New Year’s Day Walk 2019

The start of another year and the commencement of another walking season. Traditionally our first walk of the year, takes on an urban nature and is aimed at increasing our knowledge of the constantly changing scenes on our doorstep. Much to everyone’s surprise our leader, well known for his support of Blackburn Rovers, chose to start the walk from the car park opposite Preston North Ends ground. 11 walkers and Henry the Greyhound set off at 10.35 a.m., in what was a cool, but nevertheless sunny morning. Information was given relating to the history of the club since its foundation in 1875. Being a founder member of the Football League and that during their primary year’s, they acquired the name of “The Invincible’s,” due to their unparalleled success at winning, with invariably good margins and had also won the F.A. Cup Final in 1889 and the League the following season. Over the years, many talented players were signed to the team, including Bill Shankley, who led the team to victory in the 1938 F.A. Cup Final and of course Tom Finney, who ultimately became their star player and is the subject of “The Splash” statue in front of the ground, recreating a memorial to a photograph taken at the match with Chelsea in 1956.

Continuing along Sir Tom Finney Way in a northerly direction brought us to boarding’s screening the site of what had been The Sumner’s Hotel, which had always been a popular pre-match watering hole for fans prior to matches. Following its demolition in 2018, the future prospective use is somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Opposite this, is Fulwood Barracks, dating back to 1842 and constructed from the characteristic sandstone, quarried at Longridge and brought by rail, to be assembled by 3-400 builders over a period of 5 years. This became the literal and spiritual home of the Queens Lancashire Regiment for in excess of 150 years. Perhaps the single most noteworthy incident in its long history, occurred in 1861, when 19-year-old Private McCaffery murdered the Commanding Officer and his Adjutant with a single shot from his musket. His trial and public execution took place in Liverpool. McCaffery’s ghost is still said to haunt the Old Officers Mess and is one of three such, roaming the site.

Turning left along Watling St Rd, which dates back to Roman times, brought us the impressive building, formerly the Preston Union Workhouse, built between 1865-1868 to accommodate 1,500 inmates. Its initial cost was estimated at £30,000 but probably due to certain architectural extravagance’s rose to £50,000. Over the years it has served in many roles and now, under private ownership is rented out as a business centre.

A little further on the opposite side of the road, we viewed the very elaborate Masjid-e-Salaam Mosque. Formerly the site of a pair of semi-detached houses in Victorian times, with fairly extensive gardens, it became a Hotel in 1974. By 1996 it had been acquired by the Preston Muslim Society and a long run of planning applications followed for change of use to a Mosque. At each stage, the limited parking facilities were cited as reasonable cause for refusal, so following further land purchases, and revision of plans which actually increased the size of the original design, the four-year building project was completed in 2016 at a cost of around 3 million pounds.

At the end of the road stands Fulwood Methodist Church, which dates back to 1911 and was built at a cost of £5,500, with the Sunday School being added in 1928 for an additional £3,500. Opposite, the area of Withy Trees, which possibly derived its name from the willow trees in the vicinity, was at one time a tram junction with the pub itself being a former coaching house.  

Turning left for a short distance along Garstang Rd, we again turned left into Victoria Rd, which led us into Lower Bank Rd, where we continued until reaching Park Walk, formerly known as “Plum Pudding Hill”. Taking this route, we dropped to cross Eaves Brook to emerge on to Blackpool Rd and cross to enter Moor Park adjacent to The North Lodge house. A plaque commemorating the establishing of military hospital facilities on the park during World War 1 was viewed, after which we continued along the footpath to view the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory, which we learned had opened in 1927, coinciding with a solar eclipse which occurred the same day. The building continued in use until 2002 when it was superseded by an updated version at Alston Hall.

Following an anticlockwise direction around the park perimeter, we couldn’t help noticing two young lads, dressed in white, practicing their cricketing skills. Certainly, not the sort of thing you would expect to see on a New Year’s Day. Arriving at Moor Park Ave with its distinctive properties, now given over to commercial use, we soon arrived at The Park School for Girls building,

 which two of our number had attended. Having survived for in excess of 100 years and contributed so much to female education, it looked somewhat forlorn and abandoned as it awaits some unknown fate, probably demolition.

Continuing along the avenue, duly brought us to The Boys Grammar School, which from 1913 educated boys who had passed their scholarship, which dare I say included myself. The history of the school in Preston extended over 700 years, but the building in Moor Park closed in 1969, when political ideology brought about the demise of grammar schools. Unlike the Park School this building is still in use as an educational establishment. A lot of the original inscriptions engraved in the stonework of the tower still exist, including the Latin inscription of the motto VIVAT REX     FLOREAT ECCLESIA      STET FORTUNA DOMUS which translates as LONG LIVE THE KING       MAY THE CHURCH FLOURISH       and    MAY FORTUNE REST UPON THIS HOUSE.

From here the return to our starting point was a short walk. The distance covered had been just over 3 miles, but more importantly it had got us out of the house to enjoy the fresh air in good company and without undue exertion, to travel around another area of the town and add to our knowledge of our local heritage.

Midge Walkers

Walk  No. 126

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