Warehouse figurehead mystery solved

A retired detective reckons he has cracked the case of the mystery figurehead above the doorway of a Preston warehouse.

Former police officer and history enthusiast John Siddall is convinced it is English printing pioneer William Caxton – and other city historians agree.

The Evening Post appealed for information when council planners, who gave the go-ahead for the Marsh Lane building to be demolished, were stumped as to the man's identity.

By coincidence, 70-year-old Mr Siddall spent six weeks researching the figurehead at the Harris Library two years ago when he discovered the building used to be a printers.

He then noticed the initials W C hidden below the head and discovered they were in the same style used by England's first ever printer.

He said: "My friend asked me if I had ever noticed the figurehead in Marsh Lane.

" She took me to see it and we decided to research it in the Harris reference library.

"We found out that it was Parkinson's R and R Printers when it was Bridge Street and then noticed the initials below the head are Caxton's trademark and were used in his early books.

"I used to be a detective for a short time and have always had a love for history. My police skills paid off."

Mr Siddall believes the bust was attached to the building in honour of the printing pioneer in 1898.

But while others agree it is William Caxton's head, they have differing views on how it got there.

Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust chairman Aidan Turner-Bishop said: "The bust used to be on the wall of Halewood's booksellers' reserve store and I asked the late Horace Halewood about the statue.

"He told me that it was Caxton and that in Victorian times it was often common for printing presses to have a bust of Caxton over the door."

Reader Stewart Turner wrote to the Evening Post and said: "That figurehead has been in the wall on Marsh Lane since the early 90s.

"It is the head of William Caxton, the father of English printing."

There is also debate over whether it came from the old offices of the Lancashire Evening Post in Fishergate, though this has been disputed by Mr Siddall and long-serving Evening Post staff cannot recall the bust.

Mr Siddall, who is also a member of the Preston Historical Society, said: "I am 99.9% sure my information is correct."

City bosses are looking at removing the head when work takes place to develop 20 new apartments on the site and want to reinstate it on the new building.