In 2007 St.Thomas the Martyr Parish Church, UpHolland celebrated the 700th anniversary of its original foundation.
The Domesday Book 1086 includes Hoiland (highland) in The Hundreds of West Derby. In 1307 Robert Holland established a Chantry followed by a Collegiate of Canons, eventually in 1319 the Bishop of Lichfield approved the setting up of a Benedictine Monastery. King Edward 11 stayed at Upholland Priory from 15th to 28th October 1323 where he sat in judgement on the warfare between the Holland and Banasters and Bradshaigh's of Wigan. The monks were displaced at the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1536. The Priory played a prominent role in the religious and economic life of the village. Among the prized possessions were bones of Thomas Beckett which attracted pilgrims. A Benedictine week is celebrated each July. After the Dissolution of Monasteries Upholland was allowed to keep its church as it was too difficult for locals to get to Wigan Parish Church. In 1643 Parliament agreed to divide the church of Holland from the parish of Wigan and make it a distinct Church and Parish itself. The Civil War prevented royal signature being applied and Upholland remained a Chapel of ease of Wigan Parish Church. Despite their own poverty parishioners were willing philanthropists collecting for many charitable needs. The Church was instrumental in the founding of Upholland Grammar School.
The fortunes of the Church fluctuated during the 18th and 19th Centuries, in the mid 19th Century the Church became practically derelict. Fortunately in 1881 a saviour appeared named Frederic Daustini Cramer who transformed the building by adding a new chancel and revitalised the congregation and parish. In 1882 the Church was transferred to the Liverpool Diocese. A series of vicars built on these foundations, and the magnificent ancient church is there to be admired today. It is well worth a visit to see the magnificent architecture and stained glass windows.
The first recorded Baptism was June 1607.
The first Marriage was February 1600.
The first Burial was March 1619.
George Lyon reputed to be England's last highwayman was hanged in 1815 and is buried with his mother in Upholland Churchyard.
To celebrate the 700th centenary of St. Thomas the Martyr, the clergy organised the biggest birthday party ever seen in Upholland. The Bishops of Liverpool, Warrington, the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu and previous Vicars took Sunday services throughout the year. Among the celebrations were dinners, family nights, suppers, an 'Exhibition of Upholland through the ages', musical evenings, 'Medieval and Victorian Fayres', Flower and Harvest Festivals, also 'A Pilgrimage Walk from London to Canterbury'. The biggest event was a 'Community Pageant and Festival' on the 23rd June. All the local churches were involved with all the Ministers leading the procession. St. Thomas School represented St. Benedict and St. Thomas Becket. St. Teresa's School represented 'The Two Elizabeth's'. Up Holland Methodist Church represented John Wesley born 1703 died 1791. St. Thomas School also represented famous people in history during the 700 years. Christ the Servant represented mining in Skelmersdale. Up Holland Youth Group represented historical events during the 700 years, Roby Mill School represented the Victorian Period which was when the school was founded. Bishop Martin School represented families relocated to Skelmersdale New Town. Also in the parade were Brass Bands and Dancers. The procession ended up on St.Thomas School field where there was entertainment and many charity stalls set out. The celebrations held during the year were a resounding success and a very fitting tribute to this ancient church.
Written by Gerald Gaskell a former treasurer of Skelmersdale and UpHolland Family History Group. and first published in the Liverpool & SW Lancs. FHS Journal in 2007