Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Mar 2016

Tue 08 Mar 2016
Bill Walker – St George’s Church and the Commissioners’ Churches.


Bill, through his connection with St George’s church and his involvement with Chorley Heritage Trust Group, is well known to many society members and his talk was warmly anticipated.

Bill Walker

The building of 600 Church of England (C of E) churches during the 19th century was a unique phenomenon. Initiated by the Church’s pressure on government ministers, this led to the Church Building Acts of 1818 and of 1824, Government grants were then administered by the Church Building Commission, hence the term Commissioners’ Churches.
The aims of Orthodox Anglicans and High Anglicans were;

1. Build more churches in order to improve the masses’ moral education
2. Provide sufficient church seats to allow Dissenters to return to the C of E


St George’s Church Chorley


The C of E wanted to assert itself in areas where there was a strong presence of Dissenters, such as Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and Congregationalists. Lancashire, with its growing towns and cities, was one such area.
Built in 1825 at a cost of £12,387, St George’s was one such church. It had 2,012 seats, of which 1,593 were free. Much larger than St Laurence’s, the parish church, with just 300 seats. Its architect was Thomas Rickman, a colourful character who, although not a trained architect, went on to design many buildings, including churches.
It has a high visible presence, a good representation of the architectural style of these churches. This, however, did not receive a universal good press.
St George’s, though, went from strength to strength, first becoming a district church in 1835, enabling it to perform baptisms, marriages and burials. In 1847 it was given responsibility for National School. More children meant more adherents in the future. Then, in 1856, it became its own parish.
It continued to thrive throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
‘Churchy’ Chorley was lucky to get a Commissioners’, indeed it received more than one, as larger towns, such as Rochdale, received none.
Bill’s illuminating talk shed light on the history of one of Chorley’s fine churches and, as a result, all present were better informed.

Peter Robinson