The oldest of the parish’s places of worship , Pleasington Priory was opened in 1819 and so has a bicentenary in August 2019.
The Foundation Stone was laid on 6th June 1816 and the building work was completed and the church opened for public worship on 24th August 1819. The church is a Grade One listed building, one of only two in the borough of Blackburn. (The other is Turton Tower.)
The church, dedicated to St Mary and St John the Baptist, was built on the initiative of John Francis Butler who had a serious accident and was very nearly killed. He there and then resolved to erect a church on the very spot in thanksgiving for his miraculous escape. He was at the time the Squire of Pleasington Hall. The public house across the road from the church is called ‘the Butler’s Arms.’
The architect for the Priory was John Palmer. The cost of building his design was more than £20,000. Palmer achieved the remarkable feat of incorporating within the Priory every form of architecture from Early English to Regency Gothic. The work was undertaken by one sculptor Thomas Owen, three stone workers, four builders, two labourers and two carters. The church is 115 feet long, 48 feet wide and 86 feet high.
The sanctuary is dominated by the magnificent stained glass windows donated in 1913 by Canon John A. Burke, parish priest of St. Mary’s R.C. Church which was located on Islington in Blackburn.
Three of the stained glass windows, two on the north side and one on the south side were bought for £16,000 and transferred from St Mary’s in 1988 when the church on Islington was demolished.
In September 1990, work began on the reordering of the Priory. Defective wall plaster was removed and the walls were repointed. The sanctuary was opened up. The central column at the back of the church was removed and the narthex (the vestibule or inner entrance of a church) was made separate from the nave by glass screens.
I am sure that, as we approach the anniversary of the opening, if John Francis Butler could see the Priory still being used for worship after 200 years he would be proud and pleased. Many hundreds of people who have attended the church and received the sacraments are grateful to him for his vision and generosity.