Accrington St James, Lancashire Genealogy

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File:Acrrington St James contributor Alexander P Kapp.jpg
Acrrington St James contributor Alexander P Kapp.jpg

Chapelry History

Accrington St James is a chapelry, the oldest church in the town founded in 1546, lying within Whalley Ancient Parish. Other places in the parish include: New Accrington, Old Accrington. Christchurch, also a chapelry in Whalley Parish, was created in 1841.

There are two derivations for the name of Accrington. Both agree that "ton" means "a town or enclosure of", from Anglo-Saxon; however one derivation states that ring means "the people of" and "accr" is a distortion of a family called alker. Nevertheless there is little evidence of this as it would have been the chief or land owner in the area. The alternative derivation states that "accring" is derived from "acorn ringed" which is plausible due to the numerous oak trees which formerly encircled the town but were lost during the industrial revolution. This is still reflected in the name of the district's largest park, Oak Hill Park. Also another source claims the Accrington place name is believed to be derived from a combination of the old English word aecum, meaning ‘acorn’ and the suffix ‘tun’ meaning farmstead. The place name would appear to be Anglo-Saxon in origin. The King's Highway which passes above the town was at one time used by the kings and queens of England when they used the area for hunting when it was one of the four forests of the hundred of Blackburnshire.

Accrington Pals

The Accrington Pals was a British First World War Pals battalion of Kitchener's Army raised in and around the town of Accrington in Lancashire. When the battalion was taken over by the British Army it was officially named the 11th Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment.

Recruiting was initiated by the mayor of Accrington following Lord Kitchener's call for volunteers and it took only ten days to raise a complete battalion. The battalion's nickname is a little misleading since of the four 250-strong companies that made up the original battalion, only one was actually composed of men from Accrington. The rest volunteered from other East Lancashire towns nearby such as Burnley, Blackburn, and Chorley. The men from Chorley who formed Y Company were known as the Chorley Pals. The men from Burnley who formed Z Company were known as the Burnley Pals.

The Accrington Pals joined the 94th Brigade of the British 31st Division, a "Pals" division par excellence containing many famous North Country Pals battalions. With the 31st Division, the Accrington Pals were initially deployed to Egypt in early 1916 to defend the Suez Canal from the threat of the Ottoman Empire. The troopship carrying the Accrington Pals was narrowly missed by a torpedo; a fortunate miss because the ship also carried sixty tons of lyddite explosive.

The Accrington Pals next moved to France where they first saw action in the Battle of the Somme. On the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, the 31st Division was to attack the village of Serre and form a defensive flank for the rest of the British advance. The 31st Division's attack on Serre was a complete failure though some of the Accrington Pals did make it as far as the village before being killed or captured. One of the battalion's signallers, observing from the rear, reported:

"We were able to see our comrades move forward in an attempt to cross No Man's Land, only to be mown down like meadow grass. I felt sick at the sight of the carnage and remember weeping."
Approximately 700 men from the Accrington Pals went in to action on 1 July; 585 men became casualties, 235 killed and 350 wounded in about half an hour. The battalion's commander, Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Rickman was among the wounded. A rumour that spread around Accrington was that only seven men had survived from the battalion and an angry crowd surrounded the mayor's house, demanding information.

The Accrington Pals were effectively wiped out in a matter of minutes on the first day on the Somme. The battalion was brought back up to strength and served for the remainder of the war, moving to the 92nd Brigade of the 31st Division in February 1918.


Census records

Accrington has been completely indexed and transcribed by several online web sites. Here is a list of some of these web sites--those which provide significant details about our ancestry at no cost:

1881 - FamilySearch

1901 - 1901CensusOnline

The following web sites--all of which are pay-for-view or subscription sites can help you to more quickly find Accrington ancestors in the census records for all years in which census records were kept (1841-1911):

To view copies of original census records, the Family History Library's British collection has the 1841-1891 census records available on microforms, i.e. microfilm or microfiche. Those available are searchable by ordering each film at FamilySearchCenters, as follows:

1841 FHL BRITISH Film no. 306895
1851 Old Accrington p. 301-368 New Accrington p. 369-643 FHL BRITISH Film 87272
1861 FHL BRITISH Film 543072
1871 Old Accrington FHL BRITISH Film 846728
1871 Old Accrington and New Accrington FHL BRITISH Film 846729
1871 New Accrington FHL BRITISH Film 846730
1881 RG 11/4139-4142 FHL BRITISH Film 1341991
1881 RG 11/4143-4145 FHL BRITISH Film 1341992
1891 RG 12/3355 (4 fiches) FHL BRITISH Fiche 6098465
1891 RG 12/3356 (4 fiches) FHL BRITISH Fiche 6098466
1891 RG 12/3357 (4 fiches) FHL BRITISH Fiche 6098467
1891 RG 12/3358 (3 fiches) FHL BRITISH Fiche 6098468
1891 RG 12/3359 (4 fiches) FHL BRITISH Fiche 6098469 for details of public houses in the 1881 census

Church Records

Online Records

The following Accrington chapelries and their registers exist, and some have been both microfilmed (original records) and some transcribed. To view the years for which chapel registers are extant and available at FamilySearch and/or at the Lancashire Record Office, Preston, click the name of the chapelry; to search online transcriptions of christenings, marriages and sometimes burials, click the years in the columns:  

  Warton St. Oswald parish registers and those registers of both of its smaller chapelries lying within its boundaries--including Yealand Conyers St Mary and to a much lesser extent--Silverdale Chapelry have been  transcribed and are displayed online at the following web sites:

FS =
LOPCLancashire Online Parish Clerk

The Accrington Chapelry registers of christenings, marriages and burials have been mostly transcribed and are accessible online at no cost for the following range of years:

              Parish/Chapel FamSrch Lancs. BMD LOPC
Accrington St James - a chapelry in Whalley Parish     - 1745-1900
Accrington Christ Church - a chapelry in Whalley Parish   - 1841-1900
Accrington St Mary Magdalene's Church - a chapelry in Whalley Parish   -
Accrington St John the Evangelist - chapelry in Whalley Parish   - 1868-1900

Accrington St Andrews Church - a chapelry in Whalley Parish

  - 1895-1900
Accrington St Peters Church - a chapelry in Whalley Parish    - 1890-1899
Accrington St Paul's Church - a chapelry in Whalley Parish    -   -

Altham -  a (nearby) chapelry in Whalley Parish

1596-1695   - 1749-1901

If searches in these registers do not prove successful, be certain to search all the church registers of the chapels of ease (chapelries) and the parish registers of the ancient parish of Whalley St Mary. Whalley St Mary was one of Lancashire's largest parishes, and in order to conduct thorough research within its boundary, requires searching in all of the registers of its chapels of ease as well as the Whalley St Mary's parish registers! To view their availability, visit the Comprehensive List of Whalley Parish Chapels and Churches.

2. Lancashire Online Parish Clerks - has online baptisms and some burials and a few marriages for chapelry no.'s 1, 2, 4, and 6 (above). See their web site (and visit often) for excellent online data for many Lancashire parishes and their chapelries.

Civil Registration

Civil Registration of Births, Marriages Deaths - 1837 to the Present

Read about England Civil Registration (vital records) of birth, marriages and deaths on the England main page.

Online Indexes

There are two separate (free) indexes available for Lancashire civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. One index covers all registrations nation-wide, and one index covers the copies of the local registration district office's certificate copies for all registration districts throughout Lancashire, as follows:

  • FreeBMD - an online (free) index to the certificates held at the General Registrar's Office, formerly in London, now in Solihull, Merseyside, UK. The years currently covered in this index include July, 1837 to at least 1940.
  • LancashireBMD - an online index (free) to the local superintendant's registrar of births, marriages and deaths for all registration districts throughout Lancashire, for the following range of years and their events:  births 1837-1974; marriages 1837-2010; deaths 1837-1975.
  • provides numerous parish and chapel transcriptions online (free) for the post-1837 to 1910 period. Marriages after 1837 provide the same information as the civil registration certificates of marriages provide. However, the marriages in these online offerings are marriage transcriptions only.


FamilySearch's Family History Library British collections holds the quarterly indexes of births, marriages and deaths from July, 1837 to 1983 in microform media.

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

Maps are a visual look at the locations in England. Gazetteers contain brief summaries about a place.

Web sites