I’m away early on a clear frosty morning as I continue my way linking Lancashire’s religious sites.
Walking out of Ribchester I divert up a little lane leading to some interesting treasures. Firstly on the left is St. Peter and St, Paul, a barn church, around 1789. At that time it was still illegal for Catholics to have public places of worship. Therefore it was built to appear like a barn. The church was considerably enlarged in 1877. The inside is very plain but there are some outstanding new stained glass windows designed by Deborah Lowe and executed by Pendle Stained Glass in memory of the Walmsley family. One celebrates the life of St Margaret Clitherow, the York martyr whose remains are reputed to have been possibly buried in the nearby Stydd church of St Saviour. [See below] Margaret was crushed to death in York at Easter and the window references Stydd and York’s shambles and minster as well as the spring season and her reputed last words: “Jesus have mercy on me.” Another window celebrates the region’s history and landscape and depicts a scene from the River Ribble. Fishes, a kingfisher, sheep and a horse are included in the scene which shows wildflowers and a dandelion clock, suggesting the passage of time.
In the graveyard, I came across a type of ‘triptych’ gravestone of the Pratchett family. Who were they?
Across the way is a delightful small building, the Stydd Almshouses. Built by the Shireburn family in 1728 to house poor people of the parish. Quite unique. Even the well is listed.
Further up the lane in a field is St. Saviour’s Chapel established in C12 – 13. Associated with it was a ‘monastic hospital’ of the Knights Hospitaliers providing accommodation and aid to pilgrims and the needy. There is no sign of the hospice but the chapel remains after several modifications.
Fortunately, it was open this morning so I was able to view its simple interior. The original studded south door gains entry. The most obvious initial feature above the altar is a graceful C13 window reflected in the design of the oak chairs. The Norman north doorway is blocked but the original wooden door rests against it. There is a stone coffin of unknown origin and several tomb slabs on the floor of the Sanctuary. A lavishly engraved C14 one, Sir Adam and Lady de Clitheroe; a straight cross, Father Walter Vavasour 1740; a simple cross, possibly St. Margaret Clitherow a martyr who died during the C16 Catholic persecutions. High on the west wall is an old entrance from another building and possibly a gallery similar to the one in St. Michael’s Church in Much Hoole I visited a few days ago. Outside, the northern door has Norman dog toothed carving. To complete the picture there is also a medieval cross base in the grounds.
Back on the road, it was a short walk to Ribchester bridge over the Ribble. Here the Ribble Way continues as a track past farms to come alongside the river. At one of the houses, I was accosted by a weather-beaten gardener and given a lesson in how to save the world through nature. The path alongside the river was very familiar to me. A couple of herons took flight and there were cormorants this far inland. Ahead Pendle Hill looked resplendent above the valley and the new Dinkley Bridge shone out white.
Once over the bridge, I followed lanes, line of a Roman Road at one straight. Over to the left was Longridge Fell and the green domes of Stonyhurst College could just be made out. Its origins began abroad as a Jesuit School when Catholic education was banned in England. The local Shireburn family owned the C13 hall and their descendants donated it to the Jesuits in 1794. It has flourished as an international Catholic School until this day.
This was the reverse of a day on Wainwright’s Way a couple of months ago so I knew my way across the fields and up past those modern static caravans to reach the Church of St. Leonard at Old Langho.
I popped into the Black Bull Inn next door for the keys to the church. Like St. Saviours at Stydd, this is a simple building. Interestingly it was built around 1557 using stones from the dissolved Abbey at Whalley. a number of carved stones are in the exterior walls. Inside the pews have carved ends from late C17 with initials of their benefactors. Fragments of medieval stained glass have been incorporated into the north chancel windows. The tiles in the sanctuary are Victorian.
The graveyard was extended in early C20 to serve the nearby Brockhall Hospital. There is one mass grave commemorating 600 patients, but that is another story.
More lanes brought me into Whalley where I crossed the River Calder on Old Sol’s bridge alongside the brick arches of the railway viaduct. The light was starting to fade as I came through the massive, vaulted west gate of the Abbey. It was too late to visit the Abbey, that can wait until tomorrow morning. The nearby Parish Church always seems to be locked when I pass by, it apparently has stalls removed from the Abbey. I was able to see the Saxon crosses in the graveyard before catching my bus home.
Was that “crushing to death” where they put you in something like a body sized trouser press and twisted the screws? Poor Margaret. I reckon the perpetrators were the ancestors of present day pheasant shooters?
A serious amount of history and heritage is brought to your attention on this walk, and without that guide one would likely walk past much of it unknowingly and only within the bounds of a short diversion.
Most of the history I gleaned from leaflets in the churches.
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