Quick History

A growing story

In the heart of Preston’s conservation area and just 50 yards from Preston’s main retail district, this beautifully landscaped Winckley Square is a peaceful urban refuge from the hurly-burly of city life.

Winckley Square was the brainchild of the Preston attorney William Cross who purchased Town End Field from the Winckley estate in 1796. William built the first house on the Square in 1799 – now number 11 Winckley Street. He named the Square after the Winckley family. It was developed by William and Ellen Cross as an exclusive residential area. The original occupants of the Square were the families of professional gentleman and wealthy manufacturers.

The area has a strong residential community which now mixes with some of the region’s best-known professional, financial and marketing services firms as well as a selection of independent restaurants and shops.

Preston’s famous St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic Church sits on the edge of the Square and the city’s world-renowned University of Central Lancashire is a ten minute walk away.

Winckley Square Gardens is now an open public park but was originally a private gated garden owned by some of the residents. A statue of Sir Robert Peel stands on the east side of the gardens opposite Cross Street, erected in 1852 and paid for by public subscription.


Chapel St, 1911. Credit: Preston Digital Archive


An Italian-style villa was built in 1850 on the south corner of Cross Street. It was later used as a County Court office from the 1940s. It was demolished in 1969. On the opposite corner stood the Literary and Philosophical Institution and next to it on Winckley Square was the Winckley Club, a gentlemen’s club, both built in 1846 and both now demolished.

In 2011, a group of Preston professionals set up the Winckley Square Community Interest Company (WSCIC) to encourage investment in the area; an independent company aiming to drive the revival and restoration of the Square. 

Working alongside Preston Business Improvement District (BID), Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council, WSCIC appointed Groundwork to lead a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. A grant of £1.2m was secured in 2015 to transform the gardens.

Groundwork developed designs, conservation plans and oversaw the restoration project which involved rich contributions from a number of prominent local historians.

Preston Guild 1922 St Joseph’s Church group: Preston digital Archive


As part of the £1.2m funding, a new Friends of Winckley Square (FoWS) group was established which now runs a programme of activities and events that draws in visitors from across the region.

In 2018, Winckley Square gained a Green Flag Award. The Green Flag Award scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world.

WSCIC’s current manifesto, created in 2017, is to seek further funding to improve public realm works outside the gardens and in neighbouring streets, to further support its place-making vision of creating a vibrant Winckley Quarter.