The ‘Mr. Chorley’ Collection

A life devoted to a place and its people.

George when President of Chorley Chamber of Trade

In the year 2000, Lancashire archives and libraries received seventy eight boxes of local history material connected to Chorley and the surrounding area. Seventeen of those boxes were full of photographs depicting people, places and events in the area over a century and this collection belonged to one man, fittingly known as ‘Mr. Chorley’.

George (left) in later life with Kevin Hoole

Born in Leyland in 1912 George Birtill became known as Mr Chorley. He adopted the town as his own and became the town’s honorary historian. He worked for the Chorley Guardian for over 30 years and as Editor launched the Leyland Guardian. He was a founder member of the Guild of Newspaper editors (Chairman twice) and a life member of the National Union of Journalists. He became a JP in 1967 and on retirement from the Chorley Guardian in 1977 was elected as Conservative Councillor on Chorley Borough Council. The George Birtill column, Leaves from a Rural Diary, and his numerous books provide a valuable and unique history of the Chorley and Leyland district. Copies of the books are available for loan or reference at many Lancashire libraries.

Triplets with Nurse, Adlington 1957
Chorley Parochial School 1953

His council service ended in his year as Mayor in 1995-6. In 1973 he was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to journalism and the preservation of rural England. George was a keen golfer and was Honorary Secretary of Chorley Golf Club for 30 years, its Captain twice and became Life President in 1990. He was a founder member of the Chorley and Leyland Rotary Club and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship. In addition he was Chairman of Chorley Ramblers and the Astley Hall Society.

Good Friday, Rivington Pike 1959
Hit songwriter Barry Mason with Lynn O’Malley 1969

On his death in 2000 his family kindly deposited his collections of writings, photographs, negatives, slides and glass prints with Lancashire County Council. The photograph collection is at Chorley library. The other sixty one boxes, which also included nitrate film of Royal Visit to Chorley 1913 and other local scenes, is being preserved at Lancashire Record Office (Ref: DDX2549).

Locked out of the Bank, Chorley

Eleven hundred images from the George Birtill collection have already been digitized and can be viewed in Red Rose Collections.

We have also just recruited some more Red Rose Collections volunteers in Chorley, so more of Mr. Chorley’s collection will soon be added.

Follow us on Twitter: Libraries @LancsLibraries also check out Lancashire Archives @LancsArchives and Museums @LancsMuseums

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