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St James' Church, Haslingden
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St Veronica's R.C. Church

St Veronica's R.C. Church
Helmshore Road, Haslingden

A short history written by Leo Turner

A family of Brewers called Baxters built, in 1852, on a piece of land adjacent to Gregory Fold, Helmshore House, which eventually became St Veronica’s RC Church. A fold being an enclosure of lane for the retention of cattle , not a street or road name as it is today. The strip of land on which Helmshore House was erected, fronted Helmshore Road and ran to a small water course at the bottom of, what is now, the golf course.

At the time of the building, Helmshore was a quiet backwater, not the densely populated village of today. St Thomas’s Church had only been open 8 years and the railway line that ran through Helmshore, below St Thomas’s Church must have still have been under construction.

The present house was the main residence for the Baxter family with 2 cottages and stables to the northeast, which was eventually the local retreat for the Holy Ghost Fathers, a missionary order who worked mainly in Africa. The stables becoming the Chapel. They occupied the cottages and converted them in 1977 and left in 1995. The cottages were left empty for several years and then sold to a private family .

Just after the Second World War the house and grounds were purchased by L Whitakers Ltd (owned by the Hardman family) to house immigrant workers for the cotton industry. These were mainly Ukranian and Polish displaced persons, although some British people did live there from time to time.

As the Catholic population Helmshore grew there became a need for a RC Church to cater for their spiritual needs. As the Hardman family refused to sell the property to the Salford Diocese, so the services of Mr Robert Barnes, a chemist with a shop in Haslingden and a parishioner of St Mary’s Haslingden was called upon, who bought it, supposedly a private purchase, for the diocese.

St Mary’s Haslingden lent the new Parish of St Veronicas the sum of £10,000 to finance the purchase.

In 1959, St Ambrose School, now All Saints High School, was under construction and whilst it was still under construction, Helmshore House, now St Veronica’s Church, was used for 3 classrooms for several months. At That time there was no gallery, but the wall between the two downstairs rooms had been knocked down to form the main body of the church. There was a conservatory on the south side of the building and was converted to make the toilets for the school children.

The first person to be baptised in St Veronica’s was Peter Hardman, a son of Mr Colin Hardman and Elizabeth Hardman. The first person married there was Beryl Gillespie. The first priest was Father Knowles, then Fr Christie, Fr O’Reilly, Fr Smith, Fr Dowd, Fr Downs and then Fr Thorpe.

Among the founding parishioners were Mr and Mrs John McGuire, Mr and Mrs John McIntyre, Wilf Atkin, Francis Kelly, Mr and Mrs Gerry Lord, Lene Sharples, Me and Mrs James Eastwood, Mr and Mrs Richard Turner and Mr and Mrs Maurice Riley.

In 1965, George Atherton removed the ceiling in the front part of the Church to make the gallery. The Centre was built in 1966.

St Veronica’s School was opened in 1974 By Bishop Holland, the land being sold to Lancashire CC for £6,000.