A HISTORIC church has held its final mass as it closes after more than 80 years of services.

Our Lady’s Chapel in Huncoat held its final mass on Saturday to give parishioners past and present the chance to mark the occasion in a service of thanksgiving.

The closure is part of proposals put forward by the Bishop of Salford to shut several churches across East Lancashire in response to falling church attendance and fewer priests being ordained.

St Philip the Apostle Church, in Padiham, was the first to shut last year as part of the move, and up to five more could be set to close.

The final mass was celebrated by the Rt Rev John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, and parish priest Fr Simon Stamp.

The chapel in Altham Lane was opened in June 1931 by the then Bishop of Salford, Rt Rev Thomas Henshaw.

Bishop Arnold said: “Change can be difficult and demanding and separate people from what is familiar. But change can also create possibilities and opportunities.

“The mass provided us with an opportunity to give thanks for all the years at Our Lady’s Chapel. I would like to thank all those who have joined us and have spent time organising the celebration.”

No decision has yet been made on the future of the use of the building and the land.

Parishioners at the church have been invited to join the St Anne and St Joseph parish in Accrington.

Fr Stamp said: “The final mass at Our Lady’s Chapel in Huncoat was a sad occasion, because it meant saying farewell to a building where generations of families have passed on and celebrated the Catholic faith.

“It was also uplifting because the bishop, in his homily, focussed our attention on the future of our parish.

“Although it is time to say farewell to Huncoat Chapel, it is also an exciting time for us as we look to the future with the confidence born of faith.”

Cllr Eamonn Higgins, who represents Huncoat on Hyndburn Council, said the loss of the church will be a blow to the area.

He said: “It’s a shame, it is a very popular little chapel.

“By people in the catholic faith it is quite well used on a Saturday evening.

“It’s just a shame due to dwindling numbers the Catholic church seem to be closing churches."

and just having one per area.

“It’s sad for the village of Huncoat.”