Antiquities in Heysham

Heysham, a large village south of Morecambe, has ancient origins and on a particularly fine Saturday afternoon in June we decided to explore them.

There are two Christian places of worship which co-existed and may have even competed with each other for some time. The first is St Patrick's Chapel, now ruined, which sits high on the headland looking out across Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea. The location is especially dramatic because cliffs are rare in north west England and it is unusual to look out to sea from this height.
The ruins of St Patrick's Chapel

The view across Morecambe Bay with the Lakeland fells in the distance

The age of the building is uncertain but it is probably 8th or 9th century. Beneath the ruins is evidence of an earlier Celtic chapel, probably 6th century.

The chapel is next to an ancient burial site and, as part of this, there are a number of explosed Viking graves, cut right into the solid sandstone. Some of them have a socket which would have held a wooden cross. They probably date from the 10th century and are unique in the UK.
Six rock-cut Viking graves: the square holes or sockets (on the left) would have held wooden crosses

The stunning view towards Ireland
Legend has it that, in the 5th century, St Patrick was shipwrecked just off the coast here and landed at Heyham where his supporters built a chapel. If the legend is correct, the chapel must have been the earlier one which dates from roughly this time.

At some point, probably after the Norman Conquest, St Patrick's Chapel fell into disuse in favour of St Peter's Church althoughthe reason for this is unknown.

St Peter's Church, only a few metres away, is the current parish church. The oldest parts of the building are Saxon and date from well before 1066. The church was extended in 1340-50 and again in the 15th century. Of coure, it was also 'improved' by the Victorians but thankfully not too much.
St Peter's Church from the south

The north side of the church: the centre window is 13th century
The north side of the church, facing Morecambe Bay, has many Victorian features
The graveyard runs right down to the edge of Morecambe Bay
 The church contains ancient artefacts but, as the church was closed, we will return another day to see these.