Winckley Square in England’s newest city of Preston is the finest example of a privately planned Georgian development with open space in the North of England. In the heart of Preston’s conservation area and just 50 yards from Preston’s main retail district, this beautifully landscaped parkland is a peaceful urban refuge from the hurly-burly of city life.
The Square was the brainchild of the Preston attorney William Cross who purchased Town End Field from Thomas Winckley. Mr Cross built the first house on the square in 1799 – now number 7. He named the Square after the Winckley family. It was developed by Cross as an exclusive residential area. The original occupants of the Square were professional gentleman and wealthy manufacturers.
It still has a strong residential community which now mixes with some of the UK’s best known professional and financial services firms as well as a selection of restaurants and bars. Preston’s famous St Wilfrid’s Catholic Church sits on the edge of the Square and the city’s world renowned University of Central Lancashire is a ten minute walk away.
The Square’s gardens, now an open public park, originally consisted of private plots, each owned by a resident. A statue of Sir Robert Peel stands on one side of the central gardens opposite Cross Street, erected in 1852.
An Italian-style villa was built in 1850 on the south corner of Cross Street (number 11), which was later used as a County Court office from the 1940s. It was demolished in 1969. On the opposite corner (number 10) was the Winckley Club, a gentlemen’s club, and next to it, in Cross Street, the Literary and Philosophical Institution (later called Dr Shepherd’s Library and Museum), both built in 1846 and both now demolished.
In recent years, a £3million ambitious and modern redevelopment programme was put on hold due to strong opposition and subsequent funding cuts.
In 2011, a group of Preston businessmen and professionals set up Winckley Square Community Interest Company (WSCIC), an indepdendent company aiming to drive the revival and restoration of the Square. WSCIC is working voluntarily with Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council.