Cloughfold church was born in a barn, when, in about 1762, a certain John Pickop gathered together with some local farmers for the purpose of holding religious services. Professing nonconformity, early ministers suffered constant harassment, one, a William Mitchel, being arrested and incarcerated in York Castle.
Richard Ashworth was elected pastor by his fellow parishioners at a particularly trying period in the church's early existence as rival factions sought to dominate individual beliefs.
Promoting a moderate form of Calvinism he is believed to have steered the church away from the more doctrinal ultra-Calvinists who eventually ceded and formed their own church in Rawtenstall.
Regarded as a powerful speaker, his services were said to have been well attended, many travelling considerable distances to worship with him. A flagged footpath across the moors north of Cloughfold is said to have been established expressly to assist pilgrims make their way to his church across the swampy ground.
During winter many worshippers had to set off long before daybreak bearing lanterns for light. These they deposited at Little London, a house on the edge of the moors, from where they made their way down into the safety of the valley. After sitting through a service, often in excess of three hours, they would take tight refreshments before once again collecting their lights and trekking home across the lonely moors.
Afflicted by blindness in 1739, so great was his influence that he was persuaded to continue his ministry. This he did, with the help of his son, for a further twelve years up to his death in 1751. Believing that no one plot of ground was any more sacred than another he expressed the firm wish that he should be buried in one of his favourite places, his own rear garden.
Richard Ashwothorth's grave lies in the garden of his old residence, Carr House, which is down Lomas Lane in Rawtenstall. Some years ago his grave was accidentally disturbed during renovations to a boundary wall and the then occupier, an elderly man, was reported to have held the skull in his hands. The gravestone, which is of course on private property, carries the date of his birth, February 22nd, 1677, his death, May 29th 1751, and the simple inscription.......
The remains of Richard Ashworth here rest in hope.