A PACKED church witnessed the moment when the new area dean of Leigh took up office.

The licensing service for Rev Dr William Baldwin as area dean of Leigh took place at Atherton Parish Church on Sunday .

A congregation of more than 200 saw the previous area dean, the Rev Peter Leakey of Christ Church, Pennington, hand over the office to Mr Baldwin who has been rector at Atherton Parish Church for the past 14 years.

Mr Leakey has been area dean for the past 10 years -- the maximum amount of time that someone is allowed to hold a licence for the position.

Mr Baldwin, 52, said it was a "lovely night". He said: "We had a full house so it was a good start. Members of my family were there to watch.

"But it was also quite sad because my mother was unable to attend because she recently had a stroke."

He has two grown up children, Helen and James and says his wife is also "very happy" about his new appointment and had "no hesitation" about it.

He added: "My new role is going to be very exciting. I'm looking forward to it."

The service was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress and the Rt Rev David Gillet, the Bishop of Bolton was on hand to pass the licence over to Mr Baldwin.

Mr Baldwin recalled: "At the end of evensong I took my oaths of office.

"I took one oath to the Queen and I took an oath of obedience to the Bishop. The Bishop then handed me the licence and he gave me a blessing."

The Rector's new role will have both pastoral and administrative aspects.

He said: "The first aspect of my job is pastoral. I will be concerned with the welfare of the clergy.

"The area dean is here to take care of the clergy on a pastoral basis. I think this is the most important aspect."

Mr Baldwin has already been out to meet the clergy informally.

"There is a lot of good work going on and it is going to be humbling to share in the hopes and aspirations of the local clergy."

For the second aspect of the area dean's work Mr Baldwin will deal with paperwork and write reports for the arch deacon.

He added: "The local people in Atherton have been very supportive."