The Darlington triangle and the early history of the Hall

James Darlington was the youngest son of Joseph and Margery Darlington and was born on 11th November 1827 at Rigby House, Adlington.  As he grew up it became evident that he was a very capable, independent and determined individual.  At the age of 14 years he became a Sunday School teacher.In 1852 James Darlington wrote in his diary “God helping me with life, health and prosperity, I will yet build a temple to his name.”  On 17th February 1856 James Darlington, who had rented two stone cottages in Charter Lane, opened them as a Sunday School.  There were 40 children present.  By December of that year, there were 220 scholars.  By this time, James was a prosperous mine-owner with collieries in Charnock Richard and other neighbouring villages.  They all benefited from his generosity.  On 8th August 1858 the School and School house were opened thanks to the efforts of James.  By 19th September 1858 there were 300 pupils, plus another 25 in the men’s class.  James Darlington acted as chaplain.

After much hard work and difficult negotiations James was granted permission to build a church in Charnock Richard.  On 12th July 1859 Frances Radcliffe laid the foundation stone of Christ Church.   The stone carries a bottle in which new coins of different values in gold and silver were sealed.

This foundation stone carries the left pillar of the Chancel Arch.  The church was consecrated on 14th September 1860 and, on 4th September 1861, James, who was 34 years of age married Frances Radcliffe who was 20 years of age.  Soon after they were married James’s father died, so they moved to Meriden Hall and then Bourton Hall, in the Midlands.  However, they still loved this place and Charnock Richard was still to benefit from this love.In 1896 the school in Charnock Richard was extended and at this moment in time the trustees of the Charnock Richard Community Centre Trust are working very hard to secure funding to restore the Old School and Old School House.

In commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 Frances Darlington donated the Lych Gate.  Over the last few years this has been lovingly and carefully restored by our own local craftsman.  On 23rd September 1897 Frances died at Bourton Hall.  The service which was planned to dedicate the Lych Gate turned out to be a memorial service to Frances.  She was loved so much by the people of our parish.  Her grave is in the churchyard at Meriden, where there is a memorial window in the church.  There is a memorial in our church – a recumbent white effigy by J. Nesfield Forsyth which was completed in 1903.

The greatest memorial to Frances is a group of almshouses and a chapel – the Frances Darlington Almshouses and Chapel designed by the architect A. E. Tansley and erected on the orders of James in 1898.  The gardens were created by the head gardener from Bourton Hall.  The Chapel has a stained glass window by C.E.Kempe who incidently designed many of the windows in Lichfield Cathedral. “Wisdom of the Ages” is dedicated to the memory of Mary Anne Lord, former governess and lifelong friend of Frances.  The almshouses and chapel were sympathetically restored in 1995 under the supervision of Peter Hatfield, of the Bernard Taylor Partnership.   The project was funded with money granted by the Housing Corporation and Chorley Borough Council together with a mortgage from Chorley Building Society.In 1911 James Darlington and his brother-in-law, Alfred Hewlett, commissioned the building of the Church of St. John the Divine in Coppull to a design by the architect Dudley Newman.

James died in 1918 and is buried with his wife in Meriden.  On the centenary of the death of Frances in 1997 a party of parishioners from this parish attended a memorial and thanksgiving service at the Parish of St. Lawrence in Meriden.  We were able to meet up again with the grandson of James Darlington, Mr. Richard Darlington, who had travelled by taxi from his home in Aberdovey to meet us.  It was such a privilege to meet him again.  Sadly he died on 7th April 2007.

Margaret Stewart
Vice-Chairman & Treasurer