A Local English Church-its Environs and Wildlife.
St Thomas the Martyr
Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.
My local church St.Thomas the Martyr was founded in1307 by Sir Robert de Holland. The chapel was changed to a Priory of 12 Benedictine monks in1318/19 by Walter de Langton Bishop of Lichfield. It was the last Benedictine Priory to be founded in this country.It had a great hall where Sir Robert " feasted with his equals and dispensed hospitality to the poor".
The chancel of the early 14th century Priory has been incorporated into the nave of the current church. The west tower constructed in coursed rubble sand stone is also an original feature, although it has been modified with 18th century battlements, pinnacles and a 19th century window with reticulated tracery.
In the early 14th century there was a Royal deer park in Upholland, and following the theft of venison King Edward the 2nd visited the the Priory to mete out justice. By the 17th century much of Upholland has passed into the ownership and control of the Earl of Derby who built Derby House, 55 School Lane as his Manor Court House. The building has been much changed but the crest of the eagle and child and the Legs of Man can still be seen on the front of the building. The committee of Lancashire sat to quash lingering Royalists after the end of the Cival War in 1648.
It is believed that the origins of Upholland may well go back as far as Roman times. There are records of a Roman statue being found in a field in Upholland in the 19th century. In the Domesday Book of 1087-it is stated that " there are ploughlands in Holland."
A survey of 1653 described Upholland as " a manor of fair green acres, friendly farm cottages and of peaty wastes and fertile moss lands".The Upholland Conservation Area was designated in 1995 in order to preserve and enhance the SpecialHistoric character created by these ancient buildings.
Across from the church a sign has been erected to welcome people to the village. I am proud to say that my wife thought of this tribute when chair of the residents association. The sign was made by a local man from the village whose skill in his art can clearly be observed.
Directly opposite the church stand the White LionHotel. Legend has it that a tunnel once ran from the Inn to the church, in order that monks and other church dignitaries could escape or travel from the former Inn without being observed. Whether this legend has any truth I have not been able to find out. The priory house stands at the side of the church its Georgian facade belies its older origins.It is now the Conservative club.
In the churchyard head stones pay homage to those departed. They date from 1720 onwards. these archaic headstones are near to the church. The modern day burial ground is surrounded by arableland in the most scenic part of the environs.
Wildlife abounds in the church environs and the surrounding arable land. Birds in particular use the locality to nest and to make a living. The tall beech trees that divide the different areas of the burial grounds are utilised by birds such as the magpie and jay. Wood pigeons too, frequent the trees cooing contentedly throughout the spring and summer. Small species such as the chaffinch wren, robin, dunnock and members of the tit family are all known to breed here. Many take advantage of the nest boxes provided while others will utilize the stone walls shrubs and other favourable locations. Lapwings often feed on the surrounding arable land and other Corvines such as the rook, jackdaw and carrion crow will compete with them.
The flora in the grounds vary in numbers and distribution. Many are wild flowers such as the red dead nettle and ground ivy while others are planted or escape from the village gardens. daffodils snowdrops and crocus all abound at this time of the year.
The fox ,whose den is in a banking on the near by field, will often be seen roaming, late in the evening and at dawn. Bats frequent the westtower and other areas they can access. They are regularly seen in the twilight flitting around the trees. The song thrush can be heard in the evenings its repetitive notes cascading from its lofty perch. The whole place gives one a sense of well being and inner contentment. In short UphollandVillage is a lovely place to live and to be laid to rest!
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