Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

News and Views

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Jun 2012

Congratulations to Chorley Heritage Support Group
Wed 27 June 2012

The Community Archives and Heritage Group’s sixth annual conference was held at the University College, London on Wed 27 June 2012.

Chorley’s Heritage Centre Support Group received the award for ‘Best New Archive.’

Throughout the day the standard of presentations was very high and there can be no doubt that Bill Walker of our Heritage Centre Support Group gave one of the best. Accompanying Bill was Alan Greenhalgh who was partly responsible for keeping their website up to date.

Bill Walker


Dr Alan Crosby – Preston Guild - a history of England's greatest carnival
Tue 12 June 2012

Historian, Alan Crosby, wrote the official record of the Preston Guild before the 1992 event.

Alan took us right back to the 12th century to when Preston was granted its first borough charter. This granted by Henry II in 1179 when Preston had a population of less than 1,000 people. A small community but with Preston’s geographic position an important one.

Preston was one of the first towns’ granted a charter but it does not exist now. However, what it said is known as it is based on the charter granted to Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Preston’s was a royal charter where the Crown had granted privileges. Other places granted the same included Kendal, Liverpool, Carlisle and Wigan.

The Guild Merchant was actually a brotherhood of men, it was a male preserve until 1992, who were involved in business and share a common interest. If you were not a member then you could not conduct business in Preston as it was effectively a ‘closed shop’. Penalties for contravention included an order to cease\to trade, fines and confiscation of stock in trade and tools of trade. These, naturally, would be distributed amongst the members.

There appears to be evidence of only occasional guilds held up until the end of the 15th century. It was the guild of 1397 that first recorded a list of the members of the Guild Merchants.

From 1522 onwards though the Guild fell into a pattern of being held every 20 years. This was probably due to that time span fitting into a generational cycle. Membership was based on a hereditary principal and fathers passed it onto their sons. The now extinct Kendal guild occurred every 21 years.

Alan Crosby

Although members protected their own trade men could buy into the membership, especially if you ran a trade that was not in competition to the town’s traders. This was a way of bringing new blood into town.

It was not until the 18th century that there was a surge in membership. Not of traders but of Lancashire’s gentry, aristocracy and clergy. It was the 1742 guild procession that saw the trade element became secondary to the civic.

It was the 1802 guild that experienced a dramatic change and one that was crucial to its future success.

This was due to one man, John Horrocks. Horrocks was the town’s largest employer owning several cotton mills and was the town’s richest man. He was also one the town’s 2 MPs. However, this power also made him the most hated man in town. He was though a great self-publicist and took the opportunity to ‘showcase’ his mills and their products. He headed the procession, arm in arm with the town’s other mill owners with their workers following behind.

This Guild saw much wider people participation with involvement of merchants, traders, civic, church and Sunday schools.

Despite ebbs and flows in the Guild’s success, mainly caused by the economic climate of the day, it still continues. This year sees the latest one but because of council budget cuts it will be a more modest event than more recent ones. It will, no doubt, be eagerly awaited for Prestonians to celebrate their historic Guild.

Peter Robinson

The old brick vaulted reservoir from 1884 at Clayton-le-Woods is still under threat from United Utilities and Chorley Council who want to demolish it to build houses.
Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society support an alternative use which is conversion to a open recreational area.
News and Views has previously mentioned a similar scheme in Sydney, Australia where the larger Paddington Reservoir was converted.
Our members Lilian and Jim Oldham visited the Sydney site this year and took several photographs of the saved structure. A couple of their pictures are shown below.