The Lancashire Evening Post, Wednesday, 10th July 2002
Potted history brings past to life

1740 find on site of Red Scar Mansion thrills the experts

By Jenny Tonge
The discovery of a fragment of pottery has set an archaeological dig alight.

Amateur historians believe that they have unearthed what could be a unique insight into Preston’s forgotten history.

The East Preston Historical Group came across the piece of pottery dating from around 1740 at the site of the former Red Scar mansion.

The group, taught by local historian and naturalist David Hindle, study local history at Cardinal Newman College and have been researching the history of Red Scar, where they discovered the fragment of an 18th century plate.

The exciting find has prompted Mr Hindle to submit plans to Preston Council for the area to become a Heritage Site.

Mr Hindle, of Preston Road Grimsargh said: “The actual conservation of the site wouldn’t require a lot of money but I think it would be good for the people of Preston and future generations to learn about the Cross family, the history of Red Scar mansion and what occupied the site previously.

“Pathways and interpretive boards could be installed at the site, explaining the features such as the old coach road.

“The Cross family who built the mansion were very eminent people and are inextricably linked with Preston History.

“Cross Street is named after them and they are the ones responsible for Winckley Square. But who has heard of them? The site would be fairly low cost and is in a very beautiful area, with a perfect view of the Ribble Valley and Horse Shoe Bend. That’s why William Cross built it”.

During the war years the mansion lay derelict, finally being demolished in the late 1940s. It is believed that today it would be worthy of listed building status.

Mr Hindle, 58 said: ”The land is adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Red Scar woods, and there has been no objection from that quarter.

“I am in touch with a direct descendant of the Cross family, Anthony Cross, of Devon. He has helped me a lot with research for my book and I am sure he would be very interested”.

“ This is potentially a very exciting project”.

The piece of pottery, measuring one square inch, has been donated to the Harris Museum where it will be put on display.

Emma Heslewood, curator of social history at the museum, said: “David found a fragment of pottery which was very similar to a large plate that we already have in the museum. It is pre-industrial pottery, pre-mass produced and probably made somewhere close by but it’s difficult to know where as there were many makers of local pottery.

“David’s was the rim piece of a plate. It was probably a decorative piece to be displayed, rather than used, decorated with an animal.

“It has pie crust edging and would have measured around 30cm across.

“There are not many early examples of local pottery and it is very unusual that we just happen to have the complete plate in the museum.”

County archaeologist Peter Iles says the true archaeological value of the find is yet to be calculated.

He said: “The Elizabethan manor house was relatively rare; such buildings were not all over the place”.

Family at heart of Preston
The Cross family were linked with the history of Preston for more than two centuries. The mansion was occupied from 1803 to 1898 by three generations of the family who, as principle landowners, became squires of Grimsargh.

Built in the late Jacobean architectural style, the original thatched house of Red Scar was thought to have been a medieval place of worship used by pilgrims on their journey to Stydd Church, Ribchester, or further afield. It was transformed by William Cross into a mock timber and plaster Elizabethan-style mansion in 1802.

It was William Cross who decided Preston should have a square after admiring the squares in London. At the dawn of the 19th century he created Winckley Square.

After his father’s death, he lived in a hous he built at the corner of Winckley Street and Winckley Square. It was later used as an annex of Preston College.

Members of the Cross family – after whom Cross Street is named – held important government positions in the 19th century including Home Secretary and Secretary of State for India.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, July 2002