Preston in the 1800s

Preston early 20thC


By the time of the first census in 1801 Preston had a population of 11,887. By the standards of the time it was a large town. Moreover Preston grew rapidly during in the 19th century. By 1851 Preston had a population of 69,361. This was despite epidemics of cholera in 1832 and 1848.

Like all early 19th century towns Preston was dirty and unsanitary. The situation improved a little in the late 19th century with the building of sewers but even in the early 20th century many of the townspeople used earth closets (basically a bucket that was emptied at night into a cart by the 'nightsoilmen').

During the 19th century there were some improvements in the amenities in Preston. From 1800 Preston had night watchmen that patrolled the streets at night. The first modern police force in the town was formed in 1836. Meanwhile in 1809 a dispensary where the poor could obtain free medicines opened. The Royal Infirmary opened in 1870.

After 1816 the streets of Preston were lit by gas and a cornmarket, where grain could be bought and sold was built in 1824. From 1832 there was a piped water supply. At first it was provided by a private company but in 1853 the corporation bought the waterworks. Then in 1838 the railway reached Preston.

Life in 19th century Preston gradually improved. The first museum in Preston opened in 1841. Then in 1855 a cemetery was opened. Also in 1855 St Johns Church was built. A new Town Hall was built in Preston in 1867. Also in 1867 a cattle market was built in the town.

In the late 19th century Preston council opened public parks. Miller Park was laid out in 1864. Moor Park opened in 1867. Farington Park was opened in 1885.

From 1879 horse drawn trams ran in Preston. Also in 1879 a free library opened in the town hall. The first telephone exchange in Preston opened in 1881. In 1893 the Harris Museum and Art Gallery opened.

A training school for deaf and dumb children opened in 1894 and Victoria Jubilee Technical School opened in 1897.

During the 19th century industry in Preston was dominated by cotton. By 1835 there were 40 cotton mills. There was industrial unrest in the early 19th century with demonstrations in 1808 and 1818 and a strike in 1836. In 1853-54 the employers locked out the employees.

The docks in Preston also flourished during the 19th century. Albert Edward Dock was built in 1892. As well as export and imports to other countries there was a considerable coastal trade in the 19th century. Grain was 'imported' from other parts of the country and coal from the Wigan coalfield was 'exported' to other parts of Britain.

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