Preston shows evidence of Roman activity with a Roman road that once went to a Walton-le-Dale. Preston was established by Saxons and the name comes from the Old English words that the means Priest settlement. The town was called Prestune in the Doomsday Book. In the hundred of Amounderness a parish and township was formed in the Middle Ages. The town's status was upgraded to a market town in 1179 when a Guild Merchant Charter was granted.
Beginning in the middle of the 13th Century textiles began to be produced in Preston including wool that people wove in their homes. The industry was further developed in the 14th Century when Flemish weaver settled in the town. Sir Richard Arkwright was a weaver born in Preston and invented the spinning frame. The industrialization and expansion of textile manufacturing marked the most rapid growth and development of the town. During the Industrial Revolution Preston was known as a boom town. It then became a thickly populated center for engineering and had several large industrial plants.
A writer called Preston "a pretty town with an abundance of gentry in it, commonly called Proud Preston" in the early 18th Century. During the mid-20th Century the textile industry saw a terminal decline. The town then had to face the same challenges that the other post industrial towns in the north of deindustrialization, housing issues and deprivation. There was still continued development during and after this time however. One of the oldest football clubs was established there by the name of Preston North End F.C. and the seat of Lancaster County Council is in Preston.
The town has a forward looking spirit that is shown in the fact that it was the first town in England to use gas lighting. In 1815 the Preston Gas Company was established by several individuals including Rev. Joseph Dunn a Catholic Priest of the Society of Jesus. Karl Marx visited Preston in the 1850s and called the town the next St. Petersburg. When Charles Dickens paid the town a visit in January 1854 during a heated strike of the cotton workers that last 23 weeks it was for research purposes for the Hard Times novel. The novel's Coketown is based on Preston.
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