Saint Peters Church, Heysham Head, Morecambe Bay, Lancashire
Heysham is a rather quaint old village, on a headland, that juts out into Morecambe Bay. On the top of that headland is this 11th century Church of Saint Peters. A distinctive Bellcote tower with two bells, an equally distinctive Anglo Saxon Doorway and the solid Stone Slate roof create a solid character. The origins are indeed 11th century, but study the building outline you can soon detect the additions and extensions added over the following centuries.
Saint Peters is still Hesham’s Village Church….. but only a few yards behind the Church, and even more prominently locate on this exposed headland, are further signs of even earlier religious occupancy.
The most dramatic are the tombs (or graves) that have been carved out of a sold rock. Known at times as the Martyrs Graves and by others as the Pilgrims Graves, they lie on the highest point of Heysham Head. Exposed to all the wind and weather that Morecambe Bay can deliver from across the Irish Sea…..possibly the same winds the assisted Saint Patrick on his journey from Ireland.
Dating these stone hewn graves is problematic. Let me try to explain. These graves rest beneath the shadows of Saint Patricks Chapel. Possibly built in either the 6th or 7th century and attributed to Saint Patrick. However, historical records still find it hard to be definitive on the exact date of Saint Patricks death, a time arround 490ad is very likely. Whatever that date is, it is still 100 or more years before the Chapel was built.
Saint Patricks Chapel has not worn as well as Saint Peters. The chapel is now a ruin… all be it, ruin with a great outlook.
As with most religious locations across the UK, they are usually on the sites of much earlier places of worship or spiritual importance. Various archaeological digs have taken place to try and discover the heritage of this Heysham location. Excavations arround the Stone Tombs did discover artifacts and tools, these would indicate that this site was occupied over 12,000 years ago.
One thing is for sure, no matter the legends and mysteries, these twin Religious ‘settlements’ capture the imagination of any visitor, and with a bonus view over Morecambe Bay, that must lift the spirits,
Please Remember to ….
Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other
(C) David Oakes 2021