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Baptisms at the chapel of St John the Baptist at Atherton
in the Parish of Leigh

Notes to the Baptisms recorded between 1724 and 1777

Comments on the Atherton Chapel baptism registers 1724-1777.
by Peter Wood. 3 Nov 2004.

The old Bent Chapel was consecrated for use by the Church of England on 26 November 1723, and dedicated to St John the Baptist. It was situated within the Parish of Leigh, and was known as Atherton Chapel. The earliest baptism was recorded on 5 April 1724, but a separate register for Atherton Chapel was not kept till 1778. In the 1724-1777 period the baptisms at Atherton, along with those at other chapelries such as Astley and Ellenbrook, were appended to the registers of St Mary the Virgin, the Leigh parish church (a practice which continued even after a separate Atherton Chapel register was established in 1778).

It appears that the curate at Atherton recorded baptisms in notes which he returned to Leigh on a half-yearly basis, to be written into the main register at the end of the year. Sadly, he sometimes lost his notes, and there are gaps in the record for the following periods:

      1725 (roughly May 1725-Feb 1725/6) “The Clerk has lost his notes for several months”
      1766 (Sep-Dec) No comments in the register, but the gap looks suspicious!
      1768 (Jan-Jun) “Here Clark of Atherton Chapel has lost his half year’s notes”
      1770 (Jul-Dec) “Here Clark of Atherton Chapel has lost his notes”

The ministers at Atherton Chapel in the 1723-1777 period were:

      Edward Sedgwick BA 1723-1755
      John Lowe BA 1755-1780
      Thomas Foxley MA 1777-1835

I used a copy of LDS film 0559186 (Baptisms 1701-1825 Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Leigh) as the source for the 1724-1777 baptisms. The register entries for some years are very faint and extremely hard to read. However, the baptisms from 1724-1743 have been extracted into the International Genealogical Index (IGI: Batch C032932), and I presume the LDS used better quality film and/or better film readers than I did because the IGI contains names I found impossible to read. But in all of the faint entries there was enough legible information to match each with the relevant IGI data with certainty. So in a few cases, for the sake of completeness, I have added names taken from the IGI, and have clearly noted which these are. In all there are 16 records with names added from the IGI (5 in 1724; 8 in 1727; 3 in 1736).

Transcripts of Atherton Chapel baptisms in the years 1744-1812 were made by Bertram W.T. Norman during the first half of the 20th century. They form part of the large Norman Collection of transcribed parish and other records. They are available on LDS film 223746, and have been extracted into the IGI (Batch C032931). In the late 1740s there are a number of very faint records with illegible names, but with enough legible information to match each with the relevant transcripts in the Norman Collection with certainty. So, for the sake of completeness, I have added names taken from the Norman Collection transcripts, and have clearly noted which these are. In all there are 12 records with names added from the Norman Collection transcripts (3 in 1745; 4 in 1748; 5 in 1749).

The Lancashire Parish Register Society vol.155 Leigh St Mary the Virgin: Baptisms, Marriages & Burials 1701-1753, contains the registers for Atherton Chapel. I cross-checked and found 14 baptisms in this period, apparently not present on the LDS film. I have added these to the data set, identified by the reference LPRS 155.

An important point to note for people searching for ancestors who lived in Atherton, is that many families had their children baptised in the parish church in Leigh, not at Atherton Chapel. For instance, in the 1755-1766 period there were 297 baptisms at Atherton Chapel and 206 baptisms at Leigh Church of children whose parents were from Atherton. However, at that time, although Atherton Chapel was close to the village of Chowbent (the modern Atherton), the district of Atherton extended a long way from Chowbent into the town which later became Leigh. For many 'Atherton' residents, Leigh Church would have been much closer to home than Atherton Chapel. None the less, there were undoubtedly families in Chowbent who retained links in the 18th century, with St Mary the Virgin at Leigh, which existed from before the time the Established church had a physical presence at Chowbent.

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