Tuesday, 8 November 2011

WEDNESDAY, 23 DECEMBER 2009 Capturing history for the next generation.....

More Childhood memories.

St Paul's C of E Church, Constable Lee, Rawtenstall, Rossendale, Lancashire. 

After I was born in 1948, I was taken to this church to be christened. There are old photos of my parents standing on the church drive, holding me in their arms. It was my first introduction to St Paul's. I grew to love the church, as it stands on a steep bank, leading up to the fields and hillsides behind.
It was just behind the C of E Primary school, where eventually I would begin my education. The church and school being linked. 
My memories of the church are coloured by the seasons of the year. 

At Christmas time, I would step inside and feel the warmth and musty smell generated by the old coke-burning boilers. It came up through vents in the tiled floor.
The large Christmas tree at the front sent out a wonderful pine scent, and with the organ softly playing before the beginning of the service, it was an oasis of tranquility. The lights on the tree twinkling and reflecting in the few delicate glass ornaments with which it was decorated. 

The timelessness of singing carols,

The sense of excitement that Christmas Day was approaching

And even now, for me, Christmas always begins with the Children's service in the morning, and the Carol service at night. 
The Sunday School which I attended there when I was older, rehearsed in time honoured fashion, unitl we all found ourselves in the front pews, (in my case a bit nervous!), ready to say or sing our pieces. 
Eventually, I graduated to singing in the choir when I was 8 years old, until I was 15 years old. It was then began to learn how to sing the traditional anthems, and the Christmas oratorios. We only sang parts of them, but it introduced me to a love of singing in four part harmony. 
We were very fortunate to have a wonderful choir master, called George Allen, who was well known in our area, for his sonorous bass baritone voice.He sang solos for productions of Handel's "Messiah" and listening to him sing was a delight. 

The Stained Glass Window.

One thing I did love very much was the stained glass window. It seemed to me to evoke a distant land, one which was far away, and the depiction of the shepherd and the sheep was not a wishy washy sentimental thing but something which stirred in me a feeling that there was a bigger story to be told.
Each week I would walk up the curving drive as it wound it's way up to the top of the small hill where the church was situated.
And each season was different.

In the spring the budding trees were just beginning to get ready to burst open and unfurl their new leaves. In the picture of the drive you can see the gatepost at the bottom and the end of the row of houses which bordered the schoolyard. I find myself remembering the scent of the early flowering redcurrant, or "ribes" to give it its name. It had a distinctive pungent scent and to this day when I smell it, it takes me back down memory lane. There are one or two small bushes in the picture, with the daffodils. A pinky red splash by the path. On warm summer days we could walk home by going through a small gate at the back of the church into the field paths and I absolutely adored the view of the hills opposite. Cribden and Little Cribden as they are called. They had and still do have, a distinctive shape.

The sun went down just behind them and in November it sometimes looked like a huge, flaming, deep red ball, resting for a while at the summit before slipping out of sight.
There was a richness in my childhood, which surfaces in images and impressions like tapping into a huge underground vein of valuable ore. Those of us who lived as children in that neighbourhood still talk about it and some of us are still in touch, 50 or so years on. We tramped the hills, played out in the streets, and fields, and made up our own entertainment, indoors and out. We were very privileged.
A lasting legacy of parents, teachers, church, and a more simple way of life.

(In the last picture the shape of Cribden Hill can just about be seen through the foliage of the trees and bushes.)

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