In 1724, Daniel Defoe, now most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe, wrote:
‘Preston is a fine town, and tolerably full of people, but not like Liverpool or Manchester; besides now we come beyond the trading part of the county. Here’s no manufacture; the town is full of attorneys, proctors and notaries. The people are very gay here, though not perhaps the richer for that, but it has by that obtained the name of Proud Preston.’
Almost 300 years later, Preston remains a major regional capital, home to the Crown Court - the highest court in Lancashire – and a number of historically important buildings, including Sessions House on Lancaster Road. Preston has been involved in a huge number of high profile cases over the years, its oldest court building now occupied by the Museum of Lancashire. The Guild city is also the location of one the country’s oldest prisons,
The concentration of courts continues to attract a large number of solicitors and lawyers to the area, and contributes to the social and economic development of the city. Among the most notable were William Cross, who built the first house in 1798 on what is now Winckley Square; Edmund Harris, whose bequest led to the formation of the Harris Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Orphanage and Institute; and Richard Newsham, who left his art collection to Preston in 1883.
Preston’s county town status in Lancashire reflects its continued strategic and political importance. As a result, many of the regional services remain centred on Preston, including the police force, hospitals and welfare organisations, as well as various key Lancashire County Council services which are based at County Hall, the former Park Hotel, and around Winckley Square.
Image: Engraving of Prison and Court House, Hardwick, 1856, now the Museum of Lancashire