Prescot 1953.

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
In 1953 a small book appeared with the name "Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society" New Series Volume-One. It starts with,

With this volume, the Society opens a new series of its publications. Our aim, that of stimulating interest in Britain´s priceless heritage of ancient monuments, buildings and craftsmanship, remains the same. Nevertheless, the fact that a determined effort is now being made to develop the Society´s activities on a fully national basis renders the time opportune to revise the format of the journal. We are fortunate in having distinguished contributors who deal authoritatively with matters of the current moment, and the keynote to the volume is action, for our object is not only the study of antiquities but also their conservation.

This was a period just after the second world war, a period of " get up and go", a time when you could walk through the ruined cities of England and see the damage war creates, it was also a time of worry-the age of the atom bomb had arrived. So what, you can say today, those same worries are still with us. War is on every corner, and did not something happen in 1963? So those who were around at that time were only too pleased to do something they thought would achieve a more peaceful attitude. There are those today who will just say, we were lucky. On that point, I build this sketch, all I am saying is we have to think back, to understand what is before us. Where were you in 1953?

This Society published all its members by County, plus London, and they published all these people along with their address. It was the age of letter writing, you wrote your thoughts on a piece of paper. Folded, it was put into an envelope you had also written, stamped and put into the post, with luck you had a reply two weeks later if written for outside the UK. Looking for the author of the last entry in this little book, I looked at those from Lancashire, and there he was, F.A. Bailey M.A.., 7 Stanley Crescent, Prescot. Fellow, Vice-Chairman, Hon. Editor. It had crossed my mind why his article was about An Old Watchmakers Workshop when in the main they were trying to conserve old castles. All will be made clear.

AN OLD WATCHMAKERS WORKSHOP. by F.A. Bailey M.A., F.A.M.S. Vice President, The Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire.

You may have read the start before, but here goes,

The famous scientist Lord Kelvin speaking at Prescot in Lancashire in 1893, declared: "There is nothing in the whole of mechanism that I take more interest in than a watch; it is the attainment of the height of perfection in human mechanism." At Prescot, he was addressing an audience steeped in the traditions of watchmaking, for whether it be true or not that the first English watchmaker lived nearby, as one tradition states there were certainly watchmakers in the area very shortly after 1600. The fact that metal-working trades were already established on a considerable scale, with numerous smiths producing suitable tools. provided favourable conditions for the growth of the industry. Nevertheless, the initial impulse and circumstances of origin are obscure.

Lord Kelvin, was addressing an audience of men and women who worked in the watch industry, that they were not too fond of, and he was "take or leave it", trying to get support for the "Lancashire Watch Company" This small article goes on in this mode and many of the remarks are well out of date, though again those reading it in 1953 would also not have known any difference.

On page three of this article are two photographs, these you may have seen in many other books and articles.


zz-31.jpg At the far end of the long bench is Mr Bailey, and sitting at the front Dr Torrens.

Not strictly true, but this is what the author had to say.

"The last of the old workshops to remain in use was that of Joseph Preston & Sons, watch and chronometer movement makers. The business dated back to 1829 and survived until 1952, when its last working proprietor, Mr Harry Pybus died. Years previously the present writer had mooted the idea of forming a museum of watchmaking in Prescot and using one of the old workshops for the purpose. The suggestion had commended itself to Mr Pybus and to Dr D.S. Torrens, who had for long been a visitor to Prescot and friend of Mr Pybus. The latter bequeathed the workshop and its contents to Dr Torrens with complete freedom to do as he might choose. It is now hoped that sufficient support may be forthcoming to enable it to be put into good repair and preserved as a memorial to the fine old craftsmanship for which the town was noted and as an authentic specimen of the premises and equipment used.

It never happened.

Before going on we need to look at other photographs taken at the same time and place in 1952.

Ground floor
Joseph Preston & Sons, 19 Eccleston Street, Prescot. Their workshop after the death of Harry Pybus in 1952.

To be cont.......

Last edited:


NAWCC Member
Aug 6, 2006
Where were you in 1953?
In September 1953 I started my secondary education at Prescot Grammar School. F A Bailey was my History master. Sadly I knew nothing of the rich history of Prescot until much later.

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
Hi Peter,
That is truly great news, if you have the time maybe you can PM me on your memories of Mr Bailey.

Thanks for sharing,


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