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Extract from
Our Country

Churches and Chapels
A Hewitson

Web transcription ©2002 Hubmaker
For reference only - Reproduction by any means strictly prohibited


"Rufford?" said we, nodding at a railway carriage forming one of a train of twelve, standing alongside the eastern platform of the Preston station. "Yes," answered a radiant-faced guard, and the quick style in which he got rid of that small word, made us believe that the train was on the very edge of moving. But it wasn't. We sat still for five minutes wasting the moments of a valuable life; then read a polemical book for five minutes; then for five minutes surveyed the cimmerian roof of the old station; afterwards for five minutes tried to find relief in the board advertisements fixed opposite the carriage, and involving the quintessence of incongruity - cock and hen feeding compounds, wine cellar frames, turnip manure recommendations, college prospectuses, furniture vans, brandy bottles, stoves, anti-bilious pills, &c; then had ushered into our presence a solitary and exactly-moulded swell; for five minutes we looked obliquely at him, but found no comfort in the creature; then got into an introspective mood, as philosophers would call it, for five minutes; and at the expiration of that time the train was off. Evenly and rapidly did it move along; but we had small comfort, for we had little company, in the journey. There was, to be sure, the solitary swell; but he, like all swells, was too fine and too incipient for our taste. Not a word did he utter. For a moment or two he concentrated his mind upon his boot laces-got them tight ,and regular; and then, during the remainder of the passage, he entered into a painfully-precise rectification of his finger nails - cut them round evenly, rubbed them delicately, scraped them tenderly, polished them thoroughly, and just when we were on the point of imagining that he would be pulling out a microscope to examine them, a stout voice shouted out "Rufford." We emerged from the carriage instantly, leaving the lone swell to solve in his own peculiar fashion the great and momentous finger nail question. What a clean, sweet, rural-looking station this is, said we, mentally, after the train had moved onwards and we had got a chance of surveying the place. And how select and quiet it is! was the thought which followed. At some country stations, on a Sunday in particular, you are annoyed and "faced out" by gossipping, lounging, inanely staring gangs of young men and lads, who saunter up from the village, eye you from hat to shoes, laugh like idiots if you are dressed contrary to their own traditional ideas of propriety, and discuss the colour and cut of your top-coat for long enough after you have gone out of sight.

Croston station is one of the worst in the country for this sort of thing. Extremes, however, meet; so at the very next station - Rufford - we experience a quietude and a serenity, a stillness and a freedom, most distinct in appearance, and most refreshing in its influence. "What do they mean?" said we to the little russet-hued stationmaster, pointing at two blue shields with a wheat sheaf in the centre of them, placed at each side of the station, and he replied, "They're Sir Thomas's arms - put up out of respect; but some thinks as they're for the district - its agricultural, you see." We pass through a small gate, reach the road, turn round, see another blue shield at the back of the station, with a central wheat sheaf upon it; look upon Sir Thomas as the veritable Grand Lama and sovereign Inca of the district; spin, devotionally, the rotatory calabash, on his behalf; turn to the right, observe a newly-made gigantic building - looking bigger than the church ahead - with the words "Fermor Arms Hotel" in front of it; give the calabash another twist, for Sir T. G. Fermor-Hesketh is, evidently the chief power in this district; move onwards over a small bridge spanning a little canal, listen to the warbling of birds - the air is full of their music, get confused with the noises of crows, observe stray pheasants coolly walking into patches of underwood, see a hare now and then bolt across the corner of a pasture - get a glimpse of the old hall of Rufford, with its clustered chimnies, small castellations, and light-coloured antique gablets, and on the whole experience the fullest and happiest of pastoral sensations. Rufford is, indeed, a beautiful spot.

The cottages and the farmsteads in it look as if they had, by a happy enchantment, dropped from some region above, amid ancestoral trees, and fruitful orchards, and rich garden grounds, and fresh green fields. Everything is essentually rural - purely rustic - exquisitely pastoral. In old times, Rufford constituted part of the parish of Croston. In 1793 it was separated therefrom, and is still what it was then made into - an independent parish. In breadth, from north to south, it is two and a quarter,
miles, whilst from east to west it is three miles. There are neither mines, nor quarries, nor manufactories of any sort in the parish: it is exclusively devoted to that oldest and most substantial of all the sciences - agriculture. The manor of Rufford, which is mentioned as early as the reign of Henry I. passed by marriage (with Alice, daughter and sole heir Of Edmund Fytton) into the hands of Sir John Heskayte, knight, early in the 14th century. Sir William de Hesket, son of Sir John, got a charter in the reign of Edward III. to hold a market every Friday, and a fair on the feast of St. Philip and St. James, "at his manor of Rugford" (Rufford). It is also worthy of remark that Edward III., during his sojourn in Normandy, gave Sir William a license to found a chantry in St. Mary's chapel, Rufford. A fine of 40s. a year was once claimed from the manor of Rufford by the monastery of St. Werburgh; and Bussel, the second baron of Penwortham, gave by way of alms one carucate of land in Rufford to the abbey of Chester. The dean and chapter of Chester receive £40 a year now from the manor "in virtue of that grant." There is no market at Rufford now. A fair, however, is held once a year at the place, for cattle, &c. In the village, rising from a basement of steps, there formerly stood a stone pillar; but in 1818 it was removed. Many alterations and improvements have been made in Rufford, which is owned by Sir T. G. Fermor-Hesketh, M.P, during, the present century: old buildings have given way to new ones, small, miserable-looking cottages have been supplanted by neat clean dwellings, and there is a unique seclusion and selectness about the place, seen in but few country villages. There are no lodgers, no wandering vagrants, no "dark horses" here; everybody knows everybody else; and if a stranger should by chance appear for a short time in the village he is looked at as a curiosity, and speculated upon as a wonder. The chief buildings in the parish are the two Rufford Halls - the old one, a beautifully antique structure, surrounded by trees, on the north-eastern side of the village, and occupied by the Dowager Lady Hesketh; and the new one, a stately massive edifice on the western side, forming the residence of Sir Thomas, her son. The old hall was, it is supposed, erected about the end of the 15th century. It contains handsome rooms, magnificent furniture, and there is attached to it a fine old banqueting hall. The new hall was built by Sir Thomas Dalrymple Hesketh, bart., grandfather of the present Sir Thomas, in 1798. It stands in a broad-sweeping, beautiful park, and has an imposing, handsome appearance. But we must direct our attention to the church - a new building standing at the
eastern extremity of the parish, and not far from the railway station. It is impossible to say when the first church was built here; but it is certain that the one we see is the successor of an olden line of similar edifices. In 1734 the old church then standing was rebuilt by the Hesketh family. It was a plain, heavy, barn-like structure, with a large stone cupola at the western end, and was more remarkable for its ugliness of architecture and inconvenience of internal arrangement than anything else. Like its ancestors it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and like them it was in time pulled down. The present church stands upon the old site, but it is an entirely new building, and cost in its erection about £5,000, which sum was
mainly, if not entirely, subscribed in the district. We enter the churchyard, a pretty extensive one, at a quarter past ten in the forenoon - Sunday forenoon. We are sure it is that time, although a gilt-faced clock on one side of
the church front says it is four and a half minutes past three. We afterwards find out that the clock (which was put up by the Lady Dowager Hesketh at a cost of 120 guineas, in memory of the late Sir T. H. Hesketh, bart.) is stopped, owing to some internal breakage. Leaving the clock, we look down the yard and notice a little old man with a very large hat at the back of his head, holding a walking stick in his right hand, and wandering amid the gravestones. In a quarter of an hour - seeing nobody else either in or about the church - we went to him and said "Are you the congregation, this morning?" The little old man smiled, and said, "Nay, nay, moore'll be coming in a bit." He looked thin and shrivelled, but had a smack of dry arithmetical humour in him, for when we said " How old are you?" he replied, " I've nearly lived fourteen years of Sundays - so you can guess." He was nearly 96 years old; that was the meaning of his Sunday theory; and he had walked a considerable distance that morning to church. Having been informed that the church did not "go in" till eleven o'clock, we wandered about the yard and met with some gravestones of all shapes, in all positions, bearing all kinds of inscriptions. The enumeration of ages upon them is most precise and minute - ranges from five hours up to almost 100 years. Nearly half of the gravestones bear upon them the name of Caunce. That is a great name in this dis
trict; so is the name of Alty, and that of Bridge. There are for ever of Bridges, and Altys, and Caunces, in Rufford and the neighbourhood; and the day may come when everybody hereabouts will be called Caunce, or Alty, or Bridge. We find no fault with any of the names, and are glad to see that the owners of them pay close attention to the good old injunction - "Be fruitful, &-c." At the back of the church, near the steps leading to the vestry, there is a large, rough, hard stone, bearing upon it, in wretchedly-awkward letters, this inscription-

Hear. Lyeth T
He : Body : of
James: Barton
Deperted: His
Life. June. the
24 This stone
Not to be taken
By Nobody

Ann Barton 1736

On the principle that two negatives make an affirmative, it is quite clear that this stone should be "taken" by "somebody." Higher up the yard there is a headstone, in which is fixed a small brass plate, containing this most devoted and uxorious statement :- "Could goodness, youth, or beauty, separately or conjointly, have preserved her invaluable life, Mary Clark, wife of the, Rev. Thomas Clark, whose body lies interred near this place, had not died July 7th, 1809, aged 30" The oldest stone in the yard, which we could find, bears the date 1623. At the southern side of the yard there is the basement of an old stone cross, which, apparently, has been rather massive in size. It is quite level with the ground, and all you can see of it is the rim of the pedestal base and the bottom of the column fitting it. Whilst walking about in the ground, men, and women, and youths, of the agricultural class, gradually drew up to the church, and some of them for a few minutes moved about in small knots, for the purpose, evidently, of reading gravestone inscriptions, and discussing the merits, relationships, &c., of the deceased. At the eastern end, round which we chanced to pass, there were two women and a boy keenly conning over, in a sort of half -gossipping, half-contemplative style, the inscriptions upon the stones. The lad did the reading, and the women worked out the comments and the inferences. "Come, read on, Jem," said one of the women, as they were standing near a particular stone. Jem was an obedient lad, and he "read on." "Whah!" said one of the females when he had got a few lines down - " That's -----; he were thick thaw knows we our Betty." And then they got into a gossip about fathers, and grandfathers, and cousins - a mystical genealogical disquisition which we could not understand; so we resumed our march, and in time got to the front, observing the very picturesque effect produced by the congregation as they came down, in many fashioned dresses, the long walk there. The solitary bell of the church was tinkling out its tender monotone; the sun was shining; every bough about was cheerful with the music of birds; fathers, and mothers, and grandfathers, with little clusters of cherry-cheeked children, were quietly approaching; and the organ within the building was slowly giving out its prelusive melody. Having cast a glance at the building, which is built of brick, relieved at intervals by dark bands, with an elaborate facade, surmounted at one side of the western end with a spire, half brick, half stone, and generally constituting a fair specimen of what in architectural language is called "Early English Decorated" - having done this, we put in an appearance amongst the congregation, noticing, as we pass through the porch, a card requesting every member of the congregation to join aloud in the responses, and bestir themselves energetically in the "amens," &c. We take a seat at the bottom end of the church; observe the devotion of the congregation, which is most earnest and orderly; feel a peculiar solemnity, and get very pious in thought until a lad close to us, nursing one of his fingers in a large leather bag, lets a big jack knife fall upon the floor. That knife upset and undid our solemnity. He kept his shoe upon the article for ten minutes and when we whispered to him, "Pick the critter up," he winked one eye, and shook his head most cunningly. The service we observed, when our nerves had got properly re-strung, was very pleasing. The responses were intoned with correctness, and not too loudly; the members of the choir, who sit on each side of the chancel, sang well; the organ, on the the right side of the chancel, gave out good music; the sermon was serious, but clear and steady; and the congregation, consisting of farmers, their wives, and several tidily-dressed agricultural-looking young men and women, with a moderate admixture of children, was very devout. At the conclusion of the service, and when everybody had passed by us, and done their utmost, but without success, to find out what we wanted remaining behind - they stared at us with a clear front, they eyed our shoes, our topcoat, and our shirt collar, -the red-faced lasses gave stray glances, the sun-burnt lads looked wonderingly, the schoolmaster pricked his ears, the children whispered, "Whah is it?" and if it we could have done it fairly, we should have liked to have said to the whole posse comitatus, "It isn't him." Well, at the conclusion we quietly sauntered about the church, and left it as we entered it with feelings of pleasure and veneration. It consists of a nave, lofty and broad, resting upon ten stone arches - five on each side - two narrow side aisles, and a handsome, capacious chancel. The pillars upon which the nave arches depend, are of circular stone, and are surmounted by massive and beautifully -carved capitals. Dormer windows at each side of the higher portions of the nave throw a full clear light into the centre of the building. The main roof is pointed, is filled in with pitchpine, and rests upon three principals of similar material. The church was designed by Messrs. Danson and Davies, architects, of Liverpool, will accommodate about 450 persons, and the average attendance at each Sunday service, morning and afternoon, will be about 300. The "Parishioners" number, altogether, between 700 and 800. The pews in the church are open, firm in make, broad, with backs rather too low to be comfortable, and have round holes cut into them at each end. We failed to discover the utility of the holes. The chancel has a very beautiful appearance, and almost reminds one of a Roman Catholic sanctuary. At the end there is a magnificient altar piece, made of Devonshire spar, or a material closely akin to it. The reredos is elaborate in style; contains a long white marble cross in the centre, which is flanked with the emblematic pelican and lamb made of the same kind of stone; and rests upon a handsome table formed of carved cedar wood, inlaid with ebony and box wood. Sir T. G. Fermor-Hesketh gave the reredos and Sir L. Palk the table. Above the altar there is a fine stained three-light window, given, according to an inscription upon two brass shields below it, by Sir T. G. Fermor-Hesketh, in memory of Sir T. Dalrymple Hesketh. The floor of the chancel is of variegated tile. A large arch fronts this part of the building; and on one side of it there is the pulpit, a strong and exquisite piece of workmanship, made of Caen stone, panelled with rich marbles, and the gift of Mr. Starkie, of Huntroyd, the patron of the church: whilst on the other side there are the reading-desk and a lectern, the latter (of polished brass,) being the gift of Captain Naylor, of Longton. The Bible which is used at the lectern was the gift of the Countess of Pomfret: and the Prayer-books, along with those used at the Communion Service, were presented by the late Lady Arabella Fermor-Hesketh, who was in many respects a great friend to the church. The building is rich in stained glass. We have mentioned the window in the chancel; in addition there is a large stained window', at the western end, put up by Sir W. G. Fermor-Hesketh, in memory of his wife, who died February 28th, 1870. On the southern side of the church there are two small double-light stained windows, which have a very pretty appearance. One is in memory of Kate Chappel, who died at Kurrachee, in India, in 1869, and was put in by her brother, the Rev. J. F. Goggin, rector of Ruford; the other is in memory of Maria Massy Bomford, who died in 1848. On the northern side there are two equally pretty double-light coloured windows ; the first - in memory of the Hon. Lady Brough, who died in 1863, at the age of 87 - was put in by the late Lady Arabella Fermor-Hesketh; the second refers to Richard Bolton, Esq., who married the Dowager Lady Hesketh's sister, and to his daughter Frances Jane. On the southern side of that quarter of the church belonging the Hesketh family - a portion about four yards broad, extending right across the church in front of the chancel - there is a curious old marble slab fixed in the floor; and from the lines and indentations it has clearly at some time constituted a memorial brass. The stone is white marble, but age and other circumstances have turned it into a dull limestone, colour. Upon the surface of the slab there is represented a knight and his lady; their hands are clasped, devotionally; and their heads rest upon a cushion. At the head of the slab there are armorial bearings, and along the edges of it there is a Latin inscription, the English of which is - "O Lord have mercy on the souls of Thomas Hesketh, esq., and Margery his wife, which Thomas died 8th October, 1363 dominical letter A. Robert, William, Margery, Thomas, John, Hugh, William, Geoffrey, Richard, Henry [buried]' here." There are several mural tablets in the church. One, near the ancient slab just mentioned, refers to Sophia Hesketh, wife of Sir Thomas Dalrymple Hesketh, who died in 1817. The inscription is a most prolix one - about the longest we ever saw, and for eulogy beats that put up in Westminster Abbey to the memory of Zachary Macaulay. It is surmounted by a figure, in relievo, of Hope, holding an anchor. Flaxman, the celebrated sculptor, made this tablet, and it cost, we are told, £800. To a modern eye it does not seem worth 800 shillings. Tablets to other members of the Hesketh family, &c., are placed in different parts of the church. Roger Dodsworth, the antiquary, who married a Hesketh, of Rufford, was interred in this church, in August, 1654. Roger was a great writer, although few but the learned know anything of him. His collected manuscripts form 162 folio and quarto volumes, and 122 of them, in his own handwriting, are now in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford. The font of Rufford Church is a curiosity. It is a plainly chiselled stone basin, rests upon a thin stone column, and is surmounted by a pointed wooden lid, which bears around its base a very curious inscription, in old fashioned gilt letters, very difficult to translate, but which, we think, imply this very sensible injunction -" Wash not thy sins from thy body only, but also from, thy soul." The font is about 200 years old. We must now say a word in reference to the rector - the Rev. James F. Goggin - who is as good a looking clergyman as we have met with. He seems to be like the gentleman mentioned in the Psalms - has been among green pastures, walked beside the still waters, &c. - and although he has been invalided occasionally, his radiant features show no signs of weakness. Mr. Goggin is a strongly-built, muscular, ruddy-hued gentleman; straight from top to toe, with a broad, compact head, set with military accuracy upon a well-formed neck and pair of shoulders. He has dark evenly arranged hair; has a full clear eye, with both temper and dignity in it; wears whiskers weighing perhaps altogether about the one-thirty-second part of an ounce; is very accurate in his toilet arrangements, and walks in boots most exquisitely clean and shiny; has a pretty powerful voice; reads clearly; preaches earnestly; but with the exception of a slightly swinging motion, has very little rhetorical action in him. He is a frank man, with a full clerical appearance; and believes in muscular as well as gospel Christianity. He holds two medals from the Royal Humane Society of England for saving lives in the Atlantic. We may also remark - for we may as well put all his honours thick upon him at once - that he is a magistrate of the county of Lancaster. We do not approve of clerical magistrates; still, we dare say, Mr. Goggin will be as intelligent as any of the county justices, and sharper than several, for not a few of them are terrible Dogberries. He was born about the year 1840. When a boy his ideal was to be a clergyman. At the age of ten he went to a divinity college, and soon rode on into the regions of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; when 19 he entered St. Aidan's theological college, where he passed with distinction; then he entered the school of matrimony, in which he is now obtaining honours. In September, 1862, he was licensed to the curacy of St. George's, Wigan; and on leaving that church he received a handsome present from the congregation. In 1863 he obtained the curacy of the Parish Church of Wigan. In nine months afterwards he was preferred to the rectory of Luckington, in Wiltshire; and on the 17th of September, he was presented to the parish and rectory of Rufford, the living of which is worth £630 per annum. On leaving Luckington he and Mrs. Goggin, who had taken an active part in the Sunday and day schools, had a handsome present made to them by the congregation. He is an energetic clergyman; has worked hard for the district; and yet has for a long time resided out of it. There is what might be called a rectory house, near the church, at Rufford; but it is said to be damp and unhealthy; hence Mr. Goggin, after getting rheumatism at it, went to live at Southport, coming over every Sunday, and at other times when needed; and now he has taken up his abode in Bretherton. He is, of course, anxious to reside in his own district. Not long ago, he offered £1,000 and two acres of his glebe, situated in Mawdesley, for two acres of land in Rufford; but he can neither purchase nor get upon a lease property there; neither can he have built for him, on a rent charge, a suitable residence. Seeing that handsome hotels, reminding one more of the era of Cyclopean masonry than rustic architecture, can be erected not far from the church, we suppose that in a short time the landlord of the parish will see the propriety and utility of fitting-up a proper rectory house for it. Provision should be made for those who retail gospel as well as for those who sell gin in Rufford. There are two schools in the parish (separate buildings, about 400 yards apart), one for boys and the other for girls, and the average attendance is about 140. But we must bid adieu to Rufford; the Sunday afternoon train in our direction being due. The first sight we saw after leaving the church was what? - nobody can guess. The sight consisted of thirteen men, walking along the canal bank, each carrying a fishing rod! We expostulated with one man - said it was an awkward thing to be out fishing on a Sunday afternoon; but his reply finished us. "Nor it," said he. 'It arnt half as bad as't paasons. They looks after th' loaves and fishes - preaches for 'em - on Sundays; we're only a going after th' fishes."

More From 'Atticus' :
Hesketh-With-Becconsall Church & Chapel
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