Astley, Lancashire Genealogy

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Astley St Sstephen contributor SMJ

Chapelry History

Astley is an Ecclesiastical Parish in the county of Lancashire, created in 1722 from chapelry in  Leigh,_Lancashire Ancient Parish.

The three churches named St Stephen on two distinct sites serve different periods of history.

Adam Mort set about building a chapel for the people of Astley, although the chapel was completed in 1630, during his lifetime, it was not consecrated until 3rd August 1631, some five months after Adam Mort’s death. This was the first of three St Stephen’s church buildings at Astley.

This first chapel, being within the parish of Leigh, was a ‘chapel of ease’ and this in itself created the first problem with St Stephen’s. The vicar of Leigh would normally choose who was to minister the new chapel, however Adam Mort, within his will, had invested the right to appoint the minister to his son Thomas Mort. Thomas Mort was also granted the right to pass on this responsibility or failing this the appointment would rest with twelve leading householders of Astley. This question of appointment was to have dramatic effects nearly two hundred years later. Rev Thomas Crompton was the first permanent minister of Astley chapel when he arrived in 1632, however by 1760 the chapel had fallen into such a state it had to be rebuilt.

The second chapel was built on the same site as the original chapel but was larger. In 1822 the decision to appoint a curate lead to violent protest  The chapel once again started to fall into disrepair and by 1832 it was described as being damp, dirty, smelly, the floor covered in fungus and with the front doors broken the interior had become a playground for dogs. In 1832 the Rev Alfred Hewlett arrived at Astley, on January 8th he preached to a congregation of twelve. Hewlett initially had no intention of staying at Astley, he was only twenty six years old was recently married. Being shunned by most of the village he set about his preaching and by 1834 the congregation had increased so much Hewlett had plans to extend the chapel by putting in a gallery. Hewlett left Astley in 1838 but was to return in 1840 staying at Astley until his death in 1885. During his time at Astley, Hewlett had made a made a great impression on the villagers with his compassion and Calvinistic sermons, he visited homes in his parish every day learning both the good and bad about his parishioners. 

On the evening of 18 june 1961 the church was destroyed in a fire with large loss. As a consequence the present building was built with an adjacent school some distance from the orignal church site.

ASTLEY, a district chapelry, in the parish and union of Leigh, hundred of West Derby, S. division of Lancashire, 3 miles (E.) from the town of Leigh; containing 2011 inhabitants. This township comprises about 2620 acres; 900 are uncultivated moss, and of the remainder about one-fifth is in tillage. The land lies low, and the principal drainage is from north to south to the brook running east and west from the adjoining township of Worsley; the soil of about 1500 acres is or has been a peat moss, and that of the remainder is chiefly a clayey loam. A colliery producing excellent engine-coal was lately established, on an extensive scale; Messrs. Arrowsmith, cotton-spinners, have a mill here, and there is a considerable number of silk-weavers by hand. The Liverpool and Manchester railway runs over part of Chat Moss in the southern district of the township; the Duke of Bridgewater's canal passes through the centre of the township, and the road from Manchester to Leigh through the northern part. Astley Hall, or Damhouse, situated in the township of Tyldesley, but on the borders of that of Astley, was built in 1650 by Adam Mort, from whom it has passed to his descendant and present representative, Mrs. Ross, lady of Col. Malcolm Nugent Ross, who has greatly enlarged the mansion. Of Morley Hall, the seat of a branch of the Tyldesleys, but little is now remaining, it having been converted into a farmhouse and rebuilt. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Vicar of Leigh; incumbent, the Rev. Alfred Hewlett; net income, £250, with a house erected about 1703 by Thomas Mort, whose ancestors had founded the chapel and school of Astley in the preceding century. The chapel was rebuilt in 1760; a tower was added in 1842, and a new north aisle in 1847. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. Besides the school founded by the Mort family, and which is free for 24 children, national schools have been established for boys and girls; also an infants' school in connexion with the Church, and a school belonging to the Wesleyans.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 100-104. URL: Date accessed: 25 June 2010.


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.

Online index of Lancashire Births, Marriages and Deaths Lancashire BMD

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks

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Church records

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Poor Law Unions

Leigh, Lancashire Poor Law Union

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.

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