Welcome to the History Page of
St Joseph's Anderton,
Lancashire, England

Our parish was founded in 1863, only 13 years after the restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales. 
Here you can read the parish's history, in the context of the broader history of the Catholic Faith in Lancashire and England.


            The Christian Gospel first came to Celtic Britain in Roman times, in the second century, probably with the soldiers and associated civilians. St Bede says that a British King, Lucius, wrote to Eleutherius, head of the Roman Church, in the year 156 of our Lord's Incarnation asking to be made a Christian. The first martyr to die for the Faith was St Alban, a Roman soldier, c.303 AD.  
    In Lancashire the principal Roman camps and settlements were at Coccium (Wigan), Mamucium (Manchester) and Bremetannicum (Ribchester).
            Later, Celtic saints like St Kentigern, St Asaph and St Ninian preached along the north-west coasts of Lancashire, Cumbria, North Wales and Strathclyde.
            The oldest evidence for the presence of Christianity in these regions is a word-puzzle, found etched in plaster in a cellar near Castlefields, the Roman fort in Manchester, and dated tentatively to 100-200 AD.

                                                S A T O R
                                                A R E P O
                                                T E N E T
                                                O P E R A 
                                                R O T A S

The component letters can be re-arranged into a cross which reads PATER NOSTER, with two "O"s and two "A"s left over, symbolising Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. The same cryptogram has been found in the ruins of Pompeii, showing that it was current before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

             Roman Britain collapsed  after 410 AD when the Roman army was withdrawn, leaving the Celtic Britons to fend for themselves.  From 449 AD onwards, waves of pagan Angles, Saxons and Jutes flooded across the North Sea, and invaded Britain. They drove the Celts westwards into Wales, Cumbria and Cornwall. From the north, the Scots and the Picts attacked and made inroads into northern England. The civilised and partly Christianised Romano-British society collapsed before the wild Teutonic invaders. Within a century a new evangelisation was urgently necessary. 
     St Gregory was a monk and abbot of the monastery of St Andrew in Rome about 580 or 590 AD. One day in the markets he noticed some merchants who had recently arrived in Rome displaying their wares. He saw some boys for sale as slaves. They had fair complexions, fine-cut features and beautiful hair. Gregory asked what part of the world they came from. "From the island of Britain," he was told. He then asked whether the islanders were Christians, or still ignorant heathens. "Pagans" he was informed.
"Alas!" said Gregory, "How sad that such bright-faced folk are still in the grasp of the Author of darkness, and that such graceful features conceal minds void of God's grace! What is the name of this people?"  "Angles" came the reply.
"That is appropriate," he said, for they have angelic faces, and it is right that they should become joint-heirs with the angels in heaven. And what is the name of the province from which they have been brought?" 
"Deira" was the answer. [ Deira is now Yorkshire]  "Good, they shall indeed be rescued de ira - from wrath - and called to the mercy of Christ. And what is the name of their king?"
"Aelle", he was told. "Then," said Gregory, "it is right that their land should echo the praise of God our Creator in the word Alleluia." 

             From Rome, Pope Gregory the Great sent St Augustine to Canterbury (597 AD). His orders were to establish two Metropolitan sees, one in London, the second in Eboracum (York), each with ten suffragan sees. Because of the uncertain political situation in London, Augustine made Canterbury his headquarters.
            The same Pope Gregory then sent the Roman monk St Paulinus north to York in 601, and he evangelised in those regions, baptising many in the River Swale at Catterick and the Calder at Dewsbury. 
   By Divine Providence, this Roman missionary effort coincided with a new Celtic missionary thrust. From the monastery founded by St Columba (Columcille) on the Hebridean island of Iona, the monks established a monastery on Lindisfarne (Holy Island) off the Northumberland coast. From here St Aidan and later St Cuthbert preached the Gospel with great success, converting the royal family and the peoples of Northumbria, which at that time reached down to the Humber and across to the west coast as far south as the Ribble .      
              In 642 St Oswald, king of Northumbria, defeated the last pagan king, Penda of Mercia, at the battle of Maserfield (near Oswestry).  The kingdom of Mercia had extended up as far as the River Ribble. At the Synod of Whitby (664) the Celtic Church agreed to accept Roman practices. St Chad became the first bishop (669-672) of a new diocese of Lichfield which covered the Midlands, but also extended up as far as south Lancashire, the lands between the Mersey and the Ribble. Beyond the Ribble began the Archdiocese of York.
              The conversion of the Anglo-Saxon tribes to Catholic Christianity made possible their unification into a single Kingdom of England. Three centuries later, St Edgar became the first King of all England in 959 AD.


             The first written records of the names Adlington (Edeluinton), Heath Charnock (Hetchernoch) and Anderton (Eanred's tun) date from around 1200 AD. These are Anglo-Saxon names for settlements which probably existed about 700 AD.
              The oldest local evidence of Christianity is the base of the headless cross on Grimeford Lane, which dates from Saxon or Viking times before the Norman conquest. There are similar crosses at Whalley and at Heysham.

              There was an ecclesiastical presence in the Anderton district certainly as far back as 1184. In this year, Ranulph Gogard, a local landowner, granted some lands in Heath Charnock and Adlington to the Norbertine (Premonstratensian) Monastery Hospital of St Mary of the Marsh, Cockersand, near Garstang, the revenues to be used for the building and upkeep of a chapel. This gift was confirmed by a Papal Bull of 1190, issued by Pope Clement III, which itemises the monastery lands.  One of the earliest historical appearances of Adlington and Heath Charnock is therefore in a Papal Bull!

In 1253 we find that Hugh de Standish, rector of Standish Parish Church, was suing William de Anderton and Isabel his wife, over the question of whether or not 15 acres of land in Anderton were alms-land belonging to Standish parish church. Note that at this time St Wilfrid's Standish was the parish church for the Adlington area.
       Chorley at this time was not a separate parish. The medieval church of St Laurence's in Chorley was only a chapel-of-ease within the extensive parish of Croston, which extended as far as Tarleton and Hesketh Bank, and contained over twenty chapels-of-ease.  

There was also a chapel at Anderton Hall in medieval times. In 1370, Joan, widow of William Anderton of Anderton Ford, obtained a licence for her oratory at Anderton. This is recorded in the Lichfield Episcopal register V Folio 22. There is a sculpted stone in Rivington churchyard on the right of the footpath leading to the church, which is thought to have come from this chapel. In the side chapel inside Rivington church there are several Viking and early English hogsback stones and other engraved stones, dating from around 1000 AD.
        According to local legend, until the Reformation, there was a small monastery or a grange with a chapel at Roscoe Lowe, known locally as Lady Hall.

              Henry VIII's desire to rid himself of his wife, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to provide him with a male heir, and to marry Anne Boleyn, the younger woman who had taken his fancy, led to his break with Rome. For over 1300 years English Christianity had been linked to the Apostolic See of Peter. Now Henry VIII declared himself Supreme Head of the English Church, repudiated the Pope's jurisdiction, and had Archbishop Cranmer award him his long-coveted marriage annulment. He then had put to death Sir Thomas More (Lord Chancellor), Bishop John Fisher (of Rochester)the Carthusian abbots and monks of the London Charterhouse, the Abbots of Reading, Glastonbury and Colchester, with some of their monks, and others who refused to accept the royal takeover of the Church.

            As is well known, he went on to destroy and confiscate the assets of 800 monasteries and religious hosues. He had both Catholics and Protestants put to death and in a sense established the first totalitarian monarchy. The right of sanctuary was cancelled, and the ordinary people now had no protection within the Church against royal oppression. Later the chantry chapels were suppressed and much parish property, built up by generations of the faithful, was confiscated and shovelled into the royal coffers.
            Under Edward VI (1547-53) the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was abolished, and the Church's ordination rites were altered to exclude all mention of priests offering sacrifice. England now had a new religion, which our ancestors of the previous one thousand years would not have recognised as the full Christian faith.

             There was a brief reconciliation with Rome under Mary Tudor (1553-58), who was perhaps too much her father's daughter. She erroneously believed that she could best serve the Catholic cause by burning those whom she regarded as Protestant heretics. Many ordinary people, indeed many committed Catholics, were dismayed at this religious intolerance, and much sympathy switched over to the martyred Protestants.

              When Elizabeth I came to the throne, she resolved to re-assert the Royal Supremacy over the Church, and again repudiated Papal jurisdiction. At this point there is a complete break in the Apostolic Succession. All the old Catholic bishops from Queen Mary's reign and even from Henry VIII's time were deposed, imprisoned, or fled into exile. She replaced them with her own appointees, ordained by a new Protestant rite which did not create bishops in the Catholic sense.
             From a Catholic point of view, the ancient Catholic dioceses remained empty until they were formally suppressed by the Pope in 1849. The new Ecclesia Anglicana was set up along Protestant lines.
            Elizabeth's hatred of the old religion is seen in the way her Parliament made it a criminal offence to attend the Catholic Mass, to be reconciled to the Catholic Church, to enter the country from the foreign seminaries, to perform the priestly ministry or to harbour a Catholic priest. Catholics who remained true to the old ways and refused (Latin - recusare) to attend the new State Church services were known as recusants, and were heavily fined. 

            The old stone altars, on which Holy Mass had been offered, were often laid into the porch floors as paving flags, so that anyone entering the Church would have to trample across the once consecrated altar upon which Christ's Body and Blood had been worshipped.

            The penalty for being a Catholic priest, and exercising the ministry, was to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Lay people who harboured priests, or who were reconciled to the Catholic Church, could be hanged. From 1578 until 1679 some 300 Catholics gave their lives for the Faith. Some of them are canonized as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Many others have been beatified. Approximately 200 others died as Confessors of the Faith in lifelong imprisonment, the last in 1720.

            If one adds in those Catholics who were put to death after the widespread popular risings in defence of the Faith: the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536, the Great Western Rebellion of 1549, and the Rising of the Northern Earls of 1569, the total number of Catholics slain for the Faith would probably be in the range of 1500-2000. 

            In Lancashire especially many people did not take kindly to the new laws imposed by the Tudor court, but clung to their old religious practices. The west and north of the county remained staunchly recusant Catholic, while Bolton and Manchester were centres of the new reformed State religion.


              Several Catholic martyrs are associated with this area. Blessed Roger Wrenno was a Chorley weaver who was hanged at Lancaster for harbouring and assisting Blessed John Thules from Burnley. Wrenno was arrested for priest-harbouring, along with Fr Thules, and they were both remanded in gaol at Lancaster. One evening they managed to escape from Lancaster Castle, in the time-honoured fashion of knotting blankets and sheets together and letting themselves down from a window.
             They fled the city, and walked the whole night in a south-east direction towards the Trough of Bowland. At daybreak, however, they found themselves only a mile from the walls of a large city. They had mistaken their directions in the dark and walked in a large circle. They were only two miles south of Lancaster! They accepted this with resignation as part of God's plan for them. They were soon spotted and recaptured. At their trials they were convicted and sentenced to death.
              From the castle they would have been dragged out of the main gate, through the city centre and up onto Low Moor beyond where St Peter's Cathedral now stands. There is a large playing field here now, left of the road which runs just north of Williamson park and the Ashton memorial. This was the Lancaster Tyburn, where over 20 Catholic martyrs suffered.
                Roger Wrenno was a powerfully built man in his thirties. When he was hanged, the rope broke, and he fell to the ground dazed. He came to, and knelt and prayed. A new rope was obtained and tied to the gallows. He was offered his life if he would renounce the Catholic faith and accept King James I as Supreme Governor of the Church. But he replied: "I am the same man as I was before, and of the same mind. Do as you will with me." And he ran back up the ladder. "What does the man mean that he is in such haste?" asked the sheriff. 
              "If you had seen that which I have just now seen," replied the martyr, "you would be in as much haste to die as I now am."
               This time the rope did not break. Blessed Roger Wrenno hanged and went to a martyr's reward in the glory of heaven, which he had glimpsed a few minutes earlier. The date was March 18th, 1616. Chorley Civic Society recently erected a plaque in honour of Blessed Roger Wrenno on St Mary's Gate in Market St, Chorley. 

                Two other martyrs from this locality are Blessed Robert Anderton of Euxton Hall, and Blessed William Marsden who was educated at Rivington Grammar School (which incidentally also produced the Elizabethan Bishop Pilkington of Durham). Returning from Spain as newly ordained priests, they were captured on the Isle of Wight. They refused to deny their Catholic priesthood, and were hanged, drawn and quartered at Cowes on 25th April, 1586.  There is a memorial to them in the garden of the Catholic Church in Cowes.

                Another local confessor was Ven. Laurence Vaux from Blackrod, who was an Augustinian canon and became the last Catholic Warden of the Collegiate Church in Manchester (now the Anglican Cathedral), refounded and endowed in 1421. After Queen Elizabeth's break with Rome in 1559, he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy which recognised her as Supreme Governor of the Church in England. He effectively went underground, to minister as a priest secretly in Manchester and Lancashire. At some point he went overseas, because in 1567 he published a Catechism at Louvain, which was widely used by recusant Catholics in England, He figured on the Elizabethan Government's "Most Wanted" list. He was also on the staff of the seminary college at Douai-Rheims. However, he later returned to England, and in 1580 he was arrested in London and thrown into the Gatehouse Prison on the orders of Elmer, Bishop of London. He died in prison in 1585.

                 Bl. John Finch was a layman from Eccleston who, after a long and serious examination of the religious question, was reconciled to the Catholic Church. He assisted many priests and worked as a catechist. He was captured and gaoled, first in Manchester, then sentenced to death at Lancaster for maintaining the truth that the Pope is the visible head of the Catholic Church. He was sentenced to death and executed at Lancaster on April 20th 1584, along with Blessed Fr James Bell of Warrington.

             From Harrock Hall by Parbold came St John Rigby, a yeoman who entered domestic service with Sir Edmund Huddlestone of Hauxton Hall near Cambridge. Answering a summons for his master at the Old Bailey for causes of religion, he suddenly found the interrogation refocused upon his own religious convictions. He answered honestly, and was charged and convicted with being reconciled to the Romish religion. He was only thirty years old when he was hanged at St Thomas's Watering in the City of London, 21st June 1600. There is a small shrine in his honour at St Joseph's, Wrightington.

       Under our church's newly consecrated altar we have a relic of St John Southworth, born in 1592 at Samlesbury near Preston. He was educated at Douai and returned to the English mission as a priest in 1619. He worked at first in Lancashire, but was caught in 1627 and sentenced to death. It was he who gave the last absolution to St Edmund Arrowsmith from one of the castle windows as the latter was led to execution.
            However, Fr John Southworth was not executed, but moved to the Clink prison in London.  In 1530, through the endeavours of Queen Henrietta Marie, Catholic wife of James I, he was released along with 15 other priests, his sentence commuted to lifelong banishment from the realm.
            Undaunted by this setback, and at the risk of his life, he quickly returned to these shores. He decided to work in London, where he could be more anonymous and less easily recognised than in his native Lancashire. He was again gaoled in 1640 for a while. He laboured with St Henry Morse during the London plague. 
             He frequently celebrated Mass at Denmark House for the poor Catholics of London. Eventually he was captured a third time, during the Cromwellian times, and no mercy was to be had, He was martyred at Tyburn on 28th June 1654. His body was sold to the Spanish ambassador, and buried in Douai in northern France. However, his remains were dug up and returned to England in 1929, and solemnly re-interred in Westminster Cathedral in 1930.


            The Spanish Armada (1588), the Gunpowder Plot (1603), and the support of many Catholics for the Royalist cause during the Civil War (1640-49), all helped to fan the flames of anti-Catholic hysteria. From  being the ancient faith of the entire English nation for one thousand years, Catholicism had now become an outlawed and illegal religion.
   Cromwell's era saw bitter persecution of anything which flavoured of Catholic practices, even within the Laudian High Church section of the Anglican communion. Terrible damage was done to many Catholic works of art or sculpture which had survived the Reformation unscathed.
   The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660 brought some relief to Catholics, and many believe that King Charles II was received into the Catholic Church before he died. Certainly, his son, James II was a Catholic, as was his wife, Mary of Modena.
   At one point the royal couple made a pilgrimage to St Winifride's well at Holywell in Flintshire, and their prayers were answered by the birth of a son the following year.
   The Protestant nobility were mightily disturbed at this prospect of a continuing Catholic line upon the throne of England. Treacherously they negotiated with Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), a Dutch Stadholder with distant links to the English royal family, to invade the country and take the crown.
   This Dutch invasion of 1688, supported by English traitors, was thereafter whitewashed as the "Glorious Revolution." History is written by the victors, as they say. Rather than plunge the nation into the second terrible civil war in fifty years, James II fled to France. The Dutch army was stationed to guard London, while the English army was sent overseas to France.
            For Catholics at least, the new settlement and the Bill of Rights had no advantages. Willem van Oranje's regime imposed new discriminatory laws against Catholics, excluding them from property rights, the magistracy, the law and the army. His invasion of Ireland and the Battle of the Boyne (1689) laid the foundations for the present troubles in Ulster.
             Inevitably, in 1715 many English Catholics sided with their co-religionists, the deposed Stuart kings, and supported the Jacobite rising. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Government took measures to imprison many of the Catholic landed families, and to deprive them all of arms and horses. Life became very difficult for the few who remained faithful to the ancient Faith.

            In the Adlington area, it is believed that during these times of persecution, the Holy Mass was celebrated secretly, perhaps at Anderton Old Hall. There were Catholic missions at Standish (1574), Hindley (1650), South Hill (1672), Brindle (1677),  Wrightington (1686), and Euxton (1735).
            On maps of this period, the name Adlington refers usually to Adlington Hall, down on the common near Wigan Lane. Anderton or Andertonford is usually marked as being next to Horwich, where the River Douglas flowed under the Bolton to Chorley road i.e. near where the old Squirrel P.H. was and the Squirrel bridge.  

          About 1750 it seems that many Catholics of Chorley district attended Mass at the domestic chapel of Burgh Hall, Duxbury, until in 1774 they began to use a building at Hodgson's Farm, Weld Bank, as a chapel. This was the beginning of the parish of St Gregory's, Weld Bank.
            The Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 brought an improvement in the legal position of the Catholic minority. In London however, the demagogue Lord George Gordon inflamed the situation in a way that led to the Gordon riots. Catholic chapels and homes throughout London were attacked and burned. Probably very little of this affected Lancashire. Catholics from the Chorley and Adlington areas would have quietly attended Mass at Weld Bank undisturbed.

            Increasing numbers motivated them to build a school chapel there in 1815, dedicated to St Gregory, and in 1829 the present church was built. Originally it probably looked like a barn from the outside, so as not to attract too much attention.  For some years Weld Bank was a secondary place of residence of the Vicar Apostolic of the North, and one of these bishops, Edmund Dicconson, is buried in the churchyard of St Wilfrid's, Standish. 

            In 1829 Sir Robert Peel's Catholic Emancipation Act received the Royal Assent. Catholics could now vote in elections. They could be admitted to all civil and military offices, and belong to any corporation. However certain offices of state remained closed to them. Nevertheless the Catholic peers at once reclaimed their seats in the House of Lords, and five Catholic MPs were elected to the Commons in 1830.


            The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was built in 1778. It was customary for Irish navvies to do the construction work. The Anglezarke quarries seem to have developed once water transport was available. The stone was dragged by horses and waggons down Babylon Lane and what is now Railway Road to the canal wharves.
            Raw cotton was available via Liverpool from America. Liverpool was growing rich on the iniquities of the slave trade, Manchester was becoming the industrial capital of the world, especially in textiles, and the home of laissez-faire capitalism. 
           Here on the edge of the West Pennine Moors, with clean water from the river Douglas, the establishment of a print works at Huyton Fields before 1812 was a natural development. In 1848 it was purchased by Mr B Davies and turned into a bleachworks. 
           The existing Pincroft dyeing and printing works, and the new mill for Derbyshire & Blackburn, were all in existence by 1863. In Rawlinson Lane there was a coal mine and a brickworks. The Bolton and Preston Railway arrived in 1841.
           The Liverpool Corporation Water Works was also bringing new workers to the district.
           This growth of Adlington township is evidenced by the building of a school house on the Common in 1815, the building of the National School in 1837, the opening of the Methodist School and Chapel in 1836. There was no school in Higher Adlington until the opening of St Joseph's in 1863.

           On 26th June 1839 the Anglican Christ Church on Market St. was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Chester. Although the Wesleyan Methodists had already opened a school chapel in Adlington in 1836, Christ Church was the first church proper in Adlington. Soon afterwards it was established as a full parish separate from the mother church in Standish. The present Anglican parish church of St Paul dates from 1884. The Congregational Church (now the United Reformed and Methodist Local Ecumenical project) dates from 1866.


           The Catholics of Anderton and District had to travel to the Church of St Gregory's at Weld Bank in Chorley for Holy Mass and the Sacraments, usually by walking there and back, a round trip of about six miles.
            As their numbers were increasing, they considered forming a parish of their own and in 1860 tentatively approached Canon Greenhalgh, then Parish Priest of Weld Bank, . Under his guidance a group of people joined forces to further the project and a building fund was commenced. Charles Joseph Stonor Esq. generously gave land sufficient for the a church, school, presbytery and burial ground.
           The excavation and building commenced in the early summer of 1862, and on August 31st of that year the Foundation Stone was laid by the Rt . Rev. Alexander Goss, Bishop of Liverpool. Building work carried on through the winter and all the next year.


           The church building was opened and blessed on Saturday 5th December by the Rt . Rev. William Turner, the Lord Bishop of Salford. A public notice published in the Wigan Observer of Friday 4th December 1863 stated that - 
            "The newly erected Chapel at Adlington will be opened on Sunday 6th December by the Rt. Rev. William Turner, the Lord Bishop of Salford. Pontifical Mass will commence at 11 o'clock. The sermon will be preached by the Rev. C Teebay of St Edwards College, Liverpool. Afternoon service will commence at 3 o'clock.The Rev. Thomas Harper S.J. will preach. Certain benches will be reserved for ticket holders . . . ."
            The Bishop of Salford was officiating in the absence through illness of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander Goss, the Bishop of Liverpool in whose diocese St Joseph's is situated. The preacher compared the opening of St Joseph's with the dedication of Solomon's temple, contrasting the position of the worshippers of 1863 with those of Old Testament times.
During the afternoon service Rev. Thomas Harper S.J. preached, and the choir was composed of singers from Chorley. The Octave Day of the Dedication was also solemnised, with sermons from Rev. George Porter S.J. and V. Rev. Canon Toole.
              The parish is indebted to Charles Joseph Stonor Esq of Anderton who presented a large plot of land and also the stone for the building. Anderton Old Hall had been flooded by the building of Rivington Lower reservoir, and Charles Joseph Stonor had recently built a new hall in Anderton Park on the west bank of the reservoir. 
              This gift from the Stonors' accounts for the location of the Church, which is on the corner of the Anderton estates closest to the centre of Adlington. The building took a little over a year to complete and was intended to accommodate 600 people. First of all consisted of a porch, nave, chancel, aisle and vestry. A family tribune was  added by Charles Stonor Esq. and the family had their own entrance door. James and John Catterall, quarry owners of Anglezarke, donated the stone for the foundations, and also provided the labour. Much of the stone came from Leicester Mill Quarry, Anglezarke.
              The foundation stone had been laid on 31st August 1862 by Archbishop Goss of Liverpool. The style is early English but the porch is Norman. It is lighted by a large wheel window 12 ft. in diameter and there are nine windows on each side of the church, as well as six in the wing. There are five clerestory lancets in the chancel.
               When opened the church was still incomplete, insofar as the inner roof had still to be panelled. Moreover, the baptistry, pulpit and presbytery had all been omitted, until sufficient funds were raised. The driveway up to the church was also rough and unfinished. One six-year old girl's most vivid memory of the day was the wheel coming off her family's pony-hauled trap, on the way up the church drive.
              The north aisle wing of the church was to be used as a school until the separate school was built in 1872. From the inner entrance door to the extreme wall of the apse the length is 87 feet, the width of the nave is 30 feet and that of the wing 11 feet.
              The height of the roof tree is 46 feet, and the doorway measures 20 ft x 8 ft , and is formed of square jambs and four columns of each side with capitals and bases, as well as a circular arch. The cost of the building was £1,200, without Mr Stonor's tribune, and most of the money had already been subscribed by the residents of the neighbourhood.
             The Architect is uncertain. It was thought to be the E.W. Pugin firm, and the church is certainly a simple village church in the Pugin style, similar to many others which the family firm built. 
            The Wigan Observer extract attributed the design to J.H. Pollen (1820-1902), who  was ordained as an Anglican priest but converted to Catholicism in 1852 and  had links with Blessed John Henry Newman. He worked with Newman and designed the church at the Catholic University in Dublin where he held, at Newman's invitation, the post of Professor of Fine Arts from 1855-57. He was a designer, writer and painter, associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and held posts at the Victoria and Albert Museum. One of his ten children became a Jesuit priest.
            The Dublin Church is the only church he built, and it is in the classical, Roman basilica style. There is no record of his building Gothic churches. He did produce valuable literary works on the English martyrs, but his speciality was church furnishings rather than church buildings, and one wonders if this is how some confusion has arisen. . 
             The building contractors were Messrs Fairclough and Son of Wigan. Stonework was by John and James Catterall of Chorley. The stone for the principal building was supplied from Roscoe Lowe Quarry at Anderton while that for the circular window and entrance porch was obtained from Denham Hall Quarry at Whittle-le-Woods.


               The neighbouring town of Horwich grew steadily as the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Works ("Horwich Loco") expanded. The Anderton rector served Horwich Catholics until 1884, when the parish of St Mary's was begun. Bishop Herbert Vaughan of Salford appointed Fr Hampson of Sacred Heart Westhoughton to take over in Horwich. The boundary between the two parishes is at Anderton Ford, near the Squirrel Inn, where the River Douglas flows out of Rivington Lower Reservoir.
            The "old school" foundation stone was laid in 1872. Once completed, the school presumably transferred from the north aisle of the church. 
             Until the turn of the century there was a strong link with Anderton Hall. Between 1888-90, during alterations and repairs to the Church, the floor was discovered to be unsafe due to dry rot, and some of the parishioners attended Mass once more at Anderton Hall.             
             In 1906 the reredos was added, and the walls of the nave were panelled in wood.  The wooden side panels of the sanctuary reredos seem to have been added about 1910-20, judging by old photographs. In 1909 an altar dedicated to St Gerard was erected "In Thanksgiving", by the Maguire family who lived at The Street, by Rivington Upper Reservoir. 

Extract from the 1915 Liverpool Archdiocesan Directory:

"ANDERTON, Chorley: St Joseph- (1863)  Population 800. Rev. Thos. Smith
Sundays - Mass 8, 10.30 with Sermon; Rosary, Instruction, Benediction 6.30. Holydays - Mass 4.45, 9; Rosary, Sermon, Benediction 7.30. 
Weekdays - Mass 7.30; Thursdays - Rosary, Benediction 7.30 pm.
Confessions - Saturdays 5 to 9 pm; before first Mass on Sundays, and second Mass on Holydays.
Confraternities: St Joseph for Men, Children of Mary, Living Rosary, Bona Mors.
Schools and teachers: 
Mixed, Miss T. Selkirk, Miss M. Maher, Mrs Conway, Mrs Crabtree;
Infants: Mrs Parkinson, Miss M.A.Gent.

This mission, an offshoot of St Gregory's Weld Bank, near Chorley, was established by the late Very Rev. Canon Greenhalgh, then rector of Weld Bank. The foundation stone of the church was laid by Bishop Goss in September 1862. In the following year, 1863, the church was opened, and the Rev. Peter J. Kane was the first priest appointed to the mission, in which he laboured most zealously for eighteen years. During that period the presbytery, school and schoolhouse were built, the beautiful altar of marble and alabaster was erected, and many other improvements were made in and about the church. 
In August 1881, Father Kane was succeeded by the Rev. Michael Donnelly, who, during the two years he remained at Anderton, greatly improved the approach to the church and laid out the cemetery. He left the mission on May 31, 1883, on which day the late pastor, the Rev. I. Webster, took charge of it. 
In 1884 the school was considerably enlarged by the addition of two commodious classrooms and an infants' room. Owing to the unsafe state of the church, and the unhealthiness of the presbytery, both were reroofed and underwent other repairs involving a considerable outlay in 1889-90. The church was re-opened on Whit Sunday, May 25th 1890, by Bishop O'Reilly.  
C.J.Stonor Esq. has been the chief benefactor of this mission. He gave the land on which the church, presbytery, schools and schoolhouse are built. Moreover, besides contributing largely to the church and school building funds, he found most of the stone for the church and gave the presbytery. To him the pastor and congregation of St Joseph's Anderton are much indebted for the generous manner in which he assisted them. The Anderton property has now passed into other hands.
New cloakrooms were built in 1894. In 1906 a new reredos was added and thre church was panelled. A beautiful shrine to St Gerard - a thanksgiving offering - was erected in 1909. A new classroom and cloakroom were added in 1912."


            After the presbytery burnt down in 1942 owing to an electrical wiring fault,  the two small sacristies were erected, and the rest of the site of the house cleared. The baptistery was built in the early 1960's by Anderton and Kellie. The organ is an electric instrument dating from the mid-fifties'. The large crucifix which now hangs over the altar was previously positioned on the wall above the sacristy door. 
Plans for a new school began in the early 1970's, and the new building opened in 1975, on a site just beyond the cemetery and bowling green, with access from Rothwell Road. The old school building however remained in use until 1982, when the last of the junior classes transferred across, as the new school was constructed in three stages.
The cemetery gates were erected in 1997, and the disabled access ramp to church completed in 1999. The exterior plaque of St Joseph with the boy Jesus was erected in 2000 in memory of the late Jim Entwistle. The schoolchildren also planted two yew trees on St Joseph's feastday in the Millennial Year 2000, of which just one is flourishing.


             Fortunately we now live in more ecumenical days, and there is good cooperation between St Joseph's, St Paul's Church of England, and the United Reformed - Methodist congregations in Adlington.  We come together for the Remembrance Day  service etc. 

            It would, however, be naively optimistic to think that all anti-Catholic bigotry in England had disappeared. Indeed, accusations and insinuations are regularly made against the Catholic clergy, which would be unthinkable against Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams or other religious representatives. 
            The media, in particular the BBC, are notable for their biased and anti-Catholic reporting of church news - indeed at one stage conducting almost a witchhunt against Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor. Nevertheless, the different denominations in Adlington co-operate well together.  The danger now is an intolerant secularism which scorns all Christian faith, but especially that Catholicism which dares to maintain its own values against the fashionable political correctness of 21st century modernity.


The first service on the site was a burial as on June 9th 1863 Elizabeth Moore died aged 62, and she was laid to rest in the new graveyard.

The first electric cable laid in Anderton brought electric lighting to the Church, displacing the existing gas lighting.

The Children of Mary provided quite a considerable amount of money to pay for the High Altar with their regular visits round the parish, collecting halfpennies. Remember it took 480 of these coins in those happy days to make one pound sterling.

St Gerard's Altar was the gift of a parishoner, a Mr McGuire of The Street, in thanksgiving for the recovery of his daughter, who had been seriously ill.

What is now the Repository was previously the baptistery, built in the 1960's, where the baptismal font was placed. This font was made from marble specially imported from Italy. Before the baptistery was built, the arch into the present-day Repository was over a private entrance door into the Church for the use of the Stonor family.

Only 25 years after the Church was opened it was found to be unsafe and extensive repairs had to be carried out, including re-roofing at considerable expense, and on Whit Sunday of 1890 Bishop Bernard O'Reilly solemnly re-opened the Church on completion of the renovation.


The parish has given the following six priests to the Archdiocese--

Canon John Murphy
Fr. Laurence Anderton
Fr. Francis Clayton
Fr. John Clayton
Fr. William O'Connor
Fr. William Southworth


Anderton St Joseph's has been faithfully served by the following Priests --

Fr. Peter Joseph Kane      1863 - 1881
The first Rector of St Joseph's was born in Liverpool on November 14th 1831
Educated at Douai and Ushaw and ordained by Bishop Turner in 1863 when he was appointed to Anderton where "Squire Stonor had built a church." There was no church house at this time, and Fr Kane lodged with a local coal-miner. He formed the church choir, and concerts were held in the north wing school rooms on occasions.
            By 1870 there were more than 100 children on the school register, and in 1880, 135 pupils. In 1881 Fr Kane was transferred to be curate at St Mary's Chorley. When he left, he reported that the school and presbytery were free from debt, but the church was still not paid for.

Fr Michael Donnelly            1881 - 1883
Born Ashton-under-Lyne
Educated at the English College Lisbon and was ordained in 1859. He became
curate at St Vincent de Paul, Liverpool to 1863, then was at St Mary's Douglas, Isle of Man for six years, and Rector at Mount Carmel, Liverpool for 16 years. Finally he was appointed Rector of St Joseph's Anderton in 1881 and remained here until retirement in 1883. He died in 1901.

Fr Isaac Webster                  1883 - 1899
Born in Chesterfield 1845
Educated at English College Lisbon.
He was curate at St Patrick's Liverpool, where he twice suffered serious attacks of fever. To help his recovery he was appointed to Claughton-on-Brock (now in Lancaster diocese - Liverpool Archdiocese included the whole of Lancashire north of the Ribble until 1921). He was appointed Rector of St Joseph's Anderton in 1883 and remained until 1899 when he moved to St Mary's Wigan as Rector until his death in 1904. By special permission he was buried inside the church of St Mary's Wigan. He added two large classrooms and an infants' room on to the school. He also helped to gather together the Catholics of Horwich in preparation for the founding of St Mary's.

Fr Thomas Smith                   1899 - 1918
Born in Preston 29th September 1855
Educated at Ushaw College and Ordained 7th August 1881
Curate at St Alphonsus' Liverpool until 1883, first rector of St Francis de Sales, Walton to 1889, then rector at St Mary's Great Eccleston to 1896. Chaplain to Notre Dame Mount Pleasant to 1899, then appointed Rector of St Joseph's in 1899 and remained until retirement in 1918. He died in 1923 and is buried in the Churchyard, along with one brother, also a priest. Another brother emigrated to America and became well known as Trader Horn.

Fr William Berry                     1918 - 1944
Born in Blackburn January 5th 1875
Educated at St Edwards College Liverpool and Upholland College and ordained on June 9th 1900. Appointed Parish Priest at St Joseph's in 1918 after a curacy at St Joseph's Preston. he started the Guild of St Anne and the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament in the parish. For his Silver Jubilee in 1925 the parish presented him with a Holy Year visit to Rome. 
              Up until this time Rome still regarded England as mission territory, under Propaganda Fide. Priests were missionaries, sometimes called rectors. However from about 1918 the new Canon Law was adopted, and the Church and parish structure formalised. The priests in Anderton were now parish priests with the full canonical rights of that appointment.  In that sense Fr Berry was the first full Parish Priest of Anderton.
            Fr Berry oversaw the construction of two tennis courts, and supervised many improvements to the school: electric lighting, the central heating system (removed only in 1998), the re-flooring of the main hall with maple-wood for dancing, the construction of a stage erected by a pulley system.
              From 1938-40 Bishop Campling, a friend of Fr Berry's who had retired from missionary work in Uganda, came to stay with him and shared in the parish work. he presented the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes which stands on the Lady Altar to the parish.
             Fr Berry received serious injuries in the tragic fire at the Presbytery on Sunday 17th January 1942 from which he never fully recovered. Fr Wilcock, a Salesian priest from Thornleigh College Bolton who was helping out, managed to lower himself down from his bedroom by knotting blankets together, but Fr Berry jumped and badly broke his thigh. The housekeeper, Miss Florence Roberts, sadly lost her life in the blaze. Fr Berry retired to Blackburn in 1944 and died on 24th February 1955.
             The present Presbytery, 28 Bolton Road, across the road from the church, was standing empty and for sale when the fire occurred, and was bought within a week. Although the church was saved from the flames it was thick with grime and ash. All the liturgical linens and banners stored in the presbytery went up in the flames, as did some of the cemetery and other records. To their immense credit, over fifty women worked in relays and had the church ready again for Mass the following Sunday. By Easter Sunday everything needed for the Liturgical year had been replaced.

Fr John Gibson Roskell        1944 - 1975
Born in Liverpool October 4th 1901
Educated at Ushaw College and Ordained on 5th August 1928
Curate at Sacred Heart, Chorley until 1942 and then Priest-in-Charge at St Joseph's Anderton until 1944 when he was appointed Parish Priest. A very popular and well respected Priest, Fr Roskell served St Joseph's for 33 years until his death on 19th January 1975.
The whole township of Adlington, Anderton and Heath Charnock mourned his passing.  A stained glass window of the Cure d'Ars was placed in the church in memory of Fr Roskell.

Fr John Moynihan                1975 - 1977
Born in Rathmore, Co.Kerry January 29th 1912
Educated at St Brendan's Killarney, All Hallows Dublin and Ordained June 21st 1936.
He was curate at St Hugh of Lincoln, Wavertree, and at St Marie's Southport until 1960. He founded the parish of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, in Litherland 1960-75. Then he was appointed Parish Priest at Anderton in 1975 and remained until 1977 when he retired due to ill health and returned to his hometown of Rathmore where he died on February 8th 1983.

Fr Kenneth Young                   1977 - 1993
Born in Liverpool on 12 September 1916. His early education was at St Agnes' School, Huyton, and at St Francis Xavier College, Liverpool. He went to the Salesian House of Studies in Oxford, and studied for the priesthood at St Joseph's College, Upholland. He was ordained priest on 3rd June 1944. 
His first appointment was as Assistant Priest at Blessed Sacrament, Aintree (1944), before moving to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Seaforth. Other appointments followed at St Teresa's, Upholland (1957), Our Lady Immaculate, Everton (1958), and St Vincent's, Derbyshire Hill, St Helen's (1961).
In 1969 he became a parish priest, at Our Lady Mother of God, Fleet Lane, Parr, St Helen's. He was transferred to become parish priest at Anderton in 1977, where he remained until his retirement in February 1993 at the age of 76. He was very active as Chair of Governors at St Joseph's High School, Horwich, and was several times Chair of Adlington Council of Churches. A great raconteur, he planned to spend his retirement in Adlington in a bungalow on The Common.  He died suddenly and went to his reward on September 12th 1993, his 77th birthday.  His grave lies, as he wished, under one of the oak trees in the parish cemetery.

Fr Peter Crowther                   1993 - 1995
Ordained in 1971, Fr Crowther came to Anderton in 1993 after being parish priest at St Cuthbert's, Stanley, Liverpool. He rapidly began fund-raising and planning the re-ordering and restoration of the Church, but unfortunately he had to leave us suddenly in 1995 before it was completed.  The re-ordering involved the extension of the sanctuary forwards, with the provision of a new marble altar, lectern and font. A large foyer was created at the back of the church by dropping a wood and glass screen from the choir balcony downwards. The Stations of the Cross and statues were renovated, improved lighting was fitted, and remedial work was carried out on the sacristy floor. 
After some time in Chorley and as chaplain to Billinge Hospital, Fr Crowther is now Parish Priest of St Joseph's Withnell. 

Fr Francis Marsden. Born 1954 in Wigan, home town Leigh. He was educated at De La Salle College Salford, and Clare College Cambridge (1972-78), where he obtained a double first in natural sciences and a doctorate in organic chemistry. He worked one year for ICI Corporate Laboratory in Runcorn in chemical research. In 1979 he entered the Venerable English College, Rome and studied at the Gregorian University. In 1985 he received the Licence in Sacred Theology summa cum laude, with a specialisation in moral theology.
        Ordained priest on 21st July, 1984, in St Joseph's, Leigh, Fr Marsden served as an assistant priest at Sacred Heart, Chorley (1985), St Aloysius' Huyton (1988) and Blessed Sacrament, Aintree (1991). In 1995 he went to lecture in New Testament and Moral Theology at the Holy Spirit Seminary of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, in Rudno outside L'viv, west Ukraine. He was appointed Parish Priest in Anderton in February 1996 upon his return from Ukraine.
From 1986-93 he was a columnist on the Archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Pictorial. He was then invited by the late Norman Cresswell to write for the refounded Catholic Times, and he wrote a weekly column, "Credo" for twenty-seven and a half years, some 1430 articles, until the sudden closure of the Universe/Catholic Times Company in May 2021, partly caused by the fall in sales due to the pandemic.  
As an associate lecturer of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, he taught a distance-learning course in Fundamental Moral Theology (B.A. Applied Theology) and one in Medical Ethics (M.A. in Personal, Spiritual and Moral Development). From 2002-08 he served as a Governor of the Linacre Centre for Medical Ethics in London.
In summer 2006 he was asked to take on responsibility also for St Mary's Parish Chorley, and was made Dean of Chorley pastoral area. In August 2012 his appointment at St Joseph's ended and he then became full time at St Mary's Chorley, continuing as Dean of Chorley until February 2020.

Fr Ian O'Shea           1st September 2012- 20th January 2018
Native of Chorley, he studied at Ushaw College Durham and spent some time with the Benedictines in Buckfast, Devon. After five years he moved on to St John's Wigan, where he also looks after St Patrick's, Scholes, and the area which was the parish of St William's, Ince. ​

Fr Francis Marsden    returned as Parish Priest from 20th January 2018 -

Here is some interesting information about ANDERTON.