The Restoration Works

Groundwork CLM contracted Barton Grange Landscapes to complete the works. They in turn subcontracted specialist companies. In August 2016 the Gardens closed for 16 weeks. During that time the work that was carried out included:


  • The removal of dead or dying trees
  • The installation of a new drainage system
  • The restoration, cleaning and repair of the Sir Robert Peel statue
  • The repairing and repainting of the railings and gated entrances
  • The widening and resurfacing of footpaths
  • The removal of problematic shrub beds
  • The installation of interpretative artwork providing discovery points of interest relating to the places and people who played a part in the history of the Square and the wider city
  • The installation of new low level architectural LED footpath lights and CCTV
  • The installation of new benches and bins
  • The creation of a reinforced grass event space constructed in the southern third of the gardens to allow for future events and activities

Dying and overgrown trees

A tree removal plan was developed alongside arboriculture experts from Myerscough College, and was approved by Preston City Council. Prior to instructing this work, the trees were inspected by a qualified ecologist to ensure that there was no harm to any rare or protected species arising from the works. Seventeen decayed trees were then removed in order to enhance the Gardens’ historic tree population which gives Winckley Square such a treasured character.

Tree felling: Tony Worrall

New drainage system

Following the tree works, one of the first jobs was to install a new drainage system to deal with the persistent flooding in the valley of the Gardens. M & J Thistlethwaite (Earthworks) Ltd was sub contracted by Barton Grange to address the drainage issues.

The discovery of what lies beneath was key to enabling the drainage works to function correctly.  Land drains had been installed in the 1960s which ran to the Syke Brook culvert beneath the valley. The condition of the drains and the culvert was unknown so a series of excavation channels were dug to pinpoint the structures. 


Excavation Channels

Excavation exposed the 1960s broken drains and it was an exciting discovery for the project team to uncover the culvert. This was the first time it had been seen in over 200 years. The culvert was built in 1812.  Only a few houses on the north side of the valley had been erected by then.

Exposed broken drains

culvert is a drainage structure that allows water to flow under a road or stretch of land. In the case of Winckley Square Gardens it is an underground tunnel carrying Avenham Syke which until 1812 had been an open stream that obstructed movement from the north side of the Gardens’ valley to the south. The culvert is made of two skins of brick. The Syke culvert is an example of Georgian engineering still in use today

The 19th Century culvert was exposed and was found to be in relatively good order considering its age. The Syke still flows through it and continues underground via Garden Street to the River Ribble. The Culvert was reinforced, new drains laid and the land above it filled in.

A layer of sand was laid to ensure good drainage

Rootzone drainage topsoil was laid over the sand in the lower valley area.


Sir Robert Peel

The statue, sculpted from a single block of limestone by Thomas Duckett, was unveiled on Whit Monday, 31st May 1852 on the east side of the Square overlooking Cross Street. It bears the inscription ‘Sir Robert Peel Baronet’ and ‘Erected by Public Subscription 1852’.

Photograph taken shortly after the statue was erected, behind the railing, in the private garden of James German: Robert Pateson c 1854, Preston Digital Archive.

After over 160 years ‘Sir Robert’ was in need of a ‘makeover’.  Prior to work starting Groundwork commissioned FWP to write the Robert Peel Condition Survey.  You can read the report and view the photographs FWP took on this website. Robert Peel was born in Bury. Halcyon Conservation of Bury were sub-contracted to do the renovation work; a pleasing coincidence.

A new nose for Sir Robert was carefully crafted


Sir Robert Peel before and after

The statue was repaired and carefully cleaned.


Restoring the railings and walls

The railings that surround the Gardens were all painstakingly restored. On the North West side of the Square the original railings were never removed and are over 200 years old. Elsewhere they were removed to support the war effort during WWII.  They were replaced in the 1980s. The neglect and decline area of this website has more information on this.

The walls were protected while the railings were restored.

The cleaning of the walls and repointing included carefully raking out the existing mortar from the brickwork and specialist cleaning. They were then repointed with a historically accurate mix of lime mortar.

Walls repair in progress

Footpaths and benches

Additional work was carried out to improve and extend footpaths around the site. The pathways were excavated and new foundations laid to prolong their life. 

Path creation and restoration and the laying of electric cables

Sandstone steps were also added at the north side of the Gardens.

Granite setts were skilfully laid around the Robert Peel statue and along some of the paths. 

Benches and chairs were added in the central area and along the paths.

A time to sit, relax and find solitude in the middle of the city centre: Preston Blog

Historical Interpretation

Interpretative artwork providing discovery points has been installed within the paths, on the dwarf walls and on the railings. These provide snippets of information relating to the places and people who played a part in the history of the Square and the wider city.

There is an increasing interest in our history as demonstrated by the number of people spending time strolling around and reading the interpretation panels. Many then sign up for a heritage walk to find out more.

The specialist company, Photocast, were contracted to produce a range of interpretation panels.  

Cast Bronze Panels

Bronze panels adorn the low walls between the railings. These are placed opposite the home of where the person lived. The panels use an etching process and hand sculpture to help create these beautiful bronze panels that will last for centuries.

Etched Zinc

Larger etched zinc plaques are fixed to the railings. These offer a small amount of information to whet your appetite to find out more. Photocast uses a deep etching system that allows for the creation of complex graphics; etched into the zinc without an undercut.


Etched Granite Paving

The interpretation pieces in the elliptical area are carved into Grey Granite supplied by Hardscape.

They point to the roads that meet the Square and to places including the homes of people who lived on the Square; each person’s profession is depicted as an etched illustration.

The paving slabs used are meant to look like Granite and also come from Hardscape, under the brand Kellen; an aggregate material. The design specified the use of the Grigio and Tagenta B colours.

The cobbles are of porphyry, an igneous rock similar to granite in strength. It was used widely in Imperial Rome.  

Electricity supply

An electricity supply was added to provide lighting and as a power source for events. Pathways are illuminated in the early mornings and late evenings to create a safe welcoming environment for those wanting to enjoy the gardens or to pass through them when it is dark.

The illuminated paths lead the way to the beautiful Christmas tree where the Friends of Winckley Square organise an annual Carol Concert : Stephen Riley, Preston Photographic Society

Work on site was successfully completed in November 2016.


A special thanks to M & J Thistlethwaite (Earthworks) Ltd., Halcyon Conservation and Hardscape for supplying photographs and information.