Our Parish

A Brief Parish History

St James Parish was established in Spring Rd, near the site of Orrell Hall and Farm, on 1st December 1699. It was opened at a time of persecution of Catholics, heavy fines could be imposed and there was a threat of execution for attending Mass. In 1805 the present Church was built, enlarged in 1841, with a Tower and Belfry added in 1870. The side Chapel was built in 1922 as a memorial to 10 parishioners who died in the 1914–18 war. In September 2014 a new Memorial Board was erected to Honour those who had died and a Roll of Honour Booklet published giving their details. A copy of this booklet can be downloaded from the Notice Board page of this website.

The most recent building extension is the Parish Meeting Room which was built in 2005 and provides toilet facilities for the less able. A ramp has been built at the front entrance to the Church to allow wheelchair access and a ‘loop’ system is available for the hard of hearing.

In 1848 the parish school was built next to the Church significantly this was 2 years before the restoration of the Catholic Diocese of England. It was managed by a Mr McCormack, his salary was £25 per annum paid from ‘an annual charity sermon and the pennies of the scholars’. The school had 60 pupils of all ages, probably in one room, who attended for 6 hours per day. The school was enlarged in 1871 and started its move to its new site in 1964, the move was finally completed in 2008 and the original building taken out of use. In 2012 the school was enlarged with a further 4 classrooms being added.

Among more recent developments was the founding of St Joseph’s College at Upholland in 1883 which was the Archdiocesan centre for the training of its priests. The College remained part of St James parish until 1955 when St Teresa’s Parish was founded, the new Parish also included Upholland Carmel which was very near to the college. Unfortunately, both of these buildings have now closed.

After the Second World War, the Parish grew from about 600 to 2500 parishioners the Parish Primary school consequently grew in size and St Peter’s High School was founded jointly by the local parishes to serve this side of Wigan. Also within the Parish is St John Rigby Sixth Form College which was founded in 1972. The College is named after John Rigby who was martyred for the faith on 21st June 1600 in the reign of Elizabeth 1.

In 2005  Fr Phillip Tuite was appointed to be the new Parish Priest of St James after the death of Fr Walsh.


From weekend 26th / 27th October 2013 Fr Phillip took responsibility for the Parish of St Joseph in Writington. Mass times for both parishes have been changed. Please see the Noticeboard page for full details.

The parish also has a purpose-built Social Centre, with bowling green, for further information please follow the link below.

A more detailed booklet of the Parish History is available from the Parish Secretary, or the rear of the Church.

Preparing for the Future

St James Parish is now part of Pastoral Area 13. Pastoral Area 13 is named after the locally born English Martyr John Rigby and came into existence in September 2006, as part of the Archbishop’s “Leaving Safe Harbours” initiative.

“Leaving Safe Harbours” is a strategic review commissioned by the Archdiocese of Liverpool, in response to the challenges facing us going into the future, to provide pastoral provision with a progressively reducing number of clergy. Twenty-four new Pastoral Areas replaced the previous Deaneries. Each covers approximately 8 present parishes all of a similar size with about 20,000 Catholics. The expectation is that in the future each area will be served by one priest to every 5,000 parishioners.

A small group of Parishioners are working with Fr Phillip and meet regularly to assist in the running of this Parish. We are also developing collaboration with people and Priests from different Parishes to enable efficient use of available resources, and are working together on areas of mutual concern.

For more information on the Parish Centre and Don Orione Care Home please visit the following links:

Parish Centre

Cardinal Heenan House & the Sons of Divine Providence