The LFHHS or Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society are a worldwide group with 13 branches in the UK, one of which is a facility at Astley Farmhouse, Astley Village in Chorley, and is a registered charity.
The society is run by volunteers and provides the facilities and guidance to those interested in researching their family tree or historical matters local to the area that they may find interesting.
The ‘Family History for All’ Project, headed by Steve Williams who is a Chorley Group Freemason and member of Prospect Lodge No 7880 as well as Earl of Latham Chapter No 730, along with Sheila Gibbons, Research Centre Manager, wanted to make the research facilities at Astley Farm suitable for everyone including wheelchair users or partially sighted.
With the help of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity they have been able to realise their dream and have purchased a laptop, specialist computer software and keyboard with large easy to see keys, as well as a text magnifier mouse. A hearing loop has been installed and wheelchair accessible tables that can be height-adjusted have been added to the facilities at the centre.
The re-launch of the centre took place at an open afternoon designed to showcase all the new facilities available. The event was attended by the Mayor of Chorley Mark Perks and Martin Lockyer from the WLFC, along with Mike Coyle from the LFHHS.
Steve gave a presentation describing all of the hard work that had been put in to get the centre to where it is today and thanked the WLFC for its assistance in providing the special equipment that it needed. Martin responded by saying that it was a good example of help in the community that is provided by West Lancashire Freemasons.
“The centre exists thanks to the hard work put in by the volunteers and staff”, Mark Coyle said, and added: “As in most community based projects, the volunteers are the ‘glue’ that keeps everything together.”
The Mayor then declared the research centre open and the visitors were taken around the centre to see all of the fantastic new facilities available.
Some of those who use the centre and who are currently researching their ancestry were working on projects and able to demonstrate the benefits that the equipment provided by the WLCF had brought to them. Melanie Howard from Preston can now use a special magnifying programme to enable her to use a computer to do ‘on-line’ research. Eileen Astley, group leader from the Macau Society praised the specialist keyboards designed to make using a computer possible for those with sight impairments such as macular degeneration, a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision in the centre of the visual field.
There was an ample supply of homemade cakes and biscuits along with tea and coffee to refresh all of the visitors at the end of the tour of this exciting new centre. The LFHHS has a website www.lfhhs.org.uk where more information can be found for those wishing to extend the study of their ancestry. Anyone can visit the centre at Astley Hall, Chorley where a warm welcome awaits, along with guidance and help with their research.