Lancashire

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A remote Bowland church with a uniquededication

The church of St Eadmer, Bleasdale,serves the farms and hamlets that nestle below the higher ground bounded by Hazelhurst Fell, Fair Snape Fell and Parlick, at the western edge of the Forest of Bowland.

The dedication is unusual: probably unique. Eadmer was the contemporary and biographer of Anselm, a noted theologian and Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1109. Whilst Anselm was canonized in 1720, I can find no record of Eadmer's canonization.

The first mention of "Eadmor's chapel" is on a map of Lancashire dated 1598. In 1610 it is described as "a chapel without service in the King's chase". In 1650 the church in Bleasdale was reported to be in a state of decay, and in 1698 Richard White of Chipping was licensed to preach in "Admarsh Chapel" (Admarsh is the name of a nearby farm and barn).

In 1835 the Elizabethan chapelwas rebuilt. The church we see today is largely of this time. However, the pair of two-light, round-headed west windows in the tower largely date from the earlier building. They are of a C17 pattern found extensively in Lancashire, and often re-used in a re-building (see St James, Whitechapel). More of the original building may be hidden under the cement rendering. Carved fragments from the old church can be seen in the churchyard wall near the present gate.

The building of 1835 is typical of its time. The west tower is plain, with lancet-form bell openings with hood moulds, and asimplified parapet that is stepped and raisedat the corners in a pinnacle-like way. Astring course marks the level of the bell chamber. The nave is wider than the tower, and has two small lancets in the west wall to light the west gallery. Each of theupper corners of the nave, where it meets the roof are marked by small gables. Along the south and north walls of the nave are lancet windows with hood moulds. The run of windows along the south wall is broken by the porch, but the upper part of a window is placed above the porch gable to continue the rhythm. The rebuilding of 1835 sought to increase the capacity of the church. A memorial on the west wall records that "188 additional sittings were obtained, and in consequence of a grant from The Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building and Repairing of Churches and Chapels, 149 of that number are hereby declared to be free and unappropriated for ever, in addition to 109 sittings formerly provided 30 of which are free." Did the population of the area, even when agriculture needed much more manpower, ever fill the enlarged church?

The chancel was added in 1897. It is narrower than the nave, and its exterior is of stone. There is a traceried east window and two lancets in the south wall. Inside, on the north wall, is a lancet-form piscina , and a recess with a shallow arch. Behind the altar is a reredos with three painted panels showing the Last Supper. It was given as a memorial to a former vicar in 1925 and is by Abbott & Co of Lancaster. In front of the altar is a particularly good Millennium kneeler that depictsthe church and local scenes.

A simple octagonal font stands under the west gallery. Nearby is a painted board with "An Account of the Charities of the Township of Bleasdale". It is undated, but may be late C18.

St Eadmer

The tower and nave are characteristic of the 1830s - plain, with lancets with hood moulds.

Looking east from under the gallery

The churchmust have had a very different feel before the chancel was added in 1897.

Nave and west gallery

The gallery was added during the rebuilding of 1835 to increase the capacity of the church.

Reredos

The painted reredos commemorates a vicar and is by Abbott & Co of Lancaster.

West tower window

The west tower windows are from the earlier church, and are of a pattern common in C17 Lancashire.

Churchyard wall

The churchyard wall near the entrance contains stonework from the Elizabethan building.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen