In the area surrounding Clayton-le-Moors, the Catholics originally went to Mass at the chapel, built in 1581, in Dunkenhalgh Hall (now a hotel), in Clayton-le-Moors, the home of the Walmsleys and the Petres, until a mission chapel was built in 1819 in Altham. In 1816, when Dunkenhalgh was being rebuilt, it was decided to build a separate chapel for the parish. Until this was built, Mass was said by a priest from Stonyhurst at Sparth House, according to tradition, when a mission was set up in Clayton in 1810. The present St Mary’s church in Clayton-le-Moors was built in 1959 and the one in Altham demolished due to dry rot and corrosive effects of nearby industry and there is now only a graveyard there.
St. Mary's, Enfield, as it is sometimes called, was built in 1819 and opened on July 11th on land given by Mr. R. G. Lomax of Clayton Hall, whose family inherited the ancient Catholic estate of the Grimshaws at Clayton Hall. When the chapel was built, the congregation was about 400 in number, and included some from Ireland, although many of the people came from outlying places such as Accrington, Church, Rishton, Great Harwood, Padiham, etc., so that this parish of St. Mary's is the mother church of several modern ones. In the 1815 to 1825 register, which must have begun at Dunkenhalgh, a number of the Baptisms were performed by Joseph Tristram Missionary Apostolic. who was headmaster of the Jesuit School at Stonyhurst College, which still exists.
Father Charles Brooke, S J. was the first Parish Priest. Until the mission was taken over by the diocese in 1873, some fourteen Jesuit Fathers had helped the mission. Father John Leadbetter had the most remarkable tenure of office, staying from 1833 to 1873, when he went to Stonyhurst. Father Thos. Fox was the first secular priest. From 1881 to 1892 Fr. J. Hothersall was Rector. Father J. Crombleholme was here until 1905; he was a great expert on orchids and was recognised as an authority on such. He was relieved from 1905 to 1908 by Fr. J. Taylor and then returned until 1923, when he retired to his family in New Zealand, and still remains. Fr. Bartlett (to 1925) and Fr. Gorman (to 1930) are both buried in the churchyard. Fr. F. Foy, Fr. J. Fairclough, and Fr. H. J. Fielding, after working here for a period have left for other parishes. The present parish priest is Fr. P. Tierney.
Bob Yates Feb 2012
Source: "Salford Diocese and its Catholic past", a survey by Charles A. Bolton, a Priest of the above Diocese. Published 1950 on the First Centenary for the Diocese of Salford.