8.5. St Laurence(’s)

Helen Moorwood 2013

St Laurence’s, Chorley owes its dedication to Sir Rowland Standish of Duxbury, who brought back relics of St Laurence (including his skull) from Normandy to Duxbury during the Hundred Years War, which led to the dedication of the Parish Church of Chorley to St Laurence in 1442/3 or soon afterwards. Recent tests (2008) have finally confirmed that the bones in the reliquary in St Laurence’s are animal bones from the 1650s to 1750s. Thus runs the beginning and (almost) the end of this story. Some bits in the middle are rather confusing.

I must confess that when I first saw the ‘relics’ several years ago (towards the end of the 20th century, although I cannot provide a precise date), it was obvious that the reliquary did not contain a skull and that the bones seemed too large to be human. I was already intrigued. Over the years I found myself asking many questions about Sir Rowland and St Laurence. These included the following:

About the 13th-15th centuries:

- How much do we really know from documents about the early Standishes of Duxbury?

- How important was it that the early Standishes of Duxbury lived in the Parish of Standish, and yet were so much closer geographically to Chorley, in the Parish of Croston?

- Might this have been a good reason for establishing their own chapel in Duxbury?

- Is there any evidence of this?

- Why did they present the relics of St Laurence to Chorley and not Standish?

More specifically about Sir Rowland:

- How much do we know about the ancestry and youth of Rowland Standish of Duxbury?

- Was he actually in Henry V’s army at Agincourt?

- When was he knighted?

- How much do we know about his exploits leading to his death in battle at Gerberoy in France in 1434? Or was it 1435?

- How much do we know about the siege of Gerberoy?

- Who was his wife Dame Joan and did she actually accompany him on his campaigns?

- How many other Standishes of Duxbury and Standish were soldiers in France and elsewhere in the 14th/15th centuries?

- How were these all related to Sir Rowland?

Even more specifically about the relics of St Laurence:

- When did Sir Rowland acquire the relics of St Laurence in Normandy?

- How did he obtain these relics?

- Given Sir Rowland’s death in 1434 (this date, widely reported, was actually 1435 in the modern calendar), his presumed taking of the relics back to Lancashire sometime during the previous few years and the presentation to the church in Chorley of St Laurence’s relics by his brother James in 1442/3, what might have happened to the relics during this delay?

- When exactly was the Parish Church of St Laurence’s, Chorley dedicated to St Laurence?

- When was it decided in Chorley that the St Laurence whose relics they possessed were those of the Roman martyr in the 3rd century?

-  How and why did they manage to get it wrong?

- When was the gridiron, the symbol of the Roman martyr’s death chiselled into the tower of the church?

- What happened to the original relics, which apparently included the skull of St Laurence?

Perhaps most important of all:

-  Does the St Laurence/ Sir Rowland story have any importance for later members of the family and events?

Over the years, almost serendipitously, I had gathered together the answers to most of these questions. Last year many of these answers were confirmed in a long, detailed and all-encompassing online article, accompanied by a wonderful collection of photographs. This was by Tony Christopher, webmaster of, for the St Laurence Historical Society:

23.  Sir Rowland Standish Knight and the Holy relic of St. Lawrence. 

This perhaps makes it rather redundant for me to write up my findings, which of course concur on the whole with these. However, just a few points might be mentioned by way of clarification and expansion of detail. And it seemed worth spending time to provide a few different quotes, which in turn might provide a different angle on some parts of the story. At the end of some day there might be enough material for a booklet entitled something like ‘Soldiers and knights in Captain Myles Standish’s ancestry’.

I will write up all when I have completed other sections of my website. And answer all those questions. Arrivederci.



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