Prescot, England: A Guide to the Historic Lancashire Town
Its residents are Prescotians, Liverpudlians, Scousers or Lancastrians, depending on who you ask. If you're over a certain age, it's part of the county of Lancashire; otherwise, it's part of Merseyside. According to a local saying, "There was a Prescot before e'er there was a Liverpool." Sitting on a hill nine miles east of the River Mersey, the town of Prescot has a history stretching back further than the 12th century.
Places to See in Prescot
The tower of St Mary's Church, otherwise known as Prescot Parish Church, dominates the skyline. The tip of its steeple is the highest point above sea level in the county of Merseyside. The oldest part of the church building dates to 1610, though it has been a work in progress, with some parts, such as the restored spire, being built as late as the 20th century. The structure is notable as Knowsley's only Grade I listed building.
The main shopping street is Eccleston Street. Leading off this is Stone Street, which may well be the narrowest street in Britain. Easily mistaken for a mere alleyway, its cobbled path occupies a tiny gap between two shops. Look up and you'll see remarkably well-preserved timbers from the Elizabethan period.
Prescot Museum's home is an impressive Grade II listed Georgian house. The permanent exhibition documents Prescot's clock- and watch-making industry, a vital part of the town's economy in the 18th and 19th centuries.
On the edge of the town is Lord Derby's Knowsley estate, with one of the UK's top wildlife attractions, Knowsley Safari Park. The enclosure, most famous for its unpredictably playful baboons, has its origins in a menagerie of animals kept by Lord Stanley, the 13th Earl of Derby, in the 19th century. He hired famous nonsense poet and artist Edward Lear to paint pictures of his collection. Lear later wrote the poem The Owl and the Pussycat for the Stanley children.
Prescot's Shakespearean Connection
In the late 16th century, Prescot had a theatre, known as the Prescot Playhouse. It was one of the most important -- perhaps the most important -- theatre outside London at the time, and bore a similar design to the capital's cockpit theatre, designed by Inigo Jones. Scholars believe William Shakespeare came to stay with Lord Derby on his estate, and had his plays performed at the playhouse. It is possible some of his plays received their premiere there.
A connected piece of Prescot history: John Kemble was born in the town in 1757. Kemble went on to become the leading actor-manager of his day.
Other Facts about Prescot
Each year, Arts in Prescot runs the Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts, a 10-day series of arts, music, culture and entertainment events and concerts. Past guests have included actress Honor Blackman (Goldfinger, The Avengers) and actor Peter Sallis (Last of the Summer Wine, Wallace and Gromit).
The town is famous for its school, Prescot Grammar School, whose past pupils have included former Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe and TV actress Sue Johnston (Brookside, The Royle Family, Waking the Dead). The school became Prescot Comprehensive School in the 1980s, then Prescot School in the 1990s, and was replaced in 2010 by the Knowsley Park Centre for Learning. The Prescotian website has information about the school's history, with photos, articles and more.