Following on from my look round Hall ‘i th’ Wood back in May I found out that special tours of the normally out-of-bounds attic were being held on Saturday as part of the Heritage Open Days over the weekend, and as the attic was significant in part of Samuel Crompton’s life it was something I was interested in checking out, so on a very rainy day I arrived at the Hall in plenty of time for the first tour at 12.15pm. The tour guide was a friendly and very knowledgeable young lady called Sophia and starting off in the Great Hall she took the small group through all the rooms on the way up to the attic, pointing out and talking about various items of interest on the way, but though I really wanted to photograph several things which I missed on my previous visit I found it quite difficult as there was often someone else in my way.
I must admit to being surprised when we got to the attic – I was expecting to see just one space but it was so extensive that there was a rabbit warren of several rooms, though it wasn’t possible to walk in all of them as the floors had been excavated and were very fragile. The one where Samuel Crompton hid his dismantled Spinning Mule had a walkway down the centre though, and ducking under a very low beam it was possible to walk to the far end to see the space where the Mule had been hidden, then back in the main upstairs part of the building we went through the three rooms where Crompton and his family had lived before gradually making our way back downstairs.
The tour took just over an hour and ended where it began, back in the Great Hall, and though I would have loved to go round the place again at my own leisure to photograph the things I’d missed I wanted to get to the next place I was visiting in plenty of time for the last tour of the day, as numbers were limited to a maximum of twenty people and I didn’t want to miss out. So it was off into town to the Parish Church for a tour of the bell tower and a chance to try a bit of bell ringing.
As I very rarely go to the part of town where the Parish Church is situated I’d never been in there before and I have to say I was quite impressed. It was built between 1867 and 1871 in the Gothic Revival style and at 156ft long and 67ft wide with an interior height of 82ft it was a big place. There were many stained glass windows and a great view down the central nave to the High Altar, and the Chancel ceiling was ornately beautiful. With so many things to see and photograph I needed to spend a serious amount of time in there but I didn’t want to miss the start of the tour so I didn’t stray too far from the meeting point.
When everyone was assembled for the tour we set off up the bell tower and I have to say that the climb isn’t for the faint hearted. At 180ft high the tower is the highest church tower in the historic county of Lancashire and the roof is accessed by 190 steps of a steep and narrow spiral stone staircase. The first 54 steps up to the ringing room were relatively easy and once there we were given a short talk on the number of bells and their history then we were treated to a demonstration of change ringing by the bell ringers.
After that we were given the opportunity to have a go ourselves, and though most people didn’t bother I wasn’t missing out on the chance. Having been shown how to hold the rope and being guided by the leader I rang a single bell several times, and was told afterwards that I have good hand/eye co-ordination and rhythm – maybe that could become a new hobby! From the ringing room we went up another fifty or so steps to a walkway above the bells where we could see one working, then after telling us to cover our ears if we didn’t like loud noises the lady leading the tour shouted down to another bell ringer who pulled the rope – and she wasn’t wrong, this thing was seriously loud!
From there we climbed the rest of the steps up to the roof, and the higher we got the steeper and narrower the steps became – even for someone reasonably fit it was quite an effort and I was glad when I finally emerged into the fresh air. Fortunately the rain of earlier on had stopped and even with the cloudy grey sky the views all round the town were good. It was interesting trying to locate and recognise various buildings and I got several good shots, including one of the place where I work in the evenings – it was so close that with the wind behind me I could have jumped off the tower and landed in the works car park.
When everyone had done enough photo taking it was time to make our way back down the tower, not an easy task given how narrow the steps were, however I negotiated all 190 of them without mishap and made it safely to the bottom, then after thanking the lady who had been our guide I made my way back to the van as I still had some shopping to do. All in all the two very different tours had made a very interesting afternoon, and even though the church tower climb wasn’t easy it’s definitely one I’ll do again next year if the opportunity arises and the weather is better.
Once again I’m linking up with Jo’s Monday walk where she continues the castle theme with a visit to Alnwick castle, where even in the rain the gardens still look beautiful and the walk ends with a delicious-looking cream scone with strawberries – time now to make a coffee and have a good read.