Brindle church’s oldest features can all be seen in the churchyard at any time of day. These include four cross bases, two of which are definitely medieval, three decorated grave slabs and a stone coffin.
There has been a church in Brindle on this site probably from the 1190s. The current one was largely rebuilt in the 1800s, but the impressive church tower is from the late medieval period. It probably dates from the 1400s. As you enter through the lych gate to the churchyard, note the alpha and omega signs on its wooden doors. Proceed around the back (or east) side of the church.
The first thing that strikes you are the three upright grave slabs. These are difficult to photograph but close examination reveals the detail. All three have large carved crosses on them. The one in the centre is a very simple, fairly crude depiction. The two slabs flanking it are much more ornate and skillfully done. A further carved grave fragment rests up against the wall to the right of three.
In between the slabs, often partially hidden by plants in the summertime, are two medieval cross bases both found in Brindle village. Although not huge, they are worth a look (10p coin in the picture on the left gives an idea of scale). They were discovered by Canon Jaques, rector of Brindle. The left hand one measures 16 inches square and has an oblong socket where the cross once stood. It is probably High Cop Lane Cross and was found by the rector in Water Street (which adjoins to High Cop Lane) in 1909.
The right hand one is likely to be Sandy Lane Cross. Canon Jaques discovered this at the bottom of a hedge in Sandy Lane (which is the main road into Brindle from Blackburn). It measures 20 inches by 20 inches, and its cross socket is more square than the High Cop Lane one. Both bases are of a similar height, this one being 19 inches high, just two inches taller than its neighbor.
Less is known about the age and original location of the cross bases that now hold up the sundials on the north and south side of the church. They are quite possibly medieval, but they have been reused to hold up a pair of unusual pillars. The bases are much bigger than the ones at the back of the church. The one on the north side is 30 by 27 inches, the one on the south is 28 by 29 inches. The two stone pillars inserted into them were clearly made at the same time as each other. They are a striking design, having a concave hemisphere carved out towards the top on each of their four sides. The one on the south side retains its small metal sundial disc.
At the north side of the church, just around the corner from the three grave slabs, tucked up against the church wall is a large medieval coffin . Carved from a single block, the top end is clearly shaped to accommodate the head of the deceased.
Across the road from Brindle St James Church, is the Cavenish Arms pub. It has a unique collection of modern stained glass that commerates the Viking burial of the Cuerdale Hoard and is worth a look. The hoard is the single biggest Viking treasure trove in Europe and was hidden around 905 AD, not to be discovered until Victorian times. It will be the subject of a future blog post, but to have a flavour of the types of things it contained, have a look at this post on the Silverdale Hoard by clicking here.
Parking and Access
Park at the free car park outside the village hall on Water Street. Proceed up the street on foot to the churchyard. Somewhere along Water Street, Canon Jaques found the High Cop Lane cross, and if you were to follow Water Street in the opposite direction it does become High Cop Lane. Access to the churchyard is during daylight hours.
Just a short drive away St Helen’s Cross and Holy Well
The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire (A Revised Version : Volume VI Leyland Hundred), J.A. Hilton et al (2007), North West Catholic History Society
The Old Parish Churches of Lancashire, Mike Salter (2005), Folly Publications
http://www.pastscape.org English Heritage website (accessed 1/5/15)