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St Eadmer Bleasdale - Page 2



There has been a church in Admarsh-in-Bleasdale since 1577, though the history of its foundation is very obscure. The earliest authentic record of a chapel is in 1610, when it was referred to as a chapel in the King’s Chase or Forest, for which reason the Royal Coat of Arms adorns the front of the balcony. Admarsh was at that time in the Archbishopric of York and in the Archdeaconry of Richmond.

The next reference is in 1650, during the Commonwealth period, when there was a Parliamentary Survey instituted for the purpose of the Presbyterian system of church government. This survey noted that Admarsh chapel was without “ministry or maintenance”, and stated: “that the people thereabout are an ignorant and careless people, knowing nothing of the worship of God, but live in ignorance and superstition.”

In 1683 this state of affairs was rectified by a bequest of a Mr. George Pigott of Preston, a relative of the then landowners, the Parkinson family. In a will dated July 28th of that year, Mr. Pigott left to his surviving trustees, Robert and Christopher Parkinson, the sum of £30 to provide a preaching minister at Admarsh-in-Bleasdale: “upon condition that they employ the yearly profits to a better sustenation of such a preaching minister.”

The bequest appears to have been lost because in 1702 Christopher Parkinson left £6 to the Admarsh Chapel to be employed in legal proceedings to recover the legacy.

Christopher Parkinson was a generous benefactor of the church. He left “forty shillings yearly and every year for ever, for a preacher or minister to officiate monthly at Admarsh Chapel within Bleasdale, with a further sum of forty shillings after his wife’s death.”

He was also much interested in education and to him is due the origin of Bleasdale School. He left a legacy of £10 yearly for a schoolmaster to teach at Admarsh Chapel, “or as near thereunto as convenient.” He also left to the poor of Bleasdale for ever the interest of his mortgage of £100, and £60 upon the lands of James Parkinson of Blindhurst, and Edward Parkinson of Bleasdale. (The Parkinson Charity continues to this day).

During the early 18th century the Vicar of Chipping held a service every first Sunday of the month but then on May 20th 1749, John Penny was licensed to the Curacy of Admarsh by the Vicar of Lancaster.

In 1767, another member of the Parkinson family, Richard Parkinson of Woodgate, engaged a Revd. Thomas Smith to become a permanent resident and to teach his children, as well as to officiate at Admarsh Chapel. He was provided with board and lodging, plus £10 a year. He was allowed to take in additional boarders into his “roomy house... by way of eking out his scanty maintenance.”

Thomas Smith was succeeded by the Revd. Joseph Stuart in 1778. He was appointed because, having been a schoolmaster in Garstang, he was deemed to be a “literate person.”  He remained both as a teacher and curate of Admarsh for 47 years.  Of later vicars, Littledale (1833) and Barclay (died 1897) are both buried in the churchyard.

Baptisms commenced at the Church in 1779, burials in 1781 and marriages in 1849.  The value of the Incumbency rose to £44 in 1844 and by 1892 the gross income was £127, “with 24 acres of Glebe land and a house, in the patronage of the Vicar of Lancaster.”  What is now Vicarage Farm, which is a little way north of the church, was for many years the Parsonage and the land adjoining it was farmed by the incumbent.

By the 1820’s Admarsh Chapel, described at the time as “being situated in one the wildest and uncultivated districts of the parish of Lancaster”, was in a sorry state of decay and much too small for the population. A subscription was therefore opened, as the inhabitants were said to be too poor to raise the necessary sum for rebuilding the chapel. Subscribers were reminded that “ a grain of mustard seed may become a tree ” and this appeal clearly worked as the church was rebuilt in 1835 with the name of St. Eadmer’s. A plaque in the Church commemorates this:

This Chapel was rebuilt and enlarged in the year 1835. William Fenton, minister; Richard Parkinson, Chapelwarden.”

An addition to this, another inscription commemorates the chancel extension eastwards in 1897: “Restored, reseated and chancel built in the year 1897, F H Parker, vicar, Alfred King and James Wills, Churchwardens.”

The new church of 1835 most probably occupies the site of the old church. Stone tracery in the window at the top of the belfry staircase is almost certainly older than 1835 and it may be that material from the old chapel was incorporated into the new building or, as is common, the tower foundations are older than the rest of the building.

However, one local legend has it that the original chapel was on the site of the barn, the house conversion of which can be seen at the north-west corner of the church car park (and even that this may be the old chapel). It is more likely however that, given its local prominence, the present site is the ancient one.

Since 1897 the Church has remained much as it is today, though with additional adornments. The fine East window of Christ the King is by a local Lancaster firm of glass-makers. The triptych of the Last Supper which forms the backcloth to the altar is also a 1920’s addition.