As we look forward to resurrecting one of Preston’s most distinguished buildings, it seems fitting to glance back over some Preston buildings that were once architectural wonders, but sadly did not survive to tell their historic tales.
From abandoned churches to school’s, hospitals and grand halls, Preston has a wealth of history hidden on its streets.
Which of these buildings do you remember from Preston’s fascinating past?
Saul Street Baths
First opened in 1851, the Saul Street Baths of Preston were a part of many a Prestonian’s childhoods.
There was the Victorian style pool, the cafe in the basement that sold cups of sweet tea and sticks of highland toffee. From time to time the pool would be covered by a removable dancefloor for above water dance events.
Sadly in 1991, the Saul Street baths were closed and replaced with Preston Crown Courts in 1996.
Whittingham Mental Hospital
By the middle of the 19th century, insane asylums were in high demand. There were already three in operation in Prestwich, Rainhill and Lancaster, but all were at full capacity.
To help ease the strain, Whittingham Hospital became the fourth and largest insane asylum in the north.
During the First World War Whittingham doubled as a Military Hospital as well as housing over 2,000 mentally ill patients.
Whittingham’s grounds expanded and eventually the site became its own mini town, with a train, post office, orchestra, brewery and ballroom.
By the sixties Whittingham Hospital had sadly fallen into disrepair and its practices into disrepute. Former patients and nurses complained of the working conditions and outdated practices.
By 1995 the last long stay patient was returned to public care and the doors to Whittingham were closed for good.
What was left of Whittingham Mental Hospital was torn down in 2014 to make way for a 650-home project but the Gothic style building that once housed up to 3,500 patients is now no more.
Preston Town Hall
Preston’s Old Town Hall was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, an architect held in high regard for his signature Gothic Revival style.
Opened after the cotton famine, the project, along with the creation of public parks served as a beacon of promise and hope to the residents of the great town.
When the grand hall was opened by the Duke of Cambridge in 1867, people lined the streets dressed in their Sunday best to commemorate the momentous occasion.
Sadly, on a chilly morning in March 1947, people awoke to the sound of Preston’s town hall clock striking the ground. The town hall was on fire and the people of Preston had to watch as their proud landmark building was consumed by flames.
There has never been any official cause of the fire found although no evidence of arson was relevant upon investigation. Over 80 fire engines, still operating under wartime national fire services, had assembled to tackle the quickly spreading blaze but with little effect.
Following the blaze, Preston Council decided that the best course of action would be to tear down the entire structure and rebuild. This was however opposed by residents who organised a petition that was signed by more than 8000 individuals.
For a short time, Preston Council salvaged what they could of the lower parts of the hall. However, in 1962 it was completely demolished and replaced with what is known as Preston’s least favourite building, Preston Crystal House.
Preston Grammar School
The former site of Preston Grammar School and the first grammar school in the town stands on College Square.
Built in 1832 with money bequeathed by John Preston, an attorney of Stokesley, Preston Grammar School provided free education for twelve or more poor children of the township of Stokesley, whose parents could not afford to pay for education.
Opened by Archdeacon Harcourt, Preston Grammar School’s first appointed headmaster was Rev T Todd. It remained a fully functioning school until 1908 when it was closed and partly demolished.
Today, most of the building is sadly gone and a takeaway stands in its place.
Preston Public Hall
The Preston Public Hall was originally constructed as the Corn Exchange between 1822 and 1824. It consisted of a number of large rooms around an open court covered with an ornate glass roof.
In 1842, at the height of Chartist agitation, a demonstration outside the Corn Exchange by striking cotton workers saw the military open fire on the protesters killing four people. A statue of the Preston Martyrs by Gordon Young was unveiled outside the Corn Exchange in the late 1980’s to mark this event.
The building was remodelled as a meeting hall and entertainment complex known as the Public Hall in 1881, featuring a hall and galleries.
The Public Hall functioned as Preston’s premier meeting and entertainment complex and hosted performances by artists such as The Beatles until its closure in 1972, after which it lay unused.
In 1986, it was partly demolished and repurposed as a public house with early features such as elaborate cast-iron window screens and lunette windows being reused on the front elevation.
Built by Henry Hemfey in 1882, the Princes Theatre started out as ‘The New Gaiety Palace of Varieties’.
There was a large gallery round three sides of the auditorium, the seating of which facing the stage was upholstered in green leather. The Theatre was a great success in Preston and it was decided that the venue needed to be extended.
It was planned to replace the Theatre on the same site, but to raise the stage house by four yards, so that scenery could be flown out of sight above the stage. It took 15 weeks to rebuild, the new Theatre being named The New Prince’s Theatre, which reopened on Saturday 22nd December 1900.
The New Prince’s Theatre continued to provide Preston with theatrical entertainment for a number of years.
Eventually, the Prince’s Theatre ceased operation and was demolished in 1964 to make way for a new Buckingham Bingo Hall and the St John’s Shopping arcade.
First opened on 14th January 1905 on Frairgate, the Preston Royal Hippodrome was one of the most popular venues in Preston, with Charles Coburn topping the variety bill.
It was built for and operated by Broadhead’s Theatres circuit and was known as a building Preston could be proud of.
The Hippodrome operated two shows per night system. Upon opening night both shows were packed, and it was proposed to also operate a matinee performance every Monday.
On 3rd July 1939, the Royal Hippodrome ceased to operate and it remained closed until the summer of 1941. In July 1947 it became a repertory theatre when the Salberg Players took it over. This lasted until March 1955 and in 1959 it was demolished. A C&A department store was built on the site, following this a Wilko’s store took over the site.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our look back in time at some of Preston’s most fascinating and beautiful old buildings. If you think we’ve missed any Preston buildings from the list, let us know in the comments.