 it was transformed into a huge public hall.

The coat of arms of Preston, rescued from the old town hall of 1780, can be seen above the entrance way to The Assembly.

The statue outside commemorates the scene of an ugly demonstration which took place at 10am on Saturday August 13, 1842, when five striking cotton workers were killed by soldiers.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, March 2003