Christ Church Chatburn

The story of a historic, yet vibrant village church

Chatburn Village Beginnings

Chatburn, known as Chatteburn in the 14th century, dates back to Anglo-saxon times.

After the Norman Conquest it formed part of The Honour of Clitheroe and was under the judicial court of Chatburn, Worston and Pendleton.

The ducking-stool and stocks were among the punishments inflicted by that court. Reminders of those early days are left in Cuckstool Meadow by the Ribble, and Stocks Cottage in Downham Road.

Sawley Abbey and Whalley Abbey owned land in Chatburn and at the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 there were two tenants of Whalley Abbey in the village.

A survey of the manor of Chatburn made in the reign of Elizabeth 1 shows that it consisted of 365 acres of copyhold land - that is, land held in accordance with the records of the manor.

St Martin’s Chapel

There was a 16th century Chantry in the village - a chapel endowed with the money for a priest to offer masses for the benefactor’s Soul.

St Martin’s, down Ribble Lane, is known to have stood for a century after the dissolution of the monasteries, for during the Long Parliament of 1640-53 the villagers of Chatburn petitioned the House of Commons, complaining that the steward of the manor had defaced the chapel and sold the land on which it stood. Their action was pointless and the only surviving trace of St Martin’s is the name Chapel Laith, a converted barn on its original site between Heys Brook and the River Ribble.

Chatburn School

There was no school in Chatburn before 1816, although there were several dame schools - a primary school kept by an elderly woman. Joanna Barker, or Old Joanie to her pupils, was the best known of these. She was held in great respect, and when she died early in the 19th century she had taught almost the entire adult population of the village. A National School was opened in 1817 - now the refurbished village hall in Downham Road - and in 1850 a larger school for infants and juniors was opened on the site of the present school.

There have only been seven head teachers (or school masters) in the school’s 168 year history. William Waite, the third school master, held office from 1875 to 1920, being succeeded by Edmund Aldersly then Donald Taylor who in 1957, passed the baton to Edward (Ted) Boden who was head teacher for 31 years, retiring in 1988. Mr Boden is greatly respected as a former councillor and Ribble Valley Mayor, as well as being a prominent member of Christ Church, where he was PCC secretary for over 45 years. During Ted Boden’s time as head teacher, the present school was opened in 1967, replacing the 1850 building which was demolished to allow for the widening of the A59 trunk road at Toll Bar corner - by Hudsons’ ice cream shop.

The head teacher, Robert Maude, succeeded Mr Boden and retired in July 2015. Today the church school is much sought after and, for some years, has had well over 100 pupils on the roll. Mrs E J Gardiner (DSL) is the current headteacher at the date of this revision (2017).


The railway came to Clitheroe and Chatburn in 1850, and the 1850 timetable shows trains running to Clitheroe at 8.15am, 10.30am, 1.45pm, 4.45pm and 7.05pm. Work on the extension to Hellifield began in 1874, with the railway opened to Gisburn on Whit Monday 1879. The Beeching axe fell on the Clitheroe line in 1962 and Chatburn station, whose buildings still stand, never re-opened. A regular train service from Blackburn to Clitheroe began again in 1994, with Carlisle-bound excursion trains passing through Chatburn on Sundays in the summer season.

Original services in Chatburn

The present church dates back to 1837, when the population of Chatburn was about 600, and chiefly consisted of handloom weavers and small farms. To attend worship they had to travel two miles to Clitheroe, although that had possibly been made slightly easier by the opening of the steep Old road. For some years the vicar of Clitheroe had conducted an evening service in the old schoolroom in the village, but although this was well attended it had to be discontinued because of his increasing commitments to Clitheroe.

Plans to build Christ Church

Under the leadership of two local laymen, William and Dixon Robinson, a decision was made to open a subscription fund to build a small church in Chatburn, in which the services of the Church of England should be regularly administered by a resident clergyman.

In just over three months there was enough money for a start to be made. The present site, overlooking the Ribble Valley, was donated by the Robinsons, and on Tuesday June 22nd 1837 the foundation stone was laid in the presence, it is said of over a thousand people.

Christ Church - Queen Victoria’s first church

Since Queen Victoria had only been on the throne for three days, Christ Church Chatburn has the distinction of being the first church to be built in her reign, in the whole of the United Kingdom.

The church was built in the Romanesque style at a total cost of £1,622 and it was completed in just over a year. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd John Bird Sumner, consecrated the church on September 18th 1838 and on the same day the Revd Robert Ingram was nominated as the first incumbent.


Storm Damage

On Wednesday May 3rd 1854, the spire and Tower were severely damaged by lightning and were left in a dangerous condition. Most of the steeple had to be pulled down and repairs were finished in the autumn. The “Illustrated London News” carried an interesting sketch of the damaged church.

Church enlarged

In the spring of 1881 it was decided to enlarge the church. This project came at the suggestion of Mrs Dixon Robinson who offered a generous donation in the memory of her husband, who had died in 1878, and of the Revd Robert Ingram, her brother, who died the following year. The walls of the nave up to the west doors were taken down, and the church was widened by the addition of north and south aisles, which were divided from the nave by three arches on each side. The chancel was doubled in size and the north and south transepts added. The chancel was designed especially as a memorial to the Revd Robert Ingram who had served for 41 years as the first vicar of Chatburn. It has three stained glass windows, paid for by parishioners. The middle window represents the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ; the right (south side) window depicts St martin, recalling the 16th century chantry chapel down Ribble Lane; the left (north side) window represents Paulinus, about whom there Is considerable interest today. He brought the gospel to these parts in the 7th century. He had links with Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, with York Minster and possibly Whalley Abbey, and may have travelled through the Todmorden gap.

The Lectern

The Lectern, a fine brass eagle, was presented by Mr Ralph Assheton when the church was enlarged, as a further memorial to the Revd Robert Ingram. It is an exact copy of the lectern in Southwell Minster, which came originally from Newstead Abbey,

Nottinghamshire, founded in 1170 by Henry 11. It was discovered in a lake at Newstead in the 18th century, having probably been thrown there at the time of the dissolution two centuries earlier. Interestingly, another copy of this lectern stands in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s private chapel at Lambeth Palace. Archbishop Edward Benson (1883-96) so admired its excellent design and proportions that he presented a copy as a memorial to his daughter.

The Font

The font was presented in November 1902 by Mrs Watney and Mrs Mussor in memory of Margaret Elizabeth Robinson, who lived at the Manor House and worshipped regularly at the church. A few months later Mrs Watney sent an oak cover for the font, a fine piece of carving done by herself, a remarkable achievement for a lady in her seventies.

The Organ

The first organ was installed in April 1848, bought for £95. It was designed for a drawing room and had a rosewood case and silk front which in 1851 was exchanged for a case of a more ecclesiastical style. The organ was sold for £8 in 1890 and installed in the Wesleyan chapel at Low Moor, Clitheroe.

The pipe organ now sadly at the end of its life was purchased in 1890 for £399.  The pipes still remain in situ for all to admire. It was opened on Monday May 5th in the presence of the Bishop of Manchester, into which diocese Lancashire had been transferred in 1848, when the new Manchester diocese was created out of part of Chester diocese. A very large congregation, it is recorded, witnessed the organ’s inauguration. 

The new Allen “Protégé two manual organ was installed in 2012.

The Churchyard

The churchyard commands a fine view of the Ribble Valley, looking over towards West Bradford and Grindleton. Among the many graves of the Victorian era are those of the Revd Robert Ingram and his mother Matilda Ingram; and also of Paul Lancaster who died aged 12 days in April 1858. Graves of children who more recently have died include Andrew Marsden, who died from an accident in April 2002 aged 8 years, and Lola Kay, who died in April 2008 at the age of 8 days.


Faithful Service

Over the last 190 years Christ Church has been blessed by many people who have given the church and their Lord long and faithful service. Of its vicars, Robert Ingram, already mentioned, served for 41 years, Robert Gray and Hugh Pinchin for 21 years, and Alfred Swallow for 16 years. Laurence Robinson was churchwarden for 50 years until his death in 1902 aged 77, and William Wheeler for 41 years until his death at the age of 87 in 1903. Arthur Farnell and Colin Wiseman are more recent examples of long and faithful service.

Mrs Chorlton was choir mistress from 1878 until at least the end of 1930. Norman Hudson was organist for 27 years and Norman Lawson for 29 years. Dorothy Brewer was organist for over 21 years but returned more recently to fulfil that role. Geoffrey Hitchen returned to the church where he served his first organist’s appointment, when still a teenager, from 1945 to 1948.

Mrs Lilian Swallow, wife of Alfred, the vicar, was the choir mistress at that time.

Recent History

Recent vicars of Chatburn include the Revd Norman Maddock, during whose incumbency the church celebrated its 150th anniversary with a flower festival and other events. Most of the information in this leaflet comes from the short history produced for thr flower festival.

Canon Cecil Butlin established a vigorous evangelical tradition. During his time in Chatburn, which was ended by his sudden death from a heart attack in 1983, Capernwray students helped with the evangelism at Christ Church, and under his ministry Carol Walker was converted to a dynamic faith in Jesus Christ. A fine preacher she was Reader at Chatburn for many years.

The Revd Walter Drain maintained a long and faithful ministry for over 18 years, continuing the pattern of good Bible teaching and being closely involved with Chatburn school. Christian commitment to mission outside the parish was re-emphasised by Walter and Enid Drain, especially in supporting Tear Fund and SAMS (South American Missionary Society).

Christ Church in the present

Following the retirement of Walter Drain in 2002, the Revd (now Canon) Rodney Nicholson, vicar of St Paul’s Low Moor, became Priest-in-charge of Chatburn and Downham, retiring in October 2014. He is succeeded by our current priest in charge the Revd Andy Froud, who is also vicar of St Mary Magdalene, Clitheroe, and is assisted by the Revd Anne Hardacre, a retired assistant priest, who is present most Sundays. In September 2018 Revd Catherine Hale-Heighway became Associate Minister with responsibility for Christ Church, Chatburn and St.Pauls, Low Moor, Clitheroe. Revd Canon David Mewis, Retired Priest is also our current organist.

New Organ & Re-ordering

The redundant Pipe organ was replaced by an electronic instrument in 2012. Much of the £15,000 cost being raised through various fund raising events, such as concerts and direct giving. These quarterly high quality music events have become an important part of the church’s activities. The Re-ordering is now complete. We can now boast a fully functioning kitchen, disabled toilet and baby changing facilities as well as a new vestry and meeting room. A new heating system has also been installed, making the church ready and fit for the 21st century. This has been done at a cost of £110,000.00.

Working with Chatburn Methodist Church

Any history of the Christian Church in Chatburn would be incomplete if it mentioned only one of the village's two churches. Division in the church of Christ is sad and scandalous, so that it is regrettable, in one sense, that in Chatburn, as in other villages, we have two churches rather than just one.

Today the Church of England and the Methodist Church have formed a covenant. We, in Chatburn, are developing a closer relationship through Churches Together in Chatburn- to which Roy Porter, a local butcher and prominent Christian, and others have given every support. We have united services, a joint Newsletter and shared children’s work.

Make a Joyful Noise

In 2011 we began a popular evening of hymn singing - hymns old and new - called “Make a Joyful Noise” which currently takes place on alternate Mondays at the Methodist Church, led by Roy Porter and Geoff Hitchen. The event attracts those from both inside and outside Chatburn, who enjoy singing.

A brief history of Chatburn Methodist Church

The present Chatburn Methodist Church was opened in 2002, replacing the former large chapel which was built in 1883. Problems with the building which was both imposing yet, in places, resembling a rabbit warren meant that it was unsuited to present day needs. The new building provides warmth and comfort and is particularly suitable for small groups. Methodism in Chatburn began, however, long before 1883. In the 1860s, Mr Crompton, the stationmaster, was an enthusiastic Methodist and meetings were held in a building which became the Bold Venture Lime Company’s office. A cottage in Downham Road, opposite Townhead Farm, was then rented and fitted up for services, with a small pulpit from the Sunday School at Clitheroe. There was then talk of building a chapel, which became a reality lower down Downham Road, at the corner, above the railway bridge. Congregations at the old chapel were large in the 1870s, when men building the railway line to Hellifield, swelled the numbers. A minister was first stationed at Chatburn in 1887, and, shortly afterwards, there were plans to build the “new” chapel, which would survive until a few years ago. The Methodist Church, like Christ Church, has known many examples of devoted service to the Lord.

Worston Mission

A mile from Chatburn is the hamlet of Worston. At the end of the 19th century the Worston Mission Room was established for the benefit of the people of Worston, so that they might be able to attend services of the Church of England in their own village, and also be able to pursue other wholesome activities there. The vicar of chatburn has traditionally served this unlicensed mission room in his Parish, but the quarterly services were discontinued many years ago, since the small population of the village did not justify its own services. In these days of Readily accessible private transport it made more sense to come to Christ Church. Recently, however, the Worston Mission Room has been tastefully refurbished and is well looked after by the caretakers, Sue & David Tattersall, a Christian couple, who rent the adjoining cottage. Occasional activities are held there, including carol singing and refreshments at Christmas.

Looking ahead

These are exciting days of great opportunity for the Church. At the end of the day, neither Methodism nor Anglicanism is important, but Christianity itself. The same Lord Jesus Christ, who inspired the building of both places of worship, calls men & women to love and serve Him in today’s world. By his living Holy Spirit He is able to give ‘life in all its fullness’, the assurance of forgiveness and the hope of life eternal. We are called to be world-changers, bringing through Christian aid and other means, healing and hope to the broken and oppressed, as we worship Christ, the Lord of glory.


As already said, much of the information in this leaflet was written for the Flower Festival booklet thirty years ago.

The piece about the history of Chatburn Methodist Church comes from the Jubilee Souvenir of 1933, kindly given by Roy Porter.


First produced May 2008

Reprinted with some corrections and revisions July 2015 by Andy Froud, priest-in-charge

Reproduced / reformatted with small revisions December 2017, Updated May 2019.

If you have any revisions or spotted anything that needs an update please  E-Mail

If you have found this useful then why not consider a donation to keep the church alive.

Thanking You in anticipation.