The first stop of the day was the market town of Chorley, only 7 or 8 minutes out of Preston by train…
Status: Chorley District, Lancashire, Town, England
Travel: First Transpennine Express (Preston – Chorley), Northern Rail (Chorley – Preston, via Leyland)
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Town Hall, Gold Post Box, War Memorial, St Georges Church, St Marys Church, Astley Park, Astley Hall, Central Library, Market etc
If you are arriving by train, then the underpass beneath the tracks greets you with this charming wall mural, “Welcome to Chorley”. Elsewhere in the town by road, including one on the main roundabout coming off the motorway, is a metal sign welcoming you to “Lancashire’s Market Town”.
The first landmark we came across as we made our way into the town centre, was St George’s Church, which was built between 1822 and 1825. The architect was Thomas Rickman (1776 – 1841) and it became a Parish Church in 1856.
There were a number of late additions to the church, including the Organ which was constructed in 1870, and the clock in the tower which was added in 1920.
The trees along the main road frame it well and it gives the outskirts of the town centre a nice rural touch.
Moving past the first church, we entered the pedestrianised zone, featuring swirling patterns along the pavements. The town centre is a good shopping destination, and at the end of the street you can see the tower and spires of St Mary’s Church. You can see that three of the spires around the top of the tower are shorter than the fourth, which makes it stand out.
The entrance to St Mary’s is marked by an impressive stone archway, and was dedicated in 1910. The church itself is younger than you think…
The main history of St Mary’s begins in 1842 when Father Lawrence O’Toole was given the position of Parish Priest at St Gregory’s church in Weldbank. He leased a building on chapel street (a former Wesleyan Chapel) and services began in 1847. A new church was constructed in 1853, as a Church/School. By 1855 schools were built separate to the church to give them both more space. 1894 saw the church tower opened by the Mayor of Chorley, and the church itself was enlarged further not long after.
The church itself has often been described as a “Gem” of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, of which the church is a part.
Lancashire has two Gold Post Boxes that I know of, and they are both for one man. Sir Bradley Wiggans, (Born 1980, who lives with his family in nearby Eccleston, which also has a Post Box for him) who won the Cycling: Road – Men’s Time Trial, at London 2012. Find out more about the various Gold Post Boxes we have seen so far, by checking out Gemma’s post here.
Chorley Town Hall was opened in 1879, and is a rather grand looking building. Chorley has long been an important town in the area, especially in the cotton industry and this is reflected in the style of some of it’s buildings, including the impressive Library building which we will come to later. It’s unique position between Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan and Preston made it the perfect place for traders to come and sell their produce. Chorley lends it’s name to the wider Chorley District which borders Greater Manchester, South Ribble (for Leyland) and West Lancashire (for Ormskirk), and the Unitary Authority of Blackburn with Darwen.
Just over the road from the Town Hall is a third church, that of St Lawrence. The oldest portion of the building, the tower, dates from the 15th century, and records of churches on the site go back to 1362. Between 1859 and 1861 a lot of changes were made to the church and the rest of the modern building were added along with most of the interior decorations.
Moving past the Town Hall, you will find the stone entrance archway to Astley Park, named after Astley Hall which sits within it’s ground. The hall is an impressive 15th/16th century mansion, which Oliver Cromwell is rumoured to have stayed in at one point.
Just past the entrance is the War Memorial, unveiled in 1924, in commemoration of the victims of World War I. A small stone wall in front of the Memorial also list’s and commemorates the other major wars since it was erected, including the Crimean War, Boer War and the modern day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s a fine memorial, and one of many in Lancashire, which has helped to proudly defend the United Kingdom throughout history.
Moving back into the town centre, we found the very impressive Library. It originally opened in 1906 as Chorley Technical and Secondary School, and became a college by 1962. A final change in use occurred in 1986 when it became the Town’s Library, replacing the old Avondale Road library from 1899.
The architecture is fantastic, and one of the more majestic library buildings we have seen for a while on our travels.
As a market town, Chorley obviously has a market, with a distinctive red metal spire sticking out from the roof. Over 150 stalls inhabit the covered market, but it isn’t the only one in the town. On the second Saturday of every month a Food and Craft Market is held in Fazakerly Street.
Opposite the covered market is the Market Walk Shopping Centre, with even more shopping destinations.
Elsewhere in the town, is the Preston England Temple which I had a look at the other week, as well as the large out of town shopping centre known as Botany Bay. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal runs next to it, and below the M61 motorway connects Chorley with both Preston and Manchester.
By train Chorley has direct connections to Manchester and Preston, and used to have direct trains to Lancaster, Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh, however this part of the line is being electrified (the Chorley section being done last) so for the moment these services which originate or terminate in Manchester are going via Wigan, but a full service including Chorley should be restarted in the coming months.
Chorley is a pleasant rural town with easy links both road and rail. There is plenty to see and a lot of history envelops the area. Our next stop wasn’t technically a stop, as we would pass Buckshaw Hall on the way into Leyland…