The surgery is a much-needed new facility for the community of Whittle-le-Woods and parts of neighbouring villages and a Lancashire church has played a key role.
The old building was well past its sell-by date and struggling to service the expanding local community, due partly to many new house building projects in the local area.
Now, from Monday March 21, patients will be able to visit the larger and modern new ‘carbon neutral’ facility further up the A6 at 239 Preston Road.
The building scheme is being directly developed by Chorley Council working with builders Rayner Rowen Construction Limited and will be carbon-neutral with solar power, and the use of energy-efficient materials for the construction. The new surgery features 10 consultation rooms, two treatment rooms and plenty of parking.
As this new era begins for the medical and support staff at Whittle Surgery, the Vicar of St John’s, Rev. Philip Venables and his congregation are also leading on a new, major refurbishment project of their own.
And the unique bond that links these two huge projects together is the selling of the Parish Club that previously stood on the site of the new surgery.
That sale has provided the location for the surgery, as well as half of the funds for the church’s refurbishment.
Previously, the site where the new surgery has been built was the site of The Parish Club.
St John’s Church was ‘planted’ out of the parish of St Andrew, Leyland (founded in 1830 and rebuilt in 1880) and the Crosse family of Shaw Hill were major benefactors of the church.
In 1897 the Crosse family provided a church hall for St John’s church and the people of Whittle-le-Woods, which became The Parish Club. Historically, the current Vicar and churchwardens of St John’s were the trustees of the building and responsible for the upkeep.
In 2015 the Parish Club needed major structural work to a cost that was way beyond the finances of the trustees; selling was considered.
At the same time St John’s Church, a grade II listed building, was also in need of major refurbishment. There were plans to add, amongst other things, a kitchen and toilets to the building and a more flexible space to allow for wider community use.
But there was a problem … locating the Title Deeds to the building.
So Anne Harris, a member of the church’s Parochial Church Council (PCC – the church ruling body) turned detective.
Anne said: “It took me four years of digging into Preston archives to find the title deeds; then I had to find a solicitor to get the property registered and sort out all the legalities for selling the plot’.
“The title deeds, dated 1898, were finally discovered in the archives, and they stated that in the event of the hall being beyond repair it was to be sold and the proceeds used for the refurbishment of St John’s Church.”
The club was then put up for sale and from the outset interest in the site was shown by Whittle Surgery as a potential new premises.
Subsequently, and in partnership with Chorley Council, the sale was agreed and the new surgery project commenced.
A figure of £500,000 was paid to St Johns for the sale, some of which immediately had to be spent on the church roof. The remainder is in a fund for the refurbishment, but it is going to take a further £400,000 to make this possible.
Rev. Philip Venables, the Vicar of St Johns, attended the Whittle Surgery opening event and said today: “It has been a long road to get to this point. We at St John’s are delighted the sale of the land has provided the site for the much-needed new Whittle Surgery and to have played a crucial role as a church in the creation of such an important new facility for the local community we also serve. As a church we are about caring for people's bodies as well as their souls.
“Now the surgery has been handed over, there is now a further mammoth task ahead for us at St John’s.
“We are excited at the prospect of our beautiful church building, so important to the parish and approaching its 200th anniversary, is being restored and made fit for a continued Christian presence into the 21st century.
“Many of our parishioners have strong ties to the church. Some fondly remember attending Sunday school and church parades in their youth. Others have been married at the church or had their children baptised here.
“In addition, we have very good links with our two church schools. So, there is a lot of local interest and we are keen to move forward in partnership with all our parishioners in the years ahead.”
Speaking on behalf of the Diocese, The Venerable Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn, added: “This is a wonderful story and is a tangible example of how we are playing our part in villages, towns and cities across Lancashire in so many ways; with healthy churches, transforming communities as part of our Diocesan Vision 2026.
“This transformation in Whittle-le-Woods from the old surgery to this fantastic new facility is great news and I am delighted to hear how St John’s played a crucial role in making this happen.
“I now look forward to hearing more of the plans by St John’s congregation for the transformation of their own building into a church and community hub fit for the 21st century.”
The old GP sites at 199 Preston Road and Euxton closed on Friday March 18, 2022, and will not reopen.
All appointments from Monday March 21 will be held at 239 Preston Road.