The following is a report taken from Issue 1 of the "Chorley Standard" dated 3rd September 1864:
NEW CATHOLIC CHURCH AT EUXTON
THE CEREMONY OF BLESSING AND LAYING THE CORNER STONE
One of those peculiarly pleasing ceremonies, which are so fraught with interest to the members of any religious body, be they of whatever creed or sect they may, took place on Sunday afternoon last, at the village of Euxton, distant about three miles from Chorley. The ceremony of blessing the foundations and laying the corner-stone of a new church is one that is most strictly defined by the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. It forms a public service of at least half-an-hour, even when no part it is chanted, but on the present occasion the ceremony was rendered very impressive, from the fact that a full choral service was performed. To those of our readers who may not have previously had an opportunity to witness similar proceedings to those of Sunday last, we may mention that the ceremony comprises the blessing of the holy water with which the corner-stone and foundations are to be sprinkled, and the reciting of various appropriate psalms and hymns, prayers and litanies, imploring the blessing of Heaven upon the good work. It is the duty of the Bishop to perform this ceremony which he does arrayed in full pontificals:- mitre, alb, girdle, stole, crosier, &c and attended by certain of his clergy, together with cross and torch-bearers, all vested in cassock and surplices.
The site which has been appropriated for the erection of the Church is, in every respect, an exceedingly eligible one, and is the generous gift of George Garstang Esq of Clayton-le-Woods. Another noble benefactor to the church is W. Ince Anderton Esq, who has contributed the magnificent sum of £1000, while £1200 additional has been derived from a sum of money left by the late Colonel Anderton, some years since, as the nucleus of a fund for the purpose of building a Catholic Church, and which has since accumulated to the amount mentioned. The church will be equidistant between Chorley and Leyland. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather on Sunday afternoon last, the very large concourse of persons present on the occasion bore ample testimony to the interest which the performance of the ceremony had excited. Long before the time specified a very considerable number of persons were on the ground, and when the proceedings commenced it is estimated that there were not less than three thousand spectators present. A raised platform had been erected at the eastern end of the ground on which were placed the chair for the Bishop, and the requisites for the ceremonial. These were protected from the weather by a covering of canvas. The stone which also rested on the eastern corner, was a somewhat massive piece of masonry. On the top were carved the figures 1864, and on the front, surmounted by the sign of the cross, was carved the following inscription:-
"In the name of God, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
This stone was blessed and placed on the 28th August 1864 by the Right Rev. Alexander Goss, D.D.
Second Bishop of Liverpool.
Pray for the good estate of Wm Ince Anderton and George Garstang, Esqrs,
the chiefly benefactors of this Church."
Shortly after half past three-o-clock, the Bishop of Liverpool (the Right Rev Dr Goss) ascended the platform, attended by the following clergymen:- The Very Rev Canon Greenhalgh, Revds Jas Dowding, W. Corlett, and Rev. J. Worthy, the pastor of the church, all being clothed in pontifical costume. Having taken their places the ceremony was commenced by the Bishop repeating in Latin the prayers appointed for the occasion after which he blessed the water which was to be used for sprinkling the stone, at the same time throwing in some salt, which was done in the form of a cross. The stone was then sprinkled, and the Bishop taking in his hand a knife, marked it upon the top, sides and underneath with the sign of the cross, repeating in Latin after each mark "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen". Other prayers followed after which a sealed bottle, containing a copy of one of the weekly journals of the day, together with some silver coin, was placed in the cavity of the foundation stone. The mortar was then spread, and the corner-stone lowered into its position, when the Bishop taking the mallet struck it thrice upon the top, and afterwards sprinkled it with holy water. A procession of the clergy and torch-bearers was then formed and, headed by the Bishop, they proceeded around the walls of the church, the Bishop sprinkling the holy water at intervals, and various appropriate psalms being repeated. Having returned to the platform a hymn was sung and on its conclusion the following prayer was offered up - "Let thy Holy Spirit, we beseech thee Lord, descend upon this house which is to be built, that he may therein sanctify both our gifts and those of thy people, and volunteer to purify the hearts of the same, through Christ Our Lord, Amen".
This concluded, the Bishop proceeded to address the assembly. He commenced by observing that before time was, God existed alone in the heights of heaven, happy in the contemplation of his infinite perfections. He was not satisfied thus to enjoy this happiness alone, and, from a feeling of love He had in his infinite wisdom created man and placed him in a state of perfect happiness, from which he had fallen by temptation. Remarking on the unchanging nature of Divine love, he proceeded to show God's promise that, though having fallen into sin, the means of redemption were ever open to those who would seek to avail themselves of the proffered mercy. The promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head was one that would not fail to be fulfilled, and God who was the Alpha and Omega - the first and last, had promised this from the beginning. The rev. prelate dwelt at some length on the antiquity of the Roman Catholic faith, remarking that it was the religion which for ages had been upheld by our forefathers, and for which they had fought and shed their blood. He urged upon his hearers the duty of recognising that faith, and contended that by refusing to so recognise it, they would practically be rebelling against their parents. Referring to the period of a bye-gone age the Bishop drew a vivid picture of the persecution and injuries which from time to time had been experienced by the members of the Roman Catholic faith, but over which they had notwithstanding triumphed. There were those, he said, who would tell them that their religion was nothing more than an exhibition of Popish mummeries, and that it was calculated to foster feelings of disloyalty towards their Sovereign. Away with such an idea! There were none more loyal to their Sovereign or their country than were Roman Catholics, and proof of this was to be afforded by a remembrance of the manner in which they had formerly stood by the Stuart family, though they had been greatly persecuted by them, He repudiated the imputation which had been cast upon them that they were Italians, and professed a foreign religion, they were true Englishmen, and followers of the only true religion. It had been the custom of the Roman Catholic religion to bless with a ceremony like the present all undertakings with which they were connected. Hence, when they sent forth their ships on some occasions to foreign lands, they blessed them and asked that the blessing of God might rest upon them, to preserve them and bring them back in safety. It was not, however, the religion of any country which alone constituted its true greatness. The conflicts which had taken place from time to time in the history of nations was a proof of this. Take, for instance, the present position of persecuted Denmark. There was a time when the great Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden came down upon the peoples of the western nations, and crushed many in the power of his might. Yet where was Sweden now? She had almost passed away from the nations. And it was a fact that Sweden dared not lend a hand, to step in and rescue Denmark from her oppressors. Looking more especially to themselves he contended that the main cause of the prosperity of Lancashire was her coal, her iron, her cotton, and her other manufactures; religion and the differences of sect or creed had very little to do with the national prosperity. The rev. speaker animadverted in strong terms upon the opposition which had been exhibited towards the Roman Catholic religion by Lord John Russell, and said that the reason why Lord John Russell hated Catholics was that he knew that he had injured them. The Catholics, however, relied upon the support and protection of a generous people and heeded not the enmity of individuals. The Protestants, notwithstanding, were indebted to the Catholics, who had given them their religion, and he (the Bishop) appealed to the Protestants as well as the Catholics to help and assist in the great and good work which they had undertaken. He trusted that no individual, whether poor or rich, would leave the ground without contributing, each according to their means, and the Bishop concluded his eloquent and powerful address by invoking the Divine blessings upon the undertaking, and upon those assembled.
The new Catholic Church of St Mary, Euxton, is from the design of the eminent Gothic architect E.W.Pugin Esq of Ramsgate near London. It is in the early decorated style, and will be built of the hard purplish-red stone of Euxton, with dressings of light-coloured grit from Whittle Hills, which will form an agreeable contrast. The church will consist of nave and aisles, and apsidal chancel with a small transept on either side, together with sacristies, porches, &c. The total internal dimensions of nave, aisles and chancel are 96 feet by 36. The chancel is 23 by 23; the south transept, or Anderton chantry, 20 by 12; and the north transept 14 by 12. The nave and aisles are divided by five arches, resting on stone columns. The church will accommodate about 400 persons. The whole of the congregation is to assemble in the nave, the aisles, five feet wide, being only intended as passages. In external appearance, the lofty gable facing the road will be of exquisite beauty, which is to be produced by the somewhat unusual arrangement of a pair of traceried three-light windows, 20 feet by 7, adjoining each other but divided and surmounted by a niche and statue of the Blessed Virgin whose canopy and hood-moulding run up and branch out in such a manner as to give a cruciform finish to the upper portion of the gable. The remaining portion of the church does not contain any elaborate work, which the limited funds will not permit of, but the whole building will present an appearance of pleasing symmetry, and chaste simplicity with solidity, and will form the most handsome architectural ornament in the village of Euxton. The Presbytery adjoining the Church is also being built, and as the limited funds would not admit of an appropriate tower being attached to the Church, a more simple form of tower, about ten feet square surmounted by a spiral roof, will be erected over the porch of the Presbytery, so as to provide room for a bell, and a striking clock which is much wanted in the neighbourhood. The schools and teachers' residence will be built near to the Church next year. The total cost of the Church, Presbytery, Schools, Teacher's Residence, Cemetery, &c will be about £4000. The principal benefactors to the Church are William Ince Anderton Esq of Euxton Hall who gives above £1000, and George Garstang Esq of Clayton-le-Woods who gives a Cheshire acre of land in a very beautiful situation. The Church is expected to be opened early next summer. For nearly 180 years the Catholics of Euxton have been accommodated with a chapel adjoining Euxton Hall, the Manor house of the ancient Catholic family of the Andertons of Euxton, but that building having gradually fallen into a state of dilapidation, the erection of a new chapel has become an absolute necessity. The masonry portion of the building will be executed by Messrs Catterall and Isherwood of Chorley. The amount collected last Sunday was about £50, and there is a deficiency of about £1200 still to be made up towards the completion of the church fund only. The Church itself will cost, it is stated, about £2500.
It may be remarked as a somewhat singular circumstance in connection with the proceedings of Sunday last, that the silver trowel used on that occasion was presented to the Bishop of Liverpool eighteen years since by the Rev J Worthy on the occasion of the laying of a foundation stone of a new church at Burnley, and of which the Rev J Worthy was the pastor. We had almost forgotten to to mention that Captain Anderton's excellent private reed band was in attendance, and executed, under the able leadership of Mr W Hull, the following pieces, at intervals, in a very creditable manner:- "Stabat Matar", Rossini; Hymn, Faith of Our Fathers; and the "Hallelujah Chorus", Handel.
The proceedings having terminated the vast assemblage left the ground, apparently highly interested in the ceremony which had taken place, and which was in no slight degree marred by the inclemency of the weather.
The Bishop was the guest of W.I.Anderton, Esq.