The sights and sounds of Chorley

PUBLISHED: 16:53 10 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:50 20 February 2013

Lancashire Life editor, Roger Borrell (front,centre) with some of the Chorley FM team (back,L-R); Tegwen Williams, Sally Squiggles, Mark Bond and Danny Rodden; (front) John Miller, Roger Borrell and Babs Lowe

Lancashire Life editor, Roger Borrell (front,centre) with some of the Chorley FM team (back,L-R); Tegwen Williams, Sally Squiggles, Mark Bond and Danny Rodden; (front) John Miller, Roger Borrell and Babs Lowe

This proud market town is working hard to stay on the right wavelength, writes Roger Borrell



The print version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Lancashire Life

We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

It should have been a PR mans dream. One of Britains best-loved comedians features your organisation in his hit television series not just once, but time and again.


The response is amazing. A cult following develops among a world-wide audience of adoring viewers and they flood you with calls demanding stickers, t-shirts and mugs.

You couldnt buy that sort of publicity. Sadly, it wasnt entirely welcome. The comedian was Phoenix Nights star Peter Kay and the script wasnt exactly complimentary about Chorley FM. In fact, the stations fictitious slogans contained the sort of innuendo that would make a Carry On star blush.

There seems some confusion over whether Kay and Co knew of Chorley FMs existence but, ironically, his co-star Dave Spikey has since become a big supporter, praising the stations success in developing local talent.

Presenter Mark Bond said: Its hard to tell if it was a curse or a blessing. The publicity was certainly a double-edged sword. It meant our brand name went world-wide but in a way that took the mickey.

Chorley FM started life ten years ago and commenced full-time broadcasting in 2006. John Miller, one of the founders, says: We wanted to establish a not-for-profit community station to do something that would benefit the people of Chorley. Today, we broadcast live 24/7 few others do that.

With more than 80 volunteers and an audience in excess of 20,000, Chorley FM is one of the most established and most successful stations of its type with well-known local presenters such as Barbara Lowe. However, the squeeze on public sector funding means they must work hard to keep their heads above water.

Today, the dust has settled on the concert room at the Phoenix Club but Chorley FM is still going strong as a force for good in what must be Lancashires most famous market town.

It has a terrific history and many people are working hard to ensure it has a bright future. Among them is chartered surveyor Gwynne Furlong, president of the chamber of trade.

He says the population is 100,000 but only 30,000 live in the centre and mostly in the poorest wards. The rest reside in a ring of attractive villages on the outskirts. The challenge is to ensure those 70,000 come to Chorley to do their shopping and spend their leisure time,he says.

Gwynne admits parts of the town have seen better days and some areas have suffered from shop closures. However, he and his chamber colleagues and the council have a determination to ensure the town centre, famous for its indoor and outdoor markets and small independent retailers, remains an attractive place. The councils Smile campaign has instilled a sense of community pride and Chorleys floral displays are a match for anywhere.

Booths has a smart looking store overlooking the Flat Iron carpark and Asda has permission to build a superstore in town. Hopes have risen that the second phase of the Market Walk shopping centre will finally go ahead and that might tempt in Marks & Spencer essential to boost visitor numbers, believes Gwynne. Hes also hoping to work with the Botany Bay outlet centre to encourage coach visitors to stop off in town to sample whats on offer.

Gwynne is also hoping to build on Chorleys history by reviving the Heritage Trail with blue plaques for notable locals such as Mayflower pioneer Miles Standish, sugar baron and philanthropist Sir Henry Tate and Charles Lightoller, the most senior officer to survive the Titanic disaster.

The historic heart of Chorley is Astley Park and as its centre stands Astley Hall, a magnificent Grade l Elizabethan house. Its outrageously ornate moulded ceilings prompted author Simon Jenkins to describe it as the most important building in the north west.

Owned by Chorley Corporation since the 1920s, the well-maintained hall and parkland has benefited from a 3 million grant. Under the leadership of Chris Bryan and his team, this is the towns hub for cultural, artistic and leisure activities with the coach house converted into a stunning caf, gallery and conference facility and the area once used to store rubbish bins restored to its former glory as a walled garden. The summer sees the park regularly used for outdoor theatre, concerts and family events.

While Chorley has some of Lancashires finest buildings, its the people who inhabit them that make the place special. They are noted for the warmth of their welcome and the quality of the food they produce.

Mother-of-two Rachel Gilkes recently won an award for her range of gluten-free cakes. She grew up in Shropshire and met her Chorley-born husband Mathew when they both worked at Buckingham Palace she as a personal assistant and he as a butler.

Rachel has spent much of her working life in catering and when she set up home in Lancashire she started to bake wholesome bread for her children. Cakes followed and they were so popular she started selling them at market.

She was amazed to find there was a high demand for gluten-free products and, under the brand Hopcutts of Chorley, she produced delicious items like sticky toffee cake. They were an immediate hit and she now supplies cafes and shops. Gluten-free birthday and wedding cakes have proved a particular success.

Meanwhile, Chorleys Angela Murtagh has followed a similar route but is further down the path to creating a substantial business. Her Freedom Deli range of gluten-free prepared meals recently scooped an award in an open category, which says something about the taste and quality of her food.

Angela started out when her mother was diagnosed with coeliac disease, which affects the auto-immune system and is triggered by gluten. Shes gone from developing recipes at her home in Chorleys Buckshaw Village to the shelves of Waitrose.

She started making the meals her mother loved such as fish pie and lasagne and discovered friends and family also enjoyed them even though they were designed for people with dietary problems.

All I cared about was making food that was all about taste and was gluten-free, says Alison, who took a law degree at Lancaster. A lot of these products tend to have a high sugar and high fat content. I didnt want that. I went for flavour.

Her kitchen is used for product development and manufacturing is contracted out. Meanwhile, a new panini range is coming out this month under the Freedom Deli brand.

Her chilled meals are currently in 77 stores across the region and sales are building steadily as it becomes the UKs pacesetter in the gluten-free market.

I love cooking, says Alison. Its what I do to relax but I must admit that since my hobby has become a business the shine has gone off it a bit!

Im very optimistic about the future I keep telling people the Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has coeliac disease and he hasnt lost a game since changing to a gluten-free diet!

Park and pride

There is plenty happening this month. On Sunday, August 7, the popular Big Drum Day will be staged in Astley Park. The free event involves Afro-Brasilian drumming, dancing and song in the Walled Garden from 11am until 6pm.

Quantum Theatre will be performing Twelfth Night in the Walled Garden on August 14 and Chorley Silver Band and other local groups will be performing there on Sunday, August 21. Astley Hall is also open every weekend throughout the summer from noon until 5pm.


It should have been a PR mans dream. One of Britains best-loved comedians features your organisation in his hit television series not just once, but time and again.

The response is amazing. A cult following develops among a world-wide audience of adoring viewers and they flood you with calls demanding stickers, t-shirts and mugs.You couldnt buy that sort of publicity. Sadly, it wasnt entirely welcome. The comedian was Phoenix Nights star Peter Kay and the script wasnt exactly complimentary about Chorley FM.

In fact, the stations fictitious slogans contained the sort of innuendo that would make a Carry On star blush.There seems some confusion over whether Kay and Co knew of Chorley FMs existence but, ironically, his co-star Dave Spikey has since become a big supporter, praising the stations success in developing local talent.

Presenter Mark Bond said: Its hard to tell if it was a curse or a blessing. The publicity was certainly a double-edged sword. It meant our brand name went world-wide but in a way that took the mickey.

Chorley FM started life ten years ago and commenced full-time broadcasting in 2006. John Miller, one of the founders, says: We wanted to establish a not-for-profit community station to do something that would benefit the people of Chorley. Today, we broadcast live 24/7 few others do that.With more than 80 volunteers and an audience in excess of 20,000, Chorley FM is one of the most established and most successful stations of its type with well-known local presenters such as Barbara Lowe.

However, the squeeze on public sector funding means they must work hard to keep their heads above water.Today, the dust has settled on the concert room at the Phoenix Club but Chorley FM is still going strong as a force for good in what must be Lancashires most famous market town.It has a terrific history and many people are working hard to ensure it has a bright future. Among them is chartered surveyor Gwynne Furlong, president of the chamber of trade.

He says the population is 100,000 but only 30,000 live in the centre and mostly in the poorest wards. The rest reside in a ring of attractive villages on the outskirts. The challenge is to ensure those 70,000 come to Chorley to do their shopping and spend their leisure time,he says.

Gwynne admits parts of the town have seen better days and some areas have suffered from shop closures. However, he and his chamber colleagues and the council have a determination to ensure the town centre, famous for its indoor and outdoor markets and small independent retailers, remains an attractive place. The councils Smile campaign has instilled a sense of community pride and Chorleys floral displays are a match for anywhere.Booths has a smart looking store overlooking the Flat Iron carpark and Asda has permission to build a superstore in town.

Hopes have risen that the second phase of the Market Walk shopping centre will finally go ahead and that might tempt in Marks & Spencer essential to boost visitor numbers, believes Gwynne.

Hes also hoping to work with the Botany Bay outlet centre to encourage coach visitors to stop off in town to sample whats on offer.Gwynne is also hoping to build on Chorleys history by reviving the Heritage Trail with blue plaques for notable locals such as Mayflower pioneer Miles Standish, sugar baron and philanthropist Sir Henry Tate and Charles Lightoller, the most senior officer to survive the Titanic disaster.

The historic heart of Chorley is Astley Park and as its centre stands Astley Hall, a magnificent Grade l Elizabethan house. Its outrageously ornate moulded ceilings prompted author Simon Jenkins to describe it as the most important building in the north west.

Owned by Chorley Corporation since the 1920s, the well-maintained hall and parkland has benefited from a 3 million grant. Under the leadership of Chris Bryan and his team, this is the towns hub for cultural, artistic and leisure activities with the coach house converted into a stunning caf, gallery and conference facility and the area once used to store rubbish bins restored to its former glory as a walled garden.

The summer sees the park regularly used for outdoor theatre, concerts and family events.While Chorley has some of Lancashires finest buildings, its the people who inhabit them that make the place special.

They are noted for the warmth of their welcome and the quality of the food they produce.Mother-of-two Rachel Gilkes recently won an award for her range of gluten-free cakes. She grew up in Shropshire and met her Chorley-born husband Mathew when they both worked at Buckingham Palace she as a personal assistant and he as a butler.Rachel has spent much of her working life in catering and when she set up home in Lancashire she started to bake wholesome bread for her children.

Cakes followed and they were so popular she started selling them at market.She was amazed to find there was a high demand for gluten-free products and, under the brand Hopcutts of Chorley, she produced delicious items like sticky toffee cake. They were an immediate hit and she now supplies cafes and shops. Gluten-free birthday and wedding cakes have proved a particular success.

Meanwhile, Chorleys Angela Murtagh has followed a similar route but is further down the path to creating a substantial business. Her Freedom Deli range of gluten-free prepared meals recently scooped an award in an open category, which says something about the taste and quality of her food.

Angela started out when her mother was diagnosed with coeliac disease, which affects the auto-immune system and is triggered by gluten. Shes gone from developing recipes at her home in Chorleys Buckshaw Village to the shelves of Waitrose.She started making the meals her mother loved such as fish pie and lasagne and discovered friends and family also enjoyed them even though they were designed for people with dietary problems.

All I cared about was making food that was all about taste and was gluten-free, says Alison, who took a law degree at Lancaster. A lot of these products tend to have a high sugar and high fat content. I didnt want that. I went for flavour.

Her kitchen is used for product development and manufacturing is contracted out. Meanwhile, a new panini range is coming out this month under the Freedom Deli brand.Her chilled meals are currently in 77 stores across the region and sales are building steadily as it becomes the UKs pacesetter in the gluten-free market.

I love cooking, says Alison. Its what I do to relax but I must admit that since my hobby has become a business the shine has gone off it a bit!Im very optimistic about the future I keep telling people the Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has coeliac disease and he hasnt lost a game since changing to a gluten-free diet!

Park and pride

There is plenty happening this month. On Sunday, August 7, the popular Big Drum Day will be staged in Astley Park. The free event involves Afro-Brasilian drumming, dancing and song in the Walled Garden from 11am until 6pm.Quantum Theatre will be performing Twelfth Night in the Walled Garden on August 14 and Chorley Silver Band and other local groups will be performing there on Sunday, August 21. Astley Hall is also open every weekend throughout the summer from noon until 5pm.


Where is Chorley? On the A6, south of Preston. Programme PR7 1DB into your satnav and you should be in the town centre

Where can we park? Plenty of large, reasonably-priced space in the town centre

What can I do there? A lot. Theres a good indoor market, the excellent outdoor market on Tuesdays, you can explore the small retail outlets, and visit Astley Hall (open at weekends in the summer). The parkland and caf are open all year.


Where is Chorley? On the A6, south of Preston. Programme PR7 1DB into your satnav and you should be in the town centre

Where can we park? Plenty of large, reasonably-priced space in the town centre

What can I do there? A lot. Theres a good indoor market, the excellent outdoor market on Tuesdays, you can explore the small retail outlets, and visit Astley Hall (open at weekends in the summer). The parkland and caf are open all year.

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