Midge Walkers

Walk  No. 99

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New Year’s Day Walk 2017 - The changing face of Preston

Was it the promise of no stiles, gates or obstruction’s, or simply the suggestion of a mere 2 miles, that brought out 20 adults and 3 juniors on a what was, a decidedly cold New Year’s Day afternoon. The theme of the walk was to view the changing face of Preston, in its many aspects.

Starting at the rear of the University on Maudland St, adjacent to the J.B.Firth building ,where Forensic Science is studied, Preston being noted for its pioneering work in this field, we were also told of the important role of the railways, with the long since removal of the sidings and canal basin, traces of which were still present and the commencement of “Milley’s Tunnel”, which at one time had housed a rail line under part of the town on a route to the Longridge stone quarries.

Crossing Fylde Rd towards St Peter’s Church, now part of the University as an Arts Centre, we were told how being commissioned in 1820 with an estimated cost of £12,500, to be paid from Preston’s share of a million pound “Waterloo Fund”, extracted from the French after the Napoleonic wars, had produced a surplus which allowed for a contribution to St Paul’s Church, which we were to view later in the walk. Following a route which tracked the underground rail line, we crossed Moor Lane to see, probably the only survivor of what had been numerous windmill sites throughout the town, which ultimately became redundant with the advancement of steam power.

Skirting the site of the new police station, we emerged onto Lancaster Rd, passing a couple of long since closed public houses, to view a former cotton mill in Bushell St, currently used as industrial units and St Thomas’s Church now occupied as an Elim Pentecostal meeting hall.

Making our way across North Rd and along Gt George St, where we again took in a view of the rail tunnel where it emerged and at the junction of St Paul’s Rd, 2 of the many Mosques which have now become an integral part of the towns skyline. Turning into Burrow Rd towards Deepdale, we reached a point where, looking towards Argyle Rd we could see the Preston refuse center and transport department. This had originally been used for housing the towns horse drawn trams and after accumulating a veritable pile of horse manure, became the obvious site for a refuse department.

Crossing Deepdale Rd into Castleton Rd we were reminded of the local name of the area being the “Canary Islands”, due to all the streets being named after birds. Taking an alley way between the houses we crossed a footbridge over the former rail line which brought us into Peel Hall St, where at the junction with Deepdale Mill St, we viewed another Mosque, and an elaborate new building under the banner of the Quwat Education Centre for girls. A former Primitive Methodist Sunday School with a date plaque of 1883, having been for many recent years occupied by Leyland Paints, was noted to have now become Preston Muslim Girls High School. At the junction of Fletcher Rd, we looked to the left, to again see the former Anglican Parish Church of St Lukes, now used as social accommodation. Taking a route to the right we passed the former Remploy site, Beeches Chocolate Factory founded in 1920 and a new Gafoor Halhal chicken factory. Further along, we passed what until recently had been a Halfords store and noted it now to be occupied by Longton Community Church.

After passing the former Deepdale coal sidings we crossed Deepdale Rd, into Newton St and Hopwood St to Attwaters, a long established electrical insulation and plastics company. Continuing into St Pauls Square, the former church, previously mentioned, and now the Red Rose Radio and Rock FM studios, brought us to Meadow St and the former Roman Catholic Church of St Ignatius’, with its distinctive War Memorial unveiled in 1922 to the 228 men from the parish who lost their lives in the First World War. The church building has now been elevated to Cathedral status within the Syro Malabar Catholic Church and is occupied under the new name of St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception.

Crossing North Rd at the junction with Walker St, the building on the right, now designated The City Mosque, started its life as a Wesleyan Chapel. Continuing down Walker St, past the former Salvation Army building, now a solicitor’s office and turning up Patten St on the left, brought us into Trinity Square, again the site of a former Church demolished in 1951 and now a car park, surrounded by student accommodation.

Passing through an alley called Claytons Gate, with a date plaque of 1842, brought us into Friargate, where we crossed and entered the area formerly occupied by St Marys Catholic Church, which had the distinction of being the first purpose built Catholic chapel in the town and following a turbulent history, eventually met its demise in 1991 and currently forms another car park. Crossing Corporation St and taking a route leading into Marsh Lane and subsequently through the University, returned us to our starting point some 2 and a bit hours after setting out.

With the excesses of Christmas this had been the opportunity to blow the cob-webs away and thanks to the research put into the preparation and planning, had improved our knowledge of the locality and the history of what is obviously an ever-changing scene.