Lancashire

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"A typical late medieval North Country church": Pevsner

Nikolaus Pevsner's observation noted above isabsolutely right. The long, low embattled profile, sturdy west tower and elementary decoration are typical of many late Perpendicular churches in the north of England. At St Michael's-on-Wyrethese elements are combined with yellow and red sandstone to give an impression of timeless solidity. Its location alongside the main road makes it the most frequently seen medieval church in the Fylde.

Tradition has it that a church was built at this crossing of the River Wyre inc.640AD, atthe time of themissionary and Archbishop of York, Paulinus. Nothing remains fromthat time. A church was evidently on the site in 1086 - the Domesday book records Michelscherce as one of the churches in the Hundred of Amounderness.

The earliest parts of the present church are the infilled remains of a small lancet - a "leper window" - and part of the south aisle. These, along with a pedestal and piscina,date from the C13. Of the C14 are the chancel, part of the nave arcades and part of the north wall, though close dating is difficult in the absence of any obvious stylistic elements. In 1956 restoration work on the north wall of the chancel revealed a C14 or C15 mural. Though faded, it is possible to see the Virgin Mary, apostles and a foot of Christ as he ascends into the clouds.The east window of the chancel may also be C14. However, many churches in the north of England carried medieval styles through into the C17, and dating can be problematic. The south aisle windows - square headed with uncusped lights - illustrate the point well.

But there are parts of the church that can be dated with certainty from documentary evidence. The Butler Chapel was founded in about 1480 by John Butler of Rawcliffe Hall. The tower was built c.1549. In that year money to the value of 40 shillings was given by John Singleton for the building of a steeple. He also gave 10 shillings towards the bells. The tower is rectangular but for a stair projection adjoining the south aisle. It has stepped angle buttresses, a west door and window, battlements and small corner pinnacles. The 3 bells in the tower are dated 1458, 1663 and 1742. On the parapet of the tower are the coat of arms of Henry Butler, his initials and the date 1611. The same date is carved over the semi-circular headed doorway of the south porch. The only significant addition dated after the work of 1611 is the early C19 vestry.

The church has a small number of fragments of old glass including a C14 shield. In the Butler chapel is a C16 Flemish roundel depicting sheep shearing. The shepherds can clearly be seen at work with theirshears.The crayfish may denote the astrological sign of Cancer (June 21st - July 22nd). Presumably the piece is one of a series illustrating the Labours of the Months- "Junius" (June) is engraved at the bottom of this panel. Interestingly, June is more commonly illustrated by grass cutting. Other glass in the church includes a modern representation of the parable of the sower.

The tower (1549)

The west tower's symmetry is broken only by the pinnacled stair projection on the right.

The nave looking east

The nave arcades are difficult to date, showing features of the C14 to the C16.

C16 Flemish glass

The C16 was a time when much English stained glass was destroyed, and little made.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen