When the Reverend Mathew Robison was appointed Curate of Rainford Chapel in 1778 there was apparently no dwelling place here for the use of the Minister. A little cottage known as the Chapel Chamber which had been erected for this purpose in the Chapel Yard about 150 years earlier was now no longer habitable and the Minister was obliged to live in Prescot.

A note attached to “An Account of the annual profits of the Curacy of Rainford for 1783” tells us that :-


Revd Mr Robinson soon after possession of the Rainford Curacy purchased a small freehold Croft from the Earl of Derby at £30 upon which he built a neat House of Brick containing 4 rooms on a floor, erected with monies chiefly borrowed upon the Profits neatly arising from Estates belonging to ye Curacy agreeable and duly once given for that purpose by a late Act of Parliament, he being obliged to pay the interest of the money borrowed.


This would put a date of about 1780 for the erection of this building.

On the death of Mathew Robinson in 1807 his successor, the Reverend William Ellam, occupied the house and by 1812 he had added some outbuildings to the property.

The house remained The Parsonage for subsequent Curates and Vicars up to and including the Reverend John Bridger who became Vicar in 1892. Soon after his arrival he undertook the building of a new Vicarage on land opposite the Church. Under his guidance the money was raised by one means and another and in 1896 he and his family moved into their new home “after four years in the small and inconvenient old vicarage”.

The old Parsonage was immediately sold for the sum of £700 to Mr James Pilkington, building contractor, then resident at the Dial House on Higher Lane. Mr Pilkington, who had bought the contracting business and premises in Mill Lane belonging to the late Peter Middlehurst in 1889, took up residence in the house, re-named it ‘The Woodlands’ and established his offices in the outbuildings.

In 1905, when contracted to carry out some work in reducing the size of Muncaster Hall, he re-used some of the demolished stonework to add bay windows and external steps to the front of his house.

After the death of James Pilkington in 1918 the business was conducted on behalf of his Executors by Thomas Winstanley and it was subsequently bought by him, together with the house and offices, in 1928. He occupied ‘The Woodlands’ until his death in 1956.