Queen Elizabeth: Eerie hush as Preston comes to terms with the death of Her Majesty The Queen

It's not like Preston to hide its emotions . . .
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Yet outwardly there was precious little to suggest a city deep in mourning for a much-loved Queen as people went about their normal Friday business.

Scratch beneath the surface however and the grief was unmistakable.

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"Don't be fooled - folk are upset, really upset," said butcher Adrian Livesey in an eerily quiet market hall.

Preston Mayor Coun Neil Darby signs the Town Hall's book of condolence.Preston Mayor Coun Neil Darby signs the Town Hall's book of condolence.
Preston Mayor Coun Neil Darby signs the Town Hall's book of condolence.

"It broke my heart when I heard the Queen had died. Customers are extremely sombre. There’s no music in here today. Everyone's feeling it inside."

Adrian was wearing a black tie under his butcher's whites as a mark of respect. All the staff on his stall were dressed in black too.

"If we could have done more then we would have done," said son Sam. "But we didn't have much time from the announcement the Queen had died to opening up today."

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Businesses across the city had clearly faced the same dilemma and more are expected to create tributes to the 96-year-old monarch as the days go on.

Floral tributes left at the obelisk on Preston's Flag Market.Floral tributes left at the obelisk on Preston's Flag Market.
Floral tributes left at the obelisk on Preston's Flag Market.

Right now the bulk of the sadness seems to be staying quietly under wraps.

Two city centre charity shops closed for the day as a mark of respect. A handful of others displayed Union flags, not knowing what was acceptable so soon after Her Majesty's passing.

Across the road at the Banana King fruit and veg store, staff had taken down Platinum Jubilee bunting, worried it might be inappropriate.

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"We didn't know what to do," said a tearful Ellen Young who remembers watching the Queen's coronation in 1952 as a six-year-old on a TV with a nine-inch screen. "We haven't experienced anything like this before.

A tearful Ellen Young outside the Banana King shop in Orchard Street.A tearful Ellen Young outside the Banana King shop in Orchard Street.
A tearful Ellen Young outside the Banana King shop in Orchard Street.

"But now I wish we'd kept it up to show how much we loved her."

A life-sized cardboard cut-out of the Queen remained in place at the upstairs window of the shop, regally looking out onto shoppers in Orchard Street below.

Floral tributes were beginning to be left at the foot of the Flag Market obelisk - a monument which the Queen unveiled in 1979.

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Books of condolence were opened at the Town Hall, Preston Minster and County Hall for the public to write down their feelings about a sovereign who had ruled with such grace and dignity for all of 70 years.

Alma Stewart puts up posters outside Preston Town Hall to direct people to the council's book of condolence.Alma Stewart puts up posters outside Preston Town Hall to direct people to the council's book of condolence.
Alma Stewart puts up posters outside Preston Town Hall to direct people to the council's book of condolence.

Most of those signing messages had known no other monarch. Suddenly their lives had changed - the nation now had a King - and some were struggling to put into words just how sad they were feeling.

At the Minster, the Vicar of Preston, Rev Sam Haigh, said: "The general mood is sombre. It is really palpable in those I have spoken to.

"Even though Her Majesty was 96 and had been ill, I would say people were still shocked when they heard the news."

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The Minster building would normally be closed on a Friday, but not today. The doors opened at 9am for people to sign the book and say a private prayer.

"Today there is a genuine sense of the gravity of the occasion," added Rev Haigh. "I think lots of people want to mark the occasion and pay tribute in some way.

"That's why the books of condolence are available and important. It gives people an avenue to express their gratitude and grief."

The Vicar of Preston Rev Sam Haigh with the Minster's book of condolence.The Vicar of Preston Rev Sam Haigh with the Minster's book of condolence.
The Vicar of Preston Rev Sam Haigh with the Minster's book of condolence.

It is just 20 years since the building became a Minster - designated as such after the Queen bestowed city status on Preston.

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Round the corner at the Town Hall the Mayor of Preston Coun Neil Darby opened the council's own book at noon with black posters of the Queen on either side of the main door to direct people inside.

On Friargate a Salvation Army officer selling War Cry magazines said shoppers had expressed sadness and shock at the news of the Queen's passing.

"A lot of them seemed to think she could go on forever," he said. "And a lot were wishing she could have got to 100 and, perhaps smiling, wondered if she would have sent a card to herself?

"The Queen was so loving and gracious and understanding, even though her family have had their moments over the years.

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"I think many are hoping King Charles will take the leadership that his mother has provided. Maybe somehow he can offer an olive branch to the family, reach out and bring them all together."

On the door of the British Heart Foundation shop in Orchard Street a simple message said: "This shop is closed today as a mark of respect for the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

In Fishergate the British Red Cross charity store did the same. "As a mark of respect we will be closed today," said their sign in the window.

Screens throughout the St George's Shopping Centre showed images of Her Majesty on black backgrounds.

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Back at the Livesey butchers stall the staff were still numb after happily meeting Prince Edward and Sophie during the Royal Visit on Wednesday and then hearing 24 hours later the couple had dashed up to Balmoral to be at the Queen's bedside.

"I'd never met a Royal before and it gladdened my heart," said Adrian. "They were brilliant. They took such an interest in the market hall and those of us who work here.

"Then for this to happen the following day was just shattering. Goodness knows how they are feeling.

"What the Queen did for this country was immense. If anyone comes in here and says the Royal Family are a waste of taxpayers money I swear I'll bar them."

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