Winckley Square's revives 'city living' with new multi-million pound apartments
Life is turning full circle for the most fashionable address in Preston city centre.
Historic Winckley Square, the exclusive home to the gentry throughout the 1800s, is being returned to its original residential use after decades as the heart of the business district.
Tens of millions of pounds are being invested in the prestigious Georgian neighbourhood which was once a peaceful urban refuge for Preston’s well-to-do.
Grand old houses overlooking the highly-acclaimed gardens, which were converted to offices following an exodus of the wealthy to the outskirts of town, are being re-imagined once again as luxury homes as the City Living drive, launched four years ago this month, continues to gather pace.
Two centuries after just 35 properties housed the great and good of Preston, around 250 homes now bear the coveted Winckley Square address, most of them created over the last four years in a frenzy of redevelopment.
And a further 80 can claim to be “off Winckley Square” as the area’s transformation has stretched to the connecting streets.
The transformation has seen the square become a trendy living community again instead of just a workplace for the financial and legal professions.
The latest project to open its doors - The One Winckley Square development - has created a near-£6m renovation of a stunning Grade II listed property into 15 plush apartments with uninterrupted views of the gardens.
It is just one of the transformational schemes that Preston-based Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP), which has its offices off the square, is involved in. Local developer, the Walker & Williams Group, has now completed the project and the majority of properties are already sold.
Work is also about to begin on another Walker & Williams-led development overseen by FWP, the conversion of another Grade-II listed Georgian property on Winckley Street, which adjoins the square.
The building, which was once the offices of a college, has stood empty for a number of years. Once completed the project will create nine residential apartments worth around £2.8m to be retained and rented out to young working professionals.
And the area’s transformation doesn’t just include the creation of residential properties. FWP’s team has converted a former solicitors’ office into an upmarket boutique aparthotel in another Walker & Williams project.
The Winckley Square Hotel is a £2.8m development with 14 individually themed bespoke apartments all with boutique interior finishes. The hotel is also home to 263, a fine dining restaurant that has received two AA Rosettes.
Brent Clayton, a partner at FWP, said: “The transformation of this historic part of Preston is seeing some stunning buildings being renovated and returned to their original residential use, breathing new life into the square.
“Our team works to deliver designs that are sensitive and sympathetic to the area and these very special, listed properties.
“It’s important to retain the character of Winckley Square, which is a conservation area, and that sits at the heart of all our work.
“As a Preston-based firm, with our head offices just a stones’ throw from Winckley Square, we’re conscious of its history and what it means to the people of the city. It is about creating a real sense of place.”
The Walker & Williams Group is a family business created by Max and Laura Walker-Williams and it has invested heavily in Preston city centre as part of its growth plans.
Operations director Max said: “We have now finished the renovation works at The One Winckley Square and all but two of the apartments have sold. We have really raised the bar and we believe this is the most desirable address in the city.
“The apartments have sold at or above full asking price which is thanks in no small part to the clever and seamless design by FWP.”
He added: “Our latest project in the area is 13 Winckley Street, which is a stunning four storey Georgian property that has sadly stood empty for some time.
“We acquired the site and, with the help of FWP, secured planning permission for nine one-bedroom apartments. Work will be starting shortly.”
CITY LIVING FOUR YEARS ON
Preston’s City Living initiative was launched exactly four years ago and has already seen more than 1,300 new apartments created - not counting student accommodation.
Even though a huge building programme is transforming the outskirts of the city, massive investment is also being pumped into the heart of Preston to reverse the gradual exodus of residents to the suburbs.
City Living was unveiled in April 2017 aimed at attracting people back into the centre of town and there have since been more than 15 conversion projects launched.
On top of those there are two new tower blocks planned for the Stoneygate area - the 16-storey Bhailok Court in Pole Street with 200 apartments and a £50m development in Avenham Street which will comprise almost 300 flats.
Two former office blocks on Lancaster Road - Red Rose House and Elizabeth House - are in the process of being redeveloped to provide 130 apartments.
At the launch in 2017, the city council’s director of development, Chris Hayward, said the city wanted to see homes built for people to live in the “beating heart” of Preston.
200 YEARS OF EXCLUSIVITY
Winckley Square was the brainchild of Preston lawyer William Cross, who bought Town End Field from the Winckley estate in 1796. He built the first house on the square in 1799.
Described as one of the finest examples of a Georgian square in the North West of England, it was developed as an exclusive residential area and became home to professional gentlemen and wealthy manufacturers.
It was also home to a number of schools and later transformed into the city’s business district, with solicitors, accountants and other professional services firms making it their base, converting its homes into office accommodation.
The gardens in the centre of the square were originally designed as a communal space for the owners of the homes surrounding it. But later they became separate garden plots for each of the families.
In 1951 an agreement was reached for the town council to be responsible for the upkeep of the gardens as a public amenity. Some still own their slice of the square and lease it to the city council for the public to use.
Residents over two centuries have included suffragette Edith Rigby, sculptor William Duckett who created the statue of Sir Robert Peel on the edge of the square, Dorothy Heaton,
Preston’s first woman solicitor and Louisa Walsh who was the first headmistress of the Preston High School for Girls in the north-west corner of the square.