History | Records

Prescot is an ancient market town, already important enough by the 14th century to appear on the famous Bodleian Library map of Britain. Formerly part of the hundred of West Derby, the county of Lancaster and the diocese of Chester, Prescot now belongs to the diocese of Liverpool and has been since 1970 one of the constituent towns of the metropolitan borough of Knowsley.

The hill site and circular churchyard of the parish church suggest Celtic origins. The name Prescot means 'priests's dwelling'.

By medieval times Prescot had developed into a thriving market town and had become head of a huge parish covering much of SW Lancashire, extending for 58 square miles and including 15 separate townships. The manor came into the possession of the crown through the duchy of Lancaster and in 1447 Henry VI bestowed it as a founding endowment on his new King's College at Cambridge.

Both town and parish have rich historical records, with manor court rolls surviving from 1511, churchwardens' accounts from 1523 and parish registers from 1538. The earlier portions of all these have been transcribed and published and the remainder are deposited at the Lancashire Record Office in Preston.

The town developed as a centre of coal-mining and pottery and was also an important coaching centre. From the 18th century its chief fame lay in the production of watch movements and files: a process splendidly displayed in today's Prescot Museum. In the 20th century there arose an almost exclusive dependence on cable-making and the relocation of most of the work of B.I.C.C. (British Insulated Callender Cables) in the 1980s has left an unacceptably high level of unemployment.

The parish church is a Grade I Listed building (the only one in the borough). It was largely rebuilt in 160 1and the existing nave, and roof are all of this date. Of the earlier church, only the vestry, font and parts of the chancel walls survive. The present tower was built in 1729 and the spire in 1797. The side aisles were widened in 1819.

Despite catastrophic redevelopment in the 1960s, involving the demolition of many of the town's Georgian buildings and the destruction of parts of the medieval street pattern, the town retains many ancient features, including a long section of the ancient town walls.

Knowsley Borough Council is currently completing a comprehensive redevelopment and renewal of the town centre, including the semi-pedestrianisation of the area of Church Street adjacent to the Parish Church and the replacement of the old BICC site with the large Cables Retail Park.

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