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Perpendicular tower, early C14 chancel, and a nave of 1855 by E.G. Paley

Penwortham church is sited at the point where the land falls away to the River Ribble below. This wasthe cause of some consternation in the early C17 when instability caused by burials and underscouring by the river caused landslips. A prohibition on burials to the south and east was put in place, but further slips have occurred over the centuries. Nearby, to the north, isCastle Hill, the site of a Norman motte and bailey. And not too distant is the site of a small Benedictine priory founded in 1140. To this ancient site was added the present church.

The oldest part of the existing building is the chancel whichdates from the early C14. Its walls are of red sandstone and gritstone pierced by small, simple windows with trefoil-headed lights and quatrefoil tracery. It is lit by a large east window with three lights with cusped heads. A window on the north wall of the chancel appears to have either lost its mullion or to have been built from left-over pieces, and looks most odd!The chancel windows to north and southhold fragments of oldglass. Inside the building the chancel walls are finished in rough stonework and contrast with the white painted plasterworkof the nave.

The west tower was built in theC15 in the Perpendicular style, and is of a type commonly found in Lancashire. It has a west door and window, a stair projection, simple bell openings, diagonal buttresses, and battlements with small corner pinnacles - compareBroughton, St Michael's-on-Wyre or Cockerham. The stair projection holds a spiral staircase of 60 steps, whilst the belfry has eightbells, fivedating from 1712, one dated 1858, and the remaining two of 1926.

Connecting the chancel and tower is a nave (with aisles) and a porch, allof 1855-6 by E.G. Paley. It replaces a long, low structure that was the same width as the chancel which was itself enlarged in 1822. This part of the building is light and airy. Wide arches on octagonal columns divide the aisles from the central part of the nave. The pews, which presumably date from the rebuilding are unusual. Those in the centre face east, whilst those in the aisles face each other, and are stepped upwards on a wooden floor towards the walls. The latter are box pews - installed at a time when many vicars were getting rid of them as outmoded leftovers from the C18. The design of the pews isbeautifully unaffected, though those in the main body of the church do look uncomfortable!

Inside the church aretwo fonts. One is of Caen stone and was given by Mr Norris, achurchwarden, in 1865. At the time of the donation the churchwarden asked if he could have the old font as a garden ornament. This piece, a tall slim, plainshape, with a small bowl, is dated 1667. It was returned to the church in 1906. A further Georgian marble font, once owned by the church, is now in St Andrew's, Longton.

Penwortham has a good selection of Victorian glass including work by Seward of Lancaster.

The west tower

The tower, with a south-east stair projection, follows a common Lancashire pattern.

The nave and chancel arch

Paley's nave is light and spacious, contrasting with the darker unrendered medieval chancel.

Adoration of the Magi

This window in the north aisle is signed Seward of Lancaster, and dated1897.

View of the nave from the chancel

Unusually, the nave pewsface the chancel andthose in the flanking aisles are box pews that face each other.

View from the northeast

Paley's nave is higher than the chancel, and higher than the original nave would have been.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen