Preston’s Bus Station

You might be aware of the fact that Preston is home to an infamous and controversial building… the bus station!

This infamous building is often described as being like Marmite- you either love it or loathe it! But why is it so divisive? Let us try to find out…

Preston Bus Station

It was designed by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson, who belonged to the Building Design Partnership, a firm of architects and engineers that was founded by the Prestonian architect George Grenfell Baines. They worked together with engineers from Ove Arup and Partners, and building work began in 1968, being completed in 1969. It was designed to accommodate 80 double decker buses and 1,100 cars, and it is still one of the largest bus stations in the world.

Preston Bus Station Development by Preston Corporation

Side note: Nick Park, the creator of Wallace & Gromit and UCLan SU meeting room namesake, has a connection to the Preston bus station, as his father worked as a photographer for the Building Design Partnership. Check out our blog about him here!

Roger Park, Preston Bus Station

But why does it stir up so many passions? Why is it often called ‘ugly’?

The building was built in a style called ‘Brutalism’, which was a modernist architectural movement that took its name from the French word for “raw”. This in turn came from the favoured building material choice of many architects of béton brut, raw concrete. It was popular from the 1950s until 1970s, and it became popular with governmental projects. Examples are found worldwide, and they are easily identified with their fortess-like appearance and the predominant use of exposed concrete construction, which can seem forbidding. The concrete would often expose the construction work, and was often designed to have a certain sculptural quality to it.

The rugged, not easily accessible look of the designed buildings could be interpreted as a reaction of younger designers to the smooth, light designs of the Art Deco era. This can be found in the design of the Preston Bus Station, where the car park balconies incorporate distinctive curves in exposed raw concrete. These balconies are the most recognisable feature of the structure, and they are functional, as they protect car bumpers from crashing against a vertical wall. It was also meant to have a sculptural quality to it.


It is noteworthy that many original features are still in place- the bold Helvetica signage and big Swiss railway-style clocks. The quality of the materials used is also noteworthy: bespoke handrails and the white tiles on the exterior and interior, produced by Shaws of Darwen, the same kind used in Harrods. It can be argued that such a standard of finish in public buildings would be unusual today, and whilst the appearance of these features might look rundown today, one must keep in mind that materials age in every building, be it Victorian or Brutalist, and the upkeep of a structure contributes to its appearance.

Preston Bus Station Interior

It was Grade II listed in 2013, which means that the building is of special architectural interest and warrants every effort to preserve it, after it was threatened with demolition. At the moment of writing it is undergoing extensive refurbishment, and it will probably be completed by 2019. The scheme is designed to revitalise the area, and a building accommodating a youth zone will be built next to it. Hate it or love it, it is doubtlessly one of Preston’s most famous building, and it will doubtlessly continue to cause divisions.

On a side note, many Victorian buildings were once deemed as ‘ugly’, but attitudes changed over time. The famous St Pancras Station in London for example was threatened with demolition in the 1960s, and only a campaign saved the building from this fate. Maybe the attitudes towards the Preston Bus Station will change over time towards a more favourable picture.

Picture credits

Preston Bus Station, image via

Preston Bus Station, image via

Preston Bus Station Development by Preston Corporation, image via

Preston Bus Station Interior, Image via

Roger Park, Preston Bus Station, image via

The History of UCLan Part 3: The Harris Institute

We are back with another part about the history of UCLan. Its forerunner, the Preston Institute for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, had seen big changes after it was founded in 1828. It became the Harris Institute in 1882, after the fund of a wealthy solicitor helped the Preston Institute financially.

The curriculum broadened, offering plumbing, brickwork, nursing, German, theoretical mathematics, agriculture, commercial geography and telegraphy, chemistry, textile courses and freehand drawing. This caused demands for yet more space, as had happened earlier, and which caused the construction of the Avenham Institute. The Harris Trustees made further funds available for these new premises, and Preston Borough Council promised to provide a site for them, though it took five years until a site was allocated. This was at Corporation Street rather than the hoped for site adjacent to the Harris Free Public Library. A joint design proposal from Henry Cheers and Aspinal and Smith was accepted for the new building, though it caused a slight controversy, as the costs were higher than the competition brief implied. Despite this, a foundation stone was laid in 1895, and the new Jubilee Technical School, later known as the Harris Institute and nowadays as the Harris Building, was opened in 1897, just in time for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Technical School, c.1900

The Harris Institute was a large and successful operation, and there were constant attempts to improve. The first World War affected the Institute, as students and staff either signed up or were conscripted into the forces. This had a dramatic effect, and caused a larger recruitment of women, who were to be trained to replace men who could then be released for the armed forces. The town’s mayor, Alderman Cartmel, criticised it as “deeply deplorable” that women should have to “take up their brothers’ places”. Additional classes and lectures for teaching English to Belgian refugees and ‘Economy in Food’ were introduced, reflecting the impact of war on the Harris Institute.

Student enrolment certificate, September 1927

1928 was the centenary of the forming of the Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge, and there were some successes. There were some 1900 students, and whilst it was mostly a local college for evening class students there were plenty of students for daytime courses. The 1930s saw major refurbishments of the Technical School building and re-equipping of workshops and laboratories, and new “bright and well-ventilated classrooms” became available.

A. Winter, Harris Institute Technical School after refurbishment, 1931
A. Winter, Harris Institute Technical School, Corridor C, c.1931

The work of the college was disrupted in 1939 again, not only because student numbers dropped. The Institute made provisions for 90% of the students to shelter in the basement in the case of air raids. Other students were supposed to go home. Shelters were built for students and the public alike.

After the war, a General Inspection by HMI noted that the college was “dignified and substantially built” and “exceptionally well kept” with a “high standard of neatness and order”. But there were problems too, as there were gaps in provision and a shortage of accommodation. The biggest problem was the absence of a suitable library. The existing one consisted of a room with ceiling high shelves and large tables in the centre of the room, which were placed inconveniently. There was a also no indexing system in place. In addition, most students did not know about the existence of a library. It was recommended that these concerns should be addressed.

There were more changes to come, when the Harris Institute became the Harris College in 1956. To be continued…

Picture credits 

Student enrolment certificate, September 1927, image via

Technical School, c.1900, image via

A. Winter, Harris Institute Technical School after refurbishment, 1931,image via

A. Winter, Harris Institute Technical School, Corridor C, c.1931, image via

The History of UCLan Part 2: Expansion

We are back with the second instalment of our ongoing series about the history of UCLan. In our previous blog post we traced the origins and reasons for the establishment of the Preston Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge in 1828. It was a successful enterprise, but this soon caused some space issues, which would lead to the construction of a new building, the Avenham Institute. We will be exploring the fascinating backstory of this building and what role the Harris fund played in the history of the Institution in this blog post.

Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Preston

As we covered in our previous post, the Institution grew, and became ever more popular after being founded in 1828. It was run from rented accommodation at Cannon Street, but as subscription numbers grew, space became an issue. Remember, at first the Institution did not have students, but subscribers. This subscription model enabled participants to attend lectures and use the library.

Large classes could not easily be accommodated, and this problem was soon recognised and donations raised for a new more suitable building. A site was selected in 1844 at the end of Avenham Walk, and the plans by John Welch, a local architect, were approved. The building was in a classical-revivalist style, harking back to ancient Rome and Greece. But there were problems ahead for the future Avenham Institute.

In 1846 a foundation stone was laid, but the funds were not very exhaustive. In addition, the mason’s business also went out of business. At least the shell of the building was completed in 1847, but there was another problem, as it still had to be fitted out. Loans had to be taken out, though the building was still largely unfinished when the Annual Meeting took place there for the first time a year later. There had also been protests by some founding members who argued that this new building would no longer serve the classes for whom it was intended, in other words, that the Institute would be there not be for the working classes but the middle classes.

Charles Wilson, Avenham Institute, 1853

However, soon afterwards the Avenham Institute was in use, though it was also sometimes known as the Mechanic’s Institute. Links with the School of Design in Manchester were established, and attempts to found an elementary school of design were also pursued. This resulted in the Preston School of Art, which was founded in 1859. It offered classes for children of both sexes and to young adults. There were also classes offered for apprentices, artisans, schoolmistresses, schoolmasters and pupil teachers. It was successful, not only in student numbers, but it also achieved national status, and the achievements of its pupils often equalled or surpassed those of more established centres, like at Glasgow or Liverpool.

The Avenham Institute also hosted exhibitions, like this one of two microphalic children from St. Salvadore, one of the first travelling human zoos

The Institution introduced also science and language classes in the 1860s, and it began to rival the School of Art in its achievements. But there were many hardships ahead. The Institution had to struggle with a lack of sufficient subscribers and funds. This caused the Institution to apply for additional support from the Harris Trust in 1879.

Edmund Robert Harris

This trust had been set up after the death of local solicitor Edmund Robert Harris. He had left a considerable sum of money which was to be used for setting up a free library and museum for Preston. These funds would be used for the Harris Building, now the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Preston’s first public library was opened in 1879, the same year the Institution applied for funds from the Harris Trust. In 1882 the trustees of the Harris fund endowed the Institution. Houses in Regent Street were purchased and demolished for the Institution to be extended. Since then it was known as the Harris Institute.

As we have seen the Preston Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge was transformed over time. During its beginnings its library had been its centre, and the Avenham Institute, in a purpose built environment, was the next logical step, and it was almost like a technical college. This shift was probably partly linked to the opening of the Harris library, which operated as a public lending library, different to the library access provided by the Preston Institute, where access was restricted to subscribers. This shift was important, as the focus was now on teaching.

Art class at the Harris Institute, c.1892

The Avenham Institute is currently empty, after it had been used by UCLan for art studies until 2009, when it was put up for sale. Since then, students have been able to use the facilities at the Media Factory, a much more suitable venue than the Avenham Institute, which had grown too small (and unsafe) for 21st century demands. Ever since, the future of this building has been uncertain, as plans for a school seem to have come to nothing. But we are getting ahead, as the history of UCLan still has a few chapters that deserve to be told.

Picture credits

Art class at the Harris Institute, c.1892, image via

Edmund Robert Harris, image via

Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, Preston, 1854, image via,_preston,_1850s.html

Poster for exhibition at Avenham Institute, 1854, image via

Charles Wilson, Avenham Institute, 1853, image via

The History of UCLan Part 1: The Early Years

Have you ever wondered how and why the University of Central Lancashire was founded? In the next blog posts we will introduce you to the history of UCLan, about its origins and how it was like to study there in the early years.

The origins of the university can be traced back to October 7th 1828, when the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge was founded. Its founding members were a group of 24 men at the Preston Corn Exchange, which still stands today (recently renamed as the Bar 1842). This institution was established as there was a need for providing adult working men with an education, often in technical subjects. Similar institutes, also known as Mechanics’ Institutes, sprung up all over Britain. They were a consequence of the Industrialisation, which saw the growth of industry and a population boom. This in turn led to a demand for facilities, social and cultural, that would ensure that the good order and economic advance of Preston could be sustained.

One of the most important figures behind the foundation of the Institution was Joseph Livesey (1794-1884), a cheese monger by trade, who was committed to many radical causes during his long life, including educational projects. He believed that writing was important for young people, as it improved their prospects in later life. Not only did he set up a Sunday School for adults, but he also wanted to provide free education for young people, which is why he opened a Sunday School.

Portrait of Joseph Livesey

It seems that there was an interest in establishing a mechanics’ institute in town, which is evidenced by a letter published on 23rd August 1828 the Preston Chronicle, where Livesey proposed the establishment of an Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge. This can be regarded as the starting point for the foundation of the University which would later be the University of Central Lancashire. It seems that the naming of the Institution was deliberately omitting the word ‘mechanics’, as it might have widened the support for the project.

On 11th September 1828 Livesey went a step further towards setting up such an institute, as he invited interested parties to a private meeting at “Mr. Smith’s large room” above Mr. Templeton’s School at 11 Cannon Street. The attendees formed a provisional committee, which called for the inauguration of the Preston Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge on 7th October 1828 at the Corn Exchange. 24 people were present, and they formed the first council of the institution. The institution was run from rented rooms in Cannon Street. A local surgeon by the name of John Gilbertson gave books and equipment for the enterprise. The library was large, and there were lecture series and some self-funding classes. Thus a small museum was founded, where over 800 objects were held, mainly relating to natural history.

C. E. Shaw, Preston Corn Exchange (on the left side)

If you wanted to participate in the institute then you could subscribe. There were special privileges if you paid a higher rate. You could attend the library and lectures. The subscription model proved popular, as there were about 600-800 members in the early stages. The institute was open in the afternoons and evenings from Monday to Saturday, with a librarian in attendance. The library offered periodicals and books. “Works of imagination”, or rather, novels, were included after a change to the rule book. The library contained about 1,500 books by the end of 1828, and this number grew to 3,000 volumes by the late 1830s. The number of books grew constantly, and by the 1870s the library held over 11,000 volumes. It had the reputation as “one of the best provincial libraries in the kingdom”. Whilst the library was a full success, the attendance to the lectures was poor.  The committee commented in 1831 that “the subscribers did not appear fully the utility of lectures in the sciences”.

Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Cannon Street, Preston
Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge at Cannon Street, Preston (the Institution was housed in the house on the left side with the street lamp)

Interestingly, this poor support led the committee to stop hiring lecturers and rely on volunteers. These lectures by mostly unpaid speakers would grow to be more popular, indeed, some lectures seem to have been overcrowded. So, what were these early lectures about? The range was wide, and you could hear lectures about topics about chemical sciences, electricity, galvasnism, magnetism, human anatomy, astronomy and “vegetable physiology”.

So much for the very early years of UCLan, or as it was then known, the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge. We will continue this series soon, so watch this space.

Picture credits

Institution for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge at Cannon Street, Preston, 1891, image via <;

Portrait of Joseph Livesey, image via <;

C. E. Shaw, Preston Corn Exchange, late nineteenth century, image via <;

Preston Mystery

You might have heard the name William Caxton in the news recently. This is because two very rare printed pages by him were found in an archive at the University of Reading.

You might wonder why this is important, and what this has to do with Preston. Some of you may be familiar with a mysterious bust on a building on Marsh Lane, and we will uncover its identity in this blog post.

Mystery bust on Marsh Lane

The recently discovered book pages are from a priest handbook from 1476 or 1477, and are in Latin. But why are these pages so important? Not only because these are the only surviving pages of its kind, but also as William Caxton was probably the first person to have brought a printing press in England in about 1476, and he was also the first person to deal with printed books in England. As he was a merchant he travelled abroad, and it was on the continent that he encountered the new printing industry. Printing was not new, but what was new was a movable printing press. Earlier systems had been created in China, but the first European type was developed by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany, in about 1439.

William Caxton

This was an important new development, as the movable type page setting was quicker than the more usual woodblock printing. Books could be produced faster and cheaper, and it is no coincidence that the number of books and texts increased after the invention of the printing press. This also meant that information could travel faster. Caxton also worked as a translator, and he is credited with pushing the standardisation of English forward.

So what is the link to Preston? You might be familiar with a building on the north end of Marsh Lane, close to the junction with Corporation Street. If you look up, you might see a mysterious bust of a man, and you might have wondered about his identity. It depicts William Caxton.

North End of Marsh Lane

So how do we know that it is William Caxton? The symbols on the base of the bust provide an important clue, as they are the emblems used by Caxton to ‘sign’ his work. It might be difficult to make out nowadays, but they are his initials ‘WC’. They are the medieval version of a trademark or brand, and is also known as a colophon.

Detail of William Caxton bust
Printer’s mark of William Caxton

The former warehouse was occupied by Kilner’s Glass and China Warehouse, who produced a large range of ceramic and glass souvenirs for the Preston Guilds. Prior to being a warehouse it housed the printing workshop of Robert Parkinson. It would be logical to assume that this creates a link to William Caxton, the printing pioneer, and this was the reason why it was put in its place. But this is not the case, as the bust was not originally attached to the warehouse, as is apparent in a drawing from about 1900.

Kilner Ltd., 10 Marsh Lane, Preston

How exactly the bust came to its location on the former warehouse is unclear. It could have been attached to the building in 1898 in honour of the printer, though this is disputed. It could have also originally come from the wall of Halewood’s bookstore or the offices of the Lancashire Evening Post on Fishergate, which would mean that it was put up on Marsh Lane, then called Bridge Street, much later. It seems most probable that the bust came from the former Lancashire Evening Post offices on Fishergate, also known as the Guardian Office Building. It was built in 1872 and was demolished in 1989, and it has since been replaced with retail developments. If you look at the picture below you might be able to see the bust on top of the building.

Preston Guardian Office, Fishergate

At the time of writing there is extensive building work being undertaken on the former warehouse, as student housing is being built at the site. If the bust will be incorporated into the new building is unclear, yet it would be lovely if this little bit of Preston history would be preserved for future generations.

Picture credits

Bernie Blackburn, North End of Marsh Lane, image via <;

Home Jules, Detail of William Caxton bust, image via <;

Marty Hopkirk, William Caxton bust on Marsh Lane, image via <;

William Hughes (block cut by), William Caxton, 1824, image via <;

Preston Guardian Office, Fishergate, 1902, image via <;

Printer’s mark of William Caxton, from Image Du Monde, 1490, image via <;

Kilner Ltd., 10 Marsh Lane, Preston, image via <;



History wins at the Union Awards 2017

On 6th April the UCLan SU Union Awards were awarded as part of Celebration Week, recognising the efforts of volunteers who have made a difference at the Students’ Union over the last year!

Competition was high as there were many nominations and contestants who rightly deserved to win this important award. It’s great to see students rewarded for the time and effort they invest. There was many reasons to celebrate that evening, especially for us at UCLan Through the Ages!

UCLan History Society, who we have partnered up with many times on events for LGBT, International Women’s Day and Black History Month won the Up and Coming Society award. The society, which was set up as a response to UCLan Through the Ages, were nominated for the work they have achieved in partnering up and building links with other societies through their events.

“Their trips to various museums etc are great fun, and the socials are also a great opportunity to connect with people. It’s also great to meet people from different courses or years who share a passion for history! It’s really lovely to meet different people from different backgrounds who share this interest and can connect via their passion.”

The award was picked up by the chair of the society, Sarah Pearson, and the society’s education officer Miriam Kohler, and of course Horace the elk, the society’s mascot! Keep up the good work next year History Society!

Chair and education officer of the UCLan History Society

Special recognition also went to student Sarah Pearson, who won the Inspiring Project Volunteer of the Year award for her contributions to the Union. The criteria for this award was “a positive ambassador for their project; engages in different aspects of the project and it’s development, makes a valued difference to others, goes above and beyond the expectations of their role.”

Inspiring Project Volunteer of the Year Award


Sarah has gone above and beyond her role as History Society chair and has played an important part in the successful running of trips organised with UCLan Through the Ages, which have been very popular with students. Her work has meant that students from different backgrounds have had the opportunity to engage with history. Thank you for all of your help this year and good luck in the future!

Inspiring Projects Volunteer award winner Sarah Pearson

All nominees were deserved winners but we are happy and proud that this year history has had such a positive impact at UCLan SU.

A Hidden Treasure Trove?- Visiting UCLan Archives

The UCLan Through the Ages team has in the last few weeks started to work on an exhibition about history of UCLan, which will be launched in Fresher’s. As part of this process we have been visiting UClan Archives located within Vernon Building. Working alongside Helen, the Repository Manager we have been delving through the store room on the hunt for material that we can use.

We thought it would be nice over the next few months to share on the blog some of the hidden treasures held in the archives as they are not usually seen or accessible to the public.

One of the first treasures found by our project coordinator Hannah was this plaque dedicated to Joseph Livesey, the famous temperance campaigner and one of the original founders of UCLan. The archives is home to lots of material related to the Temperance Movement.

Plaque commemorating Joseph Livesey

The plaque appears to have come from a former shoe shop at 28 Church Street in Preston, where Livesey lived from about 1825-1860. We were excited to find a picture of the plaque in place at its former home. The house is currently occupied by the Preston Carers Centre.

28 Church Street, Preston, where the Livesey plaque came from.

A similar plaque was put up at Victoria Road at Walton le Dale, at the house where he was born in. It is apparently still in place.

House Plaque, Walton le Dale. This is the counter piece to the plaque formerly at Church Street

Our project assistant Miriam also uncovered an interesting Temperance pledge from 1856. It was signed by George Cruikshank (1792-1878), a famous caricaturist, and John B. Gough (1817-1886), an American orator of the Temperance movement. It was signed in 1856, the year the National Temperance League was formed, of which Cruikshank was the vice president.

Pledge signed by John B. Gough and George Cruikshank

The archive also holds a large collection of material from UCLan’s past, including a large collection of Pluto issues, the student newspaper and predecessor of Pulse Media. This quirky excerpt from one issue really made us chuckle, clearly filling the student led newspaper was a difficult task in the 1980s!

‘This Space is blank…’

We also found an interesting article accusing the then polytechnic of banning gay books from being sold in the bookshop. Seemingly books by the Gay Men’s Press were considered too radical for the bookshop, as they refused to stock it. This was not unusual at the time, as there was a rise in homophobia due to concern about HIV/AIDS. Homosexuality was believed by some as the source of the disease, however, it was under researched and not well understood. Whilst times and attitudes towards homosexuality have now changed, it can be said there is still a great deal to be done!

‘No Ban on Gay Books’

Keep an eye out as we reveal more hidden treasures from the archive!

Picture credits

‘No Ban on Gay Books’ and Pledge signed by John B. Gough and George Cruikshank photographed by Miriam Kohler

Plaque commemorating Joseph Livesey and ‘This Space is blank…’ photographed by Hannah Beattie

Tony Worrall Photography, House Plaque, Walton le Dale, image via

Turner Brothers Ltd, 28 Church Street, Preston, image via Preston Digital Archive