- For other places with the same name, see Preston (disambiguation).
Preston is a city in the county of Lancashire in North West England, with a population in 2011 of 132,000. It's a former textile and engineering town; it still makes aircraft, hosts the county local government, and has a university. It became a "city" in 2002 but this is purely ceremonial.
Preston stands at a crossing point over the River Ribble on the main route up the west coast towards Scotland. The Ribble valley together with Yorkshire's River Aire creates the "Aire Gap" where the Pennines can be crossed at low altitude, so there was an east-west route also. "Preston" means "priest town": the church held extensive tracts of land hereabouts. The land near town is fertile and lowland, well-suited to dairy farming.
There is a plausible legend that William Shakespeare was in a theatre troupe that toured this area, brandishing their wooden swords at Hoghton Tower and Old Rufford Hall. Preston's position meant that several real armies marched through, and two battles were fought here. It has street names such as Fishergate and Friargate but was never a walled city, "gate" simply meant a street. It remained a small market town until the 19th century then grew rapidly with the cotton trade. That brought wealth to a few but when Karl Marx declared in 1854 that “Our St Petersburg is at Preston!” he wasn't paying a compliment to the civic architecture, but envisaging the mass uprising of the working classes. Yet Preston sucked in labour from Ireland and Glasgow, which had even worse working and living conditions, and as well as cotton it was a metal-bashing town. Leyland a few miles south turned the metal into buses and trucks, while aircraft were made at Wharton and Samlesbury. The town already had Preston North End as its football team, but in 1917 munitions workers at Dick, Kerr & Co formed another team, which proved more successful and popular. The Football Association were horrified and banned them, since Dick Kerr were women; yet they battled on until 1965.
The town slumped in the late 20th century when textile and heavy engineering work was lost abroad, and the docks couldn't be upgraded for larger shipping. However the aircraft industry continued, as did the county administration (although large sections of Lancashire were lost to other counties in 1974, and Lancaster remains the ceremonial county town). The major gain was in university status for the former polytechnic, now UCLAN, creating employment and a student buzz about the place.
Famous people from Preston include Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-92) inventor of the spinning frame, Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff (b 1977) the cricketer, Glubb Pasha (1897-1986) commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion, Robert W Service (1874-1954) poet of stirring ballads set in the Yukon, Edward Harris (1804-1877) lawyer and founder of the Harris Institute, and Nick Park (b 1958) creator of "Wallace and Gromit".
Preston itself has an aerospace industry so any large commercial aircraft skimming low on finals over the town is bringing company suits to BAE Wharton or Samlesbury. Blackpool Squires Gate remains in business but has no scheduled flights.
Preston has trains hourly from London Euston, taking 2 hr 10 min via Warrington and Wigan. These are run by Avanti West Coast and continue north via Lancaster, Penrith and Carlisle to Glasgow Central, another 2 hr 20 min.
Slower Avanti trains from Euston, taking 3 hr and overtaken by the Glasgow service, run hourly through the Midlands via Milton Keynes, Coventry, Birmingham International and New Street, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Warrington and Wigan. From Preston they either head to Blackpool North, or north to Lancaster, Oxenholme (for Kendal and the Lake District), Carlisle and Edinburgh.
There are hourly connections from Liverpool via St Helens and Wigan, from York via Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Burnley and Accrington, and from Leeds via Salford. There are two routes from Blackpool: from North the main station every 15 min via Poulton-le-Fylde and Kirkham, and from South near Pleasure Beach every hour or two via St Anne's, Lytham and Kirkham.
The Caledonian Highland Sleeper rumbles through Preston shortly after midnight on its way from Euston to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. The southbound return train drops off around 04:30. You can't use this service or the Lowland Sleeper for Edinburgh or Glasgow, take a day-time train.
The 1 railway station is at the foot of Fishergate, a five minute walk to town centre and with several bus routes. There's a staffed ticket office, machines, ATM, cafe and toilets.
Plusbus tickets are available.
From London the most convenient is Megabus, a daily run at 08:00 from Victoria via Birmingham and Manchester Airport and city centre, taking six hours for a fare of £16. It continues north to Lancaster and Glasgow.
National Express run nightly from Victoria to Birmingham (NX400 for Wolverhampton), where you change for the bus via Manchester Airport and city centre to Preston (NX181 for Lancaster, Carlisle, Hamilton and Glasgow). You arrive around 02:30, seven hours altogether for a single fare in 2022 of £30.
Stagecoach is the main regional operator. Bus X2 runs hourly from Liverpool via Southport, Tarleton and Penwortham.
Bus 59 runs every 20 min from Blackburn via Mellor Brook, taking 35 min.
Bus 61 runs every 20 min from Blackpool via Kirkham, taking an hour.
Bus 125 runs every 20 min from Bolton via Horwich, Chorley and Bamber Bridge, taking 90 min.
Bus 40 runs every 30 min from Morecambe via Lancaster town and university, Galgate, Garstang and Bilsborrow.
Preston 2 bus station is a concrete Brutalist creation of 1968, refurbished in 2019. There's a cafe open M-Sa 07:00-17:00, and a multi-storey car park above.
From north or south use M6. From east of the country (eg Leeds) A65 / A59 is a scenic route across the Pennines via Skipton, but congested on summer weekends. You're quicker taking M62 to Manchester then M61.
From the coast around Blackpool use M55 for north end of town or to bypass it. Use A583 through Kirkham for the centre and south. A western bypass or link road between these two routes is due to open in 2023.
Preston was bypassed by Britain's first motorway M6, opened in Dec 1958 a year ahead of the first section of M1. Its original two lanes were later expanded to three then four, while the route extended from M1 in the Midlands via Cheshire to Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow, with spurs to Blackpool (M55) and Colne Valley (M65).
There are two Park & Ride sites: Portway near the docks, and Walton-le-Dale south of the river. For details see Preston Bus.
Stagecoach operate the out-of-town buses and Preston Bus operate routes in town. Fishwicks went bust in 2015.
Some you might use are 12, 43 and 100 between the bus and railway stations, and 19, 49 and 6 to Preston North End.
- 1 Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Market Square, PR1 2PP, ☏ . Closed. Collections of fine and decorative art, costumes, textiles, photography with displays about the history of Preston, in an impressive 19th century Grade I listed building in the centre of the city. Includes a new gallery dedicated to ceramics and glass. The building is closed for renovation until 2024.
- The Cenotaph is centrepiece of Market Square west side of the Harris. A block north are the Market Halls.
- Preston Minster (aka St John the Evangelist) is central, on Church St. It's Anglican, a confident piece of Gothic completed in 1855.
- Winckley Square 200 yards east of the railway station is a rare survival in town of Georgian / Regency style. It was built in 1801 as upmarket townhouses but is nowadays mostly offices. The gardens are a public park.
- Avenham and Miller Parks south of Winckley Square are bosky green spaces where the river carves a natural amphitheatre.
- St Walburge is an RC church on Weston Street, half a mile north of the railway station, and you'll see its 309 ft / 94 m spire from afar. It was opened in 1854, a product of Catholic emancipation, textile wealth and Gothic Revival design - its architect Joseph Hansom was the fellow who created the hansom cab. The church is now in the keeping of a traditionalist society who celebrate the Tridentine Mass - the 16th century Latin form, the better to keep Preston free of modern depravity. Walburga herself (710-777 AD) was a Wessex noblewoman who became a nun in Wimborne then abbess of a Germany monastery.
- PR1 Gallery is in the Victoria Building on the UCLAN campus. It has rotating exhibitions and is open weekdays, free.
- The Birley is an artists' studio with rotating exhibitions. It's on Birley St 100 yards north of the Harris.
- Wallace and Gromit pose in a scene from "The Wrong Trousers" outside Market Hall at the top of Earl St, 100 yards north of the Harris. Their creator Nick Park was born and grew up in Preston, and conferred the town name's upon the sinister sheepdog in "A Close Shave".
- 2 Lancashire Infantry Museum, Fulwood Barracks, Watling Street Rd PR2 8AA, ☏ . F Sa 10:00-16:00. Dedicated to the county's military history, with memorabilia, archive and library. You must bring photo ID (and non-UK visitors phone in advance) as this remains an active army base. The MOD are in the process of quitting the barracks but the museum for the time being remains. Adult £6, conc or child £4.
- 3 Ribble Steam Railway, Chain Caul Rd PR2 2PD, ☏ . Apr-Sept, days vary. This is a preserved standard-gauge 1½ mile stretch of line in the docklands, running since 2005 when a Southport heritage railway collection moved here. Adult £9.50, conc £7.50, child £6.50.
- Preston Dock is an artificial basin created in 1892, to enable berthing at all tides. The docks flourished with the textile trade in the 19th century but were always hampered by the shallow River Ribble: ships grew bigger faster than the navigable channel could be enlarged. There was a late heyday as a banana port 1950-1970, when purpose-built Geest boats plied from the West Indies, and what had been a tropical delicacy became a budget staple of the British diet. But their replacement boats were too large, the docks couldn't be adapted for containers, and the Ulster ferry relocated to Stranraer. The docks closed in 1981 and have been turned into a marina. There's little historic remaining except the dockland railway, above.
- 4 Brockholes, Preston PR5 0AG (jcn M6 and A59). All daylight hours. Family-friendly nature reserve and wetland in a bend of the River Ribble. Parking £5.
- 5 Church Cottage is a 16th century house and inn in Broughton. It's closed ufn.
- 6 British Commercial Vehicle Museum, King Street, Leyland PR25 2LE, ☏ . Th-Su 10.00-16:30. Britain once made the buses, trucks, farm and military vehicles for not just itself but for all the "pink bits" on the world map - many were built right here, by Leyland Motors. That firm folded in 1968 and the site is now this museum of the British road transport industry, "the big story of big vehicles" as they put it, with a great collection. The original building was too cold in winter but it was rebuilt in 2018 and now opens year-round. Adult £8, child £4.
- Leyland also has St Andrew's Church half a mile south; the chancel is from 14th century. Adjacent is South Ribble Museum in a 16th century schoolhouse, but closed ufn. Worden Park south again has the remain of its old hall, with the cafe in a folly.
- 7 Samlesbury Hall: see Blackburn for this 14th century house on A59 six miles east of Preston.
- 8 Hoghton Tower: see Chorley for this 16th century fortified manor.
- 9 Rufford Old Hall: see Ormskirk for this Tudor-Jacobean manor.
- 10 Garstang has a well-preserved old village centre and attractive stretch of the canal. Greenhalgh Castle a mile east is the sorry stump of a 15th century redoubt. Garstang Agricultural Show is held early August, with the next on 6 Aug 2022.
- What's on? Listen to Beat Radio on 103.2 FM or read Lancashire Evening Post.
- Watch football at 1 Preston North End, Deepdale Stadium, Sir Tom Finney Way PR1 6RU. The Lilywhites, founded in 1880, play soccer in the EFL Championship, the country's second tier. Their home ground Deepdale (capacity 23,000) is a mile north of town centre up A6063. "The Splash" is a sculpture outside the stadium of Tom Finney (1922-2014) skidding to belt the ball up a sodden pitch.
- Moor Park is the mile-wide park west of the football stadium, with dozens of playing pitches.
- Rugby: Preston Grasshoppers play rugby union in the North Premier League, England's fifth tier. Their home ground is on Lightfoot Green Lane north edge of town. Rugby League isn't played hereabouts, head south for the likes of Wigan and St Helens.
- Theatre: The Playhouse is on Market St West.
- Preston Opera use various venues.
- Guildhall is a multi-purpose events venue 100 yards west of the bus station. The library is re-housed here until the Harris reopens.
- Blitz is a live music venue on Church Row 100 yards north of the Minster.
- Cinemas are the Odeon in dockland, and Vue on London Road just south of the river bridge. Uclan and Light independent cinemas in town centre remain closed in 2022.
- 2 Flower Bowl Entertainment Centre, Garstang Rd, Brock PR3 0BT (6 miles north of town), ☏ . Daily 09:30-22:30. Entertainment complex with bowling alleys, cinema, curling rink and golf simulator.
- Lancaster Canal starts in Preston and winds its way north through Garstang, Lancaster and Carnforth then is curtailed by the M6 at Tewitfield. It has a good towpath and is navigable throughout. There are no locks, as it detours west to avoid Longridge and sweeps over the Lune Valley by an impressive Georgian aqueduct. There are spurs to the Ribble estuary at Lytham and to the Lune estuary at Glasson Dock, but no connection to the national canal network - goods were hauled across the Ribble valley at Preston by a horse-drawn tramway. The canal south of there has been lost under modern building except for a very short section at the junction with the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
- Battle of Preston is a suggested walking trail, but it's through modern areas with little more than street names to recall events of 1715. It was the last act of the Jacobite "Old Pretender's" campaign for the crown, a siege followed by fierce street fighting. The Hanoverian troops sustained the worse losses but the Jacobites were captured, and put to death or transported to America. In 1745 the "Young Pretender" tried again, advancing then retreating through Preston without battle. Similarly nothing but street names mark the battle of 1648 at Ribbleton, when Cromwell surprised and trounced the Royalists.
- Trace your ancestors at Lancashire Archives and County Record Office. They're at Bow Lane, west side of the railway station, and open Tu-F 09:30-17:00.
- Golf: lots of courses nearby. Preston GC is in Fulwood. Further north are Inskip, Myerscough, Goosnargh, Longridge and Garstang (by Best Western, see Sleep). Ashton & Lea is west of town. South of the river are Penwortham and Leyland.
- 3 Beacon Fell is only 873 ft / 266 m high but rises prominently from the lowlands. It's a pleasant country park. Use OS Landranger Map 102 for trails here and on the Pennines rising sharply a couple of miles northeast: Parlick, Fair Snape (1706 ft / 510 m) and Hazlehurst.
- 4 Worden Park, Leyland. Public park with a Georgian walled garden, hedge maze and adventure playground. The park was created in 1951 in the grounds of Worden Hall which was destroyed by fire in 1941. Worden Hall had been a family home with history going back to 1230. free.
- Lancashire Fringe Festival is probably next on 25 April - 23 May 2023, tbc. Performances are free, donations welcome.
- Preston Guild is a series of civic events held every 20 years, so it's a Lancashire byword for rarity, like "once in a blue moon". The next Guild is in 2032.
Preston is the main campus of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), with 25,000 students in 2020. It started out as the Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1828. This evolved into Harris Art College, then Preston Polytechnic, then Lancashire Polytechnic, and became a university in 1992. Its other campuses are in Burnley, Westlakes near Whitehaven in Cumbria, and Pyla in Cyprus.
- St George's Centre is the largest and most central, occupying the block between Fishergate and Friargate.
- Fishergate Shopping Centre is further west down that street, next to the railway station.
- Miller Arcade is a Victorian arcade south side of the Harris.
- St John's Shopping Centre is west side of the bus station.
- Local specialities include Lancashire cheese, Goosnargh cake and butter pie. This last was also known as Friday Pie or Catholic Pie, as it's made of potatoes, onions and butter and therefore free of meat. It's made and sold in many places, and in Wigan it serves as the vegetarian option in the World Pie-eating Championships. It was traditional half-time fare at Preston North End games, whereas other clubs' fans ate pork pies: in 2007 the supplier folded, and there was an outcry from PNE fans until a new supply was established.
- KFC arrived in Britain in 1965, a decade ahead of other chains, and their first branch on Fishergate is still in business (open daily 11:00-22:00). Its founder Harry Latham worked with the original Colonel Sanders in the US, and went on to direct KFC's UK expansion. Late at night after KFC and the pubs closed, the life-sized cut-outs of the Colonel were wont to appear at bus stops across town.
- Fishergate into Church St is the main strip, with Bistro Pierre, Theatre St Bar & Grill, Kimji Korean, We Don't Give a Fork, Fino Tapas, Florianas, Turtle Bay, Angelo's and East Z East.
- Friargate northwest has Tino's, Azuma, Greekouzina, and Coco's Soul Food.
- Towards dockland are Taboosh, Umberto's and Maharani.
- "At Lancashire Pricks Trial, just past, a walnut from Bacup came last."
- "Twere a good 'un from Wigan, twere really a big 'un, but best 'un, from Preston, were vast."
- - Further evidence, as if any were needed, of Shakespeare's connection to this area
- Fishergate into Church St has The Old Vic, Hartley's Wine Bar, Kuckoo, Winckley Street Ale House, Niko, All Hopes No Promises, Wings & Beer, Wellington Inn, Detroit Preston, Strato's, Yates, Baluga Bar, Hogarth's, Twelve Tellers (below), Barney's and The Blue Bell.
- The Twelve Tellers, 15 Church Street PR1 3BQ (opposite Minster), ☏ . Su-Th 08:00-00:00, F Sa 08:00-02:00. JD Wetherspoon's pub in the Edwardian Baroque former Preston Savings Bank - twelve tellers lined its long counter. Good reviews for food, drink and service. There's another Spoons at Grey Friar on Friargate, below.
- Lancaster Rd north past the Harris has Stanley Arms (below), Smashed, Review, Guild Ale House, Golden Cross and Black-a-Moor Head.
- Stanley Arms, 24 Lancaster Road PR1 1DA (opposite Harris), ☏ , Info@stanleyarmspreston.co.uk. Su-Th 11:30-01:00, F Sa 11:30-0300. Trad central pub with decent grub.
- Friargate northeast has Black Horse (below), Old Black Bull, The Grey Friar, Dog & Partridge, Plau Gin & Beer House and Roper Hall.
- Black Horse, 166 Friargate PR1 2EJ, ☏ . M-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-00:00, Su 12:00-23:00. Remarkable pub in Arts & Crafts style.
- Towards dockland are The Wellington and The Ribble Pilot, below.
- The Ribble Pilot, Docklands PR2 2YN (east end of marina), ☏ . Daily 11:30-23:00. Family-friendly Marston's pub with food.
- Breweries are Priest Town Brewing in Ribbleton, and Budweiser at Samlesbury.
- Distilleries, mostly producing gin, are No 1 Fairham Gin in town, Brindle towards Chorley, Stable Yard towards Kirkham, Ribble Valley at Longridge, and Goosnargh Gin and Wild Fox both in Goosnargh.
- Water in Preston is soft and pure from upland sources - suitable for cotton processing, whereas hard Yorkshire water will do for wool but not cotton. So raise a glass of it to Joseph Livesey (1794-1884), cheesemonger, publisher, social reformer and founder in 1833 of the Temperance movement in Britain. They advocated abstinence from all alcohol except medicinal use - a handy get-out, secretly toasted by many who never entered a pub. One of his stuttering disciples emphasised that one should abstain "tee- tee- totally!" hence Teetotalism.
- Premier Inn Preston Central, Fox St PR1 2AB (200 m north of railway station), ☏ . Reliable chain hotel right in town centre. But no hotel parking (use St Wilfred's Street, £8 for 24 hr), and some street noise. B&B double £80.
- Ashwood Hotel, 11 Fishergate Hill PR1 8JB (100 yards west of railway station), ☏ . Comfy central budget hotel. B&B double £60.
- Winckley Square Hotel, 10 Camden Place PR1 3JL (200 yards east of railway station), ☏ . Charming central hotel, great value. B&B double £80.
- Holiday Inn, Ringway House PR1 3AU (just north of bus station), ☏ . Decent mid-priced hotel, very central, limited parking, some street noise. B&B double £65.
- 1 Travelodge Preston Central, Preston Farmers Office, 47 New Hall Lane PR1 5NX, ☏ . Budget hotel in a converted red-brick mill east side of centre, okay for what you pay. Car park very tight. Pet friendly. B&B double £75.
- 2 Holiday Inn Express Preston South, Walton Summit Rd, Bamber Bridge PR5 8AA (junction 29 of M6), ☏ . Comfy value hotel south of town, a good motorway break-of-journey. Pet-friendly. B&B double £70.
- 3 Samlesbury Hotel, Preston New Road, Samlesbury PR5 0UL (jcn of A59 and A677), ☏ . Clean spacious mid-price hotel with restaurant, bar and leisure facilities. B&B double £65.
- Ibis Preston North is a value-for-money place at Junction 1 of M55.
- 4 Preston Marriott, Garstang Road, Broughton PR3 5JB, ☏ . Chain hotel in a Victorian manor house, set in gardens and woodland near M6 / M55. Good reviews for service, but many facilities are tired. B&B double £90.
- 5 Barton Manor Hotel (Barton Grange), 746 Garstang Road, Barton PR3 5AA (5 miles north of Preston), ☏ . Large mid-price hotel in a cotton baron's mansion, with restaurants, swimming pool with spa and good cuisine. Often hosts weddings. No dogs. B&B double from £80.
- 6 Garstang Country Hotel and Golf Centre (Best Western), Bowgreave Drive, Garstang PR3 1YE (10 miles north of Preston), ☏ . Country house chain hotel and golf course. Spacious but some facilities dowdy, and catering variable. B&B double £60.
- 7 Preston Leyland Hotel (Best Western), Leyland Way, Leyland PR25 4JX (jcn 28 of M6), ☏ . This mid-range chain hotel gets very mixed reviews. B&B double £80.
Preston is relatively safe, just apply the usual care with traffic, safeguarding valuables, and avoiding anti-social drunks.
Call the police on 101 for non-emergencies. The emergency number for all services is 999 or 112.
The nearest Accident & Emergency Dept is at the Royal Preston Hospital on Sharoe Green Lane Fulwood, three miles north of town centre.
As of April 2022, Preston has 5G from EE and Three, and 4G from O2 and Vodafone. Wifi is widely available in public places.
- Blackpool is the raucous beach resort that would love to think of itself as a den of iniquity.
- Lytham St Annes is its genteel neighbour, with sand dunes and a promenade green.
- Lancaster has an interesting old quarter around its castle.
- Blackburn is an old textile town at the edge of the industrial East Lancs valleys.
- Clitheroe is where you break free of industry and burbs into the scenic Pennine uplands.
|Routes through Preston|
|Glasgow ← Lancaster ←||N S||→ Leyland → Liverpool|
|Blackpool ← Kirkham ←||W E||→ merges with|
|merges with ←||NW SE||→ Chorley → Manchester|
|END ←||W E||→ Blackburn → Bradford|
|Lancaster ←||N SE||→ Chorley → Manchester|
|Liverpool ← Ormskirk ←||SW NE||→ Clitheroe → Yorkshire Dales|
|City of Preston, Lancashire|