The Bowling Family of Charnock Richard, Lancashire

A week into our DNA journey across England, I awoke for the last time in the Ribble Valley. This photo is an extremely misty sunrise in the Ribble Valley, through our window in the Stirk House Lodge. Pendle Hill is out there, always out there, but you can’t see it. Just like it’s still in my mind and heart everyday.

Stirk House misty window

This morning, we prepare to leave the Ribble Valley which we have come to love and to view in an odd sort of way as “home.” It only took a very few days for us to adopt this homeland in our hearts as “ours.” We own it in our soul now. It is interwoven into part of who we are, and who we were.  We know we are related to many of these families in this valley, centuries back…those whose names and surnames we will never know. Our families were here before surnames were needed. This ancient land holds our history and our family.  This is from whence we sprung in the times and days before records.  Social history of the region is all that we have now of our early families.  The history of the Ribble Valley is the history of our ancestors – the invasions, the wars, the victories – all theirs and all ours as well.

I look at Pendle Hill and I know that before the Quakers received their divine message there, before Catholics and Protestants, before Christianity, before the Romans invaded in the first generation after Christ lived, that Pendle Hill was used for worship. Around the world, the highest sites in the landscape were used for temples to worship deities, and some deities were female, Goddeses. Pendle Hill had to have been one of these places. Our ancestors were surely among these people.

It was hard to say goodbye to Pendle Hill, the Ribble Valley and the Stirk House, because we know it’s forever.

Ribble Valley goodbye

Today, we switch sides of the family. Thomas Speak born about 1634 married Elizabeth Bowling, presumably shortly after immigrating to Maryland before November 1663 when she was subpoenaed to court to testify.  The Bowling family was also Catholic, and from an area about 30 miles distant from the Ribble Valley, named Charnock Richard, near Chorley and Standish.

Charnock Richard old map

We boarded the bus for Chorley and the St. Laurence Church, where many of the early Bowling burials were recorded.  This is our family’s church, as well as St. Wilfred’s at Standish.  As it turns out, Charnock Richard lies not terribly far down the main road and is between Chorley and Standish – and of course the ever-present traffic circle, known as a round-about, welcomed us.

Chorley welcome

Chorley St Laurence

Our Bowling family was from Charnock Richard, which tells us they were probably vassals of the Charnock family, one of the landed families who owned a manor and was one of the families with a crest who is remembered in both churches. Unfortunately, the Charnock Manor Hall no longer exists.

The church, St. Laurence, in Chorley is a small church created for a small congregation. Chorley was a market town, and this church was not the main church of the region, but a chapel church for outliers.  The photo below is of the original church before the additions.  This is the church our ancestors knew and attended as Catholics, then as Anglicans when forced to.

St Laurence old photo

Today’s church is the third church on this location, built the third time in the 1500s, but an earlier church was almost certainly present on the site in the Anglo-Saxon era as the daughter church of Croston. The first documentary record is dated 1362 and refers to a priest for the church. A letter dated 1442 refers to a reliquary owned by the church which is said to contain bones of Saint Laurence for which the church was named.

St Laurence windows

The stained glass windows in this church are stunning. Of course, each window has its story.

St Laurence window 2

And like all of the other churches in this timeframe, many “floor burials.”

St Laurence floor burials

I can’t help but wonder about this ancient secreted passageway.

St Laurence secret gate

The gargoyle, the silent sentry, always standing guard. He would have been here when our ancestors laid eyes on him too. Maybe one of our ancestors carved him, or set him where he has been for hundreds of years. How many generations has he seen come and go?

St Laurence gargoyle

The photo below is the original baptistery.  It was relegated to the back corner where I discovered it with a bunch of stuff stacked against it.  I asked about it, and the guide told me that the current rector is modernizing and replaced it and it has been retired.  I think this is sacrilege after how many centuries.  I dug it out and photographed it.  And I didn’t put the stuff back up against it either.  This is the ancient font from which our Bowling ancestors would have been baptized.

St Laurence baptisty

Look at these ancient carvings on this baptistery.

St Laurence bapistry bowl

St Laurence bapistry carvings

This was also the church of the Standish family, as in Myles Standish, the pilgrim on the Mayflower. Are we related? Not that we know of, but who knows back before records are available. The families certainly lived in the same area and knew each other well, at least through the church, if not socially. The Standish family was “well off” and had their own box seat in the church, shown below.

St Laurence Standish box

St. Laurence was originally a Catholic church, of course, but became Anglican along with the rest of England following King Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church in 1534. From St. Laurence, we visited St. Mary’s Catholic church, maybe a quarter or half a mile away.

We walked through the old market town area.

Chorley market

St. Mary’s is a Catholic church and includes the martyr’s windows, specifically one for our John Finch, brutally killed in 1584.

Elizabeth Bowling is believed to be the daughter of Hugh Bowling (born 1591) and Ellen Finch (born 1598). Ellen Finch is the daughter of Roger Finch (born 1573) who was the son of John Finch (born 1548) who we believe is the John Finch who was martyred.

The history of St. Mary’s church tells us that Catholicism had been the faith of most of the English from the time of St. Augustine in 597AD until the 16th century. Despite this, from 1535 until about 1789, those who remained faithful to this “old religion” suffered fines, arrests, confiscation of property or mob violence, and some 500 were executed. No less than 10 Catholic martyrs either originated from or served in the current Chorley Borough area.

The Mass and Sacraments were celebrated secretly and illegally through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in the various halls and farmhouses around Chorley still in Catholic hands. Lancashire had a higher proportion of Catholic recusants than any other English county, estimated at over 20% even in the 1700s. Catholic worship remained illegal until 1791. The Catholic church here was founded in 1847, but this building was built in 1927.

Chorley St Mary

St. Mary’s includes 5 stained glass windows commemorating five local martyrs.

  • Venerable Roger Ashton from Crostin, executed at Tyburn in 1592.
  • Bd Roger Wrenno, weaver, from Alfred’s Court off Anderton St. Chorley. Executed for shelttering Father John Thules and hanged with him on March 18, 1616 at Lancaster. The rope broke at the first attempt. behind him is a weaving frame.
  • Bd Lawrence Richardson, a priest who served at Park Hall, shown behind him, home of the Catholic Charnock family. Executed in 1582 at Tyburn.
  • Venerable John Finch, a yeoman farmer of Eccleston, executed at Lancaster in 1584.
  • Saint John Rigby from Harrock Hall by Mawdesley, executed at Southwar in 1598.

One end of the church commemorates the martyrs in a beautiful enclave.

St Mary Martyr Windows

Here is John Finch’s window.

St Mary John Finch Window cropped

I must say, I am not Catholic, but when I approached those windows, every single hair on my body stood up.  I had a very physical reaction, something I haven’t had in any other location on this trip and was very unexpected.

The church provided this information about John Finch.

church Finch info

Me with the windows and the baptistery and John’s window.

Me at Finch window

We learned a lot about the Catholic’s in this region.  Charnock Richard was called a “nursery of recussants” meaning they had more “refusers” of the Catholic faith than anyplace else.

Bowling Green

Just the other side of Charnock Richard, actually, across from it, is the Bowling Green Inn, land where the Bowlings used to live.  This inn has been here for hundreds of years in one form or another.

Bowling Green google 1

Bowling Green google 2

In the painting and photograph below, purchased from the Lancashire County Council, we can see the Bowling Green Inn in historic times.  You can still see this older building in the current complex, if you look closely.

Bowling Green old photo

Bowling Green old photo 2

This quaint road sign, directly across the street from the Bowling Green Inn today, points the way from Charnock Richard to Wigan, 7 miles, and Preston, 10 miles.

Charnock Richard sign

Charnock Richard google

On the map above, the Bowling Green Inn is the red balloon. The green balloon is where Google misplaced the inn. The red arrow points the location, in the photo below, of the other end of Delph Lane, which begins directly across from the Bowling Green Inn.  The road is not contiguous today, but it was originally. The areas between Delph Lane and The Bowling Green Inn is the area believed to be where the Bowling family lived, or the area of Bowling Green.  It’s amazing that we can find this location today.

Delph lane

Delph Lane directly across from the Bowling Green Inn is shown below.

Delph Lane across from Bowling Green

Unfortunately, we can’t take a virtual street view drive down Delph Lane on Google, but on Church Road, where, ironically, another church was later built, we can see some of the fields.

Church road

Delph Lane Church road

The road leading to the Bowling land at Charnock Richard turns to the left here at the bridge on Delph Lane.  It’s a dead end today and we didn’t try it in the bus. It’s just fields, sheep and English countryside, much like it was then.  Our ancestors lived here, probably for many generations.  They worked and walked these lands.

Bowling Green fields

Our next destination was Standish, and we drove through quaint villages with wonderful pubs, reaching back centuries in time. The pub and the church are the two establishments in every village that was timeless and survived through the centuries.

village road

Hinds Head

Dog and partridge

Black bull

When we arrived at Standish, at St. Wilfred’s Church, they had been waiting for us at the Peace Gate…perhaps for centuries.

St Wilfrid gate

This church was named for St. Wilfrid (634-709) who was the son of a Northumbrian Thane, educated at the Lindisfarne Monastery, studied in Rome and Lyon, and became a monk of the Benedictine order. He returned from Europe to Ripon as Abbot in 657 and introduced Benedictine rule to an area under the Celtic form of Christianity.

The earliest reference to this church is in the year 1205 when it is recorded that a dispute arose between the Standish and Langtree families regarding the advowson or right to appoint a Rector. No doubt the church had been in existence before that date. The first recorded Rector was Alexander de Standish in 1206.

In 1543 it was confirmed by the Bishop of Chester that the church was in great ruin and that the whole parish should decide on its repair and rebuilding. That apparently didn’t happen, because Record Moody’s tomb refers to this “twice-ruinated temple.” In 1582, the church was rebuild with Robert Charnock as their representative and a go-between with the master mason Lawrence Shipway. Work was completed in 1589. If the Charnock family was involved, you can rest assured that the Speak family, who probably worked for them, was involved too.

Standish Parish was quite large and served 11 townships until in the 1900s. Charnock Richard was among those. The Bowling family obviously attended two churches, perhaps different branches of the family, or at different times – both at Chorley and at Standish.

St Wilfrid old

Here’s an early photo of St. Wilfrid church, which was obviously taken after the Peace Gate was built in 1926.

St Wilfrid churchyard

The porch entryway to the church, below, is from the 1500s. Inside the inner church door is found an Acanthus flower and it’s leaves. This is a Mediterranean plant used in classical design, probably brought back to England returning from the Crusades.

St Wilfrid entrance

St. Wilfrid’s Church in Standish records many Bowling burials, although no stones remain intact today.  Like many other churches, they have rearranged some of the remaining stones to make maintenance easier.

St Wilfrid cemetery

The churchyard walls incorporate earlier remnant carvings, probably Anglo-Saxon in origin.

St Wilfrid walls

In many of these churches, expansions were built right over graves and in that time, place and culture, that was no problem.  In fact, it might have just made you holier.  This church is particularly interesting because it has a secret staircase hidden in one of the pillars – actually carved in.  It led to a chantery where people who died paid for priests or monks to chant for them to get them into Heaven.  Of course, when it became Anglican, the chantery was no longer needed – as the concept of Purgatory is a Catholic concept – as is praying your soul out of Purgatory in return for money.

St Wilfrid stone stair

I thought this recess was the font for holy water, just inside the entrance so that the early Catholics could cross themselves upon entering.

St Wilfrid recess

However, the church history says that it might have been for a pen and ink or an old lamp or statue. This is in the porch, and the church porch was utilized for a significant number of things, aside from sheltering the door. The first part of the baptismal and wedding services took place here and in the days when women were denied admission to the church after childbirth, the “churching ceremony” was held in the porch.

The churching ceremony was where women were blessed after childbirth and thanks was given for their survival, even if the child had died or was stillborn, and even if the child died unbaptised. It symbolized ritual purification of the Virgin Mary as discussed in the New Testament. The churching ceremony generally took place about 40 days after the woman’s “confinement,” or when the birth took place. In some places it was regarded as unwise for a woman to leave her house to go out at all after confinement until she went to be churched. In the UK and Ireland, new mothers who had yet to be churched were regarded as attractive to the fairies, and so in danger of being kidnapped by them. Customs varied by church and region, although this version seems typical.

On the fortieth day after childbirth, the mother is brought to the temple to be churched; that is to say, to receive a blessing as she begins attending church and receiving the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) once again. The child (if it has survived) is brought by the mother, who has already been cleansed and washed, accompanied by the intended sponsors (Godparents) who will stand at the child’s Baptism. They all stand together in the narthex (the entranceway) before the doors of the nave of the temple, facing east. The priest blesses them and says prayers for the woman and the child, giving thanks for their wellbeing and asking God’s grace and blessings upon them.

At her churching, a woman was expected to make some offering to the church, such as the chrisom or alb placed on the child at its christening.

Augustine Schulte in the Catholic Encyclopidia described the churching ceremony:

The mother, kneels in the vestibule, or within the church, carrying a lighted candle. The priest, vested in surplice and white stole, sprinkles her with holy water in the form of a cross. Having recited Psalm 23, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”, he offers her the left extremity of the stole and leads her into the church, saying: “Enter thou into the temple of God, adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary who has given thee fruitfulness of offspring.” She advances to one of the altars and kneels before it, whilst the priest, turned towards her, recites the appropriate blessing, and then, having sprinkled her again with holy water in the form of the cross, dismisses her, saying: “The peace and blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon thee, and remain forever. Amen.”

The Parish Clerk undertook much of his business on the church porch too. Contracts were signed, debts paid and executors of wills distributed legacies to beneficiaries on the church porch.

This baptistery (below) has a very old Anglo-Saxon base, pre-dating the current church significantly, and the current church is hundreds of years old. The baptismal font represents three dates. The stem is the oldest and dates from the earlier church. The bowl is 16th century and probably dates from the rebuilding and the base is an 18th century replacement.

St Wilfrid bapistry

St Wilfrid bapistry close

This church is stunningly beautiful. I can feel the presence of so many ancestors and I look around, drinking in my surroundings, absorbing as fast as possible, to see what they saw.  This is their life I’m visiting in a place most sacred to them.

St Wilfrid nave

The armorial shields were gifted to the church in 1917 and represent the chief families in the 11 townships of the ancient parish. Charnock Richard’s is shown below.

St Wilfrid Charnock Richard

This beautifully carved oak pulpit was donated by Ralph Standish in 1616, so it would have been here, and relatively new, when our Bowling ancestors stood to hear the sermon, or perhaps sat in the pews.


Aside from the typical floor burials, the oldest of which is from the 14th century, there are two actual tombs in the church. One, that of Richard Moody, from about the same time, bears the cheerful message of, “As you are I was and as I am you shall be.”

St Wilfrid crypt

This is an ancient church and a sarcophagus was found under the church suggesting this was a very early religious site as well – probably back to pagan days.  It’s now a flower holder outside of the church, along with what they consider to be “a huge boulder” also found on the grounds.

St Wilfrid sarcophagus

I love the sundial, and the gargoyles in various places positioned on the roof or eaves.

St Wilfrid sundial

The inscription below the sundial reads, “Let no passing cloud of bitterness thine accustomed serenity o’ershadow.”

The grounds are ancient and hallowed. The graves may not be marked, but we know the bodies of all of the families that lived in this area are interred here, probably stacked and intermingled after generations of reburial, much as the DNA of their descendants is today.

St Wilfrid tree

The oldest marked grave here dates from 1621. Stones surround the church.

St Wilfrid cemetery 2

The church graciously arranged for the group to have lunch in an old restored building, I believe the old restored rectory which is now a Parish Hall. Group meals, while organizationally challenging were also some of the most rewarding times, as we visited with each other. Notice the old wooden beams. Everything in England is either very old or very new.


After leaving Standish, we stopped outside Liverpool and visited Speke Hall which, ironically, has nothing to do with our family. Speke Hall obtained its name from Speke Township which was first found in the Doomsday survey of 1086 where Spec (Speke) appears as one of several local properties held by the Saxon Thane Uctred, and is described as comprising “two carucates of land worth sixty-four pence”. A carucate was a measure of land that could support a family and measured between 60 and 120 acres according to the fertility of the soil. However, the similarity between Speke and Speak served to confuse and tantalize genealogists for years.

Speke Hall

Despite the fact that it’s not from our family, Speke Hall did have a “priest hole,” shown below, designed to hide and protect Catholic priests who were, of course, persecuted on pain of death after the reformation. Priest holes were often found in Manor homes where clandestine services were held.  It is very difficult to see, but here is the well-disguised entrance. The exit is to the Mersey River where the priests could easily exit to the coast and quickly escape back to Ireland.

Priest hole

After walking back to the visitor center in the drenching cold rain, Jim and I had our own version of “high tea” with creamed tea, scones with locally made jam and “fresh cream” which is not whipped cream. The perfect end to the perfect day!

high tea

Bowling DNA

While the Bowling family may seem like any other Catholic Lancashire family, they weren’t. In fact, their DNA is quite rare, something that by the time our ancestors were getting ready to leave for America was probably long forgotten in their family.

In fact, by the time that the Doomsday book was written in 1086, the Bowling family origins in the UK were already roughly 43 generations in the past, and had probably been forgotten for about 40 of those generations.

How do we know this? It’s written in the Bowling Y DNA, and when combined with the historical knowledge of what was happening in the world during that time, it’s relatively easy to construct a “most likely” scenario.

In fact, this part of the story is so interesting, it’s deserving of its own telling, so please join me for the future article, “Bowling DNA, Rare as Hen’s Teeth.”

What, you want a hint?

Ok, but just one….

sand dunes



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14 thoughts on “The Bowling Family of Charnock Richard, Lancashire

  1. Love reading about your travels! And the pictures and notes about the history of the area are so interesting. My maternal grandfathers family lived in the same area for the last 500 yrs and I’ll probably never get there so visiting there vicariously through you is such a treat! Thank you!

    • That’s what I was hoping to do. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I loved all of the history we learned about. After all, history is the meat on the bones of our ancestors:)

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth Bowling and the Catholic Martyr – 52 Ancestors #13 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  3. Pingback: Hugh Bowling (1591-1651) – DNA Rare as Hen’s Teeth – 52 Ancestors #14 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  4. Fascinated–my late wife was Margaret Bowling we married in Rosegrove, Burnley
    in 1854 and came to NZ in December 1969. I Have traced Bowlings through Lancashire(and Maryland, etc (USA) and through the Bannisters (Banastres)((Croston) to
    1066 (Bowlings in Lancashire to early C1500 would love to have more contact
    Norman Halstead. Margaret died in 2006. We had no children, but I am still in
    contact with Margaret’s brother’s daughter and his grandchildren in Ormskirk,

  5. Hello, I’m researching the Bateson family of Lancashire. I’m following your blog to further enjoy your stories and photos!

  6. My direct ancestor Robert Sydbrincke sold land to a Henry Bowling in Charnock Richard in 1716 A message and 13 arces land for 295 pounds Also in 1731 Henry Bowling of Charnock Richard gent left to wife Deborah and son Henry of lands in C R purchased from Robert Sibbering will

  7. Pingback: Y DNA Genealogy Case Study: SNPs, STRs & Autosomal – Why the Big Y-700 Rocks! | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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