Superlative WalksUrban and rural trails, each with something very special
1. The walk begins at the car park of Morrisons Supermarket on the Riversway development, formerly Preston Docks, at Grid Reference 297515 on OS Landranger Sheet 102. The Supermarket has a cafe and toilets. Leave the car park opposite the DFS furniture store, cross the road and turn left, follow the road round to the right and walk along the path with retail buildings on the right towards the Ribble Pilot Pub.
The River Ribble was used for navigation for many centuries, serving trade with Ireland and, from the 18th century, the Balkans, America and the West Indies. The dock, away from the river, opened in 1892, when it was named Prince Albert Edward dock. At that time it was the largest enclosed dock in Europe, covering 40 acres. In 1948 the UK’s first roll-on roll-off service started from here, serving Larne using the SS Empire Cedric a former tank carrier. In the 1960s the dock dealt with the largest volume of container and ferry traffic in the UK. The costs of dredging and decline in trade led to the closure of the port in 1981. The land around the dock was redeveloped for a mixture of residential, retail and commercial uses between 1985 and 2003.
2. With the Ribble Pilot Pub on the right, cross the road to the left and go though a gap in the hedge to Watery Lane. Turn right and walk towards the city centre, passing the former Dock offices on the left and a former buoy by the junction with Port Way on the right Continue along Watery Lane for about 400 metres to a complex traffic light controlled junction. Cross to the left at the lights at the junction with Strand Road. Turn left and then right around the bend opposite.
The Dock Offices were built in a dour Art Deco style in 1936. The Nelson Buoys were relocated from their original moorings, eight miles off the coast at Lytham, where they marked the safe passage in to Preston
3. Turn right up West View Terrace, climbing the steps after about 100 metres with terraced houses on the left and railings on the right. Turn left at the end of the terrace then first right into Wellington Street, passing an attractive terrace on the right and the former St Mark’s Church on the left. Turn left into Bromley Street, by a small corner open space, right into St Mark’s Road and then left into Wellfield Road. Cross the railway bridge.
St Mark’s was built in 1862–63 costing £6,594.The tower was added between 1868 & 1870, particularly tall to rival the very high steeple of the nearby Roman Catholic St Walburge’s Church (see later) which had been added to that church in 1867. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner says that it “tries to complete with the steeple of St Walburge in prominence and to defeat it by solidity and sensibleness”. The church was declared redundant in 1982. The building lay empty for ten years and was then converted into residential flats.
4. After the railway bridge turn right into Pedder Street. The street is dominated by St Walburge’s Church (which may be visited at certain times.) Continue to the far end of Pedder Street, turn right into Maudland Bank, cross the “weak bridge” then turn left into Maudland Road, opposite UCLan’s JB Firth Building.
St Walburge’s Roman Catholic Church was built in 1850-54 by the Gothic revival architect Joseph Hansom, designer of the hansom cab. St Walburge’s spire, rising to 309 feet (94 m) is the dominant landmark in Preston. After Salisbury and Norwich Cathedrals, it is the third tallest spire in the UK, and is the tallest on a parish church. The steeple is constructed from limestone sleepers which originally carried the nearby Preston and Longridge Railway, giving the spire a red tint during sunset. The spire was the last to be worked upon by steeplejack and TV personality Fred Dibnah.
The J.B.Firth Building, opened in 2011, houses the schools of Forensic and Investigative Sciences and Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. It was named after local forensic pioneer, James Brierley Firth, who established the Northwest’s first forensic science laboratory in Preston.
5. Walk along Maudland Road. Note the community garden at Cold Bath Street. Bear left up Stocks Street to the “Ships and Giggles pub on the right at the junction with Fylde Road. Turn left, cross Fylde Road then turn right into St Peter’s Square, with St Peter’s Arts Centre on the left. Continue to the University Library also on the left.
“Ships and Giggles” was previously known as “The Ship.” Definite improvement. St Peter’s was built between 1822 &1825.The steeple was added in 1851–52 by Joseph Mitchell. The church was taken over in 1973 by Preston Polytechnic (later UCLan) and became known as St Peters Arts Centre. It seats 250 people and hosts student productions and university events
6. Turn right down Adelphi Street. At the roundabout go straight on into Friargate. Walk along its right side to the junction by the Old Black Bull pub.
Along Friargate, note the elaborate lighting and sculpture, called “Trees in a Landscape” by sculptor Clare Bigger (2006.) Also note, on the left, the Humane Building. For most of the 19th and early 20th century this was the ‘Roast Beef Inn.’ In 1924, the police were said to be “desirous of closing this house because they were difficult of Police supervision, and could be spared without causing inconvenience.” In 1926 the building became the premises of the ‘Preston Humane Assurance Collecting Society.’
7. At the major junction by the Old Black Bull cross the road and continue up Friargate, with the St George’s Shopping Centre on your right of this pedestrianised street. At the Black Horse Hotel, turn left up Orchard Street. Note the “WE SHALL HAVE RAIN” sign above a shop on the left.
The Black Horse Hotel was built in 1898 for the Atlas Brewery, replacing an earlier pub of the same name and still has an attractive brick exterior and a splendid interior. The “WE SHALL HAVE RAIN” sign was applied when the building in Orchard Street was Goodwin Brothers Umbrella Shop. The line is taken from the old weather folklore saying that “if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (15 July) then we shall have rain for forty days.
8. Walk up Orchard Street to reach the massive covered roofs of Preston’s Open Market. Slightly to the right, walk between the two market roof structures, passing the former Police Station at the junction with Birley Street. Continue towards the St John’s Shopping Centre and turn left into Lancaster Road.
The Open Markets were first built in 1870-75. At first the structures collapsed. The disputes with contractors which followed explain the different names on the pedestals above the columns.
9. Walk along Lancaster Road and cross the road to the right by the Black A Moor Hotel. Turn right into Old Vicarage.
On the left of Lancaster Road is the large Art Deco “Lancastria house” an interwar “Co-op Emporium.
10. Walk down Old Vicarage towards the Bus Station. Turn right before the bus station forecourt, into Orchard Street
Preston Bus Station is a dramatic brutalist building designed by Preston-based Building Design Partnership in 1967. It has capacity for 80 buses, 40 along each side of the building. It is the largest bus station in the UK and second in Western Europe, after Helsinki. It incorporates a multi-storey car park for 1100 cars.
The building was threatened with demolition as part of a failed development project. In 2000, opposition to demolition led to a failed application for listed building status. A survey conducted by the local newspaper in 2010 found that Preston Bus Station was Preston people’s favourite building. In 2013 listed building status was applied for by English Heritage and it was granted Grade II status. A £23 million refurbishment project is underway, due to be completed in 2019.
11. Continue to the end of Orchard Street, opposite Preston Bus Station. Turn right and by The Tithebarn pub turn right again into Lord Street. At the end of the street, on the left is the massive Guild Hall and, on the far side of Lancaster Road, Preston Town Hall.
The Guild Hall and Charter Theatre were built in 1969 – 1973 for the celebration of the 1972 Preston Guild. In 1179, King Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant and awarded the town its first royal charter. The Guild was an organisation of traders, craftsmen and merchants, who had a monopoly of trade in the town. Only members of the Guild could carry out a craft or business and newcomers could only trade with permission from the Guild. Gatherings for renewing membership were infrequent and it was soon accepted that they were only required once in a generation. As a result, from 1542, Preston Guild took place every 20 years.The rarity of the event, and the fact that large numbers of people congregated in Preston for the occasion, made the Guild a special opportunity for feasting, processions and great social gatherings. In 1790 there was freedom of trade in the town, which abolished the need for a Guild and rights of burgesses. However, people continued to celebrate the Guild, as its festivities had developed into prestigious social occasions, which continue to flourish today. The Guild has always drawn large crowds of visitors to witness the processions and official events. Wealthier visitors went to concerts and plays, or watched horse-racing on what is now Moor Park. Ordinary folk enjoyed circuses, fairs, travelling comedians and exhibitions of curiosity. The first eye-witness account of the Guild dates from 1682. There have been 26 Guilds for which records survive, held every 20 years – apart from a wartime interruption, which led to no Guild in 1942. The Guild Hall was intended to be ready for the 1972 Guild, but construction was delayed and it officially opened in 1973. The complex has two performance venues, the Grand Hall which holds 2,034 people and the Charter Theatre which holds 780 people. Artists that have performed at the venue include Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Jackson 5 and Thin Lizzy. It also hosted theUK Snooker Championships for many years. Until July 2014, it was owned by Preston Council, who were considering its demolition due to its high running costs. It was then sold to local businessman Simon Rigby, who has promised to spend £1m to renovate the venue. The Town Hall, formerly the Municipal Buildings, was built in 1933-4 to augment a former grand Town Hall built nearby in 1867, damaged by fire in 1947 and demolished in 1962.
12. Turn left into Lancaster Road then right into Harris Street, between the Harris building on your left and the County Sessions Hall on your right. From Harris Street enter the market Square.
The Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library is a massive, neo-classical building, built at a cost of £80,000 using a bequest from a local lawyer, Edmund Robert Harris. The foundation stone was laid in the 1882 Guild year and the building was completed in 1893. The interior is a spectacular as the exterior with some interesting collections of art and exhibitions on the history of Preston. The County Sessions Hall was built in 1900-03 in an English Baroque style. with a 172 ft/52 metre tower.
13. Cross the Market Square diagonally to the left to Cheapside. Turn right into Fishergate, Preston’s main shopping street. After about 200 metres, turn left into Winckley Street. Enter Winckley Square and cross the Gardens in the centre.
Winckley Square was laid out and developed with housing around the undulating central gardens between 1796 & 1824. Many of the houses were originally occupied by the nouveaux riches of the Industrial Revolution but are now in commercial use. The square’s gardens, now a public park, were originally private plots, each owned by a resident. On its East side is a statue of Robert Peel by Thomas Duckett of Preston (1851), criticised at the time for the tightness of the trousers.
14. Exit Winckley Square in the far right corner into Ribblesdale Place. Where this bends to the left, carry straight on into Avenham Park. Walk down hill, past the Japanese Rock Garden on the left and under a bridge, where the park becomes Miller Park.
Avenham Park was designed and built in the 1860s. iI features a number of historical structures such as The Belvedere, The Swiss Chalet, The Boer War Memorial and Riverside Walk. The park is one of two city centre Victorian parks in Preston, the other being its neighbour Miller Park. The two parks are separated by the East Lancashire Railway embankment and access is through the Ivy Bridge and along Riverside Walk. The East Lancashire Railway line closed in the 1970s although the viaduct across the river remains. The park includes long open lawn areas and hosts a number of events throughout the year. The Japanese Rock Garden which was added in the 1930s when this type of design became fashionable. The Belvedere, on high ground at the northeastern corner of the park, overlooks the main park and river. It was originally located in Miller Park but was moved to make way for the statue of the Earl of Derby. The Belvedere is known locally as the “White House” or the “Light House”. After a design competition, in 2008 the new Pavilion, with its cafe, opened.
15. After entering Miller Park though the bridge turn left to follow the path which bends right then leads down to a fountain and then left to the riverside. Turn right along the riverside path. After passing under the railway bridge, arrive at the Continental.
Miller Park features a number of historical structures including a sundial, a grotto and a fountain. There is also an impressive statue of the 14th Earl of Derby, who was British Prime Minister 1866 – 1868. The land for the park was donated by local cotton manufacturer Thomas Miller. This park is more formal than its neighbour and includes attractive bedding displays, a Rose Garden and the regal Derby Walk. It is overlooked by the East Cliff offices of Lancashire County Council which are spread between the former Park Hotel and the adjacent modern concrete office block
16. From the Continental, continue down the riverside. Pass, but do not cross, an old stone bridge and carry on by the river to a major road junction. Cross at the traffic lights and carry straight on, following the river and the “Guild Wheel” sign. By the sea cadets’ building, go right then left and under a road bridge. 700 metres after the road bridge the path veers slightly from the riverside and has shrubs on both sides. After a further 300 metres, cross the railway line, following signs to “Dockside Walk.”
Preston Docks has had a railway since 1850. The final tar trains ran in 1995. Steamport Southport, formerly based at the old engine shed in Southport, moved to their new home on the dockside at Preston. The railway opened to the public in September 2005. A visit to the site, on weekends from May to September, gives the opportunity to travel along the 1½ mile dock and riverside line and access the new museum and workshop. The line crosses the entrance to Preston Marina via a swing bridge, and runs alongside the River Ribble.