SAINT EADMER’S CHURCH, BLEASDALE
Tucked away beneath an arc of fells, Hazlehurst, Holme House, Fairsnape, Blindhurst and Parlick, approached by a narrow, winding road which is steep in places, lies the hamlet of Bleasdale. Blink as you drive through it and you might well miss it! It is indeed on the road to nowhere, remote and peaceful, as if the world and its cares have passed it by. However, this dale has had its excitements in its time and history and within its few acres there is much of interest to be seen.
The first folk that we know dwelling in these parts were from the Bronze Age and as far back as 1700 BC, they built a timber circle, the remains of which can still be seen. Its purpose may have been communal living, astronomical, or as a place of worship. Certainly it was important and finds from the excavations are on display in the Harris Museum. It is likely that the Romans passed this way from their fort at Ribchester on their expeditions northwards. Later Christian people built a chapel at Admarsh in Bleasdale. During the time of the Jacobite Rebellion local Catholics met secretly on Parlick Pike.
Records of ‘Eadmor’s Chapel’ first appeared on a map of Lancashire in 1598. The earliest authentic record describes the chapel as "a chapel in the King’s chase or forest". It suffered ups and downs during the years. During the period of the Commonwealth it had fallen into decay and was rescued by one Christopher Parkinson, a member of one of the oldest families in the area. The Bleasdale Parkinsons were the original branch of a clan which had spread across the north country and into Scotland. They lived at Higher Fairsnape Farm and came to the rescue of Admarsh Chapel then described as being "situated in one of the wildest and most uncultivated districts of the parish of Lancaster".
In 1835 the new church was rededicated and it may be visited up a lane on the way to the Bronze Age Circle. It is a pleasant little church, neat and modest and I suppose the most striking thing about it, apart from its location, is its dedication. Who was St. Eadmer and why is this little hidden -away place of worship so named?
For a very long time, it was believed that the Eadmer in question was a contemporary of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of William Rufus and biographer of same. No satisfactory explanation as to what his connection with Bleasdale has, as far as I am aware, ever been put forward.
Latterly, another and perhaps more likely theory has emerged and the clue is with the Parkinson family. The Fairsnape Parkinsons claimed descent from the Featherstonehaughs of Featherstone Castle in Northumberland then in the diocese of Durham. When they were looking for a dedication for their new church, it is reasonable to suggest that they looked to their Mother Church of Durham which was the last resting place of the remains of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne who was carried across the land ahead of the Vikings. To examine the theory we go to a work published by a monk of Durham, Simeons’s ‘History of the Church of Durham’.
He describes the arrival of the shrine at a place on the east side of what is now the city of Durham. The vehicle on which it rested could not be moved and the bishop directed his monks "that they should solicit an explanation of this sign from heaven by a fast of three days, which should be spent in watching and prayer, in order that they might discover where they should take their abode along with the holy body of the father". This was done and Simeon goes on to relate that "a revelation was made to a certain religious person named Eadmer, to the purport that they were required to remove the body to Durham and prepare a suitable resting place for it". This was done and as a result, one of the greatest Norman Cathedrals in the country was built.
As for Eadmer, apart from this brief moment in history in 995 AD, there appears to be no other trace and this unique dedication is his only memorial. The rest of his life is a mystery. Possibly the Parkinsons felt that they shared his vision to build a church albeit a small and modest one.
On the back page of the little guide to St. Eadmer’s, is this prayer.
as you gave Eadmer the vision to build a church to your glory: and kindled that vision anew in the hearts of those who built the Church in this place; so guide all who meet you here to go on building your Church in the hearts and lives that are wholly dedicated to you.
The guide also states that saints do not proclaim themselves, but rather the Christ they serve. In this little church, Eadmer has a good memorial.
With acknowledgements to
the Revd. Geoffrey Connor
Vicar of Bleasdale
Have a look at www.lancashirechurches.co.uk/bleasdale.htm