Preston, an important manufacturing town of Lancashire, a municipal, parliamentary, and county borough, at the head of the estuary of the Ribble, 14 miles from the Irish Sea, 28 NNE. of Liverpool, 31 NW. of Manchester, and 209 NNW. of London. Occupying an eminence 120 feet above the river, and built mostly of brick, it is on the whole well laid out, and is surrounded with pleasing scenery. The town-hall, built in 1862-67 from designs by Sir G. G. Scott at a cost of £80,000, is a French Gothic pile, with a clock-tower and spire 195 feet high. In 1882 were laid the foundation-stones of the Lancashire county hall and of the Harris free library and museum, to the latter of which in 1883 Mr R. Newsham bequeathed pictures and art-treasures worth £70,000. The places of worship are all modern, for even the parish church has been rebuilt. St Walburge's (Roman Catholic, 1850-66), by Hansom of cab celebrity, has a spire 306 feet high, the loftiest built in England since the Reformation, which amply redeems 'proud Preston' from its old 'no-steeple' reproach. Other edifices are the grammar-school (1550; rebuilt 1841), the corn exchange and market-house (1824), public baths (1851), a covered market (1870), militia barracks (1856), the infirmary (1869), etc. Three large public parks were laid out in 1867 - the Miller and Avenham parks, and the former unsightly 'Moor' of 100 acres to the north of the town. In the first a statue was erected in 1873 of the fourteenth Earl of Derby; in Winckley Square is a monument to Sir Robert Peel. Preston was constituted an independent port in 1843; and great improvements have been effected at a cost of over a million under the Act of 1883, these including the deepening of the channel so as to admit vessels of 1000 tons, the construction of a dock of 40 acres (opened by the Duke of Edinburgh, 25th June 1892), the erection of warehouses, etc. Arkwright, who was born here in 1732, in 1768 set up here his famous spinning-frame; and Preston now is one of the principal seats of the cotton industry, which gradually superseded the linen manufacture. There are also iron and brass foundries, iron shipbuilding yards, engineering and machine shops, steam-boiler works, rope-walks, etc. A guild-merchant festival, first clearly heard of in 1397, has been held every twenty years since 1562 - the last on 1st September 1902. Preston, the first of whose royal charters was granted by Henry VI., returns two members to parliament. The borough boundary was extended in 1885. Pop. (1811) 17,115; (1841) 50,073; (1881) 100,262; (1901) 11S,227 - 112,989 within the municipal borough.
Preston arose whilst ancient Coccium or Rib-Chester, higher up the Ribble, decayed. In Athel-stan's reign Amounderness, the hundred in which it is situated, was granted to the cathedral church of York; hence its chief town came to be known as Preston or 'priests' town.' Near Preston, in 1648, Cromwell routed the royalists; and Preston figures in both the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745. For Forster's little army surrendered here; and Prince Charles Edward occupied the town on both his march to and his retreat from Derby. In 1832 Joseph Livesey of Preston and six others here signed a pledge of total abstinence - the first ever taken in England. See works by Whittle (2 vols. 1821-37), Dobson (four, 1856-62), Hardwick (1857), Abram (1882), and T. C. Smith (1891).