The Building of the Church

Until the opening of Our Lady and All Saints in 1884, the Catholics of Parbold and Dalton, who numbered about a hundred, belonged to the Wrightington mission. A few attended SS. Peter and Paul’s, Mawdesley and their burials invariably took place there. A story is told of Mrs. Susanna Ainscough, who died at the age of 94, how when she was very old and her memory somewhat confused, would as when she was young, order the trap to take her to Wrightington for Mass. The services there were few, and in a report to the Bishop in 1855, the priest who served there from 1850 to 1891 wrote “Not registered for marriages, is a private chapel. No Via Crucis, no processions, no organ or music of any description”.

Compare this with the size of the church built at Parbold and the solemnity of its opening and the quality of its embellishments. In doing so one is compelled to take into consideration the enormous upsurge of English Catholicism in the intervening years. Pope Pius IX completed the longest pontificate in history and his regard for England was high. He restored its hierarchy in 1850 and chose an Englishman, Monsignor George Talbot, as his Private Secretary.

After the loss of the Temporal Power in 1870 spiritual values were asserted more and more, and the revitalised Church in England was likened to Our Blessed Lord’s Resurrection. Expansion was swift, conversions were numerous and vocations to the religious life reached unprecedented numbers. Within a decade of the opening of the church, the Marquis of Ripon, a future Viceroy of India became a Catholic, Henry Matthews, the first Catholic to be admitted to the Cabinet since Emancipation, was appointed Home Secretary and Sir Charles Russell became Attorney General. A model Tridentine Seminary was established at nearby Up Holland and in 1883 there took place in Liverpool the largest ordination ceremony witnessed in England since the Reformation.

There was a preoccupation with active charity and orphanages, refuges and schools for the delinquent mushroomed, and in 1881, that most venerable body, the Broughton Catholic Charitable Society, was unable to find premises large enough to accommodate the numbers wishing to attend its Whit-Tuesday meeting. This was the background against which the church of Our Lady and All Saints was built, and it was built in the triumphalist spirit of the time.