St Laurence's Church is situated in the centre of Chorley, it is believed that there has been a Church on that site since Anglo Saxon times; in 1362 there is a concrete reference to a Vicar of Chorley, an offshoot of the Parish of Croston. The Church tower is a fifteenth century construction and full parish status was granted in 1793. The Church is therefore by far the oldest building in Chorley and has been a constant factor is the development of the town from a tiny rural hamlet to the present day when it is the fastest growing population centre in Lancashire. Throughout its history the Church has played a key role in the local community. The Standish family who were Lords of the Manor of Duxbury and owned an extensive estate to the south of the Town treated it as their family church and numerous members of the family are buried in the chancel. Their most distinguished offshoot, Myles Standish sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620 as military commander of the Pilgrim Fathers. He named his estate in New England Duxbury after his manorial birthplace.
For much of this time the Church will have been the most important civic building in Chorley. From the seventeenth century until Victorian times the Vestrymen, so called because they met in the church vestry and forerunners of today’s parish councils, will have been responsible for the administration of the Poor Law, an embryonic system of social security; those living in the Parish who were in need of relief would present themselves to the Vestry and put their case for support. Today St Laurence runs a weekly Open Table providing free meals for the homeless and other people in need continuing its role of providing relief for the most vulnerable people in the area.
The Church has been remodelled and extended a number of times, most recently in 1995 when a number of pews were removed to create the existing worship space with its impressive corona overhead. The modern refectory was added and blends sympathetically with the original building. Time and time again the Church has shown its ability to adapt to changing life styles accommodating new patterns of worship while retaining its essential identity.
At a time when character of Chorley and the surrounding villages is changing beyond recognition the Parish Church of St Laurence is a unique link with the past providing a vital sense of continuity and local identity; its conservation and development to meet the needs of a rapidly changing community should be of vital concern to all Chorley citizens.
St Laurence’s Church is situated in the centre of Chorley. It is believed that there has been a Church on that site since Anglo Saxon times. St Laurence’s is a unique link with the past providing a vital sense of continuity and local identity.