Our History

The church was built on part of the castle rock where the foundation stone was laid in 1862. It opened its doors to the community of Clitheroe on Good Friday 1863.

A brief history of Clitheroe and its United Reformed Church

The story of the town of Clitheroe really starts with William the Conqueror rewarding his faithful supporters, among whom was Roger de Poitou who was granted the Honour of Clitheroe. The name Clitheroe is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon word for “rocky hill” – a rather obvious choice, you might think. Roger de Poitou chose the Castle Rock as his stronghold, but he gave up his possession of the Honour which was then taken by the De Lacy family. It was the De Lacy family that built the stone keep in 1150. From the De Lacys the Honour of Clitheroe passed to the crown as part of the Duchy of Lancaster, and at the Restoration, King Charles II conferred the Honour on General Monk, Duke of Albemarle, as a reward for his services. Finally, the Honour was purchased by the Assheton family of Downham.

The Castle is one of the oldest stone buildings in the county. Within the Castle walls was the Chapel of St Michael, the parish church for all the lands of the Honour. But in 1649 the Castle was dismantled by order of Parliament “that it might neither be a charge to the Commonwealth to keep it, nor a danger to have it kept against them.” The Gatehouse and the Chapel were demolished and most of the Castle wall destroyed. In 1920 the Borough of Clitheroe bought the Castle for £9,500 as a War Memorial to the dead of the Great War.

Until the 1800s, Clitheroe was relatively isolated from national events, but by 1815 Clitheroe was running its own stages-coaches to places like Skipton and Manchester. By the 1850s the railway had arrived. Communication by road and rail facilitated the growth of industry, notably the cotton industry. The Edisford Mill in Low Moor opened in 1782, employing around 700 people at its peak. According to Wikipedia, in the 1800s there were sixteen mills operating within the town of Clitheroe.

In 1649 the Revd. Thomas Jollie was a Presbyterian minister at Altham chapel, and became well known for his preaching. However, he was frequently in trouble with ecclesiastical authority for not using the Prayer Book and for his private meetings. Years later he was an itinerant minister, with a base at a 13th-century farmhouse called Wymondhouses on the north side of Pendle Hill. His ministry covered a wide area and it is likely that several churches were formed from his work, including the Congregational Church in Clitheroe. Indeed, Barrow United Reformed Church, now closed and the building incorporated in Barrow URC Primary School, was named Jollie's Memorial Chapel.

This present church in Clitheroe was built in 1815 at a cost of £700 and with seating accommodation for 400 people. Several ministers later, in 1863, the present building was erected, this time much larger, at a cost of £3,850. The grand opening was held on Good Friday, April 3rd 1863, with morning and evening services.

The Congregational Church in England and Wales became established in 1832 and developed from Christians who wished to separate from the Church of England and form independent congregations. Predictably they were ostracised but survived to become an influential denomination.

In 1972 the Congregational Church in England and Wales merged with the Presbyterian Church of England, part of the Reformed tradition that had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church at the Reformation. This new partnership is called the United Reformed Church (URC), and in 2000 this merger was increased when the URC united with the re-formed Association of Churches of Christ and the Congregational Union of Scotland.

The URC is by its very existence ecumenical, coming from acts of ecumenical union, and so it is a member-Church of many national and international bodies. In 1982 there was a move towards a covenant between the Church of England and the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church and the Moravian Church. This would have meant some major changes to the structures of these three Churches, but in the end the Church of England rejected the proposal.

Clitheroe URC is an open and friendly church with a range of activities to suit all ages. The church building has been developed to create a multi-functional worship space, with some new windows and new disabled access and facilities. There is still work ongoing to make the church more eco-friendly and energy efficient. We are a Fairtrade church, which means we use and also promote fairly-traded products such as teas, coffee, sugar, handwash etc.

We are a member of Clitheroe Christians in Partnership which comprises all the churches in Clitheroe. These are the Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist, the United Reformed Church, the Salvation Army and the Community Church.

Clitheroe URC welcomes everyone to join in our services and groups. Our main worship service is held each Sunday morning at 10:30am, and on the first Sunday of each month the service includes Holy Communion.

Information included here is drawn from several sources, the most part from a booklet (long out of print) published for the Triple Jubilee of the foundation of Clitheroe Congregation Church 1817-1967. Its authors were Mr. Stanley Westhead and Mr Richard T. Radcliffe. Other more general information is drawn from Wikipedia and Google.