Monday, March 12, 2007

Pilling's Georgian Church: Part One

It’s time for another two-part history lesson, this time concerning the now unused Georgian church of St. John the Baptist in Pilling. (Before we start we ought to apologise for the use of black and white photographs throughout this posting. Unfortunately the original colour images were lost due to our recent computer virus. We’re sure you’ll understand.)
Because the church is closed to the public nowadays it’s extremely difficult to get inside…unless, of course, one the members of your society happens to be Headlie Lawrenson who has his own set of keys.
And what a smart little church it is, once you get through the door…plain and unassuming but with a charm and character all of its own. The guide book is full of historical facts and figures about the place, (work was started on its construction in 1717 following the demise of the old church at Newers Wood) but we thought, for the sake of this post, we’d throw in a few of our own less-well-documented pieces of trivia. And where better to start than with the antics of the notorious Reverend Potter.
Potter has become something of a legend around the Wyre; a pugilistic parson famed for his plundering of wrecks, his thunderous admonitions of the congregation and his bare knuckle fighting. One infamous story, as related by Allan Clarke, recalls that: “One Sunday evening a man rushed into church with news of a wreck. The congregation, scenting spoil, began to move for the door, whereupon the parson called out, as he hurried down from the pulpit, “Here! Hold on – let’s all start fair.””
According to local legend, on another occasion the good reverend managed to ‘preach twice’ and ‘fight thrice’ on the same Sunday.
Potter, apparently, also cancelled a wedding because the bride was five minutes late and, according to Headlie Lawrenson, following the death of his first wife remarried a young girl from the village the father of whose illegitimate child had never been revealed.
Ahem…we’re not saying anything.

For all his alleged misdeeds, however, Potter was not without his admirers and during his tenancy the balcony was added to accommodate the increase in church attendants. In order to fit the balcony in, the good parson’s pulpit (shown above) was moved to the other side of the church. Try and picture Potter, if you would, standing in this three tiered wooden structure bellowing at his parishioners…it certainly brings our local history to life, don’t you think?
There are, of course, other curiosities around the church worth a mention at this point. Take the peculiar stone objects hiding behind the font shown in the photograph below.
The large stone ball originally stood on the roof. It was struck by lightening from a particularly violent storm during the church’s restoration, crashed through the porch and almost killed two of the workmen sheltering inside.Okay…we did say this was going to be a two parter, so let’s leave it at that for now. (We don’t want our readers suffering from too much excitement, after all.)
Stay tuned…Part Two is coming soon.

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