Douglas Chapel

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The ancient chapel of St. Mary, now destroyed, was known as Douglas Chapel was situated in Parbold, a large commuter village and civil parish in the county of Lancashire, England. Parbold lies in the valley of the River Douglas, at the bottom of Parbold Hill. The River Douglas, also known as the River Asland or Astland, is a river that flows through Lancashire and Greater Manchester in the north-west of England. It is a tributary of the River Ribble and has itself two tributaries, the River Tawd and the River Yarrow.

Douglas Chapel was probably built by the Hospitallers for the use of their tenants, but in later times the Lathoms of Parbold were considered the patrons.

There is a tradition that it was originally built to commemorate a victory or victories, of the Saxons over the Danes, and there is probability in its Saxon origin, for local tradition is quite clear and distinct as to the fact that the Danes and Saxon met in conflict on the banks of the Douglas.

The earliest confirmed record about the Douglas Chapel was a passage written in 1240 about John, priest of Douglas.

The Douglas Chapel was considered to have been built in 1420, a large aisle added on the north side about forty years later and some rebuilding taking place in 1821. The Chapel was finally demolished when its replacement, Christ Church, was consecrated in 1875.

Mr. William Frederick Price, the son of Rev. W. Price who was the vicar of Douglas chapel in the 1870's, carried out considerable research work into the history and origin of the Douglas Chapel. William discovered that the history of the Lathom family, of Lathom and Parbold, is interwoven, with that of the Chapel for frequent entries occur in the Douglas Chapel registers of the Lathoms of Parbold from I700 to 1800.

In the course of some historical notes on the Chapel, Mr. Price said: "It had externally a mean and somewhat barn-like appearance,being blocked on the north side by an Inn known as the ' Chapel House' which judging from its title may possibly occupy the site of the residence of the chantry priests."

Like most other old churches in Lancashire, Douglas Chapel is said to have received ill usage at the hands of the Parliamentarian forces who are said to have used it for stabling their horses during the seige of Lathom in February, 1643. Since the Douglas Chapel lay on their route from Wigan via Standish to Lathom and within easy distance of the latter the story is likely to be true.

Mr Price noted that - 'The Chapel was absolutely devoid of any coats of arms, tablets, brasses or monuments relating to the founders of any local families and the inference is that at the time of the reformation anything of this sort which may have existed was destroyed and ruthlessly swept away.

The chapel as it stood at the time of its demolition consisted of a plain rectangular nave without any chancel. It served as a place of worship for the inhabitants of the village of Newburgh, the hamlet of Parbold and other more distant outlying districts.' Below is a photograph of the interior.

Looking at the interior of the old Douglas Chapel, in the photograph above, the stolen chair and communion table are visible in the centre.

It is interesting to note the enclosed pews. Apparently, when the chapel was in use, rich families would pay to reserve a walled off pew for the exclusive use of their family.

Before the reformation in the 16th century (when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church) the Douglas Chapel was a Roman Catholic Chapel and was called the chapel of Our Blessed Lady in Parbold, or St. Mary's.

There is no apparent connection with the Douglas family. 

See also:
•  The Douglas Navigation

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Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022