Weekend. Joint afternoon Chorley Historical & Archaeological
Socy. and Chorley Little Theatre.
About 35 people, members and friends, turned up to join our
history walk around the Empire Theatre, Police Station and St.
Police Station. Thomas Breres was constable in 1733 when a new
set of stocks was needed for the town's green. Adam Rigby and
John Atherton were paid 5 days work to make the stocks, though
it is doubtful whether these were the same stocks which were
fired by an out of control bonfire in the 1850's. After the old
dungeon, which had served the town for many years, came a new
police station in 1858, after becoming inadequate, it was
replaced in 1869 remaining in use until the 1960s when the
current station was opened in 1966. (FULL
We then moved
across to St. Mary's Church, which is often described as the
'gem' of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. The story of St. Mary's
Parish Church begins, in fact, at St. Gregory's, Weldbank, where
in 1842, Father Lawrence O'Toole was appointed parish priest. In
1846 Rev. Gibson leased a building from (Richard Smethurst local
cotton manufacturer) in Chapel Street, formerly a Wesleyan
Chapel. The first Divine Service was held on Sunday 3rd January
1847. In 1855 separate schools were built, as more room was
needed so the church could become just a place of worship. 1894
was the opening of the Tower officially by the Mayor of Chorley.
However in 1909, because of population increase the church was
to be enlarged. In 1910 St. Mary's Arch was dedicated and in
1913 the Shrine of St. Agnes was unveiled and dedicated. 1947
was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Parish. (FULL
We now arrive at the Empire Theatre which was opened on 3rd
September 1910 as the New Empire Electric Theatre, which will
enter upon its career as one of Chorley's halls devoted
specially to the entertainment of people by means of animated
pictures. The seating accommodation is sufficient for 700
persons and all the seats and chairs are of the tip-up pattern.
The proscenium is artistically painted to represent red plush
draped curtains The floor is of concrete and the projection
apertures are protected by fireproof shutters. A dinner was
given on Thursday evening 1st Sept. 1910 at the Clarence Hotel
for all who had taken part in the construction of the building.
Estelle from Chorley Little Theatre then took over and led us
into the theatre, and when all were seated she gave us an
insight into the history of the theatre, from the projection box
(escape door pointed out to us on the outside of the building)
to then being given the 'grand tour' of the stage, back stage
dressing rooms, and upstairs, where part of the original
building cornices and proscenium (PICTURE) are still visible,
and you were able to imagine what it would have been like when
around 700 people would have been in the audience in 1910 to the
present day when its audience capacity is 236. We were shown how
things operate backstage and we also had a demo. of how the
cinema screen works. There was a full exhibition of show
photographs on display, over many years. We ended our afternoon
in the NEW bar area with liquid refreshment, for those who
wished to partake. The sun came out for us, and I understand
everyone enjoyed the afternoon.
Information gathered from Jim Heyes History of Chorley,
St.Mary's 150th Anniversary Book and The Weekly News and Chorley
Standard via Chorley Library.