1715 Jacobite Rebellion Walk
On Sunday June 7th L.A.S. met at the Preston Minster for a guided walk of the site of the battle of Preston, led by Dr. David Hunt who is the author of books on the history of Preston. We were fortunate with the weather as the sun came out and privileged to have the knowledge and expository talents of Dr. Hunt. The battle of Preston was fought over six days in November 1715.
The walk commenced by the church and we walked to where the government troops advanced to engage the rebels. The Jacobites opened fire and killed about 100 of the government forces, which were led by General Wills. Barriers had been erected by the Jacobites and therefore government forces set the town on fire, which spread rapidly. At that time the town was built of wooden-framed buildings with thatched roofs. We then walked to the site of the Mitre Inn where in the 1745 rebellion The Young Pretender stayed and from where he had a historical walk of the 1715 rebellion. Our next location was the Flag Market which was always the town centre and was the site for the animal markets which were the raison d’etre for the town’s existence. It was also the site of the old Moot Hall. The Flag market was the location for some of the rebels’ executions and heads were placed on pikes and displayed on the civic building. Fringing the Flag market were orchards – the reason for the naming of Orchard St.
Our next location was the site of the tollbar at the bottom of Friargate, the original north end of Preston. Preston was not a walled town but had tollbars which were closed at night to control entry and exit. It was here that General Wills ordered that all government held houses should light a candle in their windows at nightfall so that he could flush out the Jacobite occupiers; this had limited success however as the Jacobites soon realised what was happening and lit candles in their windows. We then proceeded up Friargate to the site of the Roman Catholic church which was built in 1605 and demolished in 1990, to many peoples’ dismay. Preston and the surrounding area had a large Catholic population in 1715 and the Jacobite force was hoping that local Catholics would rise to support the cause of James Francis Edward Stuart the son of the exiled James 11. He was the Catholic candidate for the throne after the death of Queen Anne but had been sidelined by the Protestant Hanoverian George, the great grandson of James 1. The population of Preston was of a conservative disposition but were also pragmatic and in the main did not want their livelihoods threatened by an armed political struggle. The Jacobites were disappointed in the number joining their cause.
We next walked up to Fishergate to the site of the tollbar which was closed to prevent the Jacobites escaping by the government forces when they took the town but they were a little too late and a number had escaped. In the end the Jacobites had realised the hopelessness of their position and many had simply melted away. We came away with the impression of Preston as a much smaller town than of course it now is. Still mainly confined to its mediaeval layout – a highly combustible town of wood and thatch- a conservative and traditional town but also a hard working and parochial town which would rather confine itself to its own affairs and which had no great appetite for romantic and dangerous adventures on a national stage.