How Preston celebrated Easter 60 years ago

Easter in Lancashire will be a different occasion this year but in this special feature local historian Keith Johnson turns back the clock to see how Preston celebrated the weekend 60 years ago.

Friday, 10th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Annual pram race in Leyland, from Worden Park to Chapel Brow and back, on Easter Monday 1960
Annual pram race in Leyland, from Worden Park to Chapel Brow and back, on Easter Monday 1960

For those Lancashire folk who can cast their mind back 60 years to the Easter of April 1960 there are countless fond memories to recall.

Easter that year was celebrated over the second weekend of April and, as usual on a traditional Good Friday, many took to the countryside with their packed lunch and a spicey hot cross bun.

The numerous local routes such as ‘Nickey Nook’ and Inglewhite, from the Bruce Clucas book ‘Forty Rambles’, were as popular as ever, and for those wishing to venture further afield Alfred Wainwright had just published his fourth book, the ‘The Southern Fells’, for the Lake District hikers.

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Easter crowds in Avenham Park in the 1960s Photo: Kenneth Berry, courtesy of Heather Crook

It wasn’t the best day weather wise being generally cold, blustery and damp. There was much interest in the traffic flowing along the relatively new Preston By-Pass, the ground breaking start of the M6 motorway. Kendal and beyond was the destination for many, with a reported 1,800 vehicles an hour heading north at over 40mph.

From Maundy Thursday onwards the churches and chapels were busy with priests, preachers and parsons leading the faithful in pray. The message for Easter Sunday delivered by the Rev Fordham at Emmanuel Church was ‘Christ The Lord Is Risen Today’, a reminder of what Easter was all about.

It was a memorable Easter for the members of the North Road Pentecostal Church at the corner of Walker Street, as they opened their doors for the first time having moved from Cheetham Street to the former Wesleyan Chapel.

Easter is always a popular time for brides with many a happy couple tying the knot. Unusually, in 1960 the Preston registrar Mr Robson reported that not a single couple exchanged their vows on Easter Saturday at the Registry Office, although on Easter Monday 11 couples were married there. This was well down on the previous year when 30 couples were wed there. Apparently, the lateness of Easter that year meant the tax rebate for married couples was not worth the trouble.

Easter Eggs in a Woolworths in 1960

For the footballers of Preston North End there was a packed programme of matches over the Easter holiday. It began on the Saturday with Deepdale the venue for the visit of local rivals Blackpool, with both sides comfortable in mid table in the First Division.

The visitors had played at Everton the previous day and they took to the field without Stanley Matthews who had been injured in that match. A bright sunny afternoon greeted the players with more than 26,000 in attendance, many travelling from Blackpool by train. Les Campbell opened the scoring for Preston after a quarter of an hour; Les Dagger made it 2-0 five minutes later and then Ray Charnley headed a goal for Blackpool three minutes later.

Preston though were passing and probing and Tom Finney put them 3-1 ahead just before the interval. David Seddon was having a particularly good match for Preston and was involved in a number of searching moves in the second half, and he found the net within the hour to seal a 4-1 victory for North End.

On a bright and sunny Easter Monday morning PNE welcomed struggling Leeds United to Deepdale before a crowd of almost 16,000. It was a disappointing game which only came to life in the closing stages. With just 12 minutes remaining a Finney throw in, a Gordon Milne pass and a stab in from Dave Seddon seemed to have won the match. However, Leeds rallied and with a couple of minutes to go Gibson netted the equaliser.

Easter was traditionally a busy time for Lancashires fishing industry. On the first day of the Holy Week Fleetwoods armada of trawlers would land bumper harvests for dinner tables across Lancashire and beyond as this early 1960s

For many Preston supporters it was a quick dash from Deepdale to Avenham Park where the egg rolling was in full swing. Among those rolling their eggs on Avenham Park that Easter Monday were the family of joiner Albert Brown. Along with his wife and three children, he took part in the event while reflecting that five years earlier, when he lived in Jamaica he had never heard of egg rolling.

In those days he had celebrated Easter with a Good Friday competition to eat a hot cross bun the quickest. In the afternoon the crowds were treated to a concert by the Hoggarth’s Works Band, a delight for young and old alike.In true Easter tradition there was plenty of action at the Preston Greyhound Track, with many of the football supporters from the Saturday afternoon match making for the dog track, where the races began at 7pm. Eight races followed and a number of the dogs who had raced on Maundy Thursday were trying their luck again.

Throughout the holiday there had been plenty of dances held, with the Public Hall ending the break with an Easter Monday special featuring Les Marsden and his band. At the St Ignatius ballroom in Pump Street, with fasting over they held an ‘After Lent’ event with the cha-cha, rock and jazz all catered for by the Ken White Group. And, of course, there was dancing at the Preston Jazz Club, the Regent Ballroom and Wally Hobkirk’s Dance Club on Lancaster Road.

Despite the arrival of television sets in plenty of Preston homes the town’s cinemas still did plenty of business. They offered panoramic screens, glorious technicolor and double bills.

Easter at St Annes in the 1960s

The Empire Theatre on Church Street featured John Wayne in ‘The Quiet Man’; nearby at the Palladium ‘Satan’s Satellites’ was showing and across the street at the Ritz it was Frank Sinatra starring in ‘Meet Danny Wilson’.

The Gaumont had the Walt Disney classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’ topping the bill, and further down Fishergate at the ABC Cinema it was ‘Inn for Trouble’ with laughter all the way with Peggy Mount and David Kossoff. Only three neighbourhood cinemas remained and they continued with popular films. At the Empress in Eldon Street it was ‘I’m Alright Jack’, at the Queen’s on Acregate Lane they showed the ‘Lone Ranger and the Lost City Of Gold’, while the Carlton on Blackpool Road screened ‘The Red Beret’.

The Gaumont, ever eager to attract the crowds, went from cinema to live performance for one night only on Easter Sunday. Top of the bill was the American singing sensation Johnny ( Running Bear) Preston and a supporting cast of music makers. Not to be outdone the Public Hall weighed in with a concert headed by Paul Robeson on the Wednesday night.

Those who resisted the temptation to venture out for entertainment and stayed by their televisions during the holiday were not disappointed. There were only the BBC and ITV transmitting programmes, but they provided a wide range of viewing. Religion certainly got peak viewing slots with the `Stations Of The Cross’ and ‘The Crucifixion’ on Good Friday afternoon. For youngsters there was ‘Watch With Mother` and ‘Blue Peter’ and for family fun ‘The Army Game’ and ‘Take Your Pick’.

With the improvement in the weather, as the holiday progressed there was an increase in traffic with many a motorist heading for Blackpool, Morecambe, Southport and Fleetwood. Southport held an Easter parade and extra trains from Preston were packed with day trippers eager to enjoy the seaside fun. Sunny Morecambe had hardly a deck chair to spare as folk packed the Promenade. Happily, the journey home for most was bereft of bottlenecks, with the motorway age underway traffic was free flowing.

On Tuesday morning, on the Avenham and Miller Parks, it seemed that the national Keep Britain Tidy campaign was paying dividends. The parks department staff commented that although up to 40,000 had been out egg rolling the litter was only half as much as previously.

They also reported that all of the 41 lost children had been reunited with their parents before they left the parks. Easter wasn’t quite over for the footballers with PNE facing a return match at Leeds on that Tuesday evening. They started brightly enough and Les Campbell put them ahead netting a Finney cross.

However, they paid the price for other missed opportunities when Leeds scored two second-half goals to win 2-1, the first goal was headed home by a young Jack Charlton. A vital win for them, but it didn’t save them from relegation.