Local historian

WEDDINGS take an awful lot of planning, usually over many months. But occasionally even the-best laid plans can start to go a little astray.

It’s usually at one of the little old country churches that has been performing sterling service as a wedding venue for many years ...

Lancashire Telegraph: The original Pickup Bank Chapel still standing today

A couple of uninvited guests almost caused chaos at a ceremony at the lovely Pickup Bank Chapel some years ago, just as proceedings were moving along nicely.

It was a warm day and the little church was packed. Some fresh air was needed and the front door of the church, perched on the edge of the moorland above Darwen, had been left open.

It was just the invitation two strangers needed ... and it wasn’t long before the hefty visitors made their presence felt in the doorway.

The first one, a black and white Friesian, was trying to join in the “I do” bit with a deep gurgle and grunt before a quick-thinking usher got his shoulder to the door to see off any serious trouble.

“Usual problems over the years tend to come from the roaring fire we have blazing as the snow begins to pile up,” says Roy Parker, a trustee at Pickup Bank Chapel at the top of Long Lane out of Hoddlesden.

Roy is full of daft stories about the old chapel with which he’s been associated for most of his 91 years.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that if anyone was going to write a history of the two Pickup Bank chapels it would be Dr Parker. So he has done.

Two Pickup Bank Chapels, will be launched at Darwen Heritage Centre, on Saturday morning. Proceeds from the hard-backed book of nearly 200 pages will go towards keeping the old chapel going for many more years. It costs £19.99.

Everyone knows of the old church which began with a few open air services in around 1828, before Queen Victoria came to the throne. Most folk travelling between the two halves of the Rossendale and Darwen Constituency know it well – at least they know the tight and treacherous moorland blind corner on which it’s squeezed.

Lancashire Telegraph: The ‘new’ Pickup Bank Chapel, Hoddlesden, demolished in 1987

Villagers got together to build the first chapel in 1834. And it’s still there, in spite of rivalry from a second chapel built in nearby Hoddlesden.

The new chapel was opened in 1900 to meet the demands of a growing congregation in “Oggie” boosted by booming industrialisation. It became riddled with dry rot and was flattened in 1987.

Meanwhile, the little church on the hill pressed on, continuing to welcome both funerals and weddings. Even today it can count on musical accompaniment from Darwen Brass which keeps the Pickup Bank band tradition to the fore.

It might lack modern fittings and such luxuries as central heating, but the open wood fire by the entrance is very welcoming on an icy, wintry morning.

Roy said: “The pre-Christmas carol service in which Darwen Brass plays is the highlight of the year. It never ceases to surprise many of us that the old church is still going strong nearly 200 years after parishioners first gathered there.”

Roy was born and brought up in the village and he and his wife Barbara, are now back among old friends. Roy spent his life in the higher reaches of industry, education and research. Barbara was a nurse.

His first book, Hoddlesden and its satellite villages came out to excellent reviews some ten years ago. He and his wife now live at Lostock, Bolton.