Prescot Towntrail

The towntrail begins at Prescot Museum (WFN44) on Church Street which was opened in 1981 and is themed around Prescot Watchmaking (PT148). Clockmaking originated in the fourteenth and fifteenth century as blacksmith's work. The earliest record in Prescot is of a Richard Berry, a clockmaker, working there in Elizabethan times. The first portable timepieces were produced in Germany in the sixteenth century and were widely imitated. It was Woolrich, a Huguenot refugee who introduced it to Prescot in 1595. With a long tradition of metal working, the new skills were easily picked up. There are many examples (WFN39) of the watchmaking craft in Prescot Museum.

Opposite the museum is the Sun Inn (WFN115) another Regency style building with painted stucco with two bays and Corinthian columns surrounding the central doorway. Walk down Church Street, passing the bus station on your left and cross-over the road to the Deanes House Hotel (WFN116), a partially rebuilt Georgian building. In front of the hotel were two cannon barrels , from an eighteenth century man-o-war, now only their mounts remain, marking the entrance to Vicarage Place an old cobbled street which leads to the Victorian Roman Catholic Church (WFN60) of Our Lady Immaculate and St. Joseph's. Above the entrance to number 8 Vicarage Place is a tablet bearing the Coat of Arms of Prescot (WFN117) from the Old Town Hall, more of which later.

Follow Vicarage Place around the church to meet West Street, at the bottom of which stands a row of old terraced houses. Looking across from the bottom of West Street to Derby Street, you will see West End House (WFN121). Further along Derby Street (PT255) there are a number of Victorian public buildings including the Police Station (no 12) and the Courthouse (no 10). At the top of this road, and practically opposite the museum is a unique example of a purpose built Georgian solicitors office (WFN119). This single storey building is still occupied by the firm of Henry Cross and Sons (PT298).

Derby Street then becomes the High Street (MUS1994:6:22) although until the 1850's it was called Fazakerley Street, named after Nicholas Fazakerley (PT90) a lawyer who was MP for Preston from 1732 until he died in 1767. His former residence, a typical Georgian house (WFN120) with sash windows, glazing bars and fanlight over the door, still stands as No.3 High Street. Both this building and the museum opposite are constructed in dark red brick, which is the typical building material in Prescot.

On the left, just after Hope Street, is the Hope and Anchor Inn (WFN118) which is an extravagant, mainly twentieth century building, built out of sandstone and brick. Further along the High Street on the same side of the road was one of the many sites formerly occupied (between 1759-1924) by the Prescot Grammar School (PT49) which was founded in 1544.

Turn right into Atherton Street, once the site of many watchmaking factories. (PT148). The Street is named after Joseph and Jacob Atherton who founded the British Insulated Wire Company in 1891. This rapidly expanded and became known as the British Insulated Cable Company, or more simply as BICC (PT94/10) in 1891. The company built an extensive industrial-complex covering a large area to the south east of the town. From here their electric cables (MUS1987:4:114) were manufactured for use across the world. For the first half of the twentieth century it was the largest employer in the town, but this has declined with the introduction of new technologies.

If you look to your left upon reaching the crossroads of Atherton and Eccleston Streets, you will see one a former watch making factory (PT93/47), built by the Lancashire Watch Company (PT146) in 1890. This building is usually known as the 'Flat Iron House' due to its unusual shape. Turning right down Eccleston Street (PT314) which is one of the main streets in Prescot. Whilst the long thin plots and narrow streets have changed very little since the medieval times most of the buildings are Victorian or more recent. One interesting exception is the half timbered (PT94/3) building. One gable is authentic, dating from 1614 (Jacobean) and the other is a Victorian copy. Opposite this building is a group of Georgian Shops (MUS1984:34:10). In the centre of this group, which is now a conservation area is Stone Street, a narrow Mediaeval cobbled passageway or ginnel (WFN122) thought to be the narrowest in the country.

At the end of Eccleston Street turn right down Market Place (PT245). Market Charters dating from 1333 and 1458 survive at Kings College Cambridge. King Henry VI founded the College in 1445 and gave them the manor and rectory of Prescot. Due to the distance from Cambridge, a local town council called the Court Leet, which used to occupy premises above the shops on Market Place, ran the town. A magnificent Round House (PT92) was built here in 1812 but was replaced in the 1860s for a covered Market Hall, which has also since been demolished.

At the bottom of market place is Kemble Street (PT399) which is named after another of the town's former residents. John Philip Kemble was a famous eighteenth century actor who was born at number 93 (now demolished) and was baptised in St Mary's Church in 1759.

Retrace your steps up Market Place, this time facing St. Mary's Church (PT2). The Church occupies a hill site with a circular churchyard, indicative of its Celtic origins, with the list of Rectors being traced back to 1179. The current building constructed in red sandstone dates mainly from 1610. The interior includes a fifteenth century vestry. To the South of the church is the War Memorial (LS/X/143), which most unusually was unveiled during the war, and not a few years after which is traditionally the case. Close to the church and war memorial is the Alphabet Stone (WFN59). This was taken from a door lintel on the Old Town Hall (PT252) which stood near-by and like its predecessor contained shops below. It was built in 1755 at the height of the town's prosperity and demolished in the 1960's. It is now only a short distance up the hill to Church Street and the Museum.

(figures in brackets are reference numbers of photos in the main site)

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