NGR:- SD 4632 3138. In the parish church of St. John the Evangelist (Lund) in Salwick, which is located roughly between Preston and Kirkham, in West Lancashire, there is a Roman altar stone that is in use as the font! This altar stone has carvings on three sides: three Roman deities on the front, and, possibly ladies (Vestal virgins?) dancing on its two sides; the three deities may be one and the same mother goddess. The church here was ‘more often’ referred to as the Lund Chapel. It can be found on Church Lane – just off the A583 (Blackpool to Preston road) – north of Clifton village. Salwick, Clifton and Kirkham are Fylde villages. The course of the Roman road from the Wyre Estuary at Poulton to Ribchester runs through Lund (Salwick) and, because of that, there have been a few interesting Roman artefacts found in the area around Lund church. However, nothing much can be seen of the Roman road today. There was a Roman fort at Carr Hill on the north bank of the River Ribble at Kirkham, which is a few miles to the west of Lund, but, again there is nothing much to see there today. Back in the mid-14th century an oratory was in existence at Lund, and in the early 1500s this became a chapel, but, by the early 1800s it was in an abandoned state and had to be demolished. A new church was built soon after and later added to: the nave in 1824 and the tower in 1873.
In an article for ‘Lancashire Magazine’ in July/August 1993, Alan Warwick tells us about the ‘Pagan Past Of A Fylde Church’. He says: “The tranquil, rural setting of Lund Parish Church belies its diverse multi-cultural history, and its links with a pagan past. The area of Lund, hidden off the main Blackpool-Preston road at Salwick, has witnessed Druids, Danes, and Romans come and go, and Christians finally establishing the Parish Church of St. John. Many areas of the Fylde Coast of pre-Roman times were widespread with wooded marshland, whose inhabitants were of Celtic origin. They were the tribespeople of the Setantii, who allegedly dyed their bodies with woad and practised a Druid-type religion.
“Although Christianity was introduced into Britain in Roman times, the earliest records portraying Lund as a place of Christian worship date from the 14th century when, in 1349, an oratory was recorded as having occupied a site near to the present day church. The original chapel was mentioned in documents associated with the partition of the estates of the locally famous Clifton family back in 1516. By this time the chapel had been developed further with the addition of a chantry. By the 1820s, whilst Lund was still encompassed in the parish of nearby Kirkham, the original chapel had fallen into a state of disrepair. Proposals for a new stone-built church were supported by the financial backing of the Birley family of Clifton Hall, who had made their fortune as flax and cotton manufacturers. The old chapel was subsequently demolished in 1824 and the new church built. The church was further developed with the addition of a chancel in 1852, followed in 1873 by a tower.
Warwick goes on to say that: “During the demolition of the old chapel and construction of the new church an old Roman tombstone is alleged to have been discovered. This is hardly surprising considering that a Roman road passed through Lund on its way from the River Wyre to Ribchester. In the Domesday Survey the road was actually referred to as ‘Dane’s Pad’ — well the Danes did use the road to plunder the towns and villages of the Fylde! Many Roman relics, including military items and coins in particular, have been found buried along the route of the road. Perhaps the most significant Roman relic discovered was that of an altar stone near to the church in the 17th century. Mysterious markings — believed to be effigies of Roman pagan gods — decorate the side of the stone. The three-feet high, pale-coloured stone has been used as a font since its discovery and is still in use to this day at the rear of the church.
Shotter writing in 1973 does not tell us much more, he says: “A Roman altar, probably from Kirkham, now does duty as the font of Lund Church. An altar believed to have been found near the line of the Ribchester to Kirkham road at Lund. It is now used as the Font of St. John’s Church, Lund.”
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
Shotter, D. C. A., Romans in Lancashire, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, Yorkshire, 1973.
Warwick, Alan, ‘Pagan Past Of A Fylde Church’ in Lancashire Magazine, Volume 16, Number 4, The Ridings Publishing Company, Driffield, Yorkshire, July/August 1993.
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.