Astbury Church Anomalies.
Although I have written about Astbury church in the past I have been fortunate in finding out a few more interesting facts about this unusual church when I visited it during an open week on the 8-4-11.
As I was the only visitor at the time the vicar spent some time pointing out some of the unusual features which can be found if one looks hard enough. For instance when you step into the entrance porch to the church you can see in each corner a stone carving of a figure playing an instrument, however in one of the corners can be seen a figure of the Devil cringing down.
The three figures are of a Lutist, Harp and Pipe player and it is thought that one of the reasons that the Devil is cringing is due to the music that he is hearing. The other reason put forward is that the Harp and Lute were perceived as divine and that a person entering the church would be passing from the secular to the divine and this would explain the Devil cringing.
Another unusual feature can be found inside the church, although the photograph is not very clear a carved wooden angel can be seen and whoever was responsible for fixing it in position has done so but fixed its wings upside down.
A possible explanation for this is that the roof has come from Dieulacresse Abbey and been made to fit onto this church. The Abbey was founded in 1214 by Ranulph Earl of Chester who died in 1232 and was dismantled in 1538 when the dissolution of the monasteries took place under Henry VIII. When the abbey was dismantled it seems everyone was after a piece of it, the Abbey Inn pub on Abbey Green road in Leek has been built using a large amount of stone from the abbey. Also many features from the abbey have been incorporated in the farm buildings where the ruins of the abbey can be found on Abbey farm.
The photograph on the left shows all that remains of Dieulacresse Abbey at Abbey farm. The photograph on the right shows what maybe a Knights Templar coffin lid incorporated in the end of the cow shed also found on the same farm.
Getting back to the subject of the Astbury church roof you can see that it has not been designed to fit the church as the wooden supports which bear the weight of the roof can be found protruding below the archways in places.
Also if you look hard although you may need it pointed out to you, the carving of a wooden Green Man can be seen on the interior of the roof. The Green Man appeared in this country around the twelfth century and is a pre Christian figure which for some reason has found its way into many churches throughout the country. It has been theorised that the foliage and tendrils often portrayed coming out of the Green Man’s mouth is what Christian’s believe to be the expunging of sin. In Medieval times the Green Man was believed to be a giant who lived in the woods and wore no clothes apart from a covering of leaves, his hair and beard were long and unkept, however there could be some confusion between the Wild Man of the woods and also the Green Man as the Wild Man was said to be ferocious whereas the Green Man was said to be friendly.