If we go back in time to 1750 the population of Preston was 6,000. By the time the first house was built on the Square in 1799 its population had doubled in 50 years to 12,000.
In the 18th and early 19th Centuries Preston was a town where wealthy Lancastrians had their town houses and second homes. The town was the centre of the legal profession for the Dutchy (Duchy) of Lancaster. Some lawyers split their time between practising in Preston and at the Temple Bar in London
To travel to London by coach would take typically 5 days. First from Preston to Warrington then to London stopping at coaching inns en route. The prices were by time or miles. Inside the coach was more expensive than on top. A journey from Preston to London would cost approx. 2 guineas (1 guinea = £1.1s (equivalent to £600 today) plus overnight costs.
The first homes in Winckley Square were built as gentrified homes for the rich lawyers who wanted to live in a newly prestigious location. Located in the town centre yet overlooking a spacious garden area in the heart of the Square; emulating London fashion. Farmland was bought by William Cross at the edge of the then town. He had the vision of developing a Georgian square similar to those he had seen in London. The first house was built in 1799. Others followed in a piecemeal way. The sketch shows the partially built Square in c.1825 with detached houses, some with adjoining gardens and some with gardens opposite their homes in what was to become a gated square.
Over time the adjoining gardens were subsequently sold and houses built on them. House numbers changed as new houses were built in an infill manner on these gardens. The houses and other buildings on Winckley Square were not ‘ordinary houses’. They were out of the reach of most Preston families. Over the years the homes and gentlemen’s clubs that were built underwent changes of use to schools, offices, hotels and restaurants; some have been demolished.
The Friends of Winckley Square with the help of Preston Photographic Society visited eight of the properties and recorded for an exhibition how Victorian and Georgian buildings are being used in the 21st Century.