Discover Preston

Horrockses Fashions dresses on display

History Gallery
Permanent Exhibition with changing displays
Discover what makes Preston special in our history gallery, Discover Preston.

Our history gallery is packed full of fascinating stories about the people, ideas and events that shaped the city of Preston.

Whose footsteps are you following in? Unearth evidence of our earliest ancestors, from 13,500 years ago through the Poulton elk, to later stone-age people, Roman and Viking settlers through to more recent Prestonians, such as Richard Arkwright and Sir Tom Finney who have left their mark on the city. 

Why is Preston special? The pioneers of professional football, Preston North End,  the unique Preston Guild, and Horrockses, world-famous cotton manufacturer, all spring to mind and are featured in the gallery.

Discover the role Preston played in national events such as the Civil War and Jacobite rebellions. You’ll also find tales of inspirational Prestonians from all walks of life who did extraordinary things or helped to shape the way we live today.

Uncover the history of the Guild through specially selected items from the Harris’ extensive Guild collection revealing stories from the Guilds of the last 250 years.

For children – get hands on with history at our fun workshops. Some of which are free!

Visit our What's On for families to find out more.

Take a fresh look at Preston’s past - you’ll be amazed at what you find!

The gallery
The Discover Preston gallery is split into four zones; here is a flavour of some of the stories featured in each zone:

DP Leaflet Pages CoverWhat Makes Preston special

We tell the story of inspirational Prestonians who were the pioneers of new technologies, such as Richard Arkwright and the priest who brought gas lighting to the town, as well as people who campaigned to improve quality of life for all.

Find out more about Preston North End, the first winners of the Football League, and the unique Preston Guild, founded in 1179 - the only one still going strong in the UK!      

Don’t miss:

The Preston Corporation Lamplighters' Banner. Carried in the 1902 Preston Guild. Preston was the first provincial town to be lit by gas and 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of this milestone in the city's history.’


Download the Discover Preston Leaflet here

Preston at the Crossroads

With road, rail, canals (and invading armies!) running from north to south, and the river Ribble flowing east to west linking Lancashire with the wider world, Preston marks the spot where two key routes meet.

Find out about the early settlers who made this part of Lancashire their home and the position Preston played in key moments in British history.

Don’t miss:

The volunteers who poured twelve million cups of tea and coffee for soldiers at Preston Station Free Buffet during both World Wars.

Social & Commercial hub

We celebrate the heart of Preston-a thriving trading centre famous for its textiles industry and Guild, and its soul-the diverse faiths and cultures found in the city.
It’s not all work though, see Prestonians at play through the lens of filmmaker Will Onda.

Don’t miss:

The doll’s house connected to the collapse of a Preston bank in 1861.

Discovery Room

The whole family can get closer to history in the Discovery Room and explore objects from the Harris collection, such as coins, toys and dolls. Compare family life in 17th century Preston with local families today, and find out more about the ancient Greeks, ancient Egyptians and the mysterious Bleasdale Circle.

Don’t miss:

The Poulton elk.  The chance discovery of this 13,500 year-old elk and the weapons used to wound him, is one of the most important prehistoric finds in Britain as it provides the earliest evidence of human habitation in the region.

Discover Preston has been made possible by the generous support of:

Heritage Lottery Fund

Arts Council England 

Friends of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery

Harris Free Public Library & Museum Endowment Trust

The Monument Trust

Foyle Foundation

Garfield Weston Foundation

English Heritage

Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund

Harold & Alice Bridges Charity

Preston Historical Society, and

Private donations






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