Events you can book at Winckley Square Heritage Weekend 2021

Pioneering Women of Preston will be walked into the history books this weekend, as Fiona Finch reports

A spotlight will be turned on pioneering women of Preston this coming weekend.

The lives of extraordinary local women will also be examined in a series of special walks and talks, all centred on Winckley Square at the heart of the city.

A bumper weekend of events, including Regency Promenade tours, all organised by the Friends of Winckley Square will help mark the group's annual Heritage Weekend (September 11/12).

Portrait of Mrs Avice Margaret Pimblett (1880 -1963), Preston's first femnale councillor and first female mayor

Pat Harrison, the chair of the Friends of Winckley Square, is delighted to be welcoming visitors back to the historic Square after the Covid-19 lockdown meant last year's heritage events and many more Friends' events had to be cancelled.

She said the decision to focus on pioneering and extraordinary women was in part an acknowledgement that so often the role of leading women has been overlooked and not made it to the record books.

She said:" We decided to go down the route of women who did whatever they did as the first in Preston."

Former town mayor Avice Margaret Pimblett 1879 - 1963 and solicitor Dorothy Heaton (1914 - 1983) are among the first women of distinction to be given the Friends' pioneer status. Louisa Walsh, the first headmistress of Preston High School for Girls and Alice Stoneman, headmistress of the Park School are also singled out in the Winckley Women Pioneers event.

Pioneering solicitor Dorothy Heaton - the first woman to open her own legal practice in Preston

Pat said: "I think there are probably lots of women whose stories have disappeared! For Avice to be the first woman mayor was quite an achievement. She as the first female Preston Councillor and the first female alderman. Dorothy Heaton was the first female solicitor and the first woman to have a practice in Preston. She kept her practice in her own maiden name. Dorothy got involved in representing a lot of women."

Pat cited the disparity between the number of blue Heritage plaques marking where famous men and women have lived. Only around 14 per cent of blue plaques nationally commemorate women according to an English heritage survey in 2018.

That oversight will be part remedied in Preston when a blue plaque is erected at Avice's former home at 7, Ribblesdale Place (now the offices of the Frank Whittle Partnership which has sponsored the plaque) and for Dorothy Heaton at 17, Winckley Square, where the plaque will be sponsored by a relative of Dorothy's. A plaque already marks suffragette Edith Rigby's residence in Winckley Square.

As for the extraordinary women who feature in the weekend events they range from famous suffragette Edith Rigby, who campaigned for all women to be given the right to vote, to Cornelia Connolly who founded the religious HCJ (Holy Child Jesus ) order and whose HCJ convent and school were on the Chapel Street side of the Square. Winckley Square Convent School provided education for local Catholic girls for more than a century.

Heritage plaque marking suffragette Edith Rigby's former home

Pat said: "Cornelia was a pioneer in lots of ways. She established education in England for Roman Catholic girls, starting in Derby and then Preston. She was married with five chidlren and became a nun and then an abbess and effigies of her were burnt on Guy Fawkes night. Her husband took her to court for the reinstatement of conjugal rights."

The Extraordinary Women whose lives will be considered include Frances Winckley after whom the Square is named, Ellen Cross and Beatrice Todd.

Several of the events are already sold out but there are still tickets available for some of Sunday's events, including the Former Residents walk at 11 am, A Gander with the Gardener around Winckley Square Garden (the Square's park) at 11.15 am, Women Pioneers at 11.30am and a Photography Workshop with Paul Rushton of Preston Photographic Society at 11.45 am.

It is hoped that the photographic workshop participants might take photos suitable for a future exhibition, focusing on Winckley Square Gardens' flora and fauna, Square visitors and local buildings.

A view of a local belvedere at Ribblesdale Place ( belvederes are architectural structures sited to make the most of a scenic view) which will be incldued in the Regency Promenade tour. Photo: Elaine Taylor

Two Regency Promenade Tours which are now fully booked will provide a unique opportunity to visit two private gardens first laid out in the Georgian and Victorian eras. One has two belvederes which were built to overlook Avenham Park. Pat added: ‘We are very grateful to the local company FWP and to Tarquin Scott for agreeing to allow our specialist garden historian Elaine Taylor to include their gardens on her Regency Promenade."

There will also be two exhibitions on show within the Square 'Inside Out' and 'Extraordinary Women of Winckley Square' which have previously been shown at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.

For more information and to book tickets see Eventbrite or here

If you have difficulty booking contact [email protected] or contact [email protected]

* The Friends of Winckley Square are dedicated to tracing the history of the Square and its inhabitants and those who lived nearby in what they describe as the Winckley Square quarter and welcome new volunteers to aid with research and/or gardening in the main Winckley Gardens. There will be more walks and talks during the Preston Arts Festival in October.

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Images of HCJ order founder Cornelia Connolly
Heritage Guided Walk in Winckley Square 2019
A tent talk on Edith Rigby at a previous heritage event