Wednesday, 3 December 2008

flood wall

The restorative work on the river defence wall along Broadgate has started and apparently the work will last a couple of months. It got me thinking as to what it would have been like before the wall was built so I went along to the Library to see if there are any flood records.

The earliest records I could find were from 1771, 1799, 1833 and 1840 when on the 17th August Preston experienced ‘a perfect hurricane’. In 1866 on the 16th November the most serious and wide spread damage for 200 years was experienced. ‘The Ribble and the Darwen are one’ and ‘the old portion of Avenham Park was filled up and rose much above the level of the lake in the park’ ( what lake would that be? ). In Broadgate there was a sea of water with houses jutting out of it. Occupants bundled furniture upstairs and sailed off to Fishergate Hill. People in the centre of South Meadow Lane were hemmed in on all sides to a depth of 3 to 4 feet. Some houses were flooded at the bottom of Grafton, Lauderdale and Beech Streets. Water overflowed the end of Ribble Place and ran in the end of Taylor Street. The Regatta Inn had 4 foot of water flowing past its door. Workmen had to abandon Strand Road and move to Fishergate Hill. At its peak at 10-30pm water was running down Elm Street. In Fishergate water had risen as high as the base of Stanley Terrace.

After the flood subsided it was said that Strand road looked like the bed of a river. The foundations of the Pleasure Boat Inn were exposed ‘to the very bottom’.

In 1880 flood water washed against the houses of Broadgate.

There were other floods through the years at regular intervals and I don’t intend to just give a list of dates. However, I did find an interesting snippet in The Preston Guardian of 1921. It was dated the 31st December and there was a photograph of the river bank in Broadgate during a flood and the picture shows a street lamp standard half submerged. The words describe ‘ a big fresh down the Ribble, the water travelling at a great rate. A sixth of the West Cliff Cricket Ground was under water.’

What I couldn’t find, however, was the background to the building of the original Broadgate wall. This was partly as I would like to leave that for another month but mostly because I found it difficult to drag myself away from the adverts in the papers of the time.

One of my favourites was for ‘correct and distinctive Dress Wear from Austin Reed.’

‘Dress ties – the latest dress tie is the Regent tie, it’s the latest word in simplicity and an explanatory diagram is supplied’

‘Discerning men appreciate that Austin Read Dress Wear is not only correct in style and detail but possesses a distinctive, quiet simplicity rather than any suggestion of the extreme.’
I rather like to think that this would also describe this columnist.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Broadgate Stories

Sitting in the Reference Library and wading through old books is fine but it’s a bit remote from real life – not to mention the numb feeling that spreads after a few hours on hard seats. So it was a real pleasure to be able to relax at Geoff and Joyce Tyrer’s house where Geoff gave me some insights into Broadgate over the years.

It’s never been clear to me where the boats used to be moored around the Continental area but I think I’ve got it now. Apparently there used to be a jetty opposite the side gate entrance to the pub but that was moved down river a bit to a ramp opposite Ferry House. Geoff said that when he was a boy the owner, Mr Cooton, used to let him and his mates bale out the boats after it had rained and in return they would be allowed to take one of the boats out up river where they would turn and come back bouncing down over the rapids – while Mr Cooton would be waving wildly from the bank to tell them off. Interestingly you can still make out the landing place for the Ferry on the other side of the river. It’s right at the end of the wall where it dips down to the water.

All that area was subject to flooding and he remembers well the date and time of the worst. 11-30 at night on the 20th November 1977. He’d checked the tides and went out with his children to check as it wasn’t too bad at the time and as they were watching a bore of water just rolled up South End flooding the road. As a result the wall was built in 1979.

Much to my surprise Geoff said there used to be a detached house on the site of the BAC club grounds near the river and half way to the Continental. No sign of it now or Mr Eccle’s orchard which also used to be on the site before the club was there. You can still see the entrances just along South Meadow Lane where tracks used to go into scrub land marked of by a big hedge which zigzagged across to the river separating it from the orchard and also the market garden which used to have flower beds – scrupulously avoided by a young Mr Tyrer and his mates when hunting for the odd apple.

He also told me that before South End was built the land was used as a Strawberry Gardens. And that Meadow Court was Saul’s Nursery with next to it Billy Lee’s field where the shopkeeper from South Meadow Lane used to keep his horse. Indeed the nursery stretched across South Meadow Lane into Hassock Close and further up nearer to West Cliff. You get a real feeling for how almost rural this area used to be not very long ago.

In the middle of all this the Victoria Bowling Club must have been a majestic sight with its Pavilion and car park where Woods Green is now with the Rolls and Bentleys
arriving to play a game. Which makes the fact that Preston Cricket Club has kept its land and historic Pavilion all the more commendable.
I’ve come to the end of this month’s column and we’ve only got as far as the middle of South Meadow Lane so rather than squash more stories into a couple of sentences we’ll leave them for another time. Many thanks to Geoff and Joyce – and for a large malt I won’t tell about the biscuits.



there’s a pause –
Feeling one’s heartbreaks
one’s breaths

John Francis Osborne orig. November 2001

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Continental

A few words about alcohol this month. A subject that I feel qualified to write about since sneaking into the ‘Men Only’ snug at The Swan in Yardley, Birmingham at the age of 15. The Swan was the largest pub in Europe at the time but has now been knocked down – interesting fact number one.

I have no interest in The Continental other than as a consumer. If, indeed, a Pub can be viewed as just a seller of commodities. But I seem to remember in my very first column that I bemoaned the lack of pubs in the area and the fact that pubs in general had lost the plot in what they were trying and failing to sell. They hadn’t done any market research as to what would attract me away from the delights of Meath Road on a wet September evening.

Equally I recall my first visit to Broadgate back in the winter of 1995 and passing the windows of The Continental as I tried to find an area of Preston in which to live. I was smitten when I saw a comfortably crowded pub with all parts of society chatting away, reading books and reading papers. It was great. And eventually Tess the dog agreed and would automatically turn right on the way back from our walks.

Which brings me to the reason for these words i.e. the re opening of The Continental in August. I went with Jed, Ann and Val on a Friday night and mid way during the evening one of us said something like ‘this is what it used to be like’. And we all agreed.

No big screen, no noisy one arm bandits, no pool, no loud music. Comfortable chairs, a selection of quality beers, a background hum of conversation. This is what a local should be about. I stress again that I have no connection with the owners or management of the pub.

I also have no connection with the management of the new Pavilion in the Park. If I had I would have argued long and hard against them putting in for an alcohol licence. An alcohol license for 7 days a week and from 1000hrs in the morning till 2000hrs in the evening.

I haven’t got a problem with people having a traditional picnic in the park with a hamper and a tartan blanket. But I do have a problem with this application. I just don’t believe that it will be a case of a small glass of sparkling Californian white and a cucumber sandwich. It will be all day drinking in the park and then a short cut through Broadgate home. No thank you.

At the BRAG/PACT meeting several people raised the problem that the Pavilion needed a licence if it was to host weddings or special events. Everyone realised that this was necessary as it is a beautiful setting for such occasions and such applications for one off events should be encouraged. It is the 7 day,10 hour license that was worrying.

The more observant of you will have noticed that the spelling of the word ‘license ‘ varies through this column. There is a reason for this.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

wishful thinking

In July there was an open meeting organised by Bikhu Patel to discuss proposed developments for Winckley Square. Over a hundred people attended and it was a splendid example of democracy in action. Personally I felt that at the end of an evening of heated debate the differences came down to whether a fountain and a shelter should be included in the design. The majority seemed to be against them.

But the whole evening got me thinking about what, if any, improvements could be made in the Broadgate area. I started off on the basis that they should be low key, sustainable and affordable but then veered off into a dreamlike state where the North West Development Agency gave BRAG £3,000,000 as well as giving it to Winckley Square.

But I’ll come to that later as there are a few things that I wouldn’t mind developing now. The first being that patch of land opposite the Ribbleside Inn which seems such a waste hidden away behind a not very attractive hedge. Don’t get me wrong – I like open spaces that hang around and don’t seem to do much but that space seems to attract just drunks and the entire pigeon population of central Lancashire.

I’d like to turn a couple of green areas into allotments that would help people as food and energy prices rise. That linear path that used to be the old railway would be one. Then there is the area on the left going up Fishergate Hill and the spaces around Fitzroy Street. People could sell the surplus to the Continental as the new owners want to source local produce.

I’d ban cars from parking on one side of Broadgate and make it a cycle lane.

I’d convert all the pubs that have closed down into sports and leisure centres for the kids to use.

I’d love the shop that used to be the bookies to re open as a greengrocers or Broadgate Cycles again.

And then for my, sorry our, three million pounds I’d build a walkway under Penwortham Bridge to link up with a paved and lighted path along the Ribble with a level crossing to get to the cinema.

If there was anything left over I’d build a small station at the Strand and open up the railway through the tunnel to Preston station and have a regular steam train service running along it.

And, of course, if we did get three million the BRAG Chair and Secretary would have to go on a fact finding mission to the Cayman Islands to investigate..err…well… facts.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Rebirth of A Much Loved Preston Pub

I got this newsletter from the 'New Continental':

Lets hope for sunshine on Saturday 16th August, so that we can sup in that beautiful beer garden and remember all those glorious summer days of the past!

Hello again and welcome to Continental's second newsletter. Some very exciting news this time; that's right, we now have a definite opening date.

Mark 12 noon 16th August (yes, that's this Saturday!) in your diary and we hope to see you then.

If you read the first newsletter you may recall us mentioning the opening was dependent on the flooring being completed on time?
Well, our gallant team is working through the night to ensure that this happens and we have every faith in them.

It has been hugely exciting for us seeing the place gradually come together. The furniture has arrived, the light fixtures have been installed and the conservatory now has windows, which is always a big plus in our book. We've also had bicycle stands fitted, got the garden up to scratch and 'Captain Coconuts' has now well and truly left the building - so long, sailor!

Best of all though, we have taken delivery of large quantities of quality beer, wine and spirits for your delectation and supping pleasure!

Our expertly trained chefs are on the premises, preparing the kitchen to deliver that mouth-watering menu we promised, and, believe me, I've seen it, it's going to be fantastic. The garden is looking rather fabulous (if we say so ourselves) and if we're lucky enough to have some good weather you'll be able to sit out and enjoy it for yourself. Failing that (this is 'The Great British Summer' after all) the outdoor covered area is ready and waiting, but the pub is looking so great on the inside that we think you'll be quite content to spend your visit indoors.

So, Saturday it is hope to see you there and tell all your friends.

Be excited now!

The Continental Team

PS: Don't forget to keep up with the latest news on Ruth's blog on
and on our website at

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

What are you doing this Monday Night? (21st July 2008 at 7pm)

Perhaps you'd be interested in this wildlife walk organised by the Preston Birdwatching and Natural History Society?

Heres the message they sent to 'Broadgate is Great':

Would your readers be interested in a wildlife walk from the Tram Bridge, probably through the trees to Vernon's Lodge area, presumably part of the area that will constitute the new Country Park?

It's just one of our series of Monday evening ambles, but we'd be glad to see anyone who would like to come along with us - It's free. We'd be back by the river by 9.15pm at the latest, but anybody who needed an earlier finish could make their own way.

We leave promptly at 7pm, but we probably wouldn't take a lot of finding - we don't walk fast.

Hope to see you soon.

Steve Halliwell - Preston Bird Watching & Natural History Society.

Why not give it a go - what else is there to do on a Monday night?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Broadgate News Production Team: New Members Wanted

Have you ever wondered how the 'Broadgate and District News' gets to land on your doormat?

Why not come along when our production team is in full swing?

At the moment BRAG is looking for new people to join it's highly skilled team of newsletter folders.

This dedicated group meets in St Stephen's Church, Bird St to fold, staple and sort that month's edition of 'The Broadgate and District News'.

Now we're announcing a unique opportunity to join this elite band of community-spirited individuals.

People who come along will be subjected to a rigorous selection procedure, and then given intensive training in the art of folding. Truly promising candidates may even, in exceptional circumstances, get to use the stapler.

Once the newsletter has been printed, folded, stapled and sorted it is delivered across Broadgate by volunteers.

The whole process is fueled by free cakes and brews, courtesy of KM Grocers (on Taylor St).

It's also a unique chance to catch up on local gossip - for instance, tonight I learned that the Ribbleside on the corner of Broadgate and Taylor St may soon re-open - as an Indian Restaurant.

Future folding sessions happen at 7pm on August 20th, September 17th, October 1st and November 5th (we're going to have fun that bonfire night!)

If you prefer listening to the latest news and views on Broadgate and District issues to folding and stapling, come along to the BRAG/PACT meetings, every first wednesday of the month at 6.30pm.

Forthcoming meetings are on:
August 6th, at BAC Club, South Meadow Lane
September 3rd, Empire Club, Hartington Road and
October 1st, BAC Club, South Meadow Lane

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Robert Service

On Christian Road you can find a blue plaque marking the birthplace of Robert Service. Service was born on January 16th 1874, his father a bank cashier and his mother the daughter of a rich distillery family. At the age of five his parents sent him to live with his Scottish grandfather. He composed his first poem at the age of six and subsequently went on to become the highest earning poet of all time and it is often claimed that he was the most widely read poet of the twentieth century.

After being educated in Scotland he decided to move to Canada where he spent the next few years drifting from place to place and job to job until he eventually went into banking with the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Victoria in 1903. The following year he was transferred to the Yukon Territory. It was there that he started writing poems about the Klondike gold rush, inspired by the places he saw, the people he met and the tales he heard. In 1907 his first book of poems “Songs of a Sourdough” began life as a 100 book print run to be given to friends and relatives. Such was its success it was reprinted fifteen times before the end of the year and by 1940 had sold over three million copies and earned half a million dollars in royalties. He has been called the Bard of the Yukon and the Canadian Kipling.
One of the best-known poems in the book is “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” which captures the atmosphere of the gold rush and the characters involved in it. This is the opening verse:

The Shooting of Dan McGrew

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and glare,There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

There are many who will decry this poetry and dispute its value, but there is no doubt that it has been read and enjoyed by many who would not give T S Eliot or John Milton a second glance.

In 1909 Service was rich enough to resign from the bank and write full time. He departed for Europe as a war correspondent in the Balkans before settling in Paris in 1913 and marrying a French girl. During WW1 he was a war correspondent, ambulance driver and finally attached to the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He lived in France for the rest of his life apart from a spell in Hollywood in the 1920’s when some of his poems and novels were made into films and also during WW2 when he made his acting debut in 1942 in “The Spoilers” with John Wayne and Randolph Scott. In a scene with Marlene Dietrich he played himself 40 years younger.
Returning to France after the war this native of Broadgate lived in Brittany and on the Riviera until his extraordinary life ended on September 11th 1958.

With thanks to Mike Cracknell

Monday, 7 July 2008

Broadgate PACT Meeting July 08 - The Minutes

PACT/BRAG minutes 2nd July 2008

Held at Empire Services Club, Hartington Road, Preston


PC3908 Wayne Marsden
PCSO 7283 Suzie Waite
PCSO 7745 Faye Kellett
Kash Kamal
Terry Quinn – Secretary
Doreen Sanders – Eavesbrook Housing Association

Councillor Bhikhu Patel
Councillor Jack Davenport


PC360 Carl Ingram

Members of the public were in attendance.


The meeting was opened by Kash, acting as chairman. He introduced a representative from St Matthews who gave a talk about a young person’s group called Jigsaw, which run activities for children and young people. Their objectives are to promote participation in youth activities. This summer they are setting up a three week pilot play scheme, which will take place three days a week for 7-11 year olds. The activities will be held in the area, whilst the youthclub is based in Fishwick. From September onwards they are hoping to offer activities, including training for young people up to the age of 21. Packs were left for people to take away.

Policing Report:

PC Wayne Marsden and Faye Kellett went through the police report. For the period 4 June to 2 July there have been 33 crimes, which is considered good for this time of year.

Car safety packs were also made available for people to take.

Update on last month’s PACT priorities:

Parking on the footpath on South Meadow Lane, near the Continental Pub

During the month the police did several patrols in the area and 30 cars were noted, with five being given penalty tickets. Near the Continental Pub was noted as the worst area. There is supposed to be restricted waiting in the area but this is a Council matter. Parks maintenance has been asked to cut back the bushes/hedges in order for more room to be available for pedestrians on the pavement.

PC Carl Ingram also did a couple of days down Kingswood Street, focussing on parking. He issued 12 letters of warning during this period. Most of the cars were non-residents, with the majority being County Hall Staff. PC Ingram has asked County Hall to issue an email to staff asking them not to park there.

Letters of warning on Broadgate will be issued explaining about parking restrictions.

General behaviour – people hanging round drinking openly on the streets with cans.

Anti-social behaviour is less of a problem now at the top of Fishergate Hill. A drugs warrant was issued for a flat at 98 Fishergate Hill, where four people were caught with drugs and drugs paraphernalia. The police were accompanied by a housing manager and the residents were evicted and the flat has been locked and secured.

Stone throwing during the month accounted for 5 out of the 6 criminal damage incidents mentioned in the police report. The police think they know who it is and it was mentioned as a possible PACT priority for the coming month.

At the recent Polish PACT meeting a resident mentioned concerns about the anti-social behaviour at the top of Fishergate Hill. PC Marsden thinks this is historic but they will keep monitoring the situation.


A couple of operations were held during the month with PC Marsden and Jack conducting operations. The highest recorded speed was 38 mph. People were given verbal advice. The speeding devices appear to be working in slowing traffic down. Councillor Bikhu Patel has additional funds for a further device and this will be available in the next couple of weeks. There are currently devices on Broadgate, Hartington Road and they are hoping to erect several more posts, including one on Bow Lane and two on Fishergate Hill.

Community Issues:

Grafton Street has now been cleaned up. PCSO Faye Kellett and PCSO Suzie Waite assisted with moving cars in order for the road sweeper to clean the Road. Linda Compton helped organise the sweeper.

The Continental Pub: the new owners of the pub were in attendance, Ruth and Jeremy. They explained that the pub was currently being refurbished and that they wanted the pub to be an integral part of the community. They want people to voice any concerns/suggestions they may have and are going to put questionnaires through people’s doors in order to get some feedback. They are hoping to open at the beginning of August. The refurbishment involves both internal and external areas. They are hoping to make the pub more upmarket, with a focus on good food and cask ales and continental larger, with coffee and tea available during the day. There won’t be a pool table or bandit machines and they are hoping the absence of these will deter the wrong sort of people. They are aiming to be a family friendly pub and will be redeveloping the play area and having children’s theatre. They want to open up the pub to events and have function space and invite community and touring groups, which will include performing arts and possibly some exhibition space. They are also hoping to have bands in and comedy nights. If you want to find out anything further or organise anything, feel free to ring them on 07708 615 877. Their current licence is 11 am -1 am at weekends and 11 am -12 am during the week.

Councillor Bhiku Patel welcomed the owners of the Continental Pub to the community.

Crime and Punishment: PC Wayne Marsden asked if anybody would be interested in listening to a presentation on ‘Crime and Punishment’. It is a joint venture by magistrates and probation officers. It lasts about one hour and has already been given to a range of community groups around the county. The majority of people at the meeting were in favour and so PC Marsden will try to arrange it for the next meeting.

Issues Raised by the public

Parking at the bus-stop on the junction of Broadgate and Fishergate Hill: People are currently parking there all day. PC Marsden explained that letters have gone out to people, although it is an ongoing problem but he is hoping the word will get round that people shouldn’t park there. Unfortunately the main problem is that people are usually parked there by 8 am and the police normally have a briefing at this time. However they will continue to monitor the situation.

Westcliff: It was hoped that more could be done to encourage Westcliff residents to come to the meetings and get more involved in the community. PCSOs Faye Kellett and Suzie Waite explained that they had tried to get residents more involved but without much success, however, they will keep trying. Councillor Bhiku Patel suggested an open van, from the Council, manned by the police in order to get the residents more involved. Currently there are new housing association flats, around 24/25, and people are gradually moving in, the police will make themselves known to the residents.

Distribution of the Newsletter: Although there are 2000 addresses in the Broadgate area, the newsletter currently reaches around 800 houses. In order to deliver to everybody, more people are required to deliver the newsletters and approximately £3,000 per year would be required to fund the printing costs. Councillor Bhiku Patel said that the Council had £1,000 available if the committee put a proposal together. Jack and Joanne will email Councillor Patel with the proposal.

Flood Risk Action Plan: Matthew Marsh, who has produced a report on flood risk in the area, gave a brief talk about flood risk in the area. The areas from Grafton Street to Broadgate and Hartington Road down to the river are all at a high risk of flooding. People still need to be aware that Broadgate has always been a high flood risk area. It is within the top 25 areas of risk in the North West. Preston County Council has just issued their flood risk management programme. Matthew proposed that a group be formed to look at the document, which needs community involvement. He is hoping the first group will meet at the end of July/beginning of August. Councillor Jack Davenport has offered his services in this respect. If anybody else is interested in becoming part of the group, please contact Matthew on

The Blog: Max gave a brief talk about the blog, explaining that it is now up and running, with many interesting articles already online. The aim of the blog is to be a positive force in the area, showing how good Broadgate actually is. The address is and people are welcome to contribute with articles about the area and any pictures that they feel show a positive side to the area.

PACT Priorities

Stone throwing.

The next meeting will be on 6th August 2008 at BAC Club, South Meadow Lane

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Broadgate Flood Wall Repairs

One of the most contentious issues at the Central Area Forum meeting at the Gujurati Temple on the 19th June was the discussion on the repairs to the 80 year old flood wall running between Broadgate and the River Ribble.

Local residents have been raising concerns about this wall for some time, and now the Environment Agency have commissioned a survey by Arup Consultants Limited, and will be taking action this Autumn to prolong the life of the wall (at least cosmetically), basically by touching up areas of 'spalling', renewing the filler in the movement joints, and repainting the wall.

A local resident raised his concerns with Matthew Connor, from the Environment Agency's Asset Systems Management Division.

He told 'Broadgate is Great':

"I raised my concerns at the meeting on a feedback card about the tree roots that can be seen by anyone walking alongside the wall that are coming from the river side of the wall and poking up through the pavement on the road side of the wall."

"I received a very prompt reply through the post, which was full of details and photographs. It answered not only my question, but the other questions and concerns raised by residents at the meeting, I have to say I was impressed by this level of clarity and accountability, which is not my usual experience of contacting official bodies!".

In the letter Matthew Connor says:

As I stated at the meeting, the structural assessment of the wall carried out by Arup Consultants Ltd, concluded that the wall was structurally stable and could withstand the load put on it if the river reached the level of the top of the wall. However Arup did recommend the following measures to prolong the life of the wall:

- All areas of 'spalled' concrete are to be repaired
- The movement joints are repaired and re-filled with a compressible joint filler
- The wall is painted to prevent further chloride attack/carbonation

These recommendations have now received financial approval for implementation and will be carried out by contractors working for the Environment Agency in Autumn 2008.

At the meeting, concerns were raised regarding tree roots affecting the structural stability of the wall. Due to the wall being supported by piled concrete foundations with reinforcement bars, tree roots were not deemed to be a threat to the wall's stability by Arup.

In addition, it was suggested that a 'hole' in the flood defences protecting Broadgate existed at the location of the pipebridge, just upstream of the Penwortham Old Bridge Footbridge that crosses the River Ribble... While it appears lower than the Broadgate wall, it offers the same standard of flood protection, given that the natural elevation of the land is slightly higher on that side of the bridge.

Moving further upstream, (there is) a section of low wall which again is built to the same standard of protection as Broadgate Wall. This is the point at which the 'new' wall protecting the southern end of Broadgate commences...

This new wall is around twenty to thirty years old and was built to a higher standard of protection than the older downstream wall. This was due to the natural elevation of the river bed being higher as you move upstream, meaning that a flood event of a given magnitude would be at a higher level in this location than at the areas downstream protected by the older wall. It is also likely that the observed river levels would have been higher when the new wall was built than when Preston Borough Council constructed the older wall some eighty years ago, due to the effects of climate change and increased development starting to become noticeable. This would have prompted the engineers involved to construct the wall to a higher standard of protection, explaining why it appears that the area around the pipebridge has a lower standard of protection than the area immediately upstream. However, this area has the same standard of protection as the area downstream protected by the Broadgate flood wall.

Whan the Environment Agency replaces the older Broadgate flood wall, we will take into account the latest climate change guidance from Defra relating to sea level rise and river levels. This will ensure that a wall is built to a level sufficient to take into account predicted river level rises in the future.

The letter itself does not say when the older flood wall will be replaced rather than merely repainted, though at the meeting Matthew suggested a timescale of the next 5 - 10 years.

In the meantime do we have any choice other than to accept the reassurances of the Environment Agency and Arup Consultants about the soundness of our flood defences?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Broadgate People's History 1927 and 1953

Thanks to Bill Pinder I’ve come across a fascinating Directory of Preston and District published by Barretts in 1927. It features all the roads in Broadgate and who lives in them and most interestingly what they did for a living.

Naturally I plunged straight for Meath Road, where I live, but curiously it doesn’t list Meath Road as existing. It follows Broadgate along and correctly states that between 42 and 43 is Ardee and between 52 and 53 is Balderstone. Nothing between 46 and 48. Ardee starts at number 10 and a J Selby lived at 22 and he was a car finisher – whatever that was.

The Directory also lists churches with a brief history and accordingly St Stephen’s was built in 1888 in the early English style from designs by Mr Joseph Harding. Owing to limited funds only a portion of the church had been completed i.e. the nave and the south aisle and cost, including fittings, was £4,500. The original design included nave, chancel, north and south aisle, transept, organ chamber, vestry and tower of 92 feet. The walls are faced with Yorkshire parpoints in diminishing courses ( no, I don’t know what that means ) and red sandstone dressings. It contained 393 sittings (?) all free. There was a vicarage held by the Rev Oswald Albert Peach MA. It was a successor to the Bairstow Memorial Chapel built in 1869. I’ll try to find out some information on this in a future edition.

It would be a bit boring just to list the roads and occupants so I’ve chosen a few which are a bit different like at somewhere not numbered but past 13 Riverside where a Mr T A Cooton lived who was a boat builder. Mr William Bee had the Hotel Continental.

The lucky devil at number 12 South Meadow Lane was a Mr S Burgess who was an Engine Driver – my dream job. At 6 Fishergate Hill there was an L Welcome, Dentist. And between Beech Street and Elm Street was the L.M. and S. Railway Company’s engineering department.

I’m not sure whether Mr W McKillop of 26, Hartington Road would be pleased to see himself advertised as an Excise Officer. Christ Church Street had a few interesting professions in 1927. There was a picture framer at 58, a violin maker at 46, several engine drivers, a mariner and not least a dress maker.

Bill also provided me with the Directory for 1953 and it was interesting to read how the professions in the area had changed a bit over the years. 48 Broadgate now has a Mr Pickup who was a traveller. The Salvation Army had its HQ at number 38. There was a radio dealer at 38 Fishergate Hill and a Messrs H & G Gooizee, Confectioners at 55. Bring that one back.

I think that at some point in the future I’d like to take one small street and trace the occupiers and professions over a longer period of time. If anyone could help with that it would be appreciated.

Incidentally – Meath Road is in in 1953. There was a Mr J Howson at number 3 who was a watchman (?). A body builder called Dean at 5, several policemen, an electrician called Aspden at 8 and over the road at number 6 a clerk by the name of Helme. This is a bit addictive.

Monday, 23 June 2008

What Do You Like Best About Broadgate?

There's lots to like about Broadgate. At it's best, it's a peaceful leafy enclave between the city, the River Ribble and Avenham Park. It's so convenient for a quick hop on the bus up to town, or an energising stroll up Fishergate Hill, or alternatively to wander along the Ribble Banks, to admire the Ribble Steam Railway, the wildlife of the Ribble, and the beautiful countryside along it's southern bank.

Some of us like the housing, mainly traditional terraces that still hang on to a sense of community, and others like the people, from so many varied backgrounds that live here together, and most of the time get along just fine.

If you scroll to the bottom of the blog, you'll find a poll, where you can vote for the things YOU like best about Broadgate. Make sure you vote!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Homelessness and the Alma Hotel

The Alma Hotel, at the top of Fishergate, was closed down a fortnight ago. The hotel, almost on the doorstep of County Hall, was regularly the source of all kinds of problems for local people and the police. The hotel was badly managed, with many rooms being sub-let. It had become a destination for many people living on the margins of society, including ex-prisoners, drug users, alcoholics and people with many other kinds of problems.

BRAG and PACT worked hard to get the Alma hotel closed down. PC Carl Ingram spent months collecting a catalogue of examples of anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol related disturbances and event after event that had made the lives of neighbours an unrelenting misery. Some members of BRAG showed particular courage and leadership by standing up and speaking out in the witness box in court, despite the real possibility of repercussions, when the Alma case was heard.

At the BRAG meeting where the Alma closure was announced, BRAG members passed a vote of thanks to Carl Ingram for the work that he put in to making sure that the Alma was closed.

Sensationalist press coverage of the closure, which claimed that residents were 'celebrating' the closure of the hotel has however provoked a backlash. In reality most people felt it was a sad neccessity, and regretted the fact that some people were made homeless. Some people blamed the landlord more than anybody, as his management of the hotel had allowed it to go completely out of hand, and while residents lost their homes as a result of the closure, all he lost was 3 months rent.

Greg Smith, who has devoted his life to working with the homeless, feels that some voices have not been heard. he said

Personally I found the headline "Crack House Closed Down" totally unnacceptable, as was a lot of the press coverage of the case of the Alma Hotel. It suggested everyone in the community was jumping with glee at what the police and the courts had done.

I for one wasn't.

I know it was a difficult problem and I know the local police acted in good faith thinking what was the best solution all round, and they tried very hard to find shelter for the people who lived there. But despite all that there was too much "collateral damage" with lots of people ending up homeless, proabably about half a dozen added to the total of rough sleepers. What's more as I understand it none of the residents was charged or brought before the courts for any crime.

In Britain the law is supposed to presume people innocent until proven guilty. But in this case it seems a pretty rotten law that can deprive anyone of the only home they have without proving that they have done anything wrong, leaving them without any rights to be rehoused. Headlines like the one in question push us all into thinking that everyone involved was a notorious criminal. It just ain't fair and it just ain't true.

Greg wrote the following article to express his views in response to the coverage in the Lancashire Evening Post and the Broadgate News:

The recent closure of the Alma Hotel has highlighted some of the uncomfortable issues facing some of those trying to make a home in our community. When for whatever reason you are poor and vulnerable you get ripped off all round, by landlords, by drug dealers, by cider sellers and by your own mates. You get stressed out and start behaving badly and then you get blamed by everyone. Before your know it you are being moved on and you benefit gets stopped and the police are after you. You might go to jail for a while and then when you come out with nothing, the cycle starts all over again.

What the story should lead us to is great sadness and increased concern for those who are on the edges of society. There are plenty of rough sleepers, homeless and near homeless in Preston and the type of properties at the top of Fishergate Hill have tended to concentrate them in our neighbourhood.

Last week someone (probably homeless) was found dead locally there. Most days when I walk my dog through the fields near the river I see people sleeping in tents, or in bivouacs. The other day we disturbed a chap sleeping in the open in the long grass, I thought at first it was a dead body. And they say there is not a huge problem of rough sleeping in Preston, when they tried to do an overnight count they've only found half a dozen or so, but that's because its only within the city centre, and rough sleepers tend to hide pretty well anyway.

In my day job I work with and have become friends with some of these guys and girls who are destitute, who come to drop ins at various churches or who sell the Big Issue. Whatever any of them have done, however they behave and smell, they all have a story, often a sad story of how people and society has failed them and rejected them. Above all they are all human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity. As a Christian I always try to ask "How would Jesus deal with them?" and the short answer is "with compassion not with contempt."

When people get into such trouble it is usually a great long struggle to turn their life around. We have known many who have failed, others who have taken two steps forward then one back and a few who with proper support and the help of good services have made it back into mainstream community life and to earning their own living. We should be thankful that in Preston there are a group of agencies who care and work hard to make a difference to such people, working together through the network of the Preston Homeless Forum. If you want to know more about this and how best to do something to help the homeless contact the forum through its website at or via The Foxton Centre, Knowsley St.,Avenham, Preston PR1 3SA, tel 01772 555925

Greg Smith

What's your view of the Alma closure?

Are you glad it's closed because this makes life better for local people?
Are you concerned that it just shifts the problems somewhere else?
Are you worried about those who now sleep rough as a consequence?
Are you worried that we will get more of the same when the 3 months' closure is up?
Was there really any alternative to the closure?
Is there really no way to help people out of the spiral of drugs, crime, prison and homelessness?

Please let us know what you think by posting your comments below.

Friday, 20 June 2008

North Union Bridge

If you had been walking down Broadgate in September 1835 you may well have been puzzled as to the amount of activity taking place on both sides of the river. Over the next three years your stroll would have witnessed the building of one of the finest bridges in England.

The North Union Railway Bridge opened in October 1838 to great excitement as it opened the way to a means of travel never before seen. The company that built it was the result of the very first amalgamation of two railway companies – the Wigan Branch Railway and the Wigan and Preston Junction Railway. They joined forces and became the North Union Railway and on the 1st November 1838 the first journey into Preston was accompanied by ‘loud huzzas, the bells sent forth their sonorous peals…and a band of music played’.

I like to think that the cheers were also for the bridge itself which is and was an amazing structure. It was 872 feet long, 28 feet wide and 68 feet above the bed of the river. The cutting at the northern end through ‘The Cliffe’ was 29 foot deep and the embankment on the southern side was forty feet high on a base ninety feet wide and contained 464,431 cubic yards of earth. It contained 675,000 cubic feet of rusticated ashlar brought from quarries in Whittle, Longridge and Lancaster and cost £40,000. I use the past tense as the original bridge has been modified twice, in 1879 and 1904 but it still is recognisably the same structure you can see in the early photos.

In the reference library there is a description of it as being ‘light and elliptical and extremely well built with elliptical arches of a 120 foot span each. From beneath the dry arch on the north side a singular and powerful echo repeated many times is evoked by the utterance of a few words at an ordinary pitch of the voice.’

It was built by the firm of Mullins and Company to a design by Charles Vignoles. And this is where the background reading I was doing on this subject took me off on a branch line. Charles Vignoles was born in 1793 in Ireland, he emigrated to the USA where he became a soldier, later becoming a surveyor and in 1823 returned to England. In 1826 he was working with George Stephenson on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway but they didn’t get on and he left. But after working on our bridge his career really took off and he built the Kiev Bridge over the River Dneiper and the Tudela & Bibao Railway in Spain. He also worked on Ireland’s first railway between Dublin and Kingtown. He became a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and its 15th President in 1869 He became a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society on 9 January 1829. In 1841he had become the first Professor of Civil Engineering at University College, London and in 1855 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and published Observations on the Floridas (1823, with valuable map). He died in 1875 in Hampshire.

A truly amazing man and career. And one of his first works was the bridge on Broadgate.

The New Continental

Broadgate, and now the rest of Preston is abuzz with rumours about the 'Conti', once one of Preston's most popular pubs. One day the owners simply seemed to disappear, and the doors shut for months, but now the pub is again a hive of activity as builders come and go.

In a bid to learn the facts about what is happening behind those builder's fences, Pete and Liz have met up with the new owners, Ruth and Jeremy, Jeremy is from Preston, knows the Conti's positive and more recent negative history and has a real vision for the place!

Jeremy, the new 'Mr Continental' is a young guy, 30 ish - really into music. He's funding the entire refurbishment himself in return for a peppercorn rent to the brewery. This means he can do as he wants and that includes the beers he serves, not tied to brewery beers only, so Greg's prayers for some decent real ales may be being answered!

He and Ruth have ripped out whole of the inside and the old Captain Coconuts is to become a music venue where he is hoping to attract local acts.

The garden is being transformed as well as the interior, and the pub will be serving food. Apparently they are bringing in a Manchester lad to manage it who has a lot of experience.

The new management is keen to attract local people who will want to come back and is keen to prevent its old druggy underage drinking culture.

The New Continental now have their own blog:

The 'New Continental Countdown' says:

The redevelopment will see the New Continental become a haven for fine food & drink lovers, with locally sourced produce and a wide range of cask ales, interesting wines, and soft drinks.

The landscaped garden will host weekly summer BBQ’s, alongside a new children’s play area, and sheltered seating areas for al fresco dining.

The on-site barn will become a multi-functional arts space, where you can catch a studio theatre performance, live music session or some stand up comedy.

Whether you are a early bird, popping in to use the wifi for an informal business meeting over quality coffee and cakes, a office worker in need of some feel-good lunchtime food, a family who wants to dine together in the relaxed conservatory, or a group of friends gathering for a glass of good wine and a gossip in our chic snug, you will find a home at the New Continental.

Exciting! Can't wait to sink my first pint on a sunny weekend in the Conti's beer garden!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

What Future For Broadgate's Pubs?

In this contribution, Greg Smith analyses the attrition of pubs in Broadgate and the changes in the way we drink that might be causing it:

What's happening to all the pubs in Broadgate? When we moved here in 2002 there were at least four plus the Bridge Inn just across the river. Now that is the only one left open and even it has a sign up saying "To Let".

The Conti has been closed for a year or so but at least now the builders are in and there are some signs of refurbishment. Does anyone know what is planned or if and when and in what style it will be reopening?

Why are they all closing down? Not just in Broadgate but throughout Preston and across the country. In March 2007 The Campaign For Real Ale (Camra) said its survey, pointed to 56 pub closures every month.

It's not as if people have stopped drinking. In fact doctors are extremely concerned with the increasing damage alcohol is doing to the nation's health. The number of alcohol-related deaths more than doubled from 4,144 in 1991 to 8,758 in 2006.

Rather it's that the culture of boozing has changed. A few decades ago people (mainly men) tended to pop down to the local for a "quick half" two or three times a week and maybe had a few pints at the weekend. These days people of both sexes are more likely to go up town on Friday and Saturday night and drink themselves sick in bars and clubs which stay open till the early hours of the morning. While another kind of drinker buys as much as they can as cheap as they can from the off license or supermarket and brings them home to consume in front of the telly, or out in the streets.

Maybe it's just that alcohol is too cheap, in the shops and in the city centre bars so that pubs just can't make a profit. Some people also blame the smoking ban, though for some of us it was smoke filled rooms that used to deter us from going in or staying long in many locals.

There probably never was a golden age of the British pub. In the 18th and 19th Centuries gin palaces and public houses were responsible for much suffering and degradation. Joseph Livesey set up his Temperance Movement in Preston in March 1832 and spent the rest of his long life crusading against the evils of drink.

However, at its best the local pub did and could provide a friendly hub for local community life. It would be good to think that Broadgate could support at least one such place where people could get together for a drink and a chat, maybe a game of darts, and a simple meal, without the need to get paralytic. I hope a reopened Conti might be something as good as that. and please let's hope it serves some decent real ale.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Improving Avenham Park

Greg Smith wrote this letter to his local councillors, and asked for it to be included in this blog:

I walked through Avenham park this morning and found it disgusting with all the bins overflowing and litter and discarded picnics strewn all over the hillside. My dog enjoyed the experience as a compulsive scavenger though it took ages to bring him back on the lead.

I'm afraid to say this is a frequent occurence whenever there is a warm weekend and people go out to enjoy the park and given that Avenham and Miller parks are treasured by residents and being promoted by the city as a tourist attraction it is just not good enough.

In my view most of the blame lies with the members of the public who fail to dispose of their litter properly, although I suspect that the devastation this Sunday morning has been compounded by the vandalism of the wandering drunken hordes who are encouraged to get wasted in the city centre each weekend.

However I would suggest there are a couple of things the council could do to improve matters.

First the size and number of bins provided is insufficient to meet demand at peak times such as a sunny weekend. Could the council not arrange to have a temporary commercial size bin or two delivered and collected from the park whenever the weather forecast suggests there is likely to be crowds sunbathing and picnicing.

Secondly if park rangers were on duty on such days until sunset at least, and had powers to impose on the spot fines for litter louts, many people would be deterred from this anti social behaviour. It might also be a good idea to extend the ban on consuming alcohol in the streets to the park, and to make it a criminal offence for publicans and off licenses to sell alcohol to people who are evidently inebriated might also help.

I'd be glad if you could look into this problem to see if my suggestions or other solutions to this horrible problem might work.

Greg Smith

My new blog:

Welcome to Broadgate is Great

This is a blog that will keep everyone up to date with what is happening in Broadgate and the work of the Broadgate Residents Action Group. It will also give Broadgate people a voice, a place where they can speak about the issues that affect their lives.

Broadgate stretches from the Continental Pub, all the way to the docks including Hartington Road and Marsh Lane, and up Fishergate Hill to County Hall. All kinds of wonderful people live here. It's a place people stay once they've found it.

As Broadgate people, we need to find ways to cooperate, to face the many challenges that affect our community.

We need to start caring about each other, and about our environment, and rebuild and strengthen our community.

Broadgate means everyone in Broadgate, no matter where you started out, no matter what your colour or creed, no matter whether you are young or old.

Let's find ways to live together and make our area the best place to live in Preston.