How Preston's city centre has changed over the years

The first KFC was opened in Preston
The first KFC was opened in Preston
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Columnist Dave Swanton writes about the changing face of the Preston's city scape.

I was in Preston town centre the other week for an appointment at a client’s office and am just amazed at how the town has changed down the years.

Firstly I decided to park the car in the car park in Avenham but found it full. There was another one around the corner at £5 for three hours so I thought that was the best option rather than driving around the town, risking casting a shadow on a bus lane and getting a fine through the post.

Fishergate is so sad to walk down with many shops boarded up and no sign of new tenants. Then again the holding companies have been cashing in for years and now have deteriorating liabilities whose only chance is short term lets for charity shops.

The etchings on the bricks are still there in Avenham Street showing where tobacco was processed in the old days when smoking was the ‘norm’.

I was early for my appointment so I headed for the safe haven of Bruccianis where my parents used to take me as a child. Not much has changed but I like it that way and sat in the window watching the world by for 20 minutes.

Next door is the first ever Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in the UK. You do have to wonder why the Colonel picked Fishergate, though. As a Preston North End regular in the 1970s I remember getting a winning voucher in a programme that presented me with a bargain bucket. The lads from National Westminster and I made light work of that before we crossed over and finished the night, firstly in the Theatre Pub then the Painted Wagon. Thankfully the pinball machine in my head keeps pinging and throwing up these wonderful memories of times gone by.

Read related stories: Preston then and now in pictures and Celebrating 50 years of KFC in Preston
The whole of Fishergate used to house all the major banks and building societies. Nowadays they have been condensed into a minimum and the queues never seem to end.

My days in the bank had simple rules, the customer is king. You never left your position whilst there was a queue even if it meant you had a delayed lunch hour. A friend of mine recently stated that his bank had four cashiers unless it was really busy, when they had two.

Whilst in Bruccianis I noticed traffic going down Mount Street which got me thinking. I always thought the traffic came out on to Fishergate. That’s something else I missed.

The recent ‘Post’ photographic feature on the old Mount Street hospital brought back some memories. I remember my mum being admitted in the 1980s and it was like a film set of Victorian hospital.

On my way out of town I decided to drive round where Preston Royal Infirmary once stood. I seemed to spend a lot of my early life in there and the most frightening thing was when you sat in A & E and they started pushing trolleys down the corridors on the way to the operating theatre. There was a sign there that I once read on the way down for repairs that read ‘Prepare to meet your maker’ … could you imagine that today? No I can’t either.

There are so many memories that the old town triggers when you drive and walk around. Things move on but not always for the better. Thankfully, I have my photographic memory and the Post to remind me of how things used to be.