Preston’s ‘women of firsts’ is honoured with blue plaque

A Preston pioneer of women in civic life and a campaigner on the needs of women and children is being recognised with a blue plaque marking her achievements at her former home in the city centre.

Avice Pimblett was a woman of ‘Preston firsts’. She was the first woman town councillor, its first woman Alderman and its first woman Mayor.

She also had a major impact on the lives of Prestonians, concerning herself particularly with women and children’s social, educational and welfare issues.

The plaque, awarded by Preston Historical Society, will be unveiled at a ceremony on Wednesday November 2 at her former address in Ribblesdale Place, near Winckley Square.

The building is now the offices of leading architecture, design and masterplanning practice FWP Ltd.

Preston’s blue plaque scheme celebrates the links between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked.

Guests at the unveiling will include Preston’s current Mayor Councillor Neil Darby, city and county councillors, members of the historical society and the Friends of Winckley Square group and staff from FWP.

Friends of Winckley Square group member Susan Douglass has carried out extensive research on the life of Avice, who was also a JP and holder of an OBE. Born in 1879 she lived at the address from 1919 until her death in 1963.

During her long career in local politics she worked hard to promote infant welfare schemes, including a daily morning welfare centre for the under-fives.

The highlight of her Mayoral year was a three-day fête on Avenham and Miller parks in aid of a new maternity hospital. It was estimated that the crowd numbered about 60,000 on the third day, so many food and drink supplies ran out.

The fête raised £6,030, a fifth of the cost of the new maternity wing of Preston Royal Infirmary and Avice laid the foundation stone in July 1934.

Patricia Harrison, who chairs the group and who is also a member of Preston Historical Society’s committee, said: “I am sure everyone who reads about the life of Avice Pimblett will agree she deserves a blue plaque.

“We have been working with the historical society to address the gender imbalance when it comes to blue plaques dedicated to women in Preston. Currently there are only two.

“This is not just a Preston issue. In 2018 English Heritage survey found that only 14 per cent of blue plaques commemorated the lives of women. This imbalance is being addressed now throughout the country.”

David Robinson, managing partner of FWP, said: “We are honoured to have the plaque recognising the many achievements of Avice Pimblett on our building and pleased to play our part in making it happen.

“As a Preston business it is great to mark the history of our city and the life of such a special person in this way.

“Anyone who reads the story of Avice recognises she was a principled and determined woman who did so much for its people and achieved so many firsts. She remains an inspiration.”

Preston’s collection of blue plaques honour a wide range of people with city links, from Young Pretender Bonny Prince Charles to Benjamin Franklin as well as Joseph Livesey founder of the Temperance Movement and suffragette Edith Rigby.