Tourist guide to Chorley

Tourist guide to Chorley

OLD AND NEW: The modern Mormon Temple and, below, Chorley's historic glass-fronted Astley Hall

Chorley's historic glass-fronted Astley Hall

First published in What's On Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by

IF you have a passion for history, a visit to Chorley is a must.

Although records of the original market charter have been lost, there are references to a busy and "established" market dated to 1498.

Originally Chorley set on the River Chor and a tributary of the Yarrow which itself feeds the Douglas-Ribble complex was ecclesiastically governed from nearby Croston.

Despite this, it is known that there was a church at Chorley as early as Saxon times.

St Lawrence's Church is the oldest building in the town and was built in Norman times on the the Saxon foundation.

Who was St Lawrence? He was a martyr who was killed by being burnt on a red hot grid iron. His remains are said (without absolute certainty) to have been brought back from Normandy by James Standish, of Duxbury Hall now Chorley Golf Club in 1442.

Another famous character with a proven history is Sir Henry Tate (1819-1899).

Born in the parish, Henry's father was a Unitarian Minister.

As a young man Henry became a grocer and later set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool.

Some of his vast fortune he used to build an art gallery in London.

Long after his death the Tate Foundation built a second gallery on Liverpool's Albert Dock.

Every town should have a good market and an historic house.

Chorley has both but has the advantage of not one market but two.

Each Monday night the town centre is closed off to allow displays to be set up in Flat Iron Market, which starts to buzz early each Tuesday morning.

The term "flat iron" may refer either to its shape or the fact that in the old days sheets were laid on the ground and weighted down with iron. Who knows the truth and who cares?

Chorley is a mix of an old Lancashire market mixed with everything the modern shopper demands.

Astley Hall (telephone 01257 262166) and the well-wooded park, nature trails and lakes which surround it was given to the town in 1922 and is open for a fee.

The one-time Tudor house had a major facelift in 1966 and its glass fronted Jacobean mansion seems to reflect every beam of sunlight.

There is a large car park and the grounds are always open.

The old stable block has been converted into a pleasant cafe.

There is plenty to see inside the hall, in particular the truly magnificent plaster ceilings, but be sure not to miss the shovelboard which dominates the Long Gallery.

This is 20 feet long and the game was once a very popular.

It is a cross between shove-halfpenny and snooker.

Large coins were used instead of balls and huge maces worked like snooker cues.

Astley Hall is a short walk from the town and Chorley attracts large numbers of American tourists for two main reasons.

Many visit the Mormon temple while others know that Chorley was the birthplace of Miles Standish.

He was a fierce soldier employed by the Pilgrim Fathers to protect them as they landed from the Mayflower in 1620.

High up on the hill overlooking the M61 is the Mormon Temple completed in 1998 at a cost of £100 million.

This is on the closest possible site to the first British Mormon branch started between Chorley and Preston in 1837.

Where else can visitors celebrate the Mayflower, a Flat Iron, a Mormon temple, a shovel board and a sugar cube?

Add to this welcoming hostelries and cafes, plus excellent shopping and Chorley is an inspiring place to spend time.

A burial urn from around 1,000 BC has been unearthed at Astley Hall Farm and the earliest confirmed record of a settlement in this area.

Look for the church of St George, which is described as a Waterloo Church. It was built in the 1920s after the Napoleonic Wars.

The M61 also runs close to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and an old cotton mill at Botany Bay is now a splendid craft centre.

The name Botany Bay was coined by the canal labourers who built it.

They compared their hard work to that in the conict colony in far off Australia.

Close to the M6 and M61 interchange is the Camelot Theme Park and this means that this area has plenty to offer all the family.

The first-ever Test Match between England and Australia was played at Melbourne in 1876.

The first entry on the scorebook reads: W Thompson bowled Hill 1.

Allen Hill was a Chorley lad who thus claimed the first-ever test wicket.

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