GISBURN CHURCH HISTORY
It is believed that the church was dedicated in 1135 and that Norman de Rimington gave a carucate of land to the 'Blessed Church of St Mary the Virgin Gisleburne'. Other early documentary evidence for a church at Gisburn is a charter reference that mentions a priest at Gisburn between 1140 - 1146, called 'Renulf'. It is possible that there was a church on this site before this, but we have no knowledge of this. In 1147 there is a reference to a priest from Gisburn being present at the laying of the 'foundation stone for Sawley Abbey.
The Patronage of Gisburn Church in its early days is difficult to confirm. However by the early 13th century records exist suggesting that the patronage was shared between the Arch bishop of York and the Prioress of Stainfield Nunnery in Lincolnshire. Th is appears at first a strange connection until we realise that the Percy family who were Lords of Clitheroe, founded Stainfield Nunnery and the Prioress had a manor house at 'Rayhead ' in Gisburn Forest.
The architectural history of St Mary 's is difficult to untangle. What is certain is that there is a long history to the site and it is also clear that at several stages the church has been extensively rebuilt reusing materials from earlier phases or incorporating materials from Sawley Abbey after its dissolution. The evidence suggests that the most intact early elements are the tower base, porch and south west doorway.
PORCH AND DOORWAY The church is entered through the Porch which has a rounded arch decorated with mouldings and is 15th century in date. This encloses the south doorway which is 13th century with fine continuous mouldings.
On entering the church immediately on the left is the font which is dated 1875, and has an octagonal bowl, stem, base, and plinth. No trace of an earlier font has been found. Behind the font is the Baptistery window in memory of the Whippe family. Between the font and the tower arch is a model of St Mary's carved by the late Mr. R. Mason and on the wall behind is the Roll of Honour of Gisburn's war dead.
The tower is Norman at the base and later above with Norman windows in the lower part. The Clock was made in 1852 by Thomas Whippe of Rochdale. It was repaired and overhauled in 1964, and reinstated on the first of June 1964. The clock strikes the hour only and has only one face, which is on the south side. The tower has six inscribed bells all dating from 1818 with two recast in 1964. The interior of the tower was remodelled in the mid 1990s to form a ringing chamber / meeting room above and an office/kitchen below.
NAVE AND CHANCEL
The main body of the church is divided into a central nave and chancel and two side aisles. The nave and chancel are divided by cross arches supported by two large 12th century cylindrical pillars that dominate the interior of the church. These pillars also support cross arches in both side aisles. They also support the first of the two arches in the nave and chancel, on each side. The other pillars supporting the nave and chancel arches are octagonal and in the perpendicular style that was popular during the period 1400 to 1500.
Prior to the 1872 refurbishment the interior contained box pews and a Three Decker Pulpit. There was also a gallery where a band would have played during services this was against the tower arch. The pews and the two pulpits in the church today date from this refurbishment.
To celebrate the millennium a major project has been underway to furnish the pews with hand crafted Kneelers all stitched by parishioners and supporters of St Mary's. They feature many designs and were created from both kits and original designs. Also the Altar Rail cushions have been restored.
The 1872 refurbishment cost £3,000 a considerable sum of money at that time and in volved re-roofing the church, new pews and pulpit and other modifications includi ng a new East Window . The work was paid for by a grant from Queen Anne's Bounty, a loan which took until 1925 to pay off.
On the wa lls of the Nave above the arcade are two of the four Hatchments of the Lord Ribblesdale's the other two are above the choir stalls. The hatchments are memorials and commemorated their deaths.
A plaque in the centre marks the vault of the Lancaster family. Inside the Church there are other vaults of which no details are known.
On the lectern is the Holy Bible which was given by the Young Wives Group and ded icated at the Easter Day Morning Service 1971. The Church also has a Family Bible of the Ribblesdales dated 1613. It has large wooden covers rough ly bound with leather and contains a fragmentary hand written family tree. The Church also possesses some ancient prayer books.
THE LECTURN AND PULPITS
The pulpits date from the 1872 restoration. The Lectern is in the form of an eagle with outstretched wings, it is finely carved in wood. It bears the inscription "To the Golry of Gos and in memory of James Baldwin Smithies Bridge in this parish presented by his widow & children August 5th 1875.
THE ROOD SCREEN
The rood screen is 16th century and though repaired and restored many times retains some of it's original carving.
The Wrought Iron Memorial In the church yard near the east end is a Wrought Iron Memorial said to depict a woman attend ing to a cauldron, which legend ascribes to Jennet Preston one of the Pendle witches. Jennet was accused of murdering a Lister baby and was tried and acquitted. Shortly after, Martin Lister who had been prosecuting council at her trial died and she was accused of witchcraft, found guilty and hanged. The Rev J Lumby a recent vicar of St Mary's has speculated in his book that Jennet may in fact have been Martin's father's mistress and the original accusation arose out of revenge by Martin's mother. The true origin of the memorial is unknown but is unlikely to be for poor Jennet. A convicted witch would not have been allowed a memorial on consecrated land. The memorial almost certainly dates from the nineteenth century and probably depicts a badly corroded figure of a cherub next to an urn. Similar monuments are common in South East England. Although the on-line records of those buried in the church yard do list a Jennet in approximately the correct year. Francis Duckworth Francis Duckworth, who wrote a number of hymn tunes, was born in Rimington on Christmas day 1862 and was the son of the owners of Rimington Post Office and grocery store. One of the many popular tunes he composed is called 'Rimington ' and sung to the hymn 'Jesus shall reign '. Francis was buried here on the north east side of the churchyard. His memorial is of grey granite and has the tune inscribed on it.
Just outside the 1101ih east end of the churchyard is a house called the 'Priory'. This house is thought to stand on the site of a property owned by the nuns of Rayhead in Gisburn Forest who were once patrons of the Church. It wou ld have served as a base for nuns when in Gisburn for church business or when travelling through.
St Mary's Gisburn