History

The font at the back of St Chad’s Church, still in use today.

Time travel is possible. If you don’t believe it, come to Kirkby and look into the eyes of people who walked here, on the edge of the West Lancashire Plain, over eight centuries ago. Kirkby was a rural backwater then, a far cry from the New Town which mushroomed in the second half of the 20th century. One item connects the Kirkby residents of 1221 with those of 2021: the font in St. Chad’s Church.

That isn’t the only treasure to be found in St. Chad’s. The church is home to one of the finest – if not the finest – collections of work by the famous Pre-Raphaelite artist Henry Holiday. The building itself is a strikingly powerful piece of architecture by Paley and Austin, one of the Victorian era’s most accomplished architectural practices. There are natural treasures here too: peregrine falcons, among the fastest creatures on the planet, make the tower their home.

A common misconception is that the church is owned by, and exists for, its regular congregation. This isn’t true. It is for everyone in the parish it serves, regardless of whether or not they are Anglicans, and it welcomes visitors from further afield as well – at least, it will do once again, when the current pandemic and lockdown are behind us!

These pages exist in order to bring these treasures to a wider audience. That is one of the outcomes which the National Lottery Heritage Fund aims to achieve with its funding, and we are grateful to the Fund for its generous support of the 2018-20 programme of roof repairs. I’ve tried to write it in such a way that it will be accessible to those who are not familiar with architectural terms, church history or Bible stories whilst still offering something of interest to the seasoned “church crawler”. I’ve included a potted history of Kirkby; this is intended to put the church into its context (it cannot be properly understood otherwise) but it is not intended as a definitive history of the town.

If this history inspires you to come and visit St. Chad’s, to appreciate its heritage and to love it, then it has done its job.

Ian Simpson, February 2021.

This history was made possible thanks to National Lottery players. The history of St. Chad’s written by Ian Simpson is available in St. Chad’s as a 48 page full colour book, or can be downloaded as an ebook here.

Logo saying: Made possible with Heritage Fund and the National Lottery symbol.

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