Recently I had the honour of finding two historic relics connected to the ancient Parish Church of Deane. These wooden artefacts are mysterious and contain distinct wood carvings and contain the dates 1632 and 1760.
But what could they be? Well, as the picture shows they appear to be designed as frames to display items. This implies the intention behind these designs may well have been to hold objects of historic or cultural significance. Another possibility is that they were designed to hold family portraits and wood from two buildings that have survived the passage of time.
When these relics were brought to my attention, I recognised the reference to Deane Church. I immediately contacted Lee Higson (CVM, Lay minister C of E) and local Church historian Eric Morgan. Upon viewing the second relic I recognised a link. The reference to Peel Chapel implied these relics were artefacts preserved from internal structures and a building that has long disappeared. Peel Chapel was built in 1760 and demolished in 1874, and was a daughter Church of Deane.
The artefacts read:
“Relic of Deane Church 1632“
“Relic of Peel Chapel 1760“
The word relic is an interesting one and can have multiple meanings. The most common usage refers to venerated items of a saint. The church of Rome for example has many examples of relics allegedly connected to passages of Scripture or the lives of saints. In that context they are generally regarded as First, Second or Third Class Relics. Another usage is Contact Relics. However, I do not believe these items have anything to do with these classes or distinctions.
I believe these artefacts are what is known as Cultural Relics. This means the items are part of something that has long disappeared. They are basically keep sakes, recycled from historic structures of Deane Church and Peel Chapel.
These finds are thrilling and a special moment for any historian or history fanatic. For me, finding these relics was an extra special delight since Deane Church is the ancient place of worship once attended by George Marsh (1515-1555). As a Curate, Marsh ministered in this very Church, and is also the subject of a historical biographical documentary I released in 2014. Although there is no evidence the relics relate to Marsh, a 17th century Puritan link is possible.
Bolton and Deane was known historically as the Geneva of Lancashire and the tradition that 17th century Puritans would often get together and read the letters of George Marsh is widely established. These meetings are said to have taken place around the Noon Hill, Rivington Moor area. It should be noted that 1632 (the date on the relic) was the date when Charles 1 issued a charter for the colony of Maryland and 1620-1640 is the official timeframe for the Puritan Migration to New England. Maybe the first of the two relics are connected to structures or pews once used by Puritans in Deane Church?
These relics have now been returned back to the C of E. But what these relics are is a matter for research and discussion. How they will contribute to the history of Deane Church and Peel Chapel remains to be seen.
What can be certain is that finds like these can inspire hope that there is a future within the Church of England.