Preston, Lancashire: Old Photos & Films

Preston Lancashire England UK Local history videos old photos old films

Preston in Lancashire got its first royal charter from King Henry II in 1179. In 2002 Queen Elizabeth II made this historic market town into the City of Preston.

Today, more than 141,000 people live in Preston, which has changed considerably over the past century. We take a look at the films capturing key moments through Preston’s history when it was still a town.

Preston In The Early 20th Century

“Preston Egg Rolling (c1901)”

Now held by the BFI, this film was made by the famous Mitchell and Kenyon film company who were based in Blackburn, Lancashire. Avenham Park is one of the roads you can see in the background. 

“Whitsuntide Fair at Preston (1906)”

According to the commentary on this BFI footage, the Mitchell and Kenyon film company recorded the Whitsuntide Fair at Preston on behalf of George Green. At the time, over 150 fairs took place in the UK every week!

Textiles on Film: Preston’s Cotton Industry

In this BFI collection film from 1921, the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Preston is recorded by filmmaker Will Onda. In subsequent scenes we see cotton workers hard at work in Preston’s the cotton factory of Horrockses, Crewdson & Co. The building was known locally as The Yellow Factory until their demolition in the 1960s & 70s, which ended the existence of a global export firm first established by John Horrocks back in 1791.

Textiles on Film: Preston’s Cotton Industry. A film by Will Onda, who died in 1949.

Preston Filmmaker Will Onda

Hugh Rain was an acrobat who performed under the stage name Will Onda. His childhood was difficult, with his parents separating when he was young. In 1875 Hugh’s older brother Jessie was accused by their father of trying to poison him, and it led to a trial. Though the jury found Jessie not guilty, it speaks volumes about the family relationships and you won’t be surprised to hear that Hugh maintained his stage name for all business dealings throughout his adulthood.

When Will Onda left the world of acrobatics he successfully turned to the ownership and management of cinemas, a theatre and a dance hall in his hometown of Preston. 

A keen filmmaker, he also founded the Preston Film Service which imported and distributed silent films to cinema venues. The company occupied premises in Corporation Street, Preston, which can still be found today opposite the University of Central Lancashire’s Harris Building.

As a filmmaker, Will Onda created over a hundred topical and information films, capturing life in Preston and the local area.

When Will Onda died in 1949, his films were bequeathed to Preston Council. Some were initially retained by Preston Council and later accepted into the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University. However, the large majority were presented to the BFI (British Film Institute) National Archive to form The Preston Collection.

The Moor Park Hotel In The 1940s

“The Moor Park Hotel, Preston, Lancashire 1945”

YouTube channel Preston Film Archive brings us a look at the Moor Park Hotel in Garstang Road, back in 1945. It’s an extract from a short film called ‘Down at the Local’ (1945), part of the two disc set “Roll Out The Barrel – The British Pub on Film”.

The Preston Guild In The 1950s

“Preston Guild 1952”

YouTube channel Shireburngent found an old family film showing the 1952 Preston Guild processions and celebrations. 

The Preston Guild

In 1179 King Henry II awarded a royal charter to Preston, along with the right to have a Guild Merchant. 

Only traders, craftsmen and merchants who joined the Guild could trade in the town; all others had to do their business elsewhere unless they obtained special permission from the Guild. It protected the rates of the Guild members – in London, Samuel Pepys noted in his diaries the problems that arose when he hired non-Guild builders from out of the area because they were cheaper.

Regular public courts of the Guild saw new and readmitted members swearing an oath to the Mayor and Guild, presenting their credentials and paying a fee. However, these events became less common and from 1542 were only held every 20 years. As a result, when these events did take place they drew in crowds and it became a time for the town to celebrate the processions and official events. 

It became an extravagant week long affair of concerts, fireworks and costume balls, all starting with the civic procession and grand Mayoral banquet on the first day. Other forms of entertainment quickly latched on to the event, including horse racing and fairs.

The need for a town Guild was lost in 1790 when freedom of trade was introduced to Preston.  But the festivities remained, only being missed in 1942 because of the second world war, and they still continue today once every 20 years. 

“Dashboard Cam Footage Of Preston In 1959”

Arthur Pitcher’s film shows a quick trip through Preston’s town centre in 1959.

The Town In The 1960s

“Preston, Lancashire,1969”

YouTube channel fyldevideo uploaded an amateur cine film from 1969. It shows the St George’s Shopping Centre just three years after its construction. Also shown is Preston Market, the Salvation Army Building and the Bus Station, which was nearing completion.

A Glimpse Of The 1970s

“Preston Guild 1972 (2)”

YouTube channel 69waveydavey uploaded this footage of the Preston Guild events, which only happen once every 20 years.

“Preston Market 1970s”

This colour footage uploaded by Gary Thomas has music rather than sound but is a fascinating look at the market in the 1970s.

In The 1980s

“preston lancs 1988 part1”

YouTube channel PrestonLancs uploaded this footage of a drive in a mini through town in 1988.

The locations include:

  • the docks when only Morrisons was there
  • the Manxman nightclub
  • Marsh lane before the flyover
  • Wellfeild road 
  • Maudland bank
  • the town centre
  • views from the top of the bus station
  • Red Rose radio
  • Friargate
  • behind the old Black Bull pub
  • Tulketh Brow
  • Lane Ends
  • Woodplumpton Road


Take a look back at the local buses with footage from YouTube channel DaveSpencer32.

The Railway Station

“Preston Railway Station (1992-2002): the sights and sounds”

Mr. Ashton Moss recorded various occasions at the Railway Station between 1992 and 2002.

“Before Pendolino and Voyager domination of long distance passenger services, HST 125s, classes 47, 82, 86 and 87 handled trains on these routes. Watch them again as well as classes 31 and 37s on more local routes and a variety of freight passing through the station. Also some railtour departures.”

Mr. Ashton Moss on YouTube

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