Community Overview

Pendle forms the backdrop of this stunning view from Ribchester's Riverside

Ribchester lies on the River Ribble, beautifully placed about mid way between Preston and Clitheroe. It is the only village which lies actually on the banks of the river, a fact that has always caused serious problems of flooding and erosion.

The village takes its name from the River Ribble and the fort of Bremetennacum (the walled town by the river). At first sight, it appears that the site of the fort was chosen by the Romans because it was a major crossroads and river crossing. But, there have been several interesting Bronze Age finds around Ribchester, including the discovery in 1977 of several cremation burials in urns near the main car park in the village.

Relatively little is known of the history of Ribchester during the seven hundred years after the departure of the Romans in the early 5th century. While it is likely that the fort itself fell into disrepair quite rapidly it may have been used for defence by the civilian population. The later building of the church of St Wilfrid close by the site of the former headquarters of the Roman camp indicates that the fort remained a focus of the village.

In common with many areas of East Lancashire the later history of the village is dominated by cotton weaving; firstly in the form of hand loom weaving and later in two mills, neither of which still operate. Latterly the village became primarily a dormitory village for commuters to the town of Blackburn and the cities of Preston and Manchester.

At the 2001 census the population of Ribchester was approximately 1535 living in some 645 properties.

Buildings of Historical Significance within the Village


St Wilfrid’s Church
St Wilfrid's ChurchAlthough there is no mention of a parish church in Ribchester in the Domesday Book evidence exists of a church on this site in the sixth century.
St Wilfrid’s is dedicated to one of the great churchmen of Saxon times. Wilfrid was Bishop of Ripon and Archbishop of York and as Bishop of Ripon was granted lands adjoining the Ribble in the hundreds of Amounderness, in which Ribchester was situated. It is possible that he visited the township and converted the small Celtic Church into one of a more durable and magnificent structure.
The nave of the present building was founded in the 12th Century and the north, or Dutton chapel, completed in the 14th Century. The buttressed tower with its embattled parapet was erected at the end of the 15th century.


St Saviour, Stydd
St Saviour's Chapel at StyddThe church lies half a mile north east of the village of Ribchester. It stands picturesquely in a field at the end of Stydd Lane, leading off the road by the stone bridge near the Ribchester Arms. The lane also gives access to the Catholic Church of St Peter & Paul and of the Almshouses.
Over the centuries this small chapel has been altered many times. The earliest part of the building is in the north wall which is a good example of transitional Norman work. If the existence of a Norman church is conjecture there is no doubt that a church was built around this time at Stydd. The history of the small chapel is also obscure. Whether it was built as an hospice for the religious order of the Knights Hosptallers, or whether it began its history as the domestic chapel of the Lord ofv the Manor of Stydd is not clear. But from contemporary deeds it is known that the manor was in the possession of the Knights Hosptallers during the middle of the 13th century.


St Peter & Paul’s Roman Catholic Church
St Peter & St Paul's RC ChurchSt. Peter & St. Paul’s is a barn church, built in 1789 and extended in 1877. The site was carefully chosen for at that time it was still illegal for Catholics to have public places of worship. The priest’s house, Stydd Lodge, is presumed to have been the residence of the Bailiff of the Stydd Estate for attached to the building is barns, shippon and a piggery.
The church is plain, but substantial. It was built to correspond in most detail with the barn on the other side of the lodge in order to disguise its function as a place of worship. It is the last of what are traditionally known as ‘Barn Churches’, others having been altered or pulled down. St. Peter & St. Paul’s is the last such church in its original shape and form, and is in fact the oldest building in use at the present time as a church in the whole of the Salford Diocese: not the oldest parish by any means but the oldest church building. The church was considerably lengthened in 1877, its original size being no larger than that of the present sanctuary.


The Almshouses

Stydd Lane AlmshousesIn his will of 1726, John Sherborne of Bailey left instructions to found ‘good almshouses on his estate at Stydd for five poor persons to live separately therein’. The building’s most unusual staircase and first floor arcade have featured in many postcard views. Careful repairs over the years have ensured that the houses continue to be useful as well as attractive.




The White Bull

The White BullThe inn, which dates back to 1707, is a Grade II listed building. It stands on Church Street at the Y junction where the Roman branch road heads off up Water Street and Stoneygate Lane to join the main route from Chester to Hadrian’s wall. Once used as a court house it has a number of unique exterior features, including a portico supported by two pillars of Roman origin and a rustic wooden representation of a white bull. Over the years a number of alterations have been carried out, including the opening up of a refreshment room to cater for the large number of visitors. By the middle of the 1940’s the doorway to the right of the main entrance had been blocked up to be replaced by a central doorway to the refreshment rooms which remains to this day.


The principal sources of this summary are:

  • The SS Peter & Paul’s Bicentenary booklet, edited by Father Sean Hogan.
  • The Church of St Saviour by Sir Peter Openshaw
  • Ribchester Parish Council (100 years in photographs) compiled by Caroline Openshaw and Ken Ford.
  • Reflections of Ribchester by Roy Skilbeck.


Masthead photograph: Pendle forms the backdrop of this view from Ribchester's Riverside ©Copyright John Darch and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.