Do you know... How Frenchwood came to be so called? What links the discovery of a planet with Herschell Street? and where was Strawberry Gardens? Take a fascinating journey into Frenchwood’s past. Hear first hand from a mill worker how hard-earned wages were spent and take a walk down Stoneygate with the ‘Lamp-lighter’. Discover the array of local services, including the ‘Lamb poil’ shop, the barbers, cobblers, greengrocers and a jeweller who boasted: ‘Ears pierced 6d; painless, one shilling.’ This store of local memories has been collected to celebrate the Frenchwood Renewal Area project, funded by the Single Regeneration Budget and Preston City Council, 2002-2009.
Thanks to all the contributors.
Thanks to all members of the Frenchwood steering group 2004-2009 for their invaluable support and contribution to the renewal projects, especially Mrs Dorothy and Mr John Taylor (who were also responsible for the time capsule in Smith’s recreation ground), Mrs Anna Reidel and Mrs Pauline Sharples
Area Renewal Team Preston City Council, Summer 2009
This publication was inspired by Margaret Burscough and made possible through Preston City Council’s renewal area project (2002-2009)
for the people of Frenchwood:
past, present and future
The development of Frenchwood pg 4 by Margaret Burscough
‘Working in the Mill’
Another view of Frenchwood
of Margaret Burscough by Rosa Malloy
by Teresa O’Neill
by Dennis Crompton by Jane Humphreys
All community and faith groups were invited to participate. Edited by the Area Renewal Team and Jane Humphreys, Lancashire Blue Badge guide, with special thanks to Rosa Malloy for her help, support and many of the photographs featured in this booklet. Published and printed by Preston City Council GRA00842
The development of Frenchwood by Margaret Burscough
Preston in 1774 from Geo Lang’s map
Frenchwood, a name which first appeared on Preston maps in the eighteenth century, is the residential district built on both sides of Manchester Road south of Queen Street, and stretching down to the River Ribble. Until the seventeenth century this land was undeveloped. It was mainly water-willow fields, meadows and common land through which ran a rough track down to the bridge at Walton.
At the spot which later became the junction of Queen Street and Grimshaw Street rose a spring of water which flowed across the track and westwards through Avenham to enter the Ribble at Broadgate. This was the Syke brook, which supplied the town’s water from troughs built in Avenham. In 1852 workmen uncovered an old well at this source of the Syke, covered by a slab inscribed ‘William Turner (Maior) Geo. Addison Lawrence Farrington baylives’ (i.e. mayor and bailiffs) anno 1664’.
In 1902 the old footpath eventually became Manchester Road, but in previous centuries it had had a succession of names. In the earliest records the Church Street end was known as Cockerholes, and the fields around Lark Hill where the land fell steeply were Albin or Albyn Hey. Through the valley at the bottom of this hill ran another brook called Swillbrook, which formed the southern boundary separating Preston from Fishwick parish. The Swillbrook entered the town from the east just north of Salmon Street, flowed across London Road, through Lark Hill grounds and Herschell Street, then down the steep bank of Avenham (Park) and into the Ribble by the tram bridge. At this confluence was a washing stead where the townswomen did their laundry. The name Swillbrook derives from this place – the Anglo-Saxon for wash was ‘swilian’, and ‘broc’ meant a rushing stream. Although both the Syke and Swillbrook have disappeared from the landscape, culverted and built over, they were historically important and the Swillbrook figured largely in the development of Frenchwood. A walk around this district today gives little hint of its history. Each century since the seventeenth could reveal a time-capsule of developments which came, survived briefly, then went, barely recorded or remembered by succeeding generations. The first people here in the 1600s were probably quite unaware that Roman soldiers had marched, in the earliest centuries A.D., up the old (Swillbrook)
track en route from their service station at Walton-le-Dale northwards to their military bases in Lancaster and Kirkham. We know a little of the first named locals mainly because a few of them fell foul of the law and appeared in the town’s court accused of various offences. Preston’s Court Leet records of 1654 show that the ‘supervisors of the heightways’ were ordered ‘to make the lane to Swillbrook good and passable for cart and carriage.’ In their efforts they were hampered by unco-operative leaseholders. In 1659 Nicholas Sudell was fined for ‘failing to take up the earth which is slidden into the lane leading to the Swillbrook.’ At the same court ten old men testified on oath that Edward Hindle had ‘erected a staff-and-bande hedge across the common footpath and highway on a baulke of land by Albon Steepe’ (now Lark Hill site). He had acquired this land from John Sudell, feltmaker, and was attempting to enclose it from the water-willow field owned by Lawrence Bostocke, a butcher in Cockerholes. The court ordered him to pull down the hedge and not to trespass again on the highway, or he would be fined forty shillings. (A few years’ later three local women were fined for washing carrots and puddings in the trough on Syke brook!)
In the early sixteenth century William Garstang of Broughton owned 16 acres here, on the southern border of Preston and Fishwick, which passed first to his son-in-law Richard Walton and then to his grandson William Walton, who in 1599 held the land ‘of the Queen.’ Two of these acres then went by the curious name ‘the further bridewell’, which could indicate that at some time in Preston’s turbulent history they were used for the confinement of prisoners, perhaps at a time when the town’s lock-up was already full. At Richard Walton’s death this piece of land formed part of his estate endowed for the founding of a charity school in Penwortham. That was not the end of the story of the further bridewell. When it was sold in 1805 to Samuel Horrocks of Lark Hill the plot was subject to a ground rent of £20 per year. For the next 173 years the owners of Lark Hill paid this legal charge to the Penwortham school, by then renamed Hutton Grammar School. It was only in 1978 that the nuns of Lark Hill Convent School were able, following changes in the charity laws, to buy the freehold of the two acres in their grounds.
In 1657 William Walton’s daughter Ann married Edward French, and her inherited land was then listed in their joint ownership. It is probable that her new surname gave us the name Frenchwood.
In the lifetime of their daughter Ellen French, a prominent Lancashire landowner, William Walmsley of Dunkenhalgh in Burnley, acquired the Frenchwood estate. This was during the Penal Times following the Reformation, when Roman Catholics were discriminated against and fined heavily for refusing to attend their local Protestant parish churches. The Walmsley family proved to be staunch Catholics who quietly used their great wealth to sustain and provide funding for numerous Catholic establishments and individuals.
Almost a century later the last of the family to hold the Frenchwood estate was William’s grand-daughter, whose life is worthy of a mention here. When she was three years old Catherine was left a wealthy orphan, following the death of her parents and brother. In 1712 she became the young bride of Robert 7th Baron Petre, by whom she had a son, Robert. Her husband died soon afterwards in 1713. Twenty years later she married a second time to Lord Stourton, and on his death received her third substantial inheritance. (The late Bishop of Lancaster, Brian Foley, made a study of Catherine Walmsley’s edifying life in his book ‘Catholic people of Penal Times’).
Catherine has two links with modern Frenchwood, Stourton Street and Strawberry Gardens, the site of Frenchwood Social Club. ‘Mrs Walmsley’s strawberry gardens’ flourished there on the south-facing slopes by Swillbrook Lane three hundred years ago.
In April 1775 Lady Stourton conveyed ownership of most of her landholding at Frenchwood to the lawyer who administered the family trust, Nicholas Starkie of Huntroyde, Padiham. His family had longstanding connections with Preston as members of the town council and as legal practitioners. Their townhouse, leased from Lady Stourton, was a spacious mansion near to the parish church of St. John on Churchgate. When it was demolished in 1870 the house was reported to have been ‘of considerable magnitude and magnificence …standing detached in its courtyard and capacious gardens.’ Its main claim to fame was an entry in the journal of Manchester’s Jacobite poet, John Byrom, which tells us that on 27th November 1745, ‘The Pretender lay at lawyer Starkie’s at Preston last night.’ This was Prince Charles Edward Stuart who led the Jacobite rebellion. His army marched through Preston en route to Derby and rested overnight in the town.
Such was the status of the new owner of Lady Stourton’s land, on which he proposed to build a country house. He chose an ideal location. Westwards of the strawberry gardens on the edge of a steep ridge was a shelf of level land overlooking a magnificent view of the Ribble Valley with the hills of the West Pennines forming a distant backdrop. Here Starkie built a smart mansion home which he called Frenchwood House. (It is possible that there had been an earlier house on this site, built by the French family, which he upgraded). Several acres behind the house were landscaped and laid out as decorative grounds screening the house. The entrance drive was through an impressive gateway with a lodge house (close to the junction of Selborne Street and Manchester Road, where, until 2008 a local post office was located). On its eastern side, Frenchwood estate reached almost as far as London Road and to the west and south it linked up with the land which became Avenham Park. To the north it stretched to Queen Street.
Lawyer Starkie now had his country retreat where he could escape the bustle of Preston. He was described by a contemporary as ‘a robust and fine old English gentleman who took a prominent part in the numerous sports and gaieties of those times, when Preston Races were considered among the most important in England.’ Lord Derby came for the season to his Preston home, Patten House in Church Street. Mr Starkie’s sister, who lived with him in the Church Street house, was described in an article re-written in a local newspaper two hundred years after her death:
Frenchwood House, overlooking the Ribble Illustration by Richard Liptrot www.liptrotillustration.com
Miss Starkie lived to a good age and was a generous benefactor to the poor. She was one of the last of the aristocratic ladies of our proud borough who kept up many of the old privileges and formalities of the gentry. She was a familiar figure in the central streets towards the end of the eighteenth century, and was to be seen followed by a liveried footman bearing a long wand, carried by this class of servant when attending upon their mistresses. This old lady in her later years would occasionally totter through the streets leaning on her double headed walking stick, behind her the footman, an old faithful retainer of the family, almost as infirm as his mistress.’ The Starkies were the first family to live in the district they named Frenchwood. During these last decades of the 1700s, however, the Church Street end of the road to Frenchwood was gradually being built upon. Whereas previously there had been only a barn on the east side opposite Shepherd Street, by 1780 there was new housing as far as Queen Street, and also in ginnels and alleyways behind them, backing on to the water-willow fields.
At this time, leaders of the Baptist religion wanted to build a chapel in Preston. In 1782, some members of their parish in Prescot Street, London came to look for a site. They bought land at the corner of Manchester Road and the developing thoroughfare which later became Queen Street, and built a church there which was opened in 1785. The parish existed under a succession of ministers for nearly 70 years, but when two other Baptist churches were founded in Fishergate and Pole Street, the numbers fell and the church was closed in 1853. In 1859 the building was bought by the Church of England and re-opened as a church dedicated to St. Saviour. From the start the parish thrived and some cottages were developed into a school. In 1866 and 1869 a new church and school were built, sponsored by the partners in Horrockses (cotton manufacturers) who later donated land in Malt Street for a bigger school. Almost a hundred years later in the 1960’s redevelopment of that part of Preston, the old traditional church of St. Saviour’s, much loved by its parishioners, was demolished. The parish was amalgamated with the neighbouring church of St. James on Avenham Lane, under the name of ‘St. James with St. Saviour’s’. The altar and rails still survive in the smaller St. James’s church.
Avenham Lane with St James’s Church on the right hand side of the photograph
Returning to the eighteenth century, houses were built next to St. Saviour’s by a local builder, Thomas Leeming. He gave his name to the road which ran from St. Saviour’s down to Shepherd Street. The old name Cockerholes disappeared for ever as the land was drained and paved with round Lytham cobblestones. That short stretch of the road north of Shepherd Street was from then on known as Water Street. After Lady Stourton’s death in 1788 her son and heir, the 8th Lord Petre, was obliged to sell her Preston estate to pay her legacies. It was the end of an era. Thomas Starkie bought the seven acres mostly on Swillbrook Lane hill (Lark Hill area), which he had been leasing at £12 per annum, for £750. James Heatley of Brindle, a prominent Catholic gentleman, bought seven acres situated between the parish church and Frenchwood.
c1960 Demolition of the streets off Manchester Rd. (Paradise St foreground, Queens St. still standing opposite St Saviour’s Church).
The nineteenth century would see the beginnings of the transformation of the Frenchwood estate land. In 1791 a newcomer had arrived in Preston from Edgworth, who would single-handedly change this small aristocratic market town beyond recognition. In just ten years he turned it into a cotton manufacturing town at the centre of Lancashire’s huge textile industry. The Industrial Revolution invaded Preston in the person of young John Horrocks.
His first two cotton mills were built on Town End Croft at the end of Church Street, and on Spittal Moss at Maudland. Soon he was casting his eyes over the fields of Frenchwood, and persuaded Nicholas Starkie to sell him some land outside Starkie’s own front gate. The two fields called Gate Meadow and Sawyer’s Bottoms measured 6,500 square yards and stood on the banks of the Swillbrook, which would provide the water for another proposed cotton factory. In 1794/5 a huge brick building with wooden fittings was erected and opened as Horrocks’s Frenchwood factory, in what is now Tiber Street. Fortunately it was well insured for, shortly afterwards, the whole complex burned down and had to be rebuilt. The new Frenchwood mill was bigger than the original, at five storeys high and seventeen windows long, and had an impressive cupola with a weather vane on the roof. Its large steam engine of eighteen horse-power was housed in a brick engine block, and water from the brook was stored in a reservoir built below the steep drop of land behind Dickson Street.
As a safeguard against fire, the new mill was constructed on an iron frame, with the use of wood cut down to a minimum. Because it stood on a hill, the land fronting Swillbrook Lane had to be shored up by a stout stone wall, the last remnant of which can be seen today in Manchester Road, opposite Newman College gateway. A short terrace of mill houses built above the stone wall was named ‘Clifton Rise’ and still bears the date 1797. They are the oldest workers’ houses in Frenchwood. (In 1930 this row became part of Arno Street).
In 1796, John Horrock’s brother Samuel bought the Albyn Hey plots of land on the same hillside as the mill across Swillbrook Lane. There he employed Messrs. Wren, Corry and Seth German to build him the impressive mansion home which he called ‘Lark Hill’ (see ‘The History of Lark Hill’ published in1989 by this author).
St Austin’s Place with wall from Presbytery to houses, Albert St. behind
This incursion by the Horrocks brothers opened the floodgates to the development of Frenchwood as a residential and commercial district, but Mr Starkie did not live to witness the transformation of his landholding. He died in 1797, ‘before his sire’, and from then onwards his heirs leased Frenchwood House to a succession of Preston businessmen. It was finally sold at the beginning of the twentieth century and divided into several smaller homes, now almost concealed from view behind the hedges and trees at the top of Frenchwood Knoll. The Horrockses needed homes in Frenchwood for the huge influx of mill workers, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century erected streets of terraced houses on the level land north of the factory. Adjoining the mill were Silver Street, Back Silver Street, and Dickson’s
Court, built in 1821. They were very small by today’s standards but, at least, were new and well built. (They survived until demolished in the 1960s.) The Silver Street houses each covered 384 square feet, and had communal yards with 4 closets in two pairs to serve four houses. The Back Silver Street houses were half as big at 192 square feet and were built back-to-back with no rear entrance or yard. The whole district around St. Saviour’s church was also covered in such terraced streets, almost all of which were occupied by cotton workers. The block containing Paradise Street, Queen Street, Duke Street and Princess Street first appears on Shakeshaft’s map of 1809, when that part of Swillbrook Lane which ran from Queen Street to Lark Hill was renamed King Street. This name survived in the ‘King Street tavern’, the public house next to Cardinal Newman College, until its demolition in November 2007. In 1902 all the old names, Water Street, Leeming Street, King Street, and Swillbrook Lane were discontinued and the road through Frenchwood became Manchester Road.
The congregations of these parishes filled their churches and paid bench-rents for their upkeep. During the 1830s and 1840s large numbers of working families were moving to Preston to find work building the new railways. Within this decade, the town was connected by rail to Lancaster, Chorley, Bolton, Fleetwood, Lytham, Blackpool, Liverpool and Manchester. The population more than doubled to 33,000 and many of the incomers were crammed into the terraced streets off Manchester Road and Avenham Lane. Among them were a high proportion of Irishmen who were Catholics. In 1836 there were over 15,000 Catholics served by only 3 churches in the town, St. Wilfrid’s, St. Mary’s in Friargate, and St. Ignatius’s, all staffed by priests of the Society of Jesus (‘Jesuits’).
A new church was desperately needed, but the Jesuit Order felt unable to undertake the commitment. Undeterred, a group of local Catholic gentlemen formed a committee and, with the permission of Bishop Briggs, Vicar Apostolic of the northern district, set to and built their own church independently. They were provided with a site by Captain William Heatley of Brindle Lodge who sold them a plot of ‘The Meadows’ land, one and a half acres, at three halfpence a square yard. It was a level field atop the same hillside as Lark Hill House, next to Frenchwood Mill and at the end of Silver Street.
St Augustine’s Church post 1880
The new church, designed by architect F.W. Tuach, was opened on 30th July 1840 and was dedicated to St. Augustine. In the following year the rector, Father Thomas Cookson, built a school opposite the church with four houses in front for the priests and teachers. Later a spacious presbytery and four more houses completed the road, named St. Austin’s Square (later St. Austin’s Place). The whole complex, church and churchyard, presbytery and grounds, was surrounded by ornate iron railings and a brick boundary wall which at St. Austin’s Place crossed the road to the houses opposite. In the early years the church stood alone with fields to the west behind the wall, but soon streets of terraced houses were built along the old field sites, running from Avenham Lane to a dead end at Clarendon Street.
Aerial view of Larkhill with St Augustine’s (Infant and Junior schools)
The wall, which marked the boundary of the church land, became a barrier which completely segregated Avenham from Frenchwood. There were no roads cutting diagonally across these new long culs-de-sac, and so there was no access for vehicles. Local pedestrians had to wind their way through ginnels and barred passageways (‘The Bush opening’, ‘The Wide lobby’, ‘The Royal George yard’). Those who were parishioners of St. Augustine’s had, for nearly 100 years, to take the long walk from their homes in Avenham to their church and schools over the wall in Frenchwood.
In A. Hewitson’s book ‘Our Churches and Chapels’ is a paragraph describing the district around St. Augustine’s church as he perceived it : ‘Clean looking dwellings immediately confront it; green fields take up the background; an air of quietude, half pastoral half genteel pervades it, but this ecclesiastical rose has its thorn. Only in its proximate surroundings is the place semi-rural and select. As the circle widens – townwards at any rate – you soon get into a region of murky houses, ragged children, running beer jugs, poverty; and as you move onwards in certain directions … you get into a very lair of ignorance, depravity and misery … much honest industry, straightforwardness and everyday kindness, much that smells of gin and rascality and heathenism may be seen in the district … there is plenty of room for all kinds of reformers in the locality … the priests in connection with St. Augustine’s church are doing their share in this matter. The average number hearing Mass there on a Sunday is 3,290. The congregation is almost entirely working people. A few middle-class and wealthy persons attend the place, some sitting in the gallery and others at the higher end of the church,
but the general body consists of toiling everyday folk. The poorest section including the Irish … are located in the rear … Reverend Canon Walker is a good type of a thoroughly English priest and of a genuine Lancashire man – a man of peace, of kindly thought, unobtrusive and sincere. The district is industriously worked by the Catholics. They deserve praise for their energy. Their object is to push on Catholicism and to improve the secular position of the inhabitants and they do this with a zeal most praiseworthy.’ With the publication of detailed street and commercial directories, it became possible to give identity to the people who had flocked to live in Frenchwood. Whilst most of the side streets were occupied by cotton weavers and associated workers, the 1841 street directory reveals that Manchester Road had become a ‘high street’ which ran from Church Street as far as Lark Hill house under the names Water, Leeming and King Street. Here there were no less than 10 pubs and beersellers: The Griffin, the Black Swan, The Rifleman and the Falcon on Water Street; the Lodge Bank Tavern, Sam Nelson and John Robinson on Leeming Street; and the Hunts Arms, the Weavers’ Arms and Joe Holderness on King Street.
In Paradise Street lived Jane Dent a strawbonnet maker, and in William Street children queued at 6.30 in the morning to buy yeast from brewer Walter Foss. Their mothers would use it to make bread which they would then take to the public bakehouses in nearby Paradise Street and Vauxhall Road to be baked. At the bottom of Frenchwood, (near to where Frenchwood Knoll later joined Selborne Street), were some industrial buildings including Tom Tomlinson’s tannery. This was sited at the edge of the town because of the obnoxious smell from the process of tanning animal skins. There were few buildings at the southern end of Oxford Street, from where the view south was uninterrupted. On a prominence there, some local men with a scientific bent had erected a makeshift observatory. They installed an 18-inch telescope with a polished metal reflector made of copper and tin to pursue their study of astronomy. With the building of the new streets and the extension of Oxford Street, this site was no longer suitable. The early observatory was dismantled in 1881 and rebuilt on a triangle of land in Deepdale Road.
The observatory is now used by the University and is situated in Moor Park as the Jeremiah Horrocks observatory. Was it by accident or design that the street opposite the first observatory in Preston was given the name of William Herschel, the astronomer royal, who discovered the planet Uranus in 1781?
During the 1840s, when there was a trade slump in the cotton industry, many people were unemployed so Joseph Livesey of Preston, the great moral reformer, set up a Labour Association to provide work for able-bodied men. The town corporation and public subscribers paid their wages and work was done all over the town. One of the last jobs undertaken in 1847 was the levelling and laying of cinders on Swillbrook Lane, the old trackway running alongside Lark Hill grounds and down through the Strawberry Gardens to the bridge at Walton.
In 1877 two local entrepreneurs, Cedric Houghton, solicitor, and Richard Veevers, land agent, made an arrangement with the managing partners of Messrs. Horrocks Miller & Co. which would initiate the development of Frenchwood as a residential district. Eighty years after its erection Frenchwood Mill and its surrounding land, covering over 30,000 square yards, was put up for sale. In an indenture dated 28th March 1877 the two men bought the whole estate for the sum of £1,800. Horrocks’s mill behind St. Augustine’s church was demolished, the reservoirs drained and the site prepared for redevelopment.
Frenchwood House was still owned by the heirs of old Squire Starkie, the last of whom, Elizabeth Susannah had married Henry Bence-Bence of Thorrington Hall in Suffolk in the 1850s. Her family still owned the whole of the Frenchwood estate land, apart from that sold to Horrockses for the sites of Lark Hill house and the recently demolished Frenchwood mill.
Messrs. Houghton and Veevers had begun to develop the mill site into residential streets, two of which they named after the Italian rivers Arno and Tiber. Their ultimate aim was to acquire the whole of the Starkie estate and cover the district of Frenchwood with housing. They had to wait nearly ten years, but eventually, in 1886 the Starkie/Bence/Trower families agreed to part with their land. The conveyance document records that in August 1886 over 18 acres of Frenchwood were bought by Houghton and Veevers for the sum of £3,553. Frenchwood House and grounds were not included in the sale and continued to be let to local businessmen. A concise plan for the redevelopment, approved by Veevers and the town authorities, records that the busy King Street would be extended by a new road (later to be named Manchester Road) running from Lark Hill house southwards to the edge of the ridge overlooking the river (now Southern Parade). New streets to be built (Selborne Street east, an extension to James Street, Bence Road, Trower Street etc.) and Frenchwood Avenue would connect Frenchwood to London Road.
On the western side, Oxford Street and Herschell Street would be extended and Coleridge Street (now Wadham Road) would intersect from Herschell Street to Selborne Street. There was a provison that within five years the Swillbrook should be culverted where it flowed through the estate land, but it was only in the 1930s that the brook beyond Selborne Street down to the tram bridge was culverted. Furthermore, the piece of ground south of the brook was not to be built upon, but was to be gardens and ornamental grounds planted with trees and shrubs. This condition was ignored in the next century when a bus depot and school were built on ‘the green hill’.
Area around St Augustine’s Church before demolition showing Boys’ School left opposite Church, Lark Hill top left, general view over Frenchwood towards Houghton.
The new section of Manchester Road was to be built first, 40 feet wide with sewers below ground and pavement on both sides. All the soil, stones and rubble excavated were to be tipped into the valley of the brook to form a level site for the construction of Selborne Street west. (This explains why the area was afterwards known locally as ‘The Tips’).
Frenchwood Avenue at 45 feet wide, including 12 feet wide footpaths, was to be the showpiece of the estate. It was stipulated that the houses there should not be of less than £15 annual rateable value and must stand back at least 15 feet from the line of the street, with ‘no offensive or disagreeable trade or business to be allowed on any part of the premises, nor anything done that might become a nuisance to the owners or occupiers of adjoining properties … only the best material available must be used in the building of the new streets and houses, none of which must be of less value than £8 per annum ……. on the south sides of James Street and Selborne Street west a good boundary cattle-fence must be built and maintained.’ In his town history book, published in 1900, Fishwick tells us that a labourer working on the Frenchwood estate, next to Selborne Street, found at a depth of 3 feet below the surface a well-preserved 2edged sword which is now in the Preston museum. The weapon is 28 inches long and on its blade is inscribed
Until the new bridge across the Ribble at Walton was built in 1783 the road from Wigan crossed the river at the bottom of Swillbrook Lane, so Frenchwood saw action in all the battles of Preston, although it is not known when this weapon was used. The town of Solingen is in the steel-producing area of Germany.
All this development of Frenchwood, south of Lark Hill, took place at the end of the nineteenth century and the new streets appear for the first time on W. Brown’s 1889 map of Preston and neighbourhood. Thirteen years later the name Manchester Road was applied to the whole length of the road, replacing the old street names King Street, Leeming and Water Street and is so called to this day.
‘Clemes Hartcop me fecit Solingen’ (Clemes Hartcop made me in Solingen).
Margaret Burscough a biography Margaret Burscough (née Harrison) was born at 8, St Austin’s Place, Frenchwood into a large, caring family. Her mother was Welsh and her Prestonian father was a master painter and decorator. Margaret was educated at St Augustine’s school and Lark Hill Convent, and she made lifelong friends from both communities.
Family life centred very much on St Augustine’s Church and parish and the whole family spent many happy hours in both religious and social activities. Margaret, like her father and her siblings, was baptised in St Augustine’s. She joined many local parish groups including the Brownies and the Girls’ Training Corps -during the war, learning how to use a stirrup pump. She enjoyed camping at Hoghton Bottoms with the YCW and walked in the 1952 Guild Procession with the Children of Mary.
Margaret’s family and friends also helped in the running of whist drives and sales of work. Dances and socials in the Church hall were always fun, as were visits to Avenham Park, ‘Phoenix Park’ (Smith’s recreation ground) and town, including the Harris Library/Museum, shops and various popular dance halls. Although Margaret started work at the income tax office in town, Frenchwood friends were still at the hub of her social outings. In 1955 Margaret married Frank Burscough at St Augustine’s Church with her twin sisters as bridesmaids. She then left Frenchwood, but maintained her interest in the area, writing several local history books and pamphlets including the ‘History of Lark Hill’, ‘The Horrockses’, and contributed to this ‘Tales of Frenchwood’. Margaret and Frank enjoyed 52 years of married life, caring for and passing on the love of family to their eight children. Margaret died on December 13th 2006 and is very much missed
Corner Shops When I was young, children were the shoppers and we would set off with our lists after school, on Saturdays or in the holidays. Not only did we shop for our mother but also for the elderly or busy people who lived near us. We couldn’t play out until all the shopping was done. Then we could spend our Saturday money, a ha’penny for the little ones graduating to a penny as we grew older. What we could buy with that money and what fun we had deciding! We spent our money in the best places we knew – our corner shops.
I grew up in a very friendly neighbourhood with plenty of choices for the dedicated local
We were very proud because we lived next door to a millionaire. A plaque beside her front door said ‘E DUNDERDALE MILLINER. shopper.
The nearest shop was across the road and sold a few groceries and sweets for grownups so we didn’t often go there unless for somebody else.
The most fascinating thing for us about this shop was that it sold babies! There was a granny who always wore a long black skirt and a beaded cape and bonnet. Every so often she would come to our house or our friends’ houses with her black bag and bring a new baby. We thought she was magic and would have given anything for a peep into her bag as she went on her journey. She was a lovely lady and was interested in all of us, of course, though we didn’t know it, she brought us into the world.
Around the corner from our home was Manchester Road with 14 different shops. On the right was a tiny shop where a lady with lovely auburn hair lived. She was especially kind and sold mostly sweets and cigarettes in her front room. One day we discovered that it was the birthday of one of our favourite Irish priests. We were still in the infant school and I added my ha’penny to the 1d of the boy next door, to buy a present for him. We asked for three Woodbines, though I don’t know how we knew about them. Of course the shopkeeper wanted to know what we were going to do with them. Then she wrapped them carefully in a paper bag and showed us how to carry them between us. We walked proudly up the street and rang the presbytery bell. The housekeeper asked what we wanted then pulled a bell the requisite number of times to summon the priest from his room at the top of the house.
We heard him rushing down the stairs and sang ‘Happy birthday’ as we gave him his ‘wild’ Woodbines. He fell on his knees to reach us and to our consternation tears poured down his cheeks as he hugged us so hard that it hurt, while the housekeeper smiled at us. We were rather put out as we thought he would be happy to get his present, not cry. He soon recovered and saw us out with a big smile on his face. I wonder if he smoked the now rather squashed cigarettes.
Manchester Rd - on right - King St. Tavern -Thornley’s sweets - Hollinghurst’s grocers - other shops to St Saviour’s Church.
Turning left along Manchester Road you came first to the workshop of Swindlehurst’s funeral directors on the corner. An eighty year old neighbour used to go in for a daily chat and told us he always had a look at the wood put aside for his coffin and gave it a stroke on the way out. The two owners were very involved with the operatic society, helping to make and store the scenery and floor risers and acting as ticket agents. It astounded passers-by to see a queue of people outside the undertakers on the first day of booking seats.
1930 Local Business Adverts
My least favourite shop was the barber’s where my father and brothers had their hair cut by a long, thin, laconic man. He sold shaving soap and I went very cautiously into this male preserve. The customers laughed to see me there and Joe teased me, holding his scissors over my hair and threatened to cut it off, or dabbing shaving soap from his brush on my nose and chin making me sneeze as I tried not to swallow any. Uggh! It tasted horrible. I was once given a milk shake by a visiting Canadian friend and as I took a sip I pulled a face and said it tasted like shaving soap. He was puzzled that I knew the taste. How he laughed when I told him!
There was an intriguing shop across the road.
It was the ‘Lamb Poil’ shop. I knew what a lamb was but never found out what a ‘poil’ looked like. As soon as I entered my nostrils were full of the smell of camphor, chemicals and paraffin, partly nasty and partly enjoyable. There was so much stuff everywhere you could scarcely move although the shopkeeper could immediately put her hand on anything. I had to be careful not to knock over any of the stoves, huge batteries etc. as I negotiated my way to the counter. We went to buy donkey stones to whiten the doorstep and the flagged front path. What rivalry there was to have the cleanest path and to be the earliest to finish! Some people even donkey-stoned the pavement. The shop also sold Zebo and emery paper to blacklead and clean the fire grate and coal hole cover.
Nearby was Thornley’s sweet shop where our friend Marie lived. They sold the most yummy sweets in a shiny clean shop and my father used to buy a mixed bag on Sunday to share around with us. We thought Marie was the luckiest girl on earth to live there and longed to be able to shout ‘It’s only me’ and walk straight through the shop into the living room, then come out, as we thought, to have a pick of the merchandise. During the war we used to spend our coupons there, chosing our favourites then swopping one for one with our sisters outside to have a tasty mix. The bars of chocolate were kept in the living room behind and reserved for special customers.
I once went for one for my mother and asked for “A bar of wholenut chocolate please”, Marie’s father, a kindly man with a Lancashire accent called to his wife, “A bar of wolenut for Mrs Harrison”. Not wishing to waste my mother’s precious coupons I said, “Not walnut please, she wants wholenut”. “That’s what I said”, he answered with a glare and I ran off home clutching the bar and puzzling about the strange ways of adults.
Next door was Hollinhurts, a marvellous grocer’s where the father used to roast his own coffee and mix his own tea and there was always a rich, exotic, warm smell. On the shelves were large green and gold canisters and I loved to watch him take huge scoops of tea out and blend it. Then he would scoop it into strong blue paper bags which he folded in a special way and put them on different shelves according to the mix. If you wanted coffee he would grind it for you or sell beans to the few posh people who had their own coffee grinder. Then there was Mr Turner’s jeweller’s. He sold and mended all kinds of watches, clocks and jewellery. We would press our noses against the window and choose our favourites saying “Bags I that” and getting more excited until he turned and looked at us with one eye huge through his magnifying glass and we would run for dear life.
He had a card in his window that said ‘Ears pierced: 6d, painless 1 shilling.’
Part of Manchester Road hill had high walls on either side. There was a very small door on the right in the retaining wall. Inside was a tiny shop, a cobbler’s. It smelt wonderfully of new leather and was so dark that the door was always open. We tiptoed past on our way down the hill as it was reputed to be haunted. The cobbler fascinated me because he could talk with a row of tacks in his mouth as he hammered the leather. When I took in my parents’ shoes (ours were mended at home) I was back in my favourite story of the Elves and the Shoemaker. Down the hill was Crompton’s Dairy where we used to go in turns to get the early morning milk. Later in the day Mr Crompton delivered it in a milk float pulled by a lovely placid horse and doled it out into jugs from a large container.
On Saturdays we would feed the horse and, if we were lucky, get a ride in the cart. We felt on top of the world as we looked down on our envious friends.
On St. Austin’s Road, around the other corner from our home, opposite the Boys’ School, there were different kinds of shops. Firstly, at the end of a row of houses, there was Tim the greengrocer, although we never called him by his Christian name. We bought our vegetables from him, fresh from the market and my mother made some mouth-watering meals from them. We had to try to get there early as he weighed out potatoes on huge scales with a big scoop and didn’t empty out the heavy soil residue in between. The later you were the more you had to pay for the same amount of potatoes. Some of the bolder lads tipped it out when he wasn’t looking but we never dared. Tim the greengrocer fascinated us because he always had a drip on the end of his nose which he caught in a huge hanky just as it was about to drop.
St Austin’s Rd Left hand side- Morning Star, Florrie’s Chippie, and the Boys’School.
It was very cold in his shop and he wore an old jacket, a long hand knitted scarf of an indeterminate colour crossed on his chest and a pair of fingerless mittens. As we spent time knitting these and other items for ourselves at school we wondered who made them for him, but thought it must be his patient sister who used to come in on Saturdays to help him out and lightened the shop with her beaming smile and sense of humour. Tim himself was very morose and never smiled. He was always cross if you wanted sweets from a bottle as he had to climb a ladder to reach them from his dark brown painted shelves. Along the side window were hung bunches of dried sage, never sold because they were all coated in the dust of years, bits of which floated off when the door was opened.
Another element of his shop intrigued us. There was a cellar with a grating on the street in front of the window. You had to clutch your money carefully in your hand as you gazed on the treats inside and decided what to buy. Down through the fixed grating was a collection of pennies and ha’pennies dropped by some poor children. Sometimes when the shop was closed – a rare occasion apart from Sundays – some of the older boys tried to reach them with magnets on a piece of string or bits of wire, lying full length on the floor.
Right hand side-sweet shop, small grocers (behind lamp) and the greengrocers on corner.
Diagonally across the road at the corner of Charlotte Street was a chip shop run by two sisters Florrie and Janey. They made delicious chips and we were always glad when we were sent for some. Florrie was very tall and liked to put on an accent when strangers came into the shop asking “Would you like the condiments?”, whereas others got “D’you want salt and vinegar?” Janey was small and worked the handle of the apparatus that chipped the potatoes. I would have loved to have a go at turning big white potatoes into fat chips. Both wore their grey hair in a tight bun and were always spotlessly clean wearing very white aprons and shiny black clogs. The floor was scrubbed and donkey-stoned,
possibly by the invisible other sister who dwelt in a room behind the shop, reached by a door with a glass panel covered by a starched white curtain. She it was who had the white buckets of potatoes ready when Janey needed a refill. There were two special things about this shop. Firstly all the children who came in were treated to a hot chip wrapped in paper. Florrie always gave these out and as they resembled her rather long nose they were known as ‘
Vauxhall Rd towards Avenham lane On Right - bakehouse Bottom Right - butcher’s - Syke Hill
They were good and very hot and kept the children quiet whilst the grown ups had a good gossip. At the back of the shop was another special thing, a bench where you could sit unnoticed and listen to the grownups whilst you ate your chip. Once Florrie had called through the door “ A thrip’ny middle cut for Jack Harrison’s chilt”, you were free to sit down and wait for it and a fresh supply of chips to be cooked. All sorts of things were discussed and had we understood what they meant we would have know all the local misdemeanours. I never found out how a girl we sometimes saw around could be “no better than she should be”. My mother would have gone hairless if she knew what we heard but it went mostly over our heads. Still the chips were good.
There was another chip shop farther away on Manchester Road where apparently a notice said ‘Please do not discuss the war in this shop. By order.’ It was rumoured that they applied for a magistrate’s order as discussions got rather heated. None of that happened in Florrie’s.
It was a happy shop. At the far end where the street joined Vauxhall Road was what used to be a historic public bakery where people without ovens brought their bread to be baked. The muffin man and his attractive family lived there. We used to see him coming round wearing a spotless white apron over his suit and a bowler hat, ringing a bell and selling delicious muffins and crumpets from a basket covered in a white cloth.
At the end of Vauxhall Road, where it met Walton Street was a ‘High class butchers’ with a large warehouse.
The meat was of top quality and they cut it and chopped it from sections of carcass as you watched, so you knew that it was fresh. Members of this family had been among some of the early local boarders at the local convent school, Lark Hill, and there are photographs of them in a pony cart in the grounds wearing beautiful dresses and large hats. We always got our meat there and had a good chat with the butcher about school. One thing I didn’t like that all butchers had was the sawdust on the floor, it smelt funny and made me sneeze and clung to the soles of my feet. During the war when we queued for ages for our rations we made friends with other children in the queue. Some were evacuees and others were Belgian and French refugees, exotic people in our eyes who taught us their ball and skipping rope games using two ropes.
Round the corner on Avenham Lane was the co-op were we sometimes shopped. A friend of ours was the manager and we loved watching him cut the butter with a flat knife and sometimes put the stamp of a cow on top of the slab, then wrap it so neatly in special paper. The most interesting thing for us was the cash desk. It was manned by the sister of one of our teachers, a lovely lady with rosy cheeks and black wavy hair. Whenever we had the story of Snow White I thought of her. She sat in a beautiful wooden and glass cabinet high above our heads. When we paid for goods the server put the money in a metal container, screwed it into a top above his head and pulled a handle. Immediately it whizzed across some wires along the ceiling to the cash desk. The cashier opened it, took out the money, put in the change and sent it back on its way. I think if I could have chosen careers then I would have applied for her job. When you got your change you got a check to stick on a gummed sheet to be redeemed when the sheet was full. I can still see my mother wetting her finger to moisten the sheet and stick on the check.
Across on Albert Street corner was a draper’s, a long thin shop. As soon as you went in through the narrow doorway hung with aprons you could smell the new clothes. There were shelves with boxes and boxes of underwear, socks, stockings and babywear. My mother used the multicoloured balls of wool to knit lovely clothes for us all, especially for the babies. There were ribbons to match and we used to love making dolls clothes from the leftovers. The wool there was much nicer than the harsh dull stuff we used at school to make socks on four steel needles. We all learned to turn heels and suffered as we pricked our fingers. And even though the school wool was dull, we were always disappointed that we had to undo our knitting during the war, as it was impossible to get any replacement wool and other people had to learn. The draper’s shop also provided our Sunday white socks and my mother’s stockings: ‘A pair of gun metal grey stockings size 4½, price £1/11½d’, which were hung on a clothes line high up near the ceiling and needed a pole to lift them down. One day to our wonderment my mother’s sister came to visit and we discovered that her daughter had laddered a stocking.
Jenny Ball’s draper’s shop at the corner of Albert Street and Avenham Lane.
We had to go with her across Avenham Lane for Kayser Bondor pure silk stockings something we hadn’t even known existed. During the week, we all wore school lisle stockings as nylons were only a future dream. Older girls painted their legs with gravy browning which ran in the rain. Further along the lane was a shop that sold everything you could think of including lots of cheap toys. The mother was very keen and no-one ever got out of the shop without buying something. One of our friends called for the owner’s daughter at Easter to see if she was coming to roll her eggs with us on Avenham Park. The mother refused to let her go saying she needed her in the shop. “You can’t go out at Easter, Easter’s our harvest”. When this was reported we wondered how harvest could be at Easter, another grown-up mystery.
If you crossed Avenham Lane, not so busy in those days, you came to a bakers and confectioners. As you went in you could smell baking bread and see the marvellous selection of cakes carried out on trays. As my mother made all our cakes, we only had shop cakes occasionally, sometimes on Sundays and always on birthdays. If it was your birthday you could be the first to choose.
What a treat! I can still remember the joy of it. But the corner shop that left its biggest imprint on me was Frank Wilson’s smart shop selling mostly boys’ and men’s clothes. As girls we seldom went there but my father and brothers were customers. During the war, when rationing coupons were about to be introduced, Mr Wilson suggested that my father buy his entire stock of children’s shoes. There were several children in our family, and my father immediately agreed. The result was a neat pile of shoe boxes stocked in a corner of my parents’ bedroom. When any of us needed a new pair, we had to go and seek them from amongst this dispiriting pile.
Rosa Malloy (Harrison)
Though we all knew we were lucky to have new shoes at all in a time of war, I couldn’t help dreaming of skipping along the street in sandals or patent leather ankle straps rather than a pair of Mr Wilson’s solid black lace-ups. A couple of years ago I needed a new pair of shoes for walking around town. I had already discarded various designs as being uncomfortable, when I spotted some teenagers with very comfortable looking ones. Great idea! I tried some and they felt perfect. I was just about to pay for them when I realised to my horror that they were the dreaded black lace-ups. I rushed from the shop after this lucky escape and bought some pull-on loafers. After all, even for a pensioner there are limits!
Rosa Malloy Rosa still lives in Preston and retains her links with Frenchwood and the parish of St. Augustine’s.
Working in the Mill The strongest memory of working in the mill for me was the noise. It was deafening. We all learnt to lip read, and to talk with our hands; in fact I still do that now. I have always lived in Frenchwood. I was born in Paradise Street, then when I was thirteen we moved to Swillbrook Lane. I started working in the mill when I was fourteen – Centenary Mill. The older mill hands wore clogs – some of my friends did, but I always had shoes to wear. The work was hard and quite monotonous – we started at 8am and worked until 5pm, with an hour’s lunch break. We also had to work on Saturday mornings. My first wage was about £1.10s but it depended on how much cloth you managed to weave. You had to watch the cloth all the time in case of a ladder in the weave; these had to be repaired with ‘thrums’ – spare cotton. Sometimes you might have a ‘smash’, when all the threads broke. If the machine broke the ‘tatlers’ would come and mend them. Smashes and broken machines meant we couldn’t weave as much cotton and that affected our wages. We had to thread the needle in the shuttle by sucking the cotton through. We called it ‘kissing the shuttle’. I moved on to Sovereign Mill and eventually worked four looms.
All my friends were mill workers. The work was hard but once the working day was over we knew how to enjoy ourselves. We could go to the pictures every night of the week if we had enough money – 6d. There were so many cinemas in Church Street – Palladium, Empire, Ritz, New Victoria and Theatre Royal. I saw Al Jolson in the first talking picture – The Singing Fool. We could also go dancing – proper dancing in those days – Thursday night it was at St. Augustine’s for 6d and Sunday night either St. Teresa’s or St. Joseph’s. Jack Devaney played at St. Augustine’s and Eddie Calvert was in the band at St. Joseph’s.
My father James Cooper was a builder. He was interested in radios and made us one at home. We could even get Radio Luxembourg on it. I remember one evening the local policeman coming in to see what we were doing. He was very impressed with my dad! During the war when the siren sounded the looms stopped and everyone went into a warehouse until the ‘all clear’ sounded. We sang songs, and then we went back to work. I left the mills in 1943 to look after my mother. They have all gone now. Centenary is still there but it is no longer a mill. They were good days, but the mills made people deaf, they got bad chests from the fabrics and if the shuttle hit you it really hurt.
Teresa O’Neill Teresa is a Prestonian whose family still live in Frenchwood
The Lamp-lighter Heading home from Stoneygate primary school in winter was a bit of an ordeal for me. Dusk came early and the dark narrow streets looked quite foreboding. At times, strange figures stood on corners, or in doorways, some of them muttering to themselves and looking at me oddly. No, I didn’t like going home up Berry Street when it was dark.
Approaching the first street lamp with a long pole carried on one shoulder, he’d stop and swing the pole round and look up at the lamp. The pole had a small hook sticking out at the top, with a small lighted wick a few inches away. He reached up with the pole and using the hook opened the glass door of the lamp, reached in with the hook and turned on the gas, all in one smooth move. A quick turn of the pole brought the lighted wick close enough to ignite the gas and the gas mantle would light up in several colours, faintly at first before settling down to glow with a warm and steady light. The door would be closed, the pole placed back on one shoulder and with measured steps he’d proceed to the next lamp up the street. It was very comforting to walk up the street behind the lamp-lighter.
At the top of the street we’d part company, for I had now to open a small door set in a wall and I’d be safely in the grounds of the Children’s Home. I’d often pause for a moment while the lamp-lighter was still around and gaze down the street, now illuminated by a line of lamps. Berry Street had lost its dark and dreadful aspect and taken on a more cheerful face.
Oh yes! Gas lamps and cobbled streets had a charm of their own at times. © Dennis Crompton Dennis emigrated to New Zealand in the 1950s and still lives there.
Dennis Crompton on a visit to Preston, 2008
A Blue Badge guide’s view of Frenchwood I first got to know Frenchwood in 2005 when I was researching different tours for Preston. I wandered around. I read many local history books, which did not give me much information – until I read Margaret’s book – Lark Hill. I was captivated. I read Anthony Hewitson’s account of St. Augustine’s, St. James’s and St. Saviour’s churches. I looked at Frenchwood House and Lark Hill and imagined the area as it was in the late 1700s – woodlands, pasturelands and two great houses. I began to realise how much history was here. From the Roman soldiers marching close by on their way to Lancaster; from the little Saxon community high on the ridge in Preston looking out over the area that is now Frenchwood to the Ribble; from the handloom weavers settling in the area, to the massive influx of workers brought in by the Industrial Revolution. Poverty and affluence have both played their part in the area’s development.
Frenchwood has a past; it is also very modern, with a bustling sixth form college, new housing and impressive New Avenham Centre. May it long remain a community, may it never forget the past, but always look towards the future.
Jane Humphreys Lancashire Blue Badge guide
A History of Frenchwood - including reminiscences by former St Augustine's parishioners, Margaret Burscough (Harrison), Rosa Molloy (Harriso...
Published on Feb 23, 2015
A History of Frenchwood - including reminiscences by former St Augustine's parishioners, Margaret Burscough (Harrison), Rosa Molloy (Harriso...