St Peter's Church, Newchurch

Father Duffy outside the church 1978

Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Monday July 10th 1978

Church marks golden jubilee

St Peter's Roman Catholic Church at Newchurch-in-Rossendale celebrates its golden anniversary this year after 50 years of hard work and endeavour by a succession of parish priests.

And to mark the occasion a jubilee mass is to be celebrated by the Right Rev Thomas Holland, the bishop of Salford in the church on July 16.

Later in the year a jubilee ball is to be held at the Astoria Ballroom, Rawtenstall, and a Christmas jubilee in the parish hall on December 22.

The parish priest of St Peter's Father Gerard Duffy, who was appointed in October 1977, has a long line of predecessors who are all well remembered by many of the parishioners.


The impressive church building was opened in 1928 but the Catholic mission in Newchurch was founded in 1892. At that time the Catholic population was about 350 and 93 pupils attended the school.

Instrumental in the founding of the mission was Canon Mussley, parish priest of St James the Less, Rawtenstall. In 1891 he bought a former Methodist church in the village, Mount Tabor, and dedicated it to St Peter. A year later the mission was attached to St Joseph's Stacksteads. The building stood on the site of the present church.

Apart from serving as a mass centre, the building was used as a day and Sunday school.

During its infancy the mission had no material possessions, not even a candlestick. The priest from St Joseph's brought all that was needed for mass and loaded it back on to his cart before returning to Stacksteads.

As the chapel and school deteriorated a group of men, Edward McGowan, Thomas Fenton, Elija Whitehead, Jack Lambert and Hughie Green, approached the Bishop in a bid to get St Peter's established as a parish in its own right.

Their wish was subsequently granted and in February 1915 Father Henry was appointed the first parish priest. His first task was to secure the purchase of the recently closed Newchurch Grammar School in order to replace the old chapel and school.

Every item for the church, which was opened in December 1916, had to be bought, apart from the high altar, which was donated by the parishioners of St Marie's Church, Bury.

In 1920 Father Cashell, the pioneering priest, died while returning to his native Cork for a holiday.

He was followed by the Rev Dr Edward Bray and later by Father John Dresden. however in 1924 a priest was appointed who became a legend in his own lifetime.

Father Francis Magill made a new church his first priority and immediately set about the monumental task. The original school and chapel were demolished, and on October 1 1927 the foundation stone was laid for the present church building by the then Bishop of Salford the right Rev Dr Henshaw. It was opened in July of the following year.

There was seating accommodation for 400, the Stations of the Cross were donated by various families, and the pulpit was bought with money raised through donations. The sanctuary lamps were bought by the school children.

Father Magill remained at St. Peter's until his death in 1957. He was followed by Father Keane and Father McDonnell who both had short stays and then by Father Murtagh Henry who campaigned to replace the school in Bridle Way.

His hope unfortunately came fruition after his death in 1966. His predecessor Father Vincent Lang had the organ installed and had the present altar erected facing the congregation.

In January 1977 the rural dean of the district, Father Joseph Stack, was appointed parish priest after previously serving at Sacred Heart, Accrington for 18 years.

Like Father Lang he began planning for the golden jubilee celebration but was compelled to retire because of ill health and was replaced in October by Father Duffy.

The story of the birth and growth of St Peter's is traced in a brochure produced by Mr T. Moran, Mr W. Ashworth, Mr D Hiddleston and Mr J. Elliot, who are members of the parish.