Background Information of the Parish
St. Wilfrid’s was built on the faith of Catholics that lived in the areas of Longridge and Dilworth. Before parishes came into existence places of worship were known as Missions and their priests, Rectors. However, in the second half of the 19th century, after the Emancipation and with the increase in Catholic population in Longridge due to large families finding work in the mills and foundries it was decided by Bishop Turner, the Bishop of Salford, to build a Parish Church in Longridge. In 1869 on
the Sunday morning of 14th February the school-chapel was formally opened and with it the parish (mission) began.
There was a succession of long-term priests. Father Dr. Boardman, a highly educated man, who over saw the building of the Church, presbytery and the pulpit. Fr. Wissink, a Dutch priest, extended the Church with a porch and tower in 1908 and worked hard with the help of out-door collections and the generous support of non-catholic donors to pay off existing debts. In this time the high altar and soldiers memorial were added. Fr. Marshall who later was made Bishop of Salford re-organised the house and cemetery. Fr. Watts who succeeded him in 1935 guided the parish through the turbulent time of the Second World War and into a golden age and a prosperous time for St. Wilfrid’s. Fr. Cochrane who returned as parish priest, having served as an assistant under Fr. Marshall, in his 25 years sowed the seeds for Churches Together. Fr. Tony Grimshaw, who served from 1984-88 built on this with the help of the good-will of all Christians. Fr. Paul Mitcheson added direction and helped shape relations and activity to the success it is today.
Fr. Paul was committed to religious education and conducted a series of talks to adults on the Catholic faith furthering the mission started way back in 1869 with three simple classrooms and 109 children! From Mrs. Margaret Walker, the first head teacher to Mr. John McHugh St. Wilfrid’s has faithfully handed on the deposits of the Catholic faith to generations, encouraging them to serve God and neighbour in the community town of Longridge and beyond.
There are some interesting features of St. Wilfrid’s to see. As you enter the Church and look up you will see wall paintings of the twelve apostles in vivid colour. These were believed to be painted by Dutch refugees shortly after the first world war. In the 1950s, for some reason, they were painted over, but were later re-discovered and restored during the decoration of the church in the great jubilee year 2000. Starting from nearest to the altar and working your way from left to right and down the church, the twelve apostles are: Simon Peter, Paul, Andrew, James the Great, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the Less, Simon the Zealot and Jude. Note the absence of Judas and Matthias his replacement. St. Paul takes their place!
Take a look at the pulpit to your left. It was carved in oak by Francis Gillet. Taking seven years to make, it was finally completed in 1881 with detailed figures of John Fisher, Thomas Moore, Margaret Pole and Ambrose Barlow – all martyrs of the 16th century. It was used for the first time on 1st January 1888 and is still used to this day.
Around the outer walls are paintings of the 12 stations of the cross, depicting Christ Jesus’ journey from judgement by Pilate to His crucifixion and burial. These were commissioned, again by Dr. Boardman, a keen collector of pictures and paintings, at the beginning of Lent of 1895. Was the painter having a bit of fun when he painted a smiley face in the moon of the one of the stations and in a shoe of another?
In the sacristy, the room off to the left and behind a glass frame on the far wall is a medieval crucifix. This was discovered around 1830 by a boy called Seth Eccles as he played about a half-demolished building. On a ledge in the chimney flue he found the crucifix along with other religious objects. This was believed to be a processional cross used in St. Lawrence’s before the Reformation and hidden to save from desecration. It serves as a reminder of our strong ties with St. Lawrence’s and the churches in Longridge. To this day we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Lee HouseLee House, St William of York, was founded as a mission in 1738 by Thomas Eccles. The first priest to serve the mission, Fr Holmes, was arrested and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle during a period of renewed attacks on Catholics suspected of supporting the 1745 rebellion. The mission has been served by the Franciscan and Benedictine Orders. From 1827 to 1840 Fr. Francis Trappes served the mission and built the present chapel and house. In 1963 Lee House was incorporated into the Diocese of Salford. In 1991 Lee House was closed as a parish but continues to serve as a mission putting into practice the Social Teachings of the Church enabling children, young people and adults to explore issues of faith and justice through experiential learning activities and resources. Mass is celebrated every First Friday in the month at 7:30pm.
St. Mary’s, Chipping
Up to the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, all the people of Chipping and district worshipped at St. Bartholomew’s Church. With the change in religion, those who were faithful to the Catholic faith and wished to go to Mass had to attend wherever they could, usually in manor houses or farm houses where a resident or itinerant priest would officiate.
Laithgryme Park was such a site. The estate which was part of the royal forest was donated in 1563 by Queen Elizabeth I to her favourite – Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who promptly sold it to the Sherburne family.
Our earliest records of priests in Chipping include a priest named Guile who was harboured by James Dewhurst of Chipping around 1586. It is also reputed that Father Arrowsmith (now St. Edmund Arrowsmith) ministered in Chipping for a time but later suffered for his faith at Lancaster in 1628.
Richard Sherburne of Stoneyhurst endowed the chapel at Laithgryme (now known as Leagram) with the sum of £20 per annum. He also suffered for his faith and died in Manchester prison in 1689. These were hard times and much of the history of the faith was lived out here in Lancashire.
In 1752 Leagram passed to the Weld family from Lulworth Castle. The residence built there, known as Leagram Hall had its own chapel and chaplain. This became the centre for Mass, not only for the squire and his tenants, but for all the remaining catholics from the surrounding area.
A chapel was registered at Chipping Lawn in Preston Quarter sessions on 6th October 1791 after an “Act of Parliament to relieve upon conditions and restrictions applied to persons professing the Popish religion.”
Mass was celebrated there right up to 1828 when the church, school and presbytery were built on the present site. The land and site for a graveyard was given by George Weld Esq. of Leagram Hall and the Church and parish were given the old English title of St. Mary’s.
The Church was built of stone from Lower Core quarry, and was carted by the faithful. The church measured 81’ 6” long, 41’ high and 44’ wide, with an earthen floor. Internal decorations included Italian friezes, mouldings and a dome. The cost of £1130 was raised by public subscription and the church was opened on 24th June 1828.
For some years the church was served by Jesuit fathers, Franciscans and other priests, but since the formation of the Catholic diocese of Salford in 1851, only the secular priests of the Salford Diocese have been incumbents.
In 1872 an organ, was reputedly brought from Stoneyhurst College. Experts from Preston and District Organist Association consider the organ to be early 18th century and built by “Bishop of Ipswich.” Originally hand blown, the organ has 650 organ pipes.
Side altars were erected in 1914 in memory of Father de Gryse, which involved the relocation of the pulpit and the statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph.
A special event took place on the 8th December 1941 with the ordination of seven priests from Leagram Hall by Bishop Marshall.
On 30th July 1950, the Church was closed for major rebuilding including re-roofing and asphalting of the floors and the fitting of new benches in the style that remains today. The total cost being £6800-4s-61/2d.
In 1964 the new school was opened by Rev. Thomas Duggan, rector of St. Bede’s College, Manchester. The school has three classrooms with modern facilities including kitchens and playing fields shared with Brabin’s school. The old school, used by the playgroup for many years has now been renovated and is used as a community centre by many local activity groups.
Ss. Peter and Paul’s, Ribchester
The barn Church of Ss. Peter and Paul’s, Ribchester stands within the Parish of Stydd, not far from the old Roman fort of Bremetonaccum. For many years local Catholics were served by chaplains from nearby Halls. By 1789, Fr. W. Fisher had adapted a barn at Stydd Lodge for use as a chapel with a resident priest. Later, retaining its external appearance, this was extended into the building it is today. The Church is the oldest in use in the Diocese of Salford.