Interesting Facts • Preston Guild City
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Preston Guild City

Interesting Facts

Vintage photo of Preston skyline.

Preston conceals many interesting facts and achievements...

Preston has many claims to fame, a number of which are "firsts". From being home to the tallest spire of any parish church in England to having the longest continuous row of red telephone boxes, the city hides an abundance of quirky and interesting facts.

Early years

Preston's origins can be traced back to the Roman period, with evidence of a Roman road running through the town. The famous Cuerdale Hoard was also discovered near Preston, showing evidence of Viking activity after the Romans. The hoard is one of the largest Viking silver hoards ever found.

In 1179 Preston's first Royal Charter was granted by Henry II conveying the right for the town to have a Guild Merchant. The first recorded celebration of the Preston Guild was held in 1397, when it was already 200 years old.

The first provincial town to be lit by coal gas

In 1816 Reverend Joseph "Daddy" Dunn created an improved gas lighting technique through chemical experiments. Joseph rapidly changed the whole of Lancashire by transporting the cool-gas lighting into the area as well as throughout the UK. By the mid 1800s, Preston became the second town in England after London to be fully lit by coal gas, making it the first provincial town in England to be lit this way. When laying the pipes for the lighting process, some pipes were created from surplus musket barrels as to save money.

Joseph's Preston Gaslight Company offices were located in Avenham. You can see the first building in Preston to be lit by coal gas on the Preston Blue Plaque Heritage Walk.

Where the word "teetotal" was born

Joseph Livesey started the Temperance Movement in Preston in 1832. The followers of the movement were required to sign a pledge of total abstinence. Livesey's first pledge was drawn up in Preston at "The Old Cock Pit".

The term "teetotal" is derived from a speech made in Preston by Richard Turner, a follower of Livesey. The speech urged total abstinence from all alcohol, rather than just the abstinence of spirits.

You can see where the first pledge was drawn up on the Preston Blue Plaque Heritage Walk.

Inspiration for Charles Dickens

It is believed that Charles Dickens' novel "Hard Times" was inspired by his time in Preston. The writer travelled to Preston in 1854 during the Great Lock Out. The strikes saw 26,000 workers put out of work and made headlines across the country as a struggle of the cotton workers against the Preston Cotton Masters.

Dickens stayed at the Bull & Royal Hotel on Church Street, along with many other notable names. The Bull & Royal can be seen on the Preston City Heritage Walk.

Home to Britain's first motorway

The Preston By-pass was Britain's first motorway. It was conceived, promoted, built and initially operated by its engineer, James Drake. The by-pass was opened on 5 December 1958 by the Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan. It later became part of the M6 motorway. 

The first Kentucky Fried Chicken

In 1965 Ray Allen opened the UK's first Kentucky Fried Chicken store on Fishergate, Preston. Ray met Colonel Harland Sanders in 1963, securing the famous American's fast food rights for his secret fried chicken recipe for the UK. 

The arrival of KFC in the UK came almost a decade before McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut.

The tallest spire in England

St Walburge's Church boasts a towering 309ft spire. The spire is the tallest of any Parish church in England and the third tallest of any church in the UK, with only the spires of Salisbury and Norwich Anglican Cathedral reaching higher. 

The church was built in the mid-19th century and designed by Gothic Revival architect, Joseph Hansom, also the designer of the Hansom cab.

Home of the famous Dick, Kerr Ladies

The Dick, Kerr Ladies were formed in 1917 in Preston and shaped women's football.

The team worked and came together in Dick, Kerr & Co Ltd, a Preston munitions works. By 1921 the team were incredibly popular and were booked to play an average of two games a week. Despite the team's roaring success, the FA eventually banned women from using league grounds.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies are best known for not giving up when times got hard and continued to play over 800 games in the UK and abroad, raising over £180,000 for charity. After claiming to be World Champions, the team were challenged by Edinburgh Ladies. The Dick, Kerr Ladies accepted their challenge and won the match 5-1.

Other interesting facts

  • Preston’s Caribbean Carnival, founded in 1974, is one of the oldest in the UK. The annual carnival celebrates the flamboyant and creative Caribbean culture within the city.
  • Leo Baxendale, born in Preston in 1930, drew the Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx and Dennis the Menace for the children’s comic 'The Beano'.
  • Alan Schofield broke the world record for the longest putt ever at 166ft 8in. The record was broken on 5 August 2000 at Fishwick Hall Golf Club, Preston. It was recognised as an official world record by the Guinness Book of Records. A plaque has been placed at the spot where the shot was taken. 
     
  • The row of red public telephone boxes along Preston's Market Street is the longest continuous row of the old style kiosks anywhere in the country. They were designed by Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Preston’s war memorial on the Flag Market.
  • Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, once stayed at a property whilst visiting family on the corner of Cheapside and Friargate in the city centre. A blue plaque can be found here by following the Preston Blue Plaque Heritage Walk.
  • The parents of legendary American outlaw, Butch Cassidy, lived in Preston before emigrating to America. It was said that Butch spoke with a strong Lancashire accent.