A settlement has existed at Chorley since at least the Bronze Age. The earliest find came from 3500 BC on Anglezarke as the site known as Round Loaf was discovered. A farmer at Astley Hall Farm found a pottery burial urn from this period in 1963. This find was followed up with further excavations, with further artifacts being found. Objects from these excavations are on display at the hall's museum.
During the Roman era Chorley was not a settlement but a Roman road ran near Chorley towards Wigan. It is believed that some Romans did settle at Brindle to the north of the town, as Roman remains were discovered there in the late 1950s.
A market charter was granted to the town in the 1250s, and there is evidence from 1498 that the market was actually taking place. Nowadays, the town has two markets, the Flat Iron Market and the Covered Market. For one weekend each year, French market traders sell their produce in the town, with Chorley's merchants returning the favour in France. The market has a number of specialist cheesemongers who purvey the local Lancashire cheese in various forms. Also sold is the famous Chorley Cake.
During 1442 a local noble named Sir Rowland Standish (a relative of Myles Standish, Mayflower passenger and military commander of Plymouth Colony), who had fought at Agincourt, brought back to Chorley the skull and bones of Saint Lawrence and interred them at an altar at the parish church. With the bones interned there the church was renamed St. Lawrence's. Records of this are mentioned in the Harleian Manuscripts. The bones were not of the 3rd century saint but are believed to be the bones of Lorcán Ua Tuathail, a saint canonised as St. Laurence from Dublin, who died in Normandy in the 12th century. The bones went missing in the Reformation under the rule of King Henry VIII.
According to the apocryphal story, James I after a good meal, officially knighted Sirloin steak ("Sir" loin) at Hoghton Tower, a large stately home on the outskirts of the town, where William Shakespeare once worked. Astley Hall is a more central stately home, set in the middle of the town's largest park, Astley Park. Oliver Cromwell visited here on his trek through the region.
On 27 November 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobites passed through Preston and Wigan on their way south to Manchester and Derby in the hope of taking London and the Crown, Chorley was a mustering point for the Government scouts tracking them. The Prince and his Army marched through Chorley itself on 10 December on the way back to Carlisle and Scotland and their dreadful day of destiny on Culloden Moor near Inverness the following 16 April. There was considerable local support in the town for that famous lost cause.
Chorley, like most Lancashire towns, gained its wealth from the industrial revolution of the 19th century which was also responsible for the town's growth. Chorley was a vital cotton town with many mills littering the skyline. Today only three mills still remain working. Also Chorley in its location was vital in coal mining. Several pits existed in Duxbury Woods with the biggest being located at the end of Grundy's Lane and another located on the current site of Chorley Conference Centre on Carr Lane. The last to close was the Ellerbeck Colliery in 1987 which was located in south Adlington.
Chorley became incoroprated as a municipal borough in 1881. The town's population remained roughly static in the 20th century, with the 1911 census showing 30,315 people and the 1971 census showing 31,665. Under the Local Government Act 1972, Chorley became the core of a larger non-metropolitan district of Chorley on April 1, 1974.
The town was also vital during World War II as it was home to the Royal Ordnance Factory, a large munitions factory in the village of Euxton around 2 miles outside the town centre. With a second smaller factory also built near the Blackburn-Wigan railway line in Heapey.
In the 1970s, Chorley was designated as part of Central Lancashire new town, together with Preston and Leyland. The original aim of this project was to combine the three settlements into a single city with a population of around half a million. Although this never came to pass, and the project has since been abandoned, Chorley benefited from the urban renewal commonly associated with new towns. Examples include a bypass of the town centre, and the Market Walk shopping centre.
As the 21st century progresses, Chorley will grow significantly in size as the new Buckshaw Village gets built on the former explosives area of the ROF Chorley site, the old munitions factory at Euxton.
Chorley is located at the foot of the West Pennine Moors. It is the seat for the Borough of Chorley which is made up of Chorley and its surrounding villages. Chorley had a population of 33,424 as of the 2001 census, with the wider borough of Chorley having a population of 101,991. Chorley forms a conurbation with Preston and Leyland and was designated part of the Central Lancashire New Town.
The council wards within Chorley Borough are:
Another industry in Chorley has been the manufacturing of trucks of which it inherited from Chorley's neighbouring town of Leyland. The large factory on Pilling Lane was used heavily for the production of trucks and during the second world war' military trucks and Tanks. The factory eventually went on to spares manufacture up until the collapse of Leyland DAF in the 1990s. The works emerged as a central parts depot for the Multipart firm which eventually would come part of the RAC. The plant was closed in 2006 and work was moved to a new smaller site on Buckshaw Village. As of 2008 the site is being demolished to make way for 400 new homes.
Another major industry was the manufacture of Ammunition and Armaments. During the 1930s one of Britains biggest such factories to build these products was built at Euxton. The site known as ROF Chorley was vital in the Second World War and during that time over 40,000 people worked at the site. It is also the site where the Bouncing bomb was built. Over the last 50 years production has slowed down due to the governments cut in defence spending and the site has decreased in size to only a foothold of the former site. The current tenants BAE Systems have sold of the majority of land which is now Europes largest new town named Buckshaw Village. The last section is due to close in 2008.
Today the town is used as satellite town for people working in its largest neighbours: Bolton, Preston etc. Leyland Trucks and BAE Systems remain as the areas largest employers at their sites in Leyland and Samlesbury respectively.
Major companies with a presence in the town are:
Chorley town centre is the main location of shopping facilities in the town. Shops such as W.H. Smith, Argos and Woolworths to name a few have a presence in the town. The town centre in recent years has seen the new Market Walk development and the building a new town centre Booths supermarket.
The town is also famous for its market heritage and is quoted as "Lancashire's market town". The outdoor market which has run for over 200 years, takes place every Tuesday on the Flat Iron. There is also a covered market place in the Market Square.
As well as these, Chorley has seen development out of town including retail parks which have seen the addition of Currys and B&Q to name a few. Chorley is also home to three of the four big supermarkets, including Asda, Morrisons and Tesco. Further to this Chorley was the starting point for the Chorley group with their flagship dealership Chorley Nissan. The motor group now boasts eight dealerships across the North West with the newest addition appearing in the form of Chorley Fiat in Blackpool. The Chorley group are continuing to promote the Chorley name across the Country and beyond.
A £20m development, Market Walk Phase Two, is planned to add four shop units and a multi-storey car park to the existing Market Walk shopping centre. As of January 2008 this is on hold until the council finds another developer.
Chorley is bisected by the A6 Roman road which goes straight through the town centre. The town is also near to the M61 of which Junction 6 and 8 serving the town. Also the M6 motorway serves the west of the town with Junction 27 connecting the town to the motorway, Charnock Richard Services on the M6 are located in Chorley Borough.
Chorley's main form of public transport is the bus and it has a very modern central bus station known as Chorley Interchange.
The main central station is Chorley railway station in the town centre. The station is used by:
There is also a station at Euxton (Balshaw Lane) between Wigan and Preston.
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal runs parallel to Chorley and several marinas and locks are located on the Chorley area. Marinas along the canal include:
Chorley is home to numerous primary schools both council and church supported.
Chorley has the following 6 high schools:
Some private schools are also present just outside the borough. Most Chorley children go on to attend the nearby Runshaw College in Leyland. Runshaw College has also expanded into the former administration site of ROF Chorley and is using, amongst others, the main Administration Building.
Lancashire College, based in Chorley, is a part of Lancashire County Council's Lancashire Adult Learning, offering a wide range of courses, a speciality being intensive residential language courses. From 1962 to 1981 the town was home to Chorley Day Training College and the town centre building where this was is now Chorley Public Library.
Chorley is also home to the cadet forces with 92 (Chorley) Squadron Air Training Corps (Air Cadets), Chorley ACF Detachment and the Sea Cadets. 92 (Chorley) Squadron is one of 1000 Air Cadet Squadrons from around the United Kingdom.
The town and surrounding boroughs boast a number of cricket clubs, with two teams taking the town's name. Chorley Cricket Club currently play in the Northern League, and were finalists in the ECB National Club Cricket Championship for three consecutive seasons from 1994 to 1996, winning the trophy on the first two occasions. Chorley St James Cricket Club are the second side in the town, competing in the Southport & District Amateur Cricket League, having been members of the Chorley League until its demise in 2005.
Chorley RUFC was founded in the early 1970s and initially their matches were on the playing fields of Astley Park. Since there was no club house in the early days the team played from the Prince of Wales pub, near the town's covered market. Work started on a new clubhouse on 22 March 1984, on an area of land off Chancery Road, situated on the edge of the freshly constructed Astley Village Estate. The club currently run two senior sides and a mini section, the 1st XV plaing in the RFU North Lancs 2 division.
Until 2004, Chorley also boasted a rugby league side, Chorley Lynx, who played in league two of the national league. However, the club was forced to close in 2004 due to small crowds and the withdrawal of funding by backer Trevor Hemmings. Many of the club's players and staff joined the newly formed Blackpool Panthers, operating out of nearby Blackpool.
Chorley also boasts as being home to some of the countries most successful track cyclists including Jason Queally and Bradley Wiggins, both Olympic gold medal winners. The town due to the Manchester Velodrome has become home to some of the biggest names in the sport.
In terms of local sporting facilities the town is home to a large council owned leisure centre; All Season which contains a 25 metre swimming pool, two sports halls, squash courts and a fitness suite. The town also includes other gym facilities, two other council owned leisure centres; Clayton Green and Coppull and another public swimming pool at Brinscall. The town is also home to a Next Generation fitness centre and other private pools and leisure centres.
A mile south of Chorley town centre, Duxbury Park boasts one of the best municipal golf courses in the North of England.
The town is also home to many amateur football, rugby and cricket teams. There are also several grass football pitches, bowling greens and tennis courts in the town. A public outdoor swimming pool did exist in Astley Park but was demolished in the 1990s due to Health and Safety fears.
Chorley are also home to the Chorley Hariers Running Club, who regularly compete in road, cross country, fell and athletics events, as well as boasting a very good junior section. Jason Bell, who ran 400m in the 2004 olympic games in Athens, was a member of Chorley Harriers, although he finished last he was able to break his seasons best time during the race. His short career came to and end just after the games and Jason is now a local artist who performs a groundbreaking act combining dance with painting. He often puts on performances in the grounds of Astley Hall
Nationally Chorley is often portrayed as a barometer of public opinion, especially during political campaigns as it has both a large rural and urban mix.
Chorley has two local newspapers: the weekly paid-for Chorley Guardian and the free Chorley Citizen A British comedy television show, Phoenix Nights, cited Chorley's radio station, Chorley FM, whose slogan was "Coming in your ears". Chorley does have a radio station, (which is unconnected to the TV Series) The station based in Chorley originally broadcast for only a few weeks, but in 2005 received a licence to broadcast from Chorley Community Centre, for more information see Chorley FM. Local DJ Adam Connal has won numerous local awards for his efforts toward the help and support of Chorley FM, Adam is most noted for his effort to save the Chorley Lido in the 1990s and for this he was given an award by the local Mayor. Adam Connal has also DJed at numerous local events including the JSW which was a large event held in Astley Park in early 2006.
As well as Phoenix Nights, comedian Dave Spikey based his comedy series Dead Man Weds on, and filmed most of it in, Chorley. Steve Pemberton, the creator of The League of Gentlemen, based most of its characters on folk from Adlington.
Chorley is well known for the Chorley Little Theatre. It also has 2 Historical Societies, the Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society, the Chorley and District Natural History Society and Chorley Film Society.