Clitheroe History

On August 7th in the year 1794, a small group of priests and students left Rotterdam bound for England. Included in that party was Fr John Laurenson, the man who can be said to have founded the parish of St Michael & St John the Evengelist. We have learned that it was Fr Laurenson who was the priest who rode over from Stonyhurst and by his continuing efforts established the mission at Clitheroe on a firm footing. For several years afterwards it was he who signed the pages of the parish register. He was backed by Thomas Weld who in 1798 presented several acres of land adjoining Lowergate to the Jesuits. This gesture made it possible for future generations to build for both church and school purposes. In 1802 Fr Laurenson presented 26 candidates for confirmation at Stonyhurst to Bishop William Gibson. In 1818 there was a congregation of one hundred.

So the parish grew and 1997 saw the 200th Anniversary of the hiring of the first chapel. Today Fr Laurenson would recognise, at least, the outside of his chapel of 1798. There have been many changes including an extension of that chapel in 1823 as a school, and the building of a whole new church in 1850. The old chapel and school was extended in 1870 and a new school was built in 1897 with an addition of a Catholic Club in 1904 (now part of the school) and finally the conversion of the old chapel and school complex into a Social Centre for the parish.

Two hundred years ago Fr Laurenson, we are told established the parish against opposition and bigotry. His heart, I think, would rejoice at the continuing fruition of his labours.

(Excerpt from A History of St Michael & St John the Evangelist written by parishioner Bernard Warren and available from church at £2.50)

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