One of Preston’s first inns was the Castle Inn. It was in Cheapside, near Market Square. Built in 1623, it was once isolated. Gradually new buildings encroached and the 1990s saw it demolished for new stores.
The Castle Inn was a long, thin building and was much taller than the facade suggested. It had three stories and many rooms.
The Castle Inn was used as a starting and ending point for coaches from the town’s earliest days. Vast stable facilities ran along the back of the building.
Even in 1853 Market Square saw coaches traveling to Blackpool, Burnley, Kirkham, Padiham and Whalley. Blackpool was serviced twice a week.
Historians have been captivated by the charm of the Market Square, with its quaint shops and large area.
Market place described in 1837
Whittle’s History of Preston (1837) describes Market Square:
“Very spacious, consists of beautiful shops, elegantly adorned with floor-to-ceiling windows, dressed in the most fashionable manner by the respective merchants within its enclosure. Clothiers, milliners, grocers, hatters, haters, booksellers, brushers, shoe warehouses, etc.
Preston became an important market town; its geographical position and easy access to the sea made it an early trading center. The town developed around the parish church and Church Street. The first market was closer to the church. Consequently, Church Street and Fishergate became the main thoroughfare. Later, a large field north of Fishergate became the market place.
Politics also played a part in the history of the Castle Inn.
William Cobbet runs in Preston
In 1826 William Cobbet stood as a candidate for Preston. He was a working-class radical and an expert publicist. He was known as the prince of pamphleteers. On his visit to Preston he was greeted by cheering crowds, but he did not win. The seat was held by EG Stanley (Whigg) and John Wood (Liberal).
Interestingly, the Castle Inn had a “press room”. These were rooms set aside to hold newspapers and tracts. Entry was by subscription only, to keep the lower classes away. There were several newsrooms in Preston and they had various rules including. Rule n°4, No document or publication must be taken out of the room under penalty of expulsion.
The Castle Inn building also had some interesting architectural elements which have been retained.
In 1910 the Castle Inn became Castle Chambers. It then housed several law firms. Some of the original features have been removed. One of them was the Jacobean staircase.
Broughton’s Stone House, built in 1911, contains the Castle Inn’s Jacobean staircase. Early 17and century staircases were characterized by ornate pilasters and columns.
The original medieval town hall and other buildings were removed to build the Harris. The Victorian Gothic Town Hall burned down in 1947 and was replaced by the current, unloved tower. The Castle Inn itself was demolished and replaced by shops in the 1990s
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