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 Preston, England 

Borough and district, county of Lancashire, England, at the lowest bridging point of the Irish Sea estuary, on the River Ribble.  

The town grew near the site of a Roman fort at Walton-le-Dale, on a ridge overlooking the river. Its location, on a major north-south route, established it as a market centre in the Middle Ages, and the first of 14 charters was granted about 1179. This charter also granted a merchant guild, which has met regularly ever since.

 By the Tudor period (beginning in the late 15th century), Preston was a great interregional market centre lying at the focus of the road system. Domestic industry, especially woolen and linen weaving, grew owing to the town's increasing importance. During the English Civil Wars, Preston, the Lancashire Royalist headquarters, was besieged and captured, and the fortifications were destroyed. Royalist forces were defeated by the Parliamentary forces of Oliver Cromwell at Preston in 1648.  

Further stimulus to growth came in 1777, when the first cotton-spinning mill was built in Moor Lane. By 1835 there were 40 factories, mainly spinning, producing 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of cotton yarn weekly. Improved port facilities after 1843 established a trade in Lancashire coal, cotton goods, and raw materials.

Preston, with two large covered markets, is the chief mart for the produce of the Fylde agricultural district. The cattle market holds thrice-weekly sales throughout the year.  

Despite decline of the cotton textile industry, the economy has remained strong through diversification. Preston's position on the main London to Scotland railway line and its proximity to the motorway between Birmingham and Carlisle have attracted new industries. Increases in engineering and in vehicle and aircraft manufacture more than compensated for jobs lost through mill closures. The town has the largest rayon factory in England.

 The many parish churches include St. John's (1855) on the site of earlier buildings. The Harris Art Gallery, Library and Museum, established by the trustees of E.R. Harris in 1879, contain several personal book collections. A grammar school was founded in 1550.

 Preston, as the county town (seat) of Lancashire, has a growing service sector. It is one of the focuses (with Leyland and Chorley) of Central Lancashire new town. Area district, 55 square miles (142 square km). Pop. (1991 prelim.) district, 126,200.

 Related Internet Links:

City.Net: Preston, England

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