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A small church, repeatedly restored, below Beacon Fell

The church of St James, Whitechapel, is beautifully sited on a sloping sitenear Beacon Fell. It is probably on the site of the old Threlfall Chapel. This wasa private chapel, during Elizabeth 1's time, of the Threlfall family of The Ashes farm at Goosnargh. Services are recorded at the chapel in 1581. The church of St James is known to have existed in 1650, and it was extensively rebuilt in 1738, 1818, and 1891. Further major work in the form of extensions was carried outin 1930, 1957 and 1994. Pevsner is somewhat scathing of the last of the C19 restorations.

The building today consists of the nave, a narrower chancel, a south porch (1930), and extensions for the vestry, etc. hidden away on the north side. A tall bellcote tops the west end. Older features from the earlier churches have survived the C19 restorations. The west wall has two windows from an earlier church. The upper windowhas three round-arched lights with vestigial tracery. The window below, at an unusuallylow level, has four rectangular lights. Dating such windows is always difficult because they are of a type that enjoyed popularity from the 1500s until the 1700s, but it is likely they are from the C17 building. The topmost parts of the bellcote may be from the C18 church. The obelisk pinnacle, and the double scroll supports for the panel would agree with that date.

In 1581 Alexander Hoghton removed the bell from the building, promising to replace it when required. It was not until1728 that his descendant, Sir Henry de Hoghton (of Hoghton Tower)was asked for its return. Buthe argued that, havingno tenants in the Goosnargh area, he had no obligation to do so. He did, however, give the sum of 10 shillings for a new bell.

Inside the church the nave has a single aisle with plain pews.Some are from an earlier building, and are dated 1739.The chancel is separated from the nave by a chamfered semi-circular arch supported on rather awkward respond capitals. In the east wall is a window withthree stepped lightsheads. The glass is probably by Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster, and depicts Christ as the Good Shepherd, flanked by St Stephen and St John. A single light window in thesouth wall of the chancel has a particularly fine Mary Magdalene of 1919 by the same firm. The figure is surrounded by the traditional architectural canopies, pinnacles, etc. compressed into a border that follows the shape of the window opening. The window is dedicated to Alice Roper, a member of a family that figures large in the restoration of the building.

The woodwork of the church includes an oak communion table and altar rail carved by a former incumbent, the Rev. T. Benn.

The view from the south west

A small church in a rural setting, Whitechapel has been heavily restored over the years.

Interior looking east

A single aisle nave lit by grouped C17/C18 and Victorian round-arched windows.

West window

Dating such windows is problematic. Similar forms are found in the C17 and C18.


The upper parts of the structure give every appearance of being from anearlier building.

Mary Magdalene and St Peter

The window depicting Mary Magdalene is from 1919, and is by Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen