Church History

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The Present Church

 

The Old Chapel-replaced 1878

      

 

 

 

                                                                                                 

       View from the Church Tower.    

 In the foregound is the old section of the churchyard, the site of the old chapel.

  THE OLD CHAPEL

A chapel existed here at the time of the Reformation. Built as a chapel-of-ease due to its distance from the mother church at Prescot it was under the control of the vicar there and was served by curates appointed by him. The inhabitants of Rainford had to pay dues to the parish church at Prescot. The first known curate was named as Laurence Roby in 1541, a date which coincides with the establishment of the Diocese of Chester, prior to which Prescot fell within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Lichfield.

Despite the Reformation the chapel remained Catholic; as did much of this part of Lancashire. It was built on land owned by the Lathom family of Mossborough Hall and supported by them. Henry Lathom was persecuted for his Catholic faith and in 1583 he fled from the county but was eventually imprisoned in 1590. This persecution coincided with the appointment of Thomas Meade, "a devout Puritan Minister", as the vicar of Prescot who gained control of the chapel. From this time on the Lathoms kept a seminary priest at Mossborough Hall.

For the first half of the seventeenth century the chapel was served by a succession of Puritan curates appointed by the vicar of Prescot. About 1650 Prescot lost some of its control through neglect and the inhabitants appointed Presbyterian ministers of their own choosing. In 1672 James Bradshaw, a staunch non-conformist, was appointed minister. With the passing of the Act of Toleration, when conventicles or meetings of non-conformists became recognised congregations, Bradshaw registered the chapel as a meeting place for Protestant Dissenters in July 1689 and within a year his congregation numbered about two hundred people.

The Dissenters foresaw the likelihood of their eviction from the chapel and in the following years they registered Bradshaw’s own house and three others as meeting places. When James Bradshaw died in 1702 the chapel was recovered by the established Church of England authorities at Prescot and Ralph Sherdly. "a good Establishment man" was appointed curate.

( see Independent Chapel for the Dissenters history)

After the departure of the Lathoms the old chapel suffered from lack of endowment and the problems of a decaying building and clergy to support but throughout the eighteenth century financial matters improved. In August 1758

‘The present Warden was ordered to pull down the South side of the old end of the said Chapel and rebuild it and uncover that side of the roof and repair the same, and the whole Chapel be whitewashed & decently beautified’.

With an expanding population in the village the Vestry Meeting of May 1770 agreed that the chapel warden should -

'Enlarge the said Chapel with a new bay of building and to erect a Gallery over such enlargement as also along the North side of the Chapel, with pews or seats therein and a Staircase to lead thereto and afterwards dispose of the Seats or pews on the Ground below as well as in the Gallery above to such of the inhabitants as would purchase them at the best prices that will be given, for the use of themselves and their families'.

In 1787 the vestry was rebuilt and enlarged thus establishing the truly rectangular shaped Chapel of about 48 feet square which survived until its demolition some 90 years later.

It was not until 1869 that Rainford became a Parish in its own right, served by a Vicar instead of a Curate. Samuel Cavan became the first Vicar and on his retirement in 1873 he was succeeded by Gilbert Coventry Master who soon recognised the need for a new church building to accommodate a rapidly increasing population. With the support of his congregation, great efforts of fund raising, a generous donation of £2000 by Lord Derby and numerous public subscriptions, work commenced in April 1877 on the building of a new church a few yards south of the old Chapel.

The work was soon completed at a total cost of £7027 (but without the tower which was added in 1903), and a Service of Consecration was held on All Saints Day 1878. With a fine new building and free seating for 550 persons the old chapel which had stood for over 300 years was finally demolished.

 

Old Chapel being demolished
The Book on 'A History of Rainford Parish Church' is now on sale - price £6 +p&p. (GBP). For further details please go to the information page.

 

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