Walk 9: Preston and Leyland

Tour of Preston and Leyland, Twentieth Century Society North West Group

Saturday 22nd September 2012, 10.30am – 5.00pm

On an unexpectedly sunny and warm Saturday we set off from Preston train station for a tour of the twentieth century highlights of Preston and Leyland.  Our guide for the day was Aidan Turner-Bishop, chair of the North West Group and our transport for the day in the form of a 1989 Leyland Lynx bus (the only one left in service in the Preston Bus fleet)!

Leyland Lynx – our transport for the day

We began with a couple of quick stops in Preston itself: Preston Magistrate’s Court (1972, Borough Architects), the neighbouring Law Courts (1996, Austin-Smith: Lord), before heading up to the roof of the Bus Station (1969, BDP: Keith Ingham/Charles Wilson).  This was an opportunity for those from out of town to have a look at the city’s most famous piece of 20th century architecture.

Preston Magistrates Court

Roof of Preston Bus Station

After the bus station we headed off to Brockholes Nature Reserve to take in Adam Khan Architects’ new visitor centre, which opened last year.  With its impresive eco-credentials this striking high-roofed group of ‘floating’ structures was a great spot to soak up some sunshine and stop for a bite of lunch whilst taking in the wildlife.

Brockholes Visitor Centre

En route to Brockholes we caught a glimpse of the Preston By-Pass Opening Stone that was unveiled in December 1958 to commemorate the beginning of the British motorway network.

From there we headed down to Leyland where we spent some time looking at St Mary’s RC Church (1962-64, Weightman and Bullen).  With a folded radial reinforced concrete roof, circular main chapel, stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens (known for Coventry Cathedral), stations of the cross by Arthur Dooley, woodwork by Robert “mouseman” Thompson and a central crucifix and ceramic frieze by Adam Kossowski, the interest in St Mary’s doesn’t stop at its bold architectural design.  The church and its bell tower are both grade II listed but it is also a fabulous treasure trove of mid-twentieth century church art.

At St Mary’s we were joined by David Hunt, of South Ribble Borough Council Museum, who along with Father Jonathan were on hand to explain the history of the building and ongoing efforts to maintain this remarkable building.

St Mary’s RC Church, Leyland

Patrick Reyntiens’ stained glass

Arthur Dooley station of the cross

Posing for a photo for Father Jonathan in honour of St Mary’s 50th Anniversary

David stayed on to show us some more unusual buildings that were built as part of the Leyland Motors Estate in the 1920 and 1930s.  First up were two cul-de-sacs that screamed garden city.  Under the Leyland Construction Co Ltd these were where experiments with steel-framed, concrete houses were constructed in the early 1920s for workers at the Leyland factories.

It was great to hear from Bill, who at 82 years young, had lived in one of these houses all his life.  Although I don’t know if I’d be so cheerful retelling stories of damp, and crumbling concrete!

Leyland Garden City: steel frames and concrete infill

Because Leyland Motor Company was such an important employer in the town our next stop was Centurion Way to take in Lancaster House (1965-66, Fairhursts) which had been Leyland Motors’ Truck and Bus Division.  Opposite are Spurrier Works and some remaining remnants of Leyland Motors’ factories.

Leyland Clock: these were used by Leyland Motors in the 1930s for advertising and became roadside landmarks. This example was restored and re-started in 1996.

Lancaster House, Centurion Way

Before returning back to Preston Station there was time to round off the day with a quick stop at Avenham Park for a look at the Pavillion (2008, Ian McChesney Architects) and views of the River Ribble.  A beautiful spot to finish up the day.

As a Preston resident it was enjoyable to take part in a tour in my own patch!  It definitely whetted my appetite to find out more about the short-lived Central Lancashire New Town, which we saw glimpses of throughout the day.

Avenham Park Pavillion

More photos can be seen on our flickr account

– Hannah


One response to “Walk 9: Preston and Leyland

  1. Well… It’s not often that I come across some geographers citing my home town of Leyland – which is to say, this is the only time it’s happened to me, ever! St. Mary’s Church is awesome. As a child it always seemed a strange thing, and on reflection to have something of that architectural quality tucked away in a little town like Leyland surely testifies to the strength of post war optimism. It’s the kind of building you’d expect to find only in a city these days.

    I have mixed feelings about Leyland Motors. Arguably the firm’s expansion and then rapid decline ruined what was previously a very pretty small village. Leyland was in many ways a pretty grim place to grow up during the 80s. To call it a tiny version of Detroit is probably way off the mark, but there was lots of unemployment, ruined buildings and an ambient sense of despair about the place.

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