Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

A Shadow factory in the heart of Preston

It is hard to believe that during World War Two there were secret factories right under our noses. This one was on Fishergate in the centre of Preston, opposite Butler Street. It is almost opposite the road down to the train station.

 

This factory was a shadow factory for English Electric Co. during the war. The idea of having "shadow factories" was that if the main factory was destroyed by enemy action - not all production was lost. Different shadow factories specialised in the production of different things - so it was a way of reducing the risk of loss of production.

 

According to the book 'Images of Preston', this factory was one of several "scattered through the town in case the Strand Road works was bombed". Does anyone know where the others were?

 

The factories made Halifax bombers. This one is right next to the railway - was this one of the reasons for its location? (see Google Earth aerial image at the bottom of the page) for its exact location.

 

When you look at the original photograph, there are some notable features. Firstly, let us remember that we are at war and this is a SECRET factory. One that nobody suspects and any passer-by would walk right past without a second glance. However, by placing anti-tank blocks/cylinders all the way across the front of the factory to deter invasion forces, PLUS a guard on the door - surely this gives people the idea that there is someting of importance to the war effort going on behind those closed doors? Why then would they make it so obvious?

 

A little background on Preston's role in aircraft manufacture in WW2:

 

According to David John Hindle in his book 'Preston: Planes, Trains, Tramcars and ships', Preston's English Electric Co. had been building flying boats during WW1, then ceased production until the 1920's when they began again until the Great Depression caused a complete halt. However, WW2 saw a resumption in aircraft building and in 1938 the company started to build aircraft parts and armaments. The new factory and airfield built at Samlesbury was "to produce the four-engine Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber. A total of 2145 Halifax bombers were built by English Electric."

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ABOVE: The scene today. The building has been substantially altered, but the short wall and the stone column on the bridge over the railway can both be seen in the original photograph and in our photos ABOVE & BELOW

ABOVE: The location of the shadow factory on Fishergate, Preston. The main Preston train station can be seen at the middle of the bottom of the photo.