Preston Town Centre, a Native Told Me, Could Be Summed Up as One Great Big Pub. (Northside)

Article excerpt

Last Thursday evening, on the doorstep of my Preston guesthouse, I was looking at a map of the town, and comparing it with some notes I'd made. The landlady asked whether she could help, at which I had to admit I was trying to locate a pub, the Old Blue Bell, one of several I'd noted down from the Good Beer Guide.

She pointed me in the right direction, but I got lost just outside the railway station, and began looking at my map again. A white-haired man in a smart blazer and tie walked up. I told him what I was looking for, and he suggested I accompany him, as he was going in that direction. He was doing so slightly erratically, I noticed. He told me he had been in Southport and Wigan that day. I asked why, and he said, "Because I like to travel around", which seemed a bit of a tautology. He then mentioned that he'd drunk two and a half gallons of beer. "I go away to drink because Preston's so expensive.

He must have been very hard up -- which he did not look -- because when I got to the Old Blue Bell, I was served a lovely pint of mild for, I think, [pounds sterling]1.35. As I drank it, I got talking to Ron, an engaging Irishman who has lived in Preston for 30 years. He told me that he'd once looked at a directory of Preston from 1910, and counted as many as 333 pubs in the city centre, and the amazing thing was that by 1972 the number had gone up, to 365. …