ONE of Bolton’s most iconic shops is set to close its doors after nearly 150 years of trading in the town.

The Prestons of Bolton jewellery store, often referred to as the ‘Diamond Centre of the North’, will shut down permanently following a final closing down sale.

Prestons — which has been based in Bolton town centre since it first opened in 1869 — will temporarily close at 5pm today and will reopen for an ‘everything must go sale’ from 9.30am on Saturday, September 3 before closing for good in the near future once all stock has been sold.

PICTURES: History of iconic jewellers Prestons of Bolton

Sue Meade, who has been store manager of the famous shop for the past 20 years, said that changing conditions on the high street has led to the decision to close.

She said: “Prestons of Bolton is one of the longest-standing businesses in Bolton and sadly it has succumbed to the decline of the high street.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, the store has always competed with other high street retailers and the internet, but sadly it is no longer possible to continue trading from the Bolton store.

She added: “This is bad news for Prestons of Bolton, however it is good news for lovers of diamonds as we launch into a final closing down sale.”

The announcement comes as another blow to Bolton’s town centre economy following news earlier this month that much-loved department store Beales — formerly known as Whitakers — will be closing down.

The British Home Stores unit in Victoria Square has also closed its doors after 50 years in operation — a victim of financial problems at its parent company.

Preston’s of Bolton has been a fixture in the town centre since 1869 when it was founded by goldsmith James Preston.

The business was inherited by James’ niece, Gertrude Duckworth in 1905 following his death.

The store moved to its current in location 1913 and was the only jewellery store outside of London to trade on four floors and feature the novelty of a customer lift.

By the mid-1970s, Prestons of Bolton had become one of the most famous jewellery stores in the country, with couples travelling from all over to purchase engagement rings and wedding rings.

Ahead of its closure, Ms Meade added: “Over the years generations of families from near and far have become customers of Prestons of Bolton and many have become friends.

“We would like to thank all of our loyal customers for their support over the years.”

The final sale at Prestons will see all items marked up at 60 per cent off — and will continue for the coming weeks and months until all stock is sold.

There are currently 17 staff working at the store, and the firm said it hopes that all members of the ‘valued team’ will remain within the group.

Prestons currently has four other outlets in Leeds, Wilmslow and Guildford, none of which are currently under any threat of closure.

It is not yet known what will happen to the famous building, which remains in private ownership and is currently leased by Prestons.

Bolton Council leader Cliff Morris said he was very disappointed to hear that the shop will be closing down.

He said: “It is very sad to hear that such a well-known business which has been so familiar in the centre of town for such a long time is to close.

“We are very disappointed at the news – the changing retail habits of shoppers have been a huge challenge for retailers in recent years.

He added: “We have contacted Prestons to offer any support we can.”

PICTURES: History of iconic jewellers Prestons of Bolton

Fellow Cllr John Walsh, who is warden of the Parish Church near to the Prestons site, said: “For that end of the town centre — this is the worst possible news.

“I am extremely sad to hear that a shop that was always famous for being from Bolton will close, it is yet another loss of a unique, iconic store that was visited by shoppers from all over.

“In its heyday, that part of Bolton was bustling, but now Bank Street is an appalling eyesore.”

He added: “Prestons was somewhere with national appeal that the people of Bolton were proud of — this is a critical blow.”