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Landslip at Luddenden closes parish church

06 January 2023

Andy Groves

Workmen in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Luddenden, with the landslip in the garden of the old vicarage on the other side of the river

Workmen in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Luddenden, with the landslip in the garden of the old vicarage on the other side of the river

“THERE’s trouble in Luddenden,” Simon Armitage wrote in his poem “Full Moon”, and, between Christmas and New Year, the Poet Laureate’s words turned out to be prescient, when the parish church was threatened by floodwaters and a landslide.

The Vicar of St Mary’s, Luddenden, the Revd Ian Sparks, was away for a few days after a busy Advent season, and woke up to a number of missed calls. “I feared the worst: that someone had died,” he said on Wednesday.

No one was injured in the landslip on the bank of a river that runs between the churchyard and the old vicarage, but the church has been closed pending a report from structural engineers. A portion of the garden of the Victorian vicarage, now privately owned, fell into the river. A Facebook post announcing the temporary closure of the church asked people to pray for the family who live in the house.

Geoff Budd, the Reader Emeritus, who lives next to the late-Georgian church, told ITV News: “I heard this noise, of rock falling upon rock, and I looked out of the window and could see that the whole of the churchyard was beginning to flood.”

Mr Budd and other volunteers acted quickly to protect the church from floodwater. “They did a sterling job,” Mr Sparks said.

He said that the congregation would meet in the school on Sunday, and would continue doing so until they were able to get back into the church. “The hope is that the situation at the old vicarage will have stabilised, and we’ll be able to return sooner rather than later.” The engineers’ report, he said, should be available “fairly quickly”.

Armitage’s poem describes an imaginary night in the West Yorkshire village, in the course of which some chickens are slaughtered in an anarchic pagan ceremony. Last week, although a chicken coop in the garden of the old vicarage collapsed in the landslide, all the birds were unscathed and are being looked after by a member of the congregation.

“They’ve taken them under their wing, as it were,” Mr Sparks said.

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