The Lancashire Evening Post, Thursday, 12th October 2006
The grand homes of Preston's past

This week, the cost of an average house in the UK passed 200,000 for the first time and Preston saw prices rocket. But what were the des res's of the city's past? Evening Post historian Keith Johnson looks at our grandest houses Back in the 18th century, the visiting author Daniel Defoe described the town of Preston as a place full of attorneys, proctors and notaries as the legal profession flourished.

Not surprising, therefore, that, at the end of that century, those involved in the legal side of things, or connected with the emerging cotton trade, were building homes that would be the envy of the working classes.

In the heart of town was Patten House on Church Street, the residence of the Derby family.

The main streets of Fishergate and Friargate also had some fine houses along their length. While John and Samuel Horrocks had been busy building cotton mills and humble dwellings for their operatives, they had not neglected their own comforts. John had Penwortham Lodge at Middleforth and brother Sam had bought land in 1795 to build his mansion at Lark Hill, with its walled gardens and lake.

In 1799, building was started in Winckley Square with William Cross building the first house at the southeastern corner of Winckley Street. On the opposite corner, Nicholas Grimshaw, who was twice Guild Mayor of Preston, had his town house built. The square was soon home to a number of notable townsfolk and they fought hard to keep its development exclusive. Many larger than life characters from Preston's past lived there, including the Addisons who conducted a lucrative legal practice from their home.

Thomas Batty Addison, as chairman of the Quarter Sessions, was extremely well known in the town for handing out severe sentences to those who appeared before him in the Sessions Houses. Number Seven, Winckley Square, was built for the Reverend Roger Carus Wilson who was responsible for the building of five new churches in the town as Vicar of Preston. Then there was Dr Charles Brown, who spent 64 years as a doctor and wrote of life in a Victorian household.

In 1926, shortly after his death, his home in Winckley Square was sold at auction for 4,550 to Preston Catholic College, which had plans to expand. A neighbour to Dr Brown was Dr Charles Rigby, whose wife was to gain fame for her part in the suffragette movement. "Votes For Women" was the cry of Edith Rigby, who was no stranger to the authorities as she campaigned with Mrs Pankhurst.

And there was Thomas Miller, connected as he was to the Horrockses dynasty. He built a splendid house on the garden of Number Seven, near to his close friend Richard Newsham, a member of a prosperous banking family. At the corner of Cross Street, there was the Italian style villa of William Ainsworth, who had his cotton mill in Cotton Court.

Of course, there were many other superior residences dotted around the town including Greyfriars built by iron founder Joseph Clayton in 1849, which could in those days be seen from the high road leading to Garstang. Joseph Foster, the printing press pioneer built for himself Priors Lea on the Garstang Road highway.

In the middle of what is now Ashton Park is the former mansion of Alderman Edward Pedder, a partner in Pedders Bank.

In Avenham, we still have Avenham Tower that was home to the Threlfall family and later to grocer Edwin Henry Booth during his final years, having moved there from nearby Bank Parade.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, October 2006