Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Sep 2010

Sun 12 Sep 2010
Heritage Weekend

Heritage Weekend. Joint afternoon Chorley Historical & Archaeological Socy. and Chorley Little Theatre.
About 35 people, members and friends, turned up to join our history walk around the Empire Theatre, Police Station and St. Mary's Church.
Police Station. Thomas Breres was constable in 1733 when a new set of stocks was needed for the town's green. Adam Rigby and John Atherton were paid 5 days work to make the stocks, though it is doubtful whether these were the same stocks which were fired by an out of control bonfire in the 1850's. After the old dungeon, which had served the town for many years, came a new police station in 1858, after becoming inadequate, it was replaced in 1869 remaining in use until the 1960s when the current station was opened in 1966. (FULL REPORT HERE)

We then moved across to St. Mary's Church, which is often described as the 'gem' of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. The story of St. Mary's Parish Church begins, in fact, at St. Gregory's, Weldbank, where in 1842, Father Lawrence O'Toole was appointed parish priest. In 1846 Rev. Gibson leased a building from (Richard Smethurst local cotton manufacturer) in Chapel Street, formerly a Wesleyan Chapel. The first Divine Service was held on Sunday 3rd January 1847. In 1855 separate schools were built, as more room was needed so the church could become just a place of worship. 1894 was the opening of the Tower officially by the Mayor of Chorley. However in 1909, because of population increase the church was to be enlarged. In 1910 St. Mary's Arch was dedicated and in 1913 the Shrine of St. Agnes was unveiled and dedicated. 1947 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Parish. (FULL REPORT)

We now arrive at the Empire Theatre which was opened on 3rd September 1910 as the New Empire Electric Theatre, which will enter upon its career as one of Chorley's halls devoted specially to the entertainment of people by means of animated pictures. The seating accommodation is sufficient for 700 persons and all the seats and chairs are of the tip-up pattern. The proscenium is artistically painted to represent red plush draped curtains The floor is of concrete and the projection apertures are protected by fireproof shutters. A dinner was given on Thursday evening 1st Sept. 1910 at the Clarence Hotel for all who had taken part in the construction of the building. (FULL REPORT)
Estelle from Chorley Little Theatre then took over and led us into the theatre, and when all were seated she gave us an insight into the history of the theatre, from the projection box (escape door pointed out to us on the outside of the building) to then being given the 'grand tour' of the stage, back stage dressing rooms, and upstairs, where part of the original building cornices and proscenium (PICTURE) are still visible, and you were able to imagine what it would have been like when around 700 people would have been in the audience in 1910 to the present day when its audience capacity is 236. We were shown how things operate backstage and we also had a demo. of how the cinema screen works. There was a full exhibition of show photographs on display, over many years. We ended our afternoon in the NEW bar area with liquid refreshment, for those who wished to partake. The sun came out for us, and I understand everyone enjoyed the afternoon.
Information gathered from Jim Heyes History of Chorley, St.Mary's 150th Anniversary Book and The Weekly News and Chorley Standard via Chorley Library.