New heritage trail unlocks secrets

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Preston Council has launched a new heritage trail to showcase the best of the city.

Reporter Fiona Finch found out more at the official launch.

The Guild Mayor Cllr Carl and Mayoress Linda Crompton with Gayle Hewitt, Keith Vernon, Emma Hesselwood and Guilders Mike McCann, Stephanie Murray, Heather Crook and Alan White at the launch of the Preston Guild Trail

The Guild Mayor Cllr Carl and Mayoress Linda Crompton with Gayle Hewitt, Keith Vernon, Emma Hesselwood and Guilders Mike McCann, Stephanie Murray, Heather Crook and Alan White at the launch of the Preston Guild Trail

An invitation to “unlock the secrets hidden deep inside the city” was hard to resist, especially for a born and bred Prestonian.

Walking boots at the ready, I set out with the Guild Mayor and Mayoress, some expert Guides and local history enthusiasts for the official launch of The Guild Trail.

Preston wears its past lightly. But if you lift your eyes beyond the retail offer there’s another story to tell - but where to begin?

Well Preston’s Turkish Baths of course. You didn’t know we had one? Well not any more, but the town’s Miller Arcade was once a popular bathing spot and the carved stone sign is still there to prove it.

Full Guild logo

Full Guild logo

Back to the trail, walkers can apply themselves to both a clue and a picture Trail. They’re interlinked but with different answers and in turn these answers provide the ultimate solution to the Guild Trail puzzle.

Sound complicated? Well it’s not once you start walking.

Crack the clues and you then link them to the Preston Timeline - 21 fascinating (yes, truly) facts - my favouite being 1862 when world-famous French tightrope artist Charles Blondin performed over Preston marsh surrounded by fireworks.

If all the world’s a stage Preston has certainly had its players. Think of the usual suspects - temperance campaigner Joseph Livesey, firebrand suffragette Edith Rigby, spinning supremo Sir Richard Arkwright, right through to more recent famous lads with local connections Nick Park, Freddie Flintoff, Kenny Baker and even artist Andy Goldsworthy and they are all there,

But there are also lesser known gems. You can learn about the town’s Gold Thread Works, get in training for a pub quiz by absorbing the essential knowledge that Preston was home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in the UK, be surprised that Butch Cassidy’s parents lived here and marvel that the first X-ray in Britain was taken at Preston Royal Infirmary in 1904.

The trail is a beguiling mix of buildings and personalities and yes, it lifts the lid on Preston’s past.

Even better perhaps it prompts those taking part to divert down memory lane ... as Preston’s Guild Mayoress Linda Crompton proved as we made our way off Fishergate down Cannon Street, reminding us how department store Owen Owen used to reign on Fishergate.

What’s equally appealing is that the trail does get you walking around and looking at the town from a different perspective - walk up the hill from Arkwright House back to Church Street and you get a wonderful view of the Parish Church.

Go tree counting along Avenham Colonnade and you’re rewarded with fantastic views of the Ribble surrounded by trees in their autumn glory.

The information is shared in an accessible way. The leaflet looks (intentionally) aged in design, with echoes of old-fashioned board games, a cue perhaps that this trail is about taking life at a more leisurely pace.

The trail is jam packed with anecdotes and information. It’s thought it’ll take two hours - but with a family group I’d expect it to take a little longer.

If you’re looking for an affordable half-term activity this could be just the thing. The trick is to get the children interested in coming along, the treat is learning more about Preston.

Did I answer every question and solve the puzzle? Well, that would be telling!

*Packs cost £5.00 and come complete with puzzle photographs. The Guild Trail packs can be purchased from the Preston Visitor Information Centre on Lancaster Road.

Photos shows Guild Mayor Coun Carl Crompton, Mayoress Mrs Linda Crompton, Emma Hesselwood, Curator of History at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Keith Vernon of Preston Heritage Group and Preston Guild volunteer “Guilders” at the launch of the trail, which was led by Gayle Hewitt, Preston City Council’s Head of Destination Marketing.

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