In the early 18th century dedicated Anglican worshippers from Grimsargh would walk the five miles to Preston parish church on Sundays, conscious they were treading in the paths of history.
Their route to Preston would take them along the road taken by Cromwell during the bloody English Civil War 50 years earlier. And shortly before the opening of their own church in 1716 the Grimsargh worshippers would also be conscious that only months earlier the same sanguine spirit had manifested itself at Preston in the last Battle on English soil, which saw the rout of the Jacobites.
Out of these chaotic times a more peaceful era was to emerge - with the encouragement of the Preston vicar who had witnessed much of the Jacobite v Hanoverian action in November 1715.
It was Rev Samuel Peploe, staunch defender of the C of E, and landowning patron Henry Houghton who were responsible for the creation of Grimsargh’s own church.
Not long before the battle of Preston, Peploe, a stern critic of Catholicism, had voiced his concerns to the then bishop of Chester about the need for a church in Grimsargh, hitting out at the influence of “popery” in the rural area. Peploe expressed the hope that the new church would “of great use to men’s souls.”
Clearly ecumenism was not a feature of those religiously turbulent times. A bell taken from Fernyhalgh (Catholic) church in 1689 found its way into the belfry of the new Grimsargh Church.
It’s details such as the story of the bell, and Peploe’s plea to his bishop revealed in this new book which show the painstaking research carried out by its author, respected Preston historian (and Grimsargh resident) David Hindle.
Hindle is no stranger to local history, with books on a variety of subjects, including ‘Grimsargh, the story of a Lancashire Village’ (2002). Who better for the church authorities at St Michael’s to turn to when it came to writing a book for the church’s 300th anniversary than Mr Hindle?
Although only 34-pages long this excellent book leaves no stone unturned about the history of St Michael’s...the subject of stones featuring in chapter two where we learn ashlar stone from Longridge’s quarries were used for the construction.
Fascinatingly, in considering the wider ecclesiastical scene at the time, Hindle also points out the church was one of only five built in the whole of Amounderness (The Fylde, Preston and district) in the 18th century.
But churches are more than bricks and mortar - and it is the tales of the families associated with St Michael’s as well as the clergy down the centuries which add to the interest of the book.
The author lists all the clergy who have led the Grimsargh flock, including a few ‘characters’ such as the wonderfully-named late Victorian vicar Rev Tertius Augustus Buzzard who combined his pastoral duties with caring for the peacocks in the churchyard and ministering home made medicines to the sick. From the mid-1930s the vicar was the notoriously untidy Rev George Oswald Rubie, who banned women from his study in case they tried to tidy his clutter. This man of the cloth also had two guns, enjoyed showing cine films to villagers and evacuee children and preached to congregations of more than 200.
Two particularly fascinating appendices take a detailed look at other aspects of parish life - an extract and commentary on parts of Victorian diary of Kathleen Ellen Cross of Red Scar, whose family’s history is intertwined with the church, and a look at the work and witness of the church school which takes its name from the parish - including the tale of Nellie Carbis, its late headteacher who is still remembered with fondness in Grimsargh.
As to the future of the church? According to Mr Hindle the church’s status as a building of architectural interest should ensure its long-term survival, before perceptively adding “Of greater importance than the architecture...is the concept of a living, vibrant, church fulfilling the purpose for which it was originally consecrated.”
The residents of Grimsargh should be well pleased with this 34-page history book. There is much within its covers to commend it to both parishioners, as well as lovers of local history.
A Celebration of the tricentenary of St Michael’s Church, Grimsargh - 1716 to 2016 will be formally launched at the church on January 27 at 7.30pm, though copies are already on sale at Grimsargh Post Office. Copies may also be obtained from David Hindle on 07572823520 or from his sister, Jayne Woollam, who is organiser of the tricentenary events, on 0774934208 David 07572823520.
On the night of the book launch Mr Hindle will be conducting tours of the church and explaining its history and features, including an opportunity to view the burial place of William and Ellen Cross who are entombed in the chancel, marked by a magnificent ornamental gothic-style brass plate.