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Parish History

CHORLEY (St. Lawrence), a market-town and parish [as of 1793], and the head of a union, in the hundred of Leyland, N. division of the county of Lancaster, 32 miles (S. by E.) from Lancaster, and 208 (N. W. by N.) from London; containing 13,139 inhabitants. The name of this place is derived from its situation on the river Chor, about a mile from its confluence with the Yarrow, and from the Saxon word Ley, a field; or from the family of Chorley, who were its ancient proprietors. The chief lordships of Chorley were subsequently held by the noble families of Ferrers and Lacy. A moiety of the manor was at a still later period possessed by the Sherburnes, and the other half by the Stanleys: the Sherburne portion afterwards passed to the Welds of Lulworth, who sold it about 1806 to Thomas Gillibrand, Esq. of Chorley Hall, whose ancestor, in the 17th century, had married into the Chorley family. On his death in 1829, the manor came in moieties to his widow and son. In 1644 Prince Rupert passed through the town at the head of a large army, on his march to York; and in 1648 Cromwell, after the battle of Ribblesdale, slept at Astley Hall, in the parish: by this route, also, General Carpenter, in 1715, advanced to Preston, nine miles distant, to meet the Scottish rebels, whom he defeated at that place. The town is pleasantly situated on the summit of a hill, on the road from Bolton to Preston; and though in Leland's time it is described as having "a wonderful poore, or rather no market," it is now a large and thriving place, being indebted to the excellent coal-mines and stone-quarries in the neighbourhood, and more recently to its extended cotton manufacture, and the enterprising spirit of its inhabitants, for a rapid rise into importance. It was at first lighted with gas by Mr. Timothy Lightoller, from his private works, but is now lighted by a public company; and is amply supplied with water, for which purpose works were erected in 1823, and a new company was incorporated in 1846, having a capital of £15,000. The appearance of the town has of late been very much improved; among other recent changes, the unsightly thatched buildings which stood in the most central part of one of the main thoroughfares, have been taken down, and are succeeded by handsome and commodious shops. The environs abound with diversified scenery, and the views, which are extensive, embrace Rivington Pike, &c. The principal branch of manufacture is that of cotton, of which the chief articles made are muslins and calicoes. There are at present eight mills, whereof two, belonging to Messrs. James Wallwork and Company, and one, the property of John Wilkinson, Esq., employ 800 persons; two, the property of Messrs. Richard Smethurst and Company, employ 560; two, belonging to Messrs. Lightoller, 480; and one, belonging to Richard Anyon, Esq., 150. There are also several printing and bleaching works, a logwood-mill, a cornmill, and four iron-foundries; together with four collieries in operation. The Lancaster and the Leeds and Liverpool canals unite to the south-west of Whittle-leWoods, and pass within a mile of the town; and there is a station on the North-Union railway, which was opened in June, 1843. A grant of a market and fairs was obtained in the reign of Edward IV.: the market is on Tuesday; and fairs are held on March 26th, May 5th, and August 20th, principally for cattle; and on Sept. 4th, 5th, and 6th, for woollen-cloth, hardware, and pedlery. The county magistrates hold a petty-session every Tuesday; and the lord of the manor a court leet once a year: the powers of the county debt-court of Chorley, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Chorley. The town-hall, a stone building, under which the butter-market is held, was erected in 1802, at the expense of the late John Hollinshead, Esq.; and adjoining it is a small prison for the confinement of offenders prior to their committal to the county gaol. The parish comprises 3571 acres, of which the soil is, for the most part, a stiff loam. The surface rises into hills in the eastern part, where the land is sterile; but westward it is simply undulated, and productive: about one-fourth is arable, and the remainder pasture and wood. Among the seats is Gillibrand Hall, a fortresslike edifice, built in 1807 by Thomas Gillibrand, Esq., and the seat of his son, Henry Hawarden Fazakerley, Esq., now lord of the manor, who assumed the latter name some years since. Astley Hall, a venerable mansion built in 1600, is seated in a park on the north-west margin of the Chor. Baganley Hall is a fine old house, built in 1633; and Burgh Hall, a brick edifice, built in 1740, partaking much of the modern style of architecture, with pleasure-grounds and gardens attached. About a mile from the town, and pleasantly situated on the banks of the Yarrow, is Yarrow House, the seat of Richard and George H. Lightoller, Esqrs.: South Cottage is occupied by Alexander Bannerman, Esq.; Willow House, by Thomas Cameron, Esq.; and Park Place is the residence of Richard Smethurst, Esq. Chorley was originally a chapelry in the parish of Croston, from which it was separated in 1793, when that extensive district was divided into three distinct parishes. The living is a rectory, not in charge, with a net income of £1022; patron, the Rev. Streynsham Master, A.M.: the tithes of the parish have been commuted for £264. The church is an ancient structure, retaining several features of Saxon character, of which the south entrance is a fine specimen; it is castellated, pinnacled at the east and west ends, and has a large tower supported by buttresses. The edifice formerly contained some relics, said to have been the bones of its tutelar saint, which were brought from Normandy by Sir Rowland Stanley, Knt., and presented to the parish by his brother. St. George's church, standing in an open area, on the east side of the town, was completed in October, 1825, at an expense of £13,707, defrayed by the Parliamentary Commissioners and by subscription; it is a handsome and spacious structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower, and consists of a nave, with north and south aisles, and a choir: attached is a large burial-ground. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Rector. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic chapel, dedicated to St. Gregory, was built in 1774, rebuilt in 1816, and aisles were added in 1831; it stands on an eminence called Weldbank, about a mile south-west of the town, and is in the Romanesque style of architecture: adjoining is a house, with 16 acres of ground, belonging to the priest, the Rev. Henry Greenhalgh. The grammar school was originally established by the churchwardens, who, in 1634, built a school-house; it has an endowment of £11 per annum, arising from subsequent benefactions: a new school-house was built in 1824. A large national school, and a school for Roman Catholics, are supported by subscription; and there are also infants' and Sunday schools in connexion with the Established Church. An almshouse was built and endowed in 1682, by Hugh Cooper, for six aged persons: Henry Banister, of Hackney, Middlesex, left £600 in 1625, for charitable purposes; and there are several minor charities, and a dispensary instituted in 1828. The poor law union of Chorley comprises 26 parishes and townships, and contains a population of 38,836. At Yarrow Bridge is an alkaline spring, on the property of John Wilkinson, Esq.: its fame attracts numerous persons, and especially the poor, to drink the water, and many instances of the benefit derived from its use, have been authenticated; among others, a remarkable case of dropsy. The water has been recently analyzed by an eminent chemist in Leamington, who has confirmed a previous analysis of the medicinal virtues peculiar to it. Baths are open to the public at a moderate charge.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 603-607. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=50876 Date accessed: 25 June 2010.

Resources

Civil Registration

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.

Church records

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Census records

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Probate records

Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Lancashire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.

Maps and Gazetteers

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Web sites

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