Astley Hall and Astley Park: Looking back on how they became the jewel in the crown of Chorley life

With the excitement around the major renovation work at Astley Hall, local historian Stuart Clewlow explains how the hall and the park came into the care of the borough.

By Stuart Clewlow
Saturday, 5th March 2022, 4:55 am
The ceremony at the war memorial in Astley Park in Chorley in May 1924
The ceremony at the war memorial in Astley Park in Chorley in May 1924

Many people are unaware that the hall and park was gifted to the borough of Chorley as a war memorial to those who fell during World War One.

After the war, all around the borough, churches, schools, and even social clubs and pubs had erected memorials in the form of plaques, monuments, or stained glass windows.

However, Chorley was able to go one better than most towns around the country.

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A commemorative mug to mark the Astley Park and hall opening day on May 31st 1924

Reginald Arthur Tatton, of Cuerden Hall, sold the land of the Astley Hall estate at a heavily-reduced price and included the hall as a gift to Chorley Corporation.

It was to hold the estate on behalf of the people of Chorley, as a memorial to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Astley Park became a somewhat of a collection of memorials, as it included not just the hall and park grounds, but also a cenotaph, which was built as a fairly accurate replica of Chorley’s old market cross.

The War Memorial Committee commissioned the erection of ornamental railings along the Park Road frontage, and the erection of the memorial arch, which was a piece of architecture purchased from the nearby Gillibrand estate.

The ornamental railings along the Park Road frontage at Astley Park in Chorley

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Upon reconstruction, by Leonard Fairclough Ltd of Adlington, the words ‘Pro Patria 1914-1918’ were added.

At 2.30pm on Saturday May 31 1924, schoolchildren assembled with their teachers around Astley Park, while a guard of honour with the band and drums of the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment left the Drill Hall on Devonshire Road.

They then met up with a procession including ex-servicemen, St John Ambulance Brigade, and church organisations on the Town Hall square.

A programme marking the ceremony of the opening of Astley Park and the unveiling of the cenotaph in Chorley

The congregation proceeded to the new gates of Astley Park, where they were met by the Mayor’s party which included various VIPs.

After a ceremonial presentation of a golden key, the memorial entrance to Astley Park was officially opened by Councillor Arnold Gillett, Chairman of the Parks Committee.

The cenotaph was unveiled by Major General Sir C L Nicholson KCB, CMG, and dedicated by the Right Honourable Rev The Bishop of Hulme.

The occasion was captured on cine film and also commemorated with a series of formal photographs, postcards and the production of a small china cup, which was decorated with a line drawing of Astley Hall and had details of the event written on the side.

The memorial arch at Astley Park was a piece of architecture purchased from the nearby Gillibrand estate

Many people think these events happened so long ago that they should be left in the past.

But when you acknowledge that there are still people amongst us who lost relatives in that war, and when you consider that the war memorial now acknowledges casualties of more recent conflicts, you realise that it is still very much in the public interest to know all about the sentiment behind why we now have Astley Hall and park as the jewel in the crown of Chorley borough.