Chorley, Lancashire

A "Gradely" Town, but a "Queer" Motto

Chorley Cunliffe Street Primitive Methodist chapel
Christian Messenger 1905/40

Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by J. Gillender

BE it known unto all whom it may concern that the town, about which we have been requested to write, stands at the head of what we believe is regarded as a fairly strong Circuit, in the not insignificant Liverpool district. The name of this station will be divulged immediately, but as our term thereon is not yet finished, its pros and cons must not be here discussed. Our aim at present is mainly to give a chatty description of Chorley, and we hope the reader will be interested.

Now, we have often heard it spoken of as a slow, a sleepy, or a non-up-to-date place, but, if its sleepy critics could only hear – as, sad to relate, we have done most frequently – the town-hall clock not only strikes at the hour, but chime at the quarters, in the small hours of the morning, and thus prevent refreshing slumber, they would complain of the place’s “too awakefulness,” and ask why they should so early, and so often, be informed of Tempus fugit.’ But during proper business hours, and especially on the market days – Tuesday and Saturday – the town is fairly energetic, and betimes its railway-station is full of animation.

We confess, however, that the aforesaid uncomplimentary words are not altogether undeserved. It seems hard to believe that, in go-ahead Lancashire of to-day, there can be found a borough with about 28,000 inhabitants that has neither a tram service, public baths, a “real gradely” public park, nor a higher grade school. It has, it is only fair to say, a somewhat ancient grammar-school for boys, a small recreation-ground, and an excellent though not a large, free library. The authorities, too, are now giving attention to “up-to-date-ness,” and it may be that ultimately this slow town will excite the jealousy of those who profess to be its superiors.

But, as it is, we believe that Chorleyites have good reason to speak of the place of their birth as


Although it stands alone, it is only nine miles from “proud Preston,” and about the same distance from Blackburn and Wigan respectively. These fairly big towns, as well as such places as Bolton, Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and Southport, are easily reached; in fact, one of the great advantages of Chorley is that you can so quickly and conveniently get away from it – and, in due season; return thereto.

There are in it, of course, some poor streets, or dark spots, but, on the whole, its thoroughfares are wide, orderly and clean. The entrance “to the town by the railway-station is” not pretty, but the other entrances – such as by Preston Road, Southport Road, Bolton Road, etc. – are very picturesque, and the impartial observer will acknowledge that he is entering a place whose natural beauties are apparently neither few nor small.

It is said that the town has the best system of sanitation in the kingdom, and that from not only various parts of England, but “from France, Germany, Austria, Holland, even so far afield as Canada and Tasmania, experts have come to study the example on the spot. Chorley has become a sort of Mecca for the sanitary world.”

The air is very pure and bracing; indeed, it is declared that it comes direct from Blackpool; and most certainly the sight of the tower and the big wheel makes us believe that we are almost at this very popular seaside resort; nevertheless, we get occasionally some unkindly blasts, and, as there are doctors to the right and to the left of the Manse, also behind and in front of us, it is evident that Chorleyites are not exempt from the physical weaknesses or ailments to which other folks are subject.


What do our readers suppose is the motto of Chorley? “Ora pro nobis”? “Nil desperandum”? “Labore et honore”? No; it consists of one short word, viz., “Beware.”

By whom and why such a motto was selected no one seems to know. The word is certainly very roguishly suggestive. It may mean either that Chorleyites should be suspicious of strangers, or that the latter should be very careful when in the presence of Chorleyites! As far as our experience goes, we may say that the people of this town have their peculiar notions and ways, as have folks elsewhere; and there are here temptations and dangers just as there are in all towns. Beware! – could not a great deal be said about this? What is meant by Beware? How can we Beware? When should we Beware? Why should we Beware? And —. We were going to say more, but the Editor (so we imagine) says, “Stop! For the present we have ‘ware’ enough!”

If so, let us turn our attention to


While there  are some collieries in the neighbourhood of Chorley, Rylands’ oilcloth works in the town, the great loco works of the L. and Y. Railway Company at Horwich, and other industries, the cotton trade is that which keeps Chorley going, but of late this trade has been exceedingly bad, and at the time this article is being prepared the outlook is not at all good. Cotton? Yes, we live by cotton. More orders are wanted for – the cotton trade!


The parish church of St. Lawrence is one of the attractions of the town; it is “beautiful for situation,” and it tells us of many things that are interesting to the antiquarian and to others. In a “niche in the chancel are preserved the reputed bones of Saint Lawrence,” and we understand that this is the only church in England that has, or professes to have, the bones of its patron saint. They were brought, so an inscription says, from Normandy in the year 1442, but why we do not know; we do know, however, that saints, or true and permanent saintliness, consists in something vastly different from, and superior to, mere bones!

There was, in the good old days, a “dog whipper” employed at this church. His duty was to whip dogs out of church, and his wages consisted of a new coat every other year. To-day there are no such functionaries but might it not be to our great advantage to have them? “Beware of dogs,” says the Book, and it is clear that there are others beside the four-legged ones. It appears to be the propensity of some two-legged dogs to be disturbers in churches; their happiness seems to consist‘ in barking, snarling and biting, and, unless there be some hope of a change in their natures, we see nothing left except engaging the services of a “dog-whipper.”

Another interesting circumstance connected with this church is that Miles Standish is said to have worshipped therein – the Standish of whom Longfellow writes, “The Puritan Captain.” The Standish family pew is yet in the church; and Duxbury Hall, Chorley, which was the home of the Standishes, is still here to suggest thoughts of Puritanism, the “Mayflower,” and of the Duxbury in New England. (See Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish.”)


Romanism and Anglicanism are very strong in Chorley, and when these two unite either for political or other purposes, Nonconformity must either quietly accept the inevitable or offer strong but somewhat futile protest. The Free Church Council here is an active institution, and the town is not without its “passive resisters.” One of the great religious events of the year is the “ Walking Day.” The Church of England Sunday and day schools procession one Saturday afternoon, the next Saturday afternoon the scholars and teachers belonging to the Free Churches do the same, and the week after the Roman Catholics make their appearance in a similar manner. On these occasions there is a huge and wonderful display of banners, pretty and fashionable dresses, and good suits, and of bands of music there is a vast number. There is no “sleepy” Chorley then, and, if weather be fine, cricket, racing, skipping and various other games are immensely enjoyed.


The Chorley Circuit is not of the same beautifully compact character as we often find in Lancashire. It is a combination of a town and a country station. It comprises nine churches, two of which are in Chorley, and the remainder in the villages. Our people, for the most part, are of the working class, but we have also a few business people, and some of them are very closely associated with local parliaments. The Cunliffe Street Church, Chorley, is at the head of the Circuit, and its membership is nearly 200. Our respected Circuit stewards are Messrs. Councillor W. Fairhurst (of Aspull) and T.W. Grundy (of Chorley). The ministers are John Gillender (of Chorley) and William Cooper (of Almond Brook).



Christian Messenger 1905/40

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