Grand Imperial Photography Studios


Visited in October 2019 with David (Scrappy NW). David had discovered this location and already been inside to take photographs so within a few days we met up so I could similarly document it.

The street it is on has many derelict run down buildings which have been subject to reports as to their safety and viability to remain. No 135a - which is the subject of this report - is in use on the ground floor but hte rest of the floors are derelict and vacant and are the former premises of the photographic studios dating back over 100 years. Getting to those upper floors wasn't easy and care had to be taken but it was definitely worth it to document a local former place of interest with such a long and rich history.

The main points of interest are on the top floor of the building which housed the dark rooms, portrait studio and changing areas. There is not too much left inside but just enough to show that the building was used as photographic studios long ago. Reels of film were lay on the floors covered in dust, the dark room had photographic materials left inside and the studio lights were still in situ in the portrait room. Aditionally, several bottles were left behind; vitreous stone bottles made by J. BOURNE & SON. Denby & Codnor Park Potteries, In the portrait studio. These most likely were bootles used for mixing the chemicals in the dark room many decades previously.

There is some history to be found on the internet which i'll write next.

A little part of Preston's history was to be found in this building and it was a pleasure to document it.

Permission kindly granted by PRESTON DIGITAL ARCHIVE for use of these two additional historical images. They can be found at:


The first entry in the P. Mannex & Co, Topography and Directory of Preston, Lancaster and Districts, 1881 for 135a Church Street, Preston is for John Issacs - Boot and Shoe Maker. 

Grand Imperial Studios 

The studios opened in 1875 as business boomed. John Monk - Photographic Artist is first listed in the P. Barrett & Co, Directory of Preston, Blackpool etc, in 1885. Again his photographic business is listed in 1885, 1892, 1898, 1901 & 1904 for these premises. The cutting above details his business and standing in the Preston community. 

The top floors of the building which are represented in this report, is where the dark room, dressing rooms and the portrait studio were situated. 

In the Barrett’s Directory of Preston, Ninth Edition - 1907, the business for 135a is listed as H. Melling - Photographer. One can deduce that between 1904 - 1907 the premises were taken over by H. Melling from John Monk and similarly used as a premises for a  photography business.

The last entry in the Barrett’s Directory of Preston for H. Melling having sole use of the premises is 1940 whereby in 1948, T Atkinson - Cycle Dealer is listed in Barrett’s Directory of Preston, Seventeenth Edition in 1948. The same Directory lists T. Atkinson in the 1952 & 1953 editions. The Barrett’s Directory of Preston from 1963 has the entry as: Thomas Atkinson, Babyland; Peter Wilson; John Barber; H Melling - Photographer. 

Beyond these dates it isn't clear what the premises were used for. 

Judging by the decor and the Bakelite light switches still in situ, it does look - from being inside - that little alteration or upkeep has been done for many decades so it could be that the upper floors at least, haven't been used since around the 1960s for any business or living purposes.