Tom Preston

Location: Southport, Lancashire
About Dr Tom Preston...

As a historian, my main interest is the social history of north-west England, particularly in regard to popular entertainment over the past 150 years. My PhD focussed on the early history of football in Liverpool before 1914, and I have contributed material to journals and books as well as having been interviewed on TV, radio and the press.

I worked for more than twenty years in both adult and schools education. Since then, I have been involved in archive and heritage promotion and have organised many heritage events and history courses.

Over the past decade I have given hundreds of presentations to a range of groups including libraries, history societies, U3A, Women’s Institutes, Townswomen’s Guilds, Rotary Clubs, Probus, and Civic Societies. My first book, a biography of the comedian, Robb Wilton, has recently been published.


About my Talks...

All my talks are illustrated Power-point presentations. I supply my laptop and projector and the duration is usually 50-60 minutes unless a shorter presentation is specifically requested. My only requirements are a screen or suitable blank wall, and a 2 or 3 socket extension lead.



My standard charge is £48 for the entire lecture, with 25p per mile additional expenses if outside 20 mile radius of Southport and road toll costs if applicable.

I generally will speak anywhere within a 35 mile radius of Southport.

My Contact Details:

0756 432 4811

She Knew You Know: the life and career of Hylda Baker

This talk concerns the tumultuous life and career of the fondly remembered Bolton-born comedienne Hylda Baker. Hylda first went on the stage as a child but did not achieve true fame until she was fifty. She was short and stout, often conversing in a strident Lancashire manner with her silent friend Cynthia, played always by a man in drag. Her raw humour was said to be ‘dredged out of the damp gutters of her native Lancashire’. Hylda had difficult relationships with several of her fellow performers and a rumbustious private life at odds with her virginal stage persona.

The Day Laughter Broke Out: the life and career of Robb Wilton

The Liverpool-born comedian Robb Wilton is inextricably linked with the Second World War by way of his famous Home Guard routine, ‘The Day War Broke Out...’ But Robb already had a long career that had included 19th century melodrama, music hall, the USA, films, radio, and even television. His life is virtually a commentary on British social history and also had more than its fair share of excitement and tragedy. I have recently written the first-ever biography of Robb Wilton and this talk examples of his routines as well as previously unknown aspects of his remarkable life and career.

“The Comedians Tonight Were...”

In 1971, Granada TV broadcast the first series of The Comedians. Massively popular, it had a straightforward format of stand-up comedians simply telling jokes. Unashamedly Lancastrian in character, it made stars of stalwart club-land stand-ups George Roper, Colin Crompton, Ken Goodwin, and Frank Carson. This talk tells the story of their lives and careers.

Film Stars Do Die in Birkenhead

The life, career and death of Bonar Colleano

Wise-cracking Bonar Colleano provided a dose of American glamour into post-war British film noir. Like his screen persona, he really did live life at full throttle, reckless and hedonistic. From a circus and vaudeville background, Bonar’s fast and furious lifestyle came to a tragic end one summer night in 1958, when his sports car spun out of control on a back street of Birkenhead.

Real Lives of Coronation Street

When Granada TV launched Coronation Street in 1960, the programme was a breakthrough in the portrayal of ordinary working-class people. The original cast were relatively unknown actors who had been carefully selected for their roles. Their characters were to become iconic and Coronation Street changed the actors’ lives forever. This talk looks at the lives and careers of some of the original actors before they joined ‘The Street’ !

“Bit of Order, Please!”

The birth of the northern clubs

In the 1950s, variety theatres were closing down at an alarming rate. Northern working-men’s clubs filled the breach and provided an outlet for established artistes and a training ground for new performers. This talk outlines the story of this transitional period in popular entertainment which attracted some colourful and controversial characters.

Great Lancashire Comedians

For over a century, Lancashire has supplied some of the nation’s best drolls, from Stan Laurel to Eric Morecambe to Peter Kay. Why has the old county produced so many comedians ? The answer could be linked to the distinctive history of Lancashire as a hotbed of the Industrial Revolution which provided the conditions for the establishment of a common comic tradition. This talk traces the evolution of local comedy by referencing the styles of some of the great Lancashire comedians of the past.

Music Hall and Theatre in Lancashire

Even a century or more ago, North West England was at the forefront of the entertainment industry. Many of the nation’s most accomplished performers, actors, and impresarios were based in the region. This talk outlines the fascinating history of theatres and popular entertainment in Lancashire from the heyday of music hall in the nineteenth century to its decline in the 1950s.

1956: TV from the North

When commercial TV came to the north of England in 1956, the innovative live programmes made a real contribution to the distinctive regional culture. Manchester gained three TV studios that year: ABC TV converted a former cinema in Didsbury, the BBC opened its first TV studios outside London, and Granada TV built a brand new studio complex, the first purpose-built TV studio in Britain. This talk looks at the impact of TV in the north during the dramatic year of 1956 and includes people and stories from behind the cameras.

“You Never It So Good”

Motoring in the 50s and 60s
In the early post-war years, Britain was the world’s second largest car producer but the seeds of decline had already been sown. The period started with the merger of Morris with Austin and ended with the creation of British Leyland. Re-visit an era when motorways and MOTs were new and bubble cars and Ernest Marples began to fade into history.

Those Magnificent Men in Their Horseless Wagons

The Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association was one of the world’s earliest motor organisations (founded 1896) and also one of the most innovative. Its heavy vehicle motor trials took in several major Lancashire towns and were of international significance in the development of commercial transport.

Fred Waldron and the Wayfarer

The life and work of Fred Waldron, chief engineer at Pilkington Glass Works from 1911 to the 1940s, designer and inventor of torpedo boats and marine engines, factories and industrial processes, and advisor to the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. His most extraordinary achievement was designing and building his own saloon car in the 1930s.

Anfield and Goodison: history of the grounds

Everton FC played at Anfield from 1884 until 1892 when a dispute with the ground’s owner led to the formation of Liverpool FC. Not only did this result in two major clubs but also two of the most advanced grounds in the country. This illustrated talk looks at the development of the two grounds including the designs of the architect Archibald Leitch.

Lancashire -Birth of Professional Football

In the 1870s skilled Scottish players began to be paid by highly competitive amateur football clubs based in east Lancashire. This brought them into conflict with the gentleman ideals of the Football Association, who only accepted the notion of ‘professionalism’ three years before the formation of the professional Football League. Half of the new league’s founder members were from Lancashire and the region has continued to dominate football to the present day.

The Deeming Murders

Not long after Jack the Ripper, the entire English-speaking world was appalled by the brutal murders committed in England and Australia by Frederick Bailey Deeming. He was perhaps the first global serial killer but he was also an audacious confidence trickster and bigamist, who killed six people but may well have murdered others. This is an account of Deeming’s brutal and bizarre criminal career.

Carr Mill Dam: History of an Inland Resort

The fascinating story of the Lancashire lake fondly remembered by generations of people across north-west England. It began as a reservoir in the 1700s, and became a focus for nature and recreation in the nineteenth century, eventually becoming an inland leisure resort, including attractions such as power-boat racing in the mid-twentieth century.

Tom Preston Contact Details:

0756 432 4811

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