Long ago, when the Saxons inhabited this land, a man called Gamel (about whom several stories are told) chose a place by the River Roche to build a church. By nightfall he and his workmen had laid the foundations but in the morning the stones were found some distance away, on top of the hill across the river.
Gamel had all the stones moved back and that night ordered that some of the men should watch the site till daybreak, to make sure the stones stayed where they had been placed. The men, however, suspected that the stones had been moved by the devil, or at the very least by the devil’s servants, and so they were very unwilling to volunteer to stay there all night. Their fears were justified, because the men who stayed actually witnessed the stones again being moved – by creatures they described as goblins. Undoubtedly, those goblins were doing the devil’s work.
Gamel realised he had no choice, then, but to build his church where the devil’s goblins decreed it should be, at the very top of the hill. So this is the reason why, every Sunday, the congregation heading for their weekly services had to climb a hundred and twenty-four steps to do so.
Interestingly, in the porch of the old church is a list of vicars through the centuries. Included in this list is one Geoffrey, Dean of Whalley. It is believed that Geoffrey was the great-great-grandson of Gamel himself.
Image © Copyright John Lord and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The devil wanting to build a church! Or maybe he just wanted it moved elsewhere because he’d already claimed the spot for himself…
It’s a very common motif in folklore, this tale is told about many churches all over the country. Particularly in the north. Perhaps the locals knew the best and most sacred site to put a church and interfered? Stories, though, say it was the devil, or boggarts, or a cat (in Leyland) or even a pig (in Winwick)!
this is where roger brierley was baptised in 1586
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