St Bartholomew’s Church
the Parish Church of Westhoughton
This Church history dates back to a period before the Reformation. It is stated that a chapel existed on the site of the present edifice in 1509, when Henry VIII came to the throne, and that this is the earliest record. There is good reason to believe, however, that a chapel existed here even earlier when the Abbots of Cockersand were the lords of the manor of “Westhalghton.”
In 1541, Henry VIII, by letters patent, created Deane Parish out of the northern halfof the large parish of Eccles. Westhoughton became the largest of the ten townships making up the new parish, and its chapel, along with that of Horwich, was served by curates of the mother church of Deane.
The first known chapel dedicated to St. Bartholomew, existed in 1577 (this was thought to have been first erected in 1509) it was covered with thatch, and stood in the midst of the moors, the floor being covered with rushes which the people brought at certain times of the year, and from which custom the ancient rush-bearing festival, and in later years the Wakes, became an annual event.. This humble edifice had to be demolished on account of it being “very ruinous and in decay because of its great antiquity.”
A new chapel was built in 1731 and because it was built as a district chapelry, Westhoughton Parish Registers began in 1732.
Before this: baptisms, marriages and burials of Westhoughton people were recorded in the Deane Church registers* (see Deane Church records) In the 1720’s there occurred what was called “The dreadful Sickness” (which was probably typhoid fever), traditionally said to have carried of one-third of the inhabitants of Westhoughton; and although other parts of Deane parish were affected the sickness’s worst rigours were felt here. Westhoughton burials at Deane before this time had averaged out about 20 a year, but in 1727 there were 83.
painted by of Jacqui Kilcoyne
This new chapel, built on an ancient site was consecrated by Bishop Peplo of Chester, with a seating capacity of 530- substantial indeed, considering the sparse population of Westhoughton at that time. Later the accommodation was increased by the addition of galleries on all four sides – the first of them only a year after the chapel had been opened. Seating was increased to 703, and it is significant that only 16 of them were “free” and that they were in the three remote pews in the north-west corner of the gallery.
By 1860 Westhoughton had taken a step towards parochial autonomy, but it was still to some extent under the jurisdiction of Deane, the last church rate payment to which was made in 1867 so that Westhoughton could become a free parish.
These picture postcards show the previous Church which sadly was gutted by fire in December 1990. Only the tower remained intact, and a new church was consecrated on October 28th 1995. The old building stood from 1869 to 1990.
This Church was the gift of John Seddon of The Mortons, Church Street, in the year 1869. It had several unusual stained glass windows. The East window was erected by parishioners at a cost of £300 to commemorate the generosity of John Seddon; others were memorial windows to the Hargreaves family of Hart Common, the Chadwicks, 19th century silk manufacturers, and the Ditchfield family. This church had accommodation for 830 people and the registers date back to 1732.
by courtesy of Derek Crompton
by courtesy of Derek Crompton
Two views of the Lych gate, one from an old postcard showing the old church in the background, the other a recent photograph with the new church. Note the common feature of the 'Rose Window' in both churches.