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St Eadmer Bleasdale - Page 4



The Church in Bleasdale has a dedication which we believe is unique throughout the whole of the Christian world, that of Saint Eadmer (locally pronounced Eedmer, although probably a more accurate pronunciation would be E-A-dmer).

For a long time it was thought that the Eadmer referred to was the secretary to Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1079 to 1109 and who had written that Saint’s biography. But following an article in the Daily Telegraph in 1993 on the excavations being carried out in Canterbury Cathedral to install a new heating system, which mentioned Eadmer, a pupil at Bleasdale School, Joanne Whittingham, wrote to Canterbury Cathedral asking for such details of Eadmer as they had, so that they could be displayed in our church. However the Cathedral replied by saying that they did not believe that their Eadmer was the same as ours. They thought that our Eadmer had been the Bishop of Lindisfarne for 11 years from 688, before dying on 6 May 699. They enclosed a copy of an entry in Arnold-Foster’s book “Studies in Church Dedications”, which refers to an “unknown S. Eadnor who gives his name to the lonely Lancashire chapelry of Admarsh in Bleasdale – formerly Edmarsh – has been conjecturally identified with S. Cuthbert’s successor in the see of Lindisfarne.”

The St. Eadnor, who is said to have been written about by Bede himself (although Bede spells his name Eadbert,) ended up with his bones occupying one of the little bags of relics which surround St. Cuthbert’s body in its coffin in Durham Cathedral.

The two different spellings of the names of the saint does raise doubts as to whether Eadnor or Eadbert really is our Eadmer, a doubt perhaps strengthened by Arnold-Foster including his reference to our saint in his chapter entitled “Doubtful Dedications”.

This gives rise to a third possibility, and the one that is our present favourite. In Simeon’s “History of the Church of Durham”, written between 1104 and 1108, there is a passage relating to the original building of a church to house the remains and relics of Saint Cuthbert. The body of this great saint from the Celtic era was removed from Lindisfarne when the island was sacked during Viking raids. The journey the monks took throughout the north of England is well chronicled, first to Chester-le-Street and later to Ripon. From Ripon the coffin was carried across the North York moors, taking a route which is still known today as the “Lyke Wake Walk” or the “coffin” walk. All this journeying occupied a period of two centuries; it was only when raiders threatened that a new place of safety was sought.

Eventually those carrying the coffin on its final journey rested at a place called Wurdelau, on the eastern side of what is now the city of Durham. The vehicle on which the shrine containing St. Cuthbert’s remains were being carried became stuck, and all attempts to move it proved in vain. It was then that Bishop Aldune (Alduhn) addressed his monks and directed that: “they should solicit an explanation of this sign from heaven by a fast of three days duration, which should be spent in watching and prayer, in order that they might discover where they should take up their abode along with the holy body of the father.”

Simeon records that: “this having been done, 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 there prepare a resting-place for it. When this revelation was publicly announced, all were comforted thereby, and joyfully returned thanks to Christ.”

The immoveable vehicle on which Cuthbert’s body rested was suddenly mobile again and it went to what is now Durham where “a little church of boughs of trees” was erected. Today the great Norman Cathedral of Durham stands on this same spot and the Shrine of St. Cuthbert, one of England’s greatest Saints, is housed within it.

But even if this is our St. Eadmer, how did our church get his name?

The answer to this may lie with the Richard Parkinson who was chapel warden when the present church was built in 1835.

The church records show bequests by his family to the Admarsh Chapel going back to 1683, but the history of his family itself can be traced back to the very early history of the north of England.

One of the family’s oldest branches lived in Bleasdale, in Fairsnape, whilst other branches were to be found in Durham and Yorkshire. Later the family spread to Scotland and Ireland and, from the 17th century, to America. The Parkinsons of Fairsnape were from the oldest line, claiming descent from the Featherstonehaughs of Featherstone Castle in Northumberland.

If Richard Parkinson knew of the history of Durham Cathedral he may have drawn a connection between St. Eadmer being responsible for the creation of that Cathedral and the building of a new and proper church in Admarsh. Anyway, that is what we like to think!

(Compiled by Mr Derek Pratt – St Eadmer’s Church, Bleasdale)