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            The Parish Church of St. Mary,

           Penwortham

The Landslips


In the 17th century it was the time-honoured practice( a practice born of superstition) to bury the dead to the south and east of the Church, and particularly to avoid the north.  Thus the area between the Chancel and the steep bank, towards Narrow Water, became riddled with burials. Inherently unstable ground (sand and clay) and underscoured by the river, it became waterlogged and fell away.  By 1607 the bank’s edge had advanced to within eight yards of the chancel, and a little later to within five yards.


From 1606 five orders were made by two successive bishops of Chester, endorsed by the Archbishop of York, and several prominent local people.  They described the damage and told parishioners to lay aside superstition and use the less popular north churchyard for burials.


Burials were prohibited between the Chancel and the bank; the prohibition also extended to an area bounded by ‘the cross and towe great thorne trees upon one root in the churchyard walle southward from that cross’.


There was a small landslip early in 1891, and in the Spring of 1932 and the bank began to move again.  Work was immediately started on dry rubble drains and buttresses.  These lines of rubble may be seen running from top to bottom of the bank. In order to reach as firm foundations, the rubble had at some points to be as deep as twenty feet below the surface.  The task was completed by the Autumn, and the money - about £2,000, raised by the following February.


‘Crusader’


The long slab now leaning against the Tower Wall  wall was originally laid in the ground. Incised and faintly visible, are the floreated cross within a circle, and on the dexter side, a sword.  Although the slab dates from the 12th -13th centuries and most certainly marked the grave of a soldier, it is not necessarily that of a crusader.


The initials ‘R (?) H’ which are more heavily incised were added in the 16th century or later, perhaps the stone was later used to mark another grave.


Note: the slab is now located in the chancel of church.


The Lych Gate


November 1896 saw the beiginning of the construction of a Lych Gate, given in memory of Mr. & Mrs W.A. Hulton, of Hurst Grange.  The gate was dedicate in March of 1897 by the bishop of Manchester; a commemorative plaque fixed to it is dated 1896.

Carve over the north portal is the inscription “ DOMINUS CUSTODIAT EXITUM TUUM” and over the south portal “DOMINUS CUSTODIAT INTROITUM TUUM”


The tow inscriptions mean “The Lord preserve thy going out” and “The Lord preserve  they going in” -0 they are probably based on Psalm 121.8.


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