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.