Old fashioned buildings within Winckley Square

Thomas Winckley

1731- 1794 | 331 Fishergate

Winckley Coat of Arms
Winckley Coat of Arms


Winckley Square is named after the Winckley family who owned extensive estates in and around Preston. For generations they were significant figures in the life of Preston. They owned the land on which Winckley Square now stands.

The name ‘Winckley’ descends from the Winkelmondelays who, in Saxon times, settled on land at the junction of the Ribble and the Calder near Whalley. The surname Winckley is first found in Lancashire in the Parish of Mitton where they had their family seat as Lords of the Manor of Winckley Hall. The family held the title both before and after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

The Winckley family of Preston

Thomas Winckley (junior) was born 1731 (about) in Preston and lived in the large family home 331, Fishergate located between what is now Cannon Street and New Cock Yard.  In 1792 he sold the land on which St Wilfrid’s stands to Father Dunn (aka Daddy Dunn.) He might have planned to sell the land on which a part of Winckley Square now stands but he died in 1794; two years before it was sold.

Thomas (junior) was the grandson of Thomas Winckley (Senior) 1638-1710 who was born in Garstang, was Mayor of Preston four times and a very prominent figure in Preston in the 1680s. The Winckley estates included Preston, Catterall, Claughton, Kirkland, Brockholes, Samlesbury, Ribbleton, Fulwood, Balderstone, Walton le Dale and Cuerden.

The Winckley Family were staunch Jacobites. The family had an heirloom, a miniature portrait of King Charles I set in the King’s hair which had been dipped in blood from the scaffold. Frances Winckley remembered wearing it attached to a bracelet as a child on Jacobite anniversaries.  She donated it to the South Kensington Museum (c.1790). On the back are engraved the names of family members who adhered to the cause of the Stuarts in 1745 -‘S. Hesketh, R. Hesketh, N. Winckley, T. Winckley.’

Thomas (junior) was the third son of John Winckley and Margaret (eldest daughter of Nicholas Starkie of Huntroyd) and, as the third son, had been destined for the law. He was not expected to inherit the estate. He entered the Middle Temple in 1763. However, Thomas did inherit his father’s estate on the death of his two older brothers: Nicholas and John. Thomas had four sisters Margaret, Elizabeth, Sarah and Frances. Sarah and Frances did not marry.

Fighergate in the later 17th century
Fishergate in the later 17th century based on a plan at Lancashire Archives (DDX194/9) and a copy of the plan at the Harris Reference Library, Preston, annotated with the names of property owners by Stephen Sartin.

Thomas Winckley’s marriage to Lady Jacintha Hesketh 25th July 1785

In 1785 Thomas, age 54, lived at 331 Fishergate when he married Lady Jennet (Jacintha) Hesketh (née Dalrymple) the widow of Captain Thomas Hesketh who died age 32, in 1781, as a result of injuries incurred during the American War of Independence. Captain Hesketh and his wife Jacintha had six children.

Thomas Winckley and Jacintha had two children. Margaret their first born child died in her first year in 1786.  Frances Winckley, the second child of Thomas and Jacintha, was born in Preston in 1787 in the Fishergate house. She was named after her grandmother Frances Winckley (née Hodgkinson) and Thomas’s sister.

Frances wrote in her diaries:

“My five half-sisters lived in another house in Preston, while their brother, Sir Thomas Hesketh, who had succeeded to his uncle’s title and property, was at a private tutor’s in Kent. As my father had taken a great dislike to the Heskeths, we rarely met. I fancy that my mother’s home was not a happy one. My father, having been a younger son, was accustomed to live in the Temple, where he led a bachelor’s life, which he preferred to his country home.”

N.B. the Temple refers to the legal heart of London.  

View of the old Middle Temple Hall
View of the old Middle Temple Hall; elegantly dressed figures in foreground, steps leading up to an entrance below a tower on the left; copied from a painting attributed to Hogarth, c.1780.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Frances said her father rarely visited Preston, which she described as their ‘country’ home. Preston in the 18th Century and prior to the manufacturing era was a gentrified town where many wealthy people owned mansions and large houses.

Thomas Winckley was an attorney and a wealthy landowner. The family continued to live in the large house on Fishergate. He owned Town End Field which was to become the north part of Winckley Square.

The Winckley family leave Preston

By 1794 Thomas Winckley had become disgusted with the erection of factories in Preston – In his view “Proud Preston”, as the winter residence of the nobility and county families, was losing its appeal.

Frances wrote in her diary:

“One day my father, in a towering passion, left his old house never to return. He had gone as usual in the morning to select his fish for dinner. On his arrival at the fishmonger’s he found himself forestalled, in the purchase of the finest turbot, by a Mr. Horrocks, a cotton spinner. This was too much for my father’s sense of dignity. He pronounced Preston was no longer a fit place for a gentleman to live in and immediately rented a villa situated about six miles out of Liverpool – then a rising but still small town. The house stood on a beautiful hill overlooking the Mersey”

In 1791 John Horrocks moved into a small workshop in Turk’s Head Court, off Church Street. There he produced best quality yarn and began to ‘put it out’ to handloom weavers who made it into cloth in their homes. His business grew rapidly and in 1791 his first factory was built in Dale Street. When Thomas Winckley encountered him in the fishmongers John Horrocks had already built 3 factories in Preston.

Thomas Winckley dies 1794

Thomas died soon after the move to the outskirts of Liverpool when Frances was six.

Thomas Winckley’s will was written in October 1785 just 3 months after his marriage.  He had fathered two illegitimate sons before marrying Jacintha. He left an annuity of £40 a year to ‘Alice Dobson late of Lytham, single woman, now residing at Capt. Broadley’s at Dover under the assumed name of Mrs. Wilson’ and to his natural sons by her, Thomas ‘near 19 years old’ (named after his grandfather and himself) and Nicholas ‘about 15 years old’ (named after Thomas’ eldest brother and maternal Grandfather).

Nicholas was at the Rev Lawrence’s Free School at Kingston-on-Thames and was left £1,200 and Thomas was to be apprenticed to Hammond & Richardson’s Brewery in Castle Street, Long Acre, Westminster (Combe & Co. Woodyard Brewery) in addition to a £1,000 inheritance. The will states that both sons were registered at their baptism with the surname of Wilson but ‘have been called Winckley for several years.

There is no further trace of the eldest son Thomas, but in 1787 Nicholas was probably apprenticed to Richard Barnes, an attorney of Reigate in Surrey. He joined the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1795 (where his father had previously been a member and was fully acknowledged as his father’s youngest son in the admissions’ register) and died aged 58 on the 21st March 1831. He is buried in the Temple Church in the City of London.

However, Trevor Kirkham in his recent research on the Winckleys found that Thomas Winckley added a codicil to his will in 1787, the year after Frances was born, making her tenant for life of his real estate. Earlier, in 1785, Thomas had left his house and furniture to Jacintha and the rest of his estate to his sisters Sarah and Margaret Hornby (née Winckley).

Obviously not happy with the arrangement he had with Alice Dobson Thomas then made a second codicil in 1792 revoking the Annuity to Alice, ‘…she having lately had a more ample provision made to her by some other friend’. He also revoked the legacies to his illegitimate sons since they had already been paid large sums for their ‘preferment in the world’. Following their move to Liverpool in 1793 Thomas added a codicil which left the household goods of ‘Larkfield’ to Jacintha. Thomas died shortly after the move to Larkfield.

The Winckley family name ended when Thomas Winckley died in 1794.

Frances Winckley, being the only ‘legitimate’ child of Thomas, inherited all his properties and lands at the age of six. Rev. Geoffrey Hornby, husband of Thomas’ sister Margaret, was made Frances’ guardian and administrator of the will. Town End Field was sold to William Cross in 1796.

When Frances married John Shelley, 6th Baronet of Michelgrove and Maresfield in 1807, all the Winckley properties became the property of the Shelley family. An event that did not please her half siblings from her mother’s previous marriage to Thomas Hesketh. (Frances’ diary)

Lady Frances Shelley died in 1873. Her diaries, edited by her grandson Richard Edgcumbe and published by John Murray in 1912, describe life in royal circles and her very close, intimate relationship with the Duke of Wellington.

Useful Sources

See the Useful weblinks on website.

The Diary of Frances Lady Shelley 1818-1873 Edited by Richard Edgcumbe

My Lady Scandalous: Jo Manning, Simon and Schuster 2005

Winckley Court Leet records

A Portrait of Winckley Square Preston: Frances Winckley Shelley p151: Trevor H Kirkham

By Patricia Harrison