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.A visitor about to enter St George's Church Institute may cast only a passing glance at the commemorative stone, laid by the Rev. E.M.J Cornish in 1963, which recognises not only the foundation of the present building, but is a constant reminder of the Institutexs proud tradition in what was its centenary year.

The passing of time has brought many changes, not least in the everyday aspects of family life and the situations and circumstances of ordinary people. It is here that St George's Church Institute has played an essential role. Let us step back to a very different time in our society and the founding year of the Institute 1863, in the 26th year of Queen Victoria's reign.
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At this time elementary education for the poor lagged behind that provided in the grammar and private schools, so that there were many who could neither read nor write. It was against this backdrop that mixed evening classes were held in St George's School, the men discussing their desire to continue their mutual education and improvementx and also to develop socially. Towards this end St Georges Young Mens Association was founded on February 23rd 1863. After a while difficulties arose however between the Day School users and the Association who used the same rooms in the evening.

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Eventually St George's Young Mens Association raised £730 to have their own building adjoining the school premises. Plans were made for a reading room with billiard table on the ground floor and two snooker tables in a long room upstairs. There was also a trap door on the lower ground floor which had steps going down under ground providing tunnels and spaces which were used at times of war as air raid shelters. The foundation stone was laid on June 23 1888 and the new building opened on April 27th 1889. It is interesting to note that in this year classes were held in book keeping, English Conversation, mathematics, political economy and St Marks Gospel. It was now widely accepted that education and the ability to read and write opened up new opportunities and experiences for an increasing number of people. This desire to improve one self was deeply ingrained in the minds of the Victorian people and there was a great need for the general education of the adult. Through St George's Young Mens Association, our Church is one of the many in the industrial era that recognised the overall progressive trend and provided facilities for those who would otherwise have been denied them. In the 1890s the Institute was open from 10am to 10pm each weekday to provide facilities needed by its members in addition to the educational aspects. One of these was the use of a bathroom on the premises fitted with hot and cold water. This was quite a luxury at the time as there were no bathrooms in many homes. Although an increasing number had a basic plumbed in hot water system or used a small boiler called a geyser, in most homes hot water was carried upstairs in cans. Eventually more homes were equipped with their own bathroom facilities and by 1901 a report says that at first it (the Institute bathroom) was used a good deal but latterly there seems to be no appreciation of it and the bath has been removed and the room converted into an office for the secretaries. This in effect was beginning to mark a turning point in the everyday lives of the Institute members, and their families. Homes were becoming more conveniently equipped and education was becoming increasingly available to all. The emphasis on the provision of St George's Young Mens Association for its members was therefore changing to reflect this, in gradually becoming more social in its character. This change began with the turning of attention to sport and leisure pursuits. The Victorians were keen sports people resulting in a number of sports being developed during Victoriaxs reign with football, cricket, tennis and bowls, proving to be very popular outdoor games and billiards indoors. In fact during 1860 the first professional football teams were formed and, in 1863 the year of the founding of St George's Young Men's Association, national association football rules were drawn up and published in England. One could well imagine the jubilation therefore when, on August 26th 1889, a special opening ceremony took place. The Menxs Association had bought over three acres of land in Duke Street (part of this is now Ranglets Recreation Ground). On this a football field and a bowling green were so well laid out amidst trees and flowers that is came to be called The St Georgexs Park. In addition a pavilion was erected which was in the style of a Swiss chalet. This building had rooms and verandahs overlooking both bowling greens and the football pitch. Refreshments were served and a game of tennis could also be enjoyed. For many years then this would be the venue for outdoor sports and leisure activities for St Georges Church Young Mens Association, with families and other parishioners as spectators.

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Doubtless there would be also many occasions for listening to the band. A St Georges Church Institute Brass Band of the time can be seen in the photograph below


The St George's Church Institute Band was formed in 1900 and set to work at once to buy a set of instruments at a cost of over £200 and also a complete set of uniforms. It seems that the band was a highly successful part of the Churchxs life but unfortunately the group was later disbanded and the instruments sold.

Sadly the Pavilion and the grounds were to be disposed of in 1923 being sold during a time of financial crisis in the parish, a most regrettable action by the people of the day.

In the year before this sale, St George's Parish Bowling Green and Tennis Courts were opened in grounds off Trinity Road which have become eventual premises of the St George's Church Institute. The building in the grounds with its pavilion – like design was reminiscent in style to that in Duke Street, as can be seen in the picture of Captain Douglas Hacking MP performing the opening ceremony.

 

Achieving much success here in1926 was the St Georgexs Church Institute Bowling Team who for the year were champions of Chorley and District Church Institute Bowling League. The team can be seen in the photo below

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The Institute also had its own football team playing home games on grounds belonging to All Saints Church. In 1952 the Institute building adjacent to the school in Pall Mall had to be vacated due to the need for more school class rooms owing to the raising of the school leaving age. At this time the Institute and its members moved to its present site in Trinity Road. This move was first brought up at an Extra Ordinary General Meeting in May 1952 when plans where made for a new club house – the renovated wooden building equipped for all - year use, with the addition of heating and lighting. A full licence to sell intoxicants had also been applied for (in February 1951) the new Institute bar being staffed at first by council members. The official opening of this new club house was on Wednesday evening 26th November 1952 and for this occasion membersx wives and friends were invited to attend.It was to be many years however before ladies were allowed to share in the membership. Their gradual acceptance can be traced through the minutes of the council meetings of the time. On 14th September 1960 it was proposed and passed that ladies accompanied by a member (gentleman) be allowed to visit the Institute on Saturday evenings. On 11th January 1961 it was resolved to allow ladies into the Institute at night accompanied by a member (gentleman). Finally, at the A.G.M. on the 23rd February 1962 it was xresolved that ladies be permitted to join the Institute as Associate Members.

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1963 was a special landmark year in the history of St Georgexs Church Institute as an examination of this plaque will show.
It not only commemorates 100 years of St Georgexs Church Institute but the opening of a new brick building on the site of the original wooden one which had been destroyed by fire in 1962 (Previous to this fire however it is obvious from the minutes of the meetings that plans for a new brick building were already being made. The first mention of a land survey regarding the xproposed new buildingx was at the Council Meeting on 11th May 1960) This is the present meeting place of the St Georgexs Church Institute.


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St George's Church Institute Today - 2003

 

It was inevitable that the onset of modern times, bringing yet further progressive changes in the situations and circumstances of everyday living would be reflected in the role of the St George's Church Institute.

Today the function of the Institute is purely social. It is now run independently from the Church as a registered members club with the registered title of St Georgexs Church Institute. In former days all members of the St Georgexs Young Menxs Association were parishioners of, and worshippers at, St George's Church. Today the Institute is run as a fellowship by an elected council, the Vicar of the time being the Honorary President.

Members have no longer to be members of the church. Any upstanding citizen can apply for membership- including ladies as associate members. The present Institute members can take advantage of a variety of facilities all at ground level. The building is divided into two main areas – the members side and the function room.

The members side is a spacious area partitioned into a comfortably furnished lounge (with background music and a bar), games including two snooker tables, dartboards with electronic scorers, domino tables and a large –screen television.

The function room has kitchen and bar facilities and is available for members to hire for family occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays etc. Church Or-ganisations are welcome to have functions here.

The St Georgexs Church Institute remains an important venue for sports and has a busy schedule. In the winter months from Sept - April it participates at snooker, darts and dominoes in the Chorley and District Churchesx Games League on Tuesday evenings, and also on Thursday evenings in the Chorley and District Open Darts and Domino League. During the summer months from April – September at Crown Green Bowling, the Institute has teams in the Chorley and District Bowling League on Monday evenings, the Chorley and District Churches Bowling League on Tuesday evenings, and the Chorley and District Veterans Bowling League on Monday afternoons.

Not even a longer look at the 1863/1963 commemorative plaques, let alone a passing glance would be enough to tell a visitor the story of 100 years and beyond. It is a story of enterprise, determination and resolve, of following a corporate vision for a common aim and a willingness to embrace the challenges of change. Most of all it is the story of friendship and true fellowship – a sharing of mutual interests and activities which has stood the test of time.

 

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