Although there are well over 300 grade two listed buildings and monuments in Preston’s parliamentary constituency, there are only three grade one listed buildings. This is well below the national average, with 2.5% of listed buildings on average being grade one, compared with fewer than 1% in Preston.
What are Preston’s three most important buildings?
Make a few guesses and you are likely to come up with two of the buildings: St Walburge’s church and the Harris Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery. The remaining building, however, is not so well known and is actually just outside Preston, beyond Lea as you head out towards Blackpool.
Old Lea Hall goes back to the late 17th and early 18th century. It is a private building, part of a series of farm buildings, and so is not open to the public.
St Walburge’s and the Harris Library are both 19th century buildings and are, directly or indirectly, products of the industrial revolution. Old Lea Hall, however, points to Preston’s sketchier pre-industrial past, when, according to historian AJP Taylor, “[Preston was] one of the most distinguished and interesting of Lancashire’s towns”.
Old Lea Hall’s history
We can only find snippets of the history of Old Lea Hall but those snippets link Old Lea Hall to one of the area’s most famous families: the Hoghtons. The Hoghton family bought the Manor of Lea towards the beginning of the 14th century. The family apparently used Lea Hall as their main home until Hoghton Tower – another grade one listed building – was built in 1565. Old Lea Hall is the only surviving building of complex of buildings that made up the Manor House of Lea, although today’s building mostly dates from the late 17th century or early 18th century.
The only other tantalising snippet of history is that one of the Hoghton’s was killed at the manor house. According to the document Old Lea Hall Farm, from the Lancashire Archives: ‘There must have been several other ranges of buildings at Lea Hall because an account of “a great affray” here in 1589 records that Thomas Hoghton was killed “in the outer court of the manor house.”’
The hall goes back to a time when the west of Preston was made up of a series of farms and manor houses. As late as 1842, the area was sparsely populated, with a map of the time showing Old Lea Hall with other old buildings, since disappeared, such as Lea House, New Lea Hall and Tulketh Hall. Those other places would eventually be swamped by the development of Preston. By staying just outside of Preston’s urban area, Old Lea Hall has managed, in part, to survive to the present day.
There are detailed accounts of the hall’s architecture on English Heritage’s website.
- Taylor, AJP. ‘Preston revisited’. The Spectator 11 Oct 1980
- Old Lea Hall Farm, Lancashire Archives