Chorley

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Chorley is a market town in Lancashire, in North West England. It is the largest settlement in the Borough of Chorley. Chorley is located 8.1 miles North of Wigan 10.8 miles south west of Blackburn, 11 miles north west of Bolton 12 miles south of Preston and 19.5 miles north west of Manchester. As in much of Lancashire, the town’s wealth came principally from the cotton industry, however it was a major market town due to its central location to four Lancashire towns. As recently as the 1970s the skyline was dominated by numerous factory chimneys, but most are now demolished: remnants of the industrial past include Morrison’s chimney and a few other mill buildings, and the streets of terraced houses for mill workers. Chorley is known as the home of the Chorley cake.

The name Chorley comes from two Anglo-Saxon words, Ceorl and ley, probably meaning “the peasants’ clearing”. Ley (also leah or leigh) is a common element of place-name, meaning a clearing in a woodland. Ceorl refers to a person of status similar to a freeman or a yeoman.

There was no known occupation in Chorley until the Middle Ages, though archaeological evidence has shown that the area around the town has been inhabited since at least the Bronze Age. There are various remains of prehistoric occupation on the nearby Anglezarke Moor, including the Round Loaf tumulus which is believed to date from 3500 BC. A pottery burial urn from this period was discovered in 1963 on land next to Astley Hall Farm and later excavation in the 1970s revealed another burial urn and four cremation pits dating from the Bronze Age.

During the Roman era a Roman road ran near Chorley between Wigan and Walton-le-Dale. It is believed that Romans settled at Brindle to the north of the town, as Roman remains were discovered there in the late 1950s. Hoards dating from the Roman period have also been found at nearby at Whittle-le-Woods and Heapey.

Chorley was not listed in the Domesday Book, though it is thought to be one of the twelve berewicks in the Leyland Hundred.

Chorley first appears in historical records in the mid-13th century as part of the portion of the Croston Lordship accquired by William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, around 1250. The Earl established Chorley as a small borough comprising a two row settlement arranged along what later became Market Street. It appears that the borough was short-lived as it does not appear in a report of a commission on the Leyland Hundred in 1341.

The manorial history of Chorley is complex as the manor had no single lord throughout most of this period as it had been split into moieties and was managed by several different families. This led to Chorley having several manorial halls, which in this period included Chorley Hall, built in the 14th century by the de Chorley family, and Lower Chorley Hall, which was owned by the Gillibrand family from 1583 (later rebuilt in the 19th century as Gillibrand Hall). It is believe the borough of Chorley was not a success in this period because of the lack of manorial leadership and the dispersed nature of the small population.

St Laurence’s Church is the oldest remaining building in Chorley and first appears in historical records when it was dedicated in 1362, though it is believed there was already an earlier Anglo-Saxon chapel on the site which was a daughter foundation of Croston Parish Church. It is believed that the church is named after Saint Laurence, an Irish Saint who died in Normandy in the 12th century, whose bones were interred in the church in 15th century by a local noble named Sir Rowland Standish (a relation of Myles Standish) who had fought at the Agincourt. The bones went missing in the Reformation under the rule of King Henry VIII.

Towards the end of the 15th century a market was held every Tuesday in Chorley and a fair was held annually on the feast of St Lawrence.

According to the apocryphal story, James I after a good meal, officially knighted Sirloin steak (“Sir” loin) at Hoghton Tower, a large stately home to north east of the town, where William Shakespeare once worked. Astley Hall is a more central stately home, set in the middle of the town’s largest park, Astley Park. Oliver Cromwell visited here on his trek through the region.

On 27 November 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobites passed through Preston and Wigan on their way south to Manchester and Derby in the hope of taking London and the Crown, Chorley was a mustering point for the Government scouts tracking them. The Prince and his Army marched through Chorley itself on 10 December on the way back to Carlisle and Scotland and their dreadful day of destiny on Culloden Moor near Inverness the following 16 April. There was considerable local support in the town for that famous lost cause.

Chorley, like most Lancashire towns, gained its wealth from the industrial revolution of the 19th century which was also responsible for the town’s growth. Chorley was a vital cotton town with many mills littering the skyline. Today only three mills still remain working.

Also Chorley in its location on the edge of Lancashire Coalfield was vital in coal mining. Several pits existed in Duxbury Woods, the Gillibrand area and more numerously in Coppull. Chisnall Hall Colliery at Coppull was considered the biggest Lancashire pit outside of Wigan and one of many located in the Chorley suburb. The last pit in the area to close was the Ellerbeck Colliery in 1987 which was located south of Chorley, between Coppull and Adlington.

The town played an important role during the Second World War, when it was home to the Royal Ordnance Factory, a large munitions manufacturer in the village of Euxton about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the town centre. A smaller factory was also built near the Blackburn-Wigan railway line in Heapey.

In the 1970s Chorley was designated as part of Central Lancashire new town, together with Preston and Leyland. The original aim of this project was to combine the three settlements into a single city with a population of around half a million. Although this never came to pass, and the project has since been abandoned, Chorley benefited from the urban renewal commonly associated with new towns. Examples include a bypass of the town centre, and the Market Walk shopping centre.

Chorley saw the completion of the largest Mormon temple in Europe in 1998, known as the Preston England Temple.

In 1837, Chorley joined with other townships (or civil parishes) in the area to become head of the Chorley Poor Law Union which took responsibility for the administration and funding of the Poor Law in the area. Chorley became incorporated as a municipal borough in 1881 by its first mayor William Augustus Smethurst. The town’s population remained roughly static in the 20th century, with the 1911 census showing 30,315 people and the 1971 census showing 31,665. Under the Local Government Act 1972, Chorley became the core of a larger non-metropolitan district on 1 April 1974. The present Borough of Chorley has forty-seven councillors, representing twenty electoral wards.

The principal river in the town is the River Yarrow. The Black Brook is a tributary of the Yarrow. The name of the River Chor was back-formed from “Chorley” and runs not far from the centre of the town, notably through Astley Park.

Chorley is located at the foot of the West Pennine Moors and is overlooked by Healey Nab, a small hill which is part of the West Pennine Moors. It is the seat for the Borough of Chorley which is made up of Chorley and its surrounding villages. Chorley had a population of 33,424 as of the 2001 census, with the wider borough of Chorley having a population of 101,991. Chorley forms a conurbation with Preston and Leyland and was once proposed as being designated part of the Central Lancashire New Town under the New Towns Act, a proposal which was eventually scaled back.

The first signs of industry as with many towns in Lancashire was mining, evidence of which can be seen by the various abandoned quarries on the outskirts of the town. One of the most beautiful of these is Anglezarke Quarry, found between Chorley and Horwich. A lot of remnants can be found of mining including the old railway bridge belonging to the Duxbury Mine on Wigan Lane, eventually the mining industry was surpassed by cotton mills which litter the town scape with Chimneys (one of the few remaining examples in the one that stands at the town’s Morrisons).

Another industry in Chorley has been the manufacture of trucks which it inherited from Chorley’s neighbouring town of Leyland. The large factory on Pilling Lane was used heavily for the production of trucks and during the Second World War’ military trucks and tanks. The factory eventually went on to spares manufacture up until the collapse of Leyland DAF in the 1990s. The works emerged as a central parts depot for the Multipart firm which eventually would come part of the RAC. The plant was closed in 2006 and work was moved to a new smaller site on Buckshaw Village. The Pilling Lane site has now been demolished to make way for new homes.

Another major industry was the manufacture of ammunition and armaments. During the 1930s one of Britain’s biggest such factories to build these products was built at Euxton. The site known as ROF Chorley was vital in the Second World War and during that time over 40,000 people worked at the site. It is also the site where the bouncing bomb was built. The Nazis tried to bomb the site but could not find it as the roofs at the time were painted green, matching the surrounding grass-lands and making it very hard to spot from a plane. After World War II, production was reduced, and the final part of the site was closed in 2008 by BAE Systems. A large part of the site has been redeveloped for residential and industrial use as Buckshaw Village.

Leyland Trucks and BAE Systems are the Central Lancashire area’s largest employers at their sites in Leyland and Samlesbury respectively.

Companies with a presence in the borough are:

  • BAE Systems
  • The Chorley Group
  • Telent
  • FedEx, North West depot located in the town
  • CSC, two locations, one in Euxton and the other in Clayton-le-Woods, north of Chorley
  • Multipart Solutions Limited, successor to the parts arm of the Leyland DAF
  • Porter Lancastrian is a distinguished manufacturer of beer pumps, under the Porta brand.
  • Merlin Cycles is one of the UK’s longest established online bike shops and mail order specialists, based in Buckshaw Village

Chorley town centre is the main location of shopping facilities in the town. Shops such as W.H. Smith, Argos, Massa’s Ice Cream Parlour,The Stovestore,Rebel Cause and The Blue House to name a few have a presence in the town. The town centre in recent years has seen the new Market Walk development and the building a new town centre Booths supermarket.

The town is also famous for its market heritage and is quoted as “Lancashire’s market town”. The outdoor market which has run for over 200 years, takes place every Tuesday on the Flat Iron. There is also a covered market place in the Market Square.

As well as these, Chorley has seen development out of town including retail parks which have seen the addition of Currys and B&Q to name a few. Chorley is also home to three of the four big supermarkets, including Asda, Morrisons and Tesco. Further to this Chorley was the starting point for The Chorley Group with their flagship dealership Chorley Nissan. The motor group now boasts eight dealerships across the North West with the newest addition appearing in the form of Chorley Fiat in Blackpool. The Chorley group are continuing to promote the Chorley name across the Country and beyond.

A £20m development, Market Walk Phase Two, is planned to add four shop units and a multi-storey car park to the existing Market Walk shopping centre. As of January 2008 this is on hold until the council finds another developer.

Chorley is bisected by the A6 Roman road which goes straight through the town centre. The town is also near to the M61 of which Junction 6 and 8 serving the town. Also the M6 motorway serves the west of the town with Junction 27 connecting the town to the motorway, Charnock Richard Services on the M6 are located in Chorley Borough.

The main central station is Chorley railway station in the town centre. The station is used by:

  • First TransPennine North West whose line runs between Manchester Airport and Windermere and now links direct to Scotland without changing.
  • Northern Rail Manchester to Preston Line runs through Chorley and also connects the town to Bolton, Preston and Manchester.

The station was also served by the Wigan-Blackburn Railway line up until it was closed in 1960. The line also had stops at Heapey, Brinscall, Withnell and the White Bear Station at Adlington.

Elsewhere in the borough there are stations at Euxton on the Wigan-Preston line, at Adlington and Buckshaw Village on the Manchester-Preston line, and at Croston on the Ormskirk Branch Line.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal runs parallel to Chorley and several marinas and locks are located on the Chorley area. Marinas along the canal include:

  • White Bear Marina, Adlington
  • Cowling Launch, Chorley
  • Top Lock, Whittle
  • Botany Bay, Botany Brow
  • Riley Green, Hoghton

Chorley has two historical societies, the Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society and the Chorley and District Natural History Society. It also has a civic society.

Chorley Little Theatre was built as one of the town’s first electric cinemas in 1910, it has been owned and operated by volunteers from Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society (CADOS) since 1960. The society put on at least six productions a year (typically four plays, a pantomime, and a musical) and shows by Chorley Youth Theatre and big-screen films from Chorley Empire Community Cinema. It underwent refurbishment in 2010 and hosts touring comedy and music shows from old and new acts.

Astley Park, the town’s urban, town centre park includes the Grade I listed, Astley Hall and also the renovated and refurbished Coach House Gallery and Walled Garden. The Coach House Gallery presents a seasonal programme of visual arts exhibitions from local and regional artists alongside an outdoor cultural events programme in the Walled Garden. These events include live music, theatre, dance and community arts events.

Places of interest include:

  • Bank Hall
  • Botany Bay
  • Buckshaw Village
  • Camelot Theme Park
  • Preston England Temple
  • Duxbury Park and Golf Course
  • White Coppice & The Great Hill
  • Heskin Hall
  • Healey Nab
  • Leeds & Liverpool Canal
  • Park Hall
  • St. Laurence’s Church – the oldest building in Chorley
  • Rivington Pike
  • Winter Hill
  • Worden Park
  • Yarrow Valley Country Park
Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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