Sunday…..So Off to Church (not this week)

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The above location is Sunderland Point on the Lancashire coast, I published this image as one of my ‘Favourite Places” a few weeks ago.

Sunderland Point is reached after crossing an area of Salt marshes , the village being cut off everyday at high tide.  It is a lonely spot but one surrounded by spectacular views all around. On side the Bowland Fells and the other the expanse of Morecambe Bay. At high tide your feet can literally be in the water but once sea recedes you have an amazing view over mile after mile of sands and mudflats.  The sound of seabirds is everywhere and you can spend countless hours watching the frantic feeding of thousands upon thousands of waders probing the sands.

But above everything else Sunderland Point is a place that has a hauntingly yet powerfully spiritual atmosphere.

 Sunderland Point was  an important port in the 1600’s (and possibly earlier).  The Harbour Master House and Customs Office is still by the Quay.

It was for a great many years an important shipping link. But eventually the Ports isolation across the Salt Marsh made the inward and outward transport of cargo, by horse and cart, tedious. First Lancaster, up stream along the River Lune developed St.Georges Quay. Even with this developement Ships still had to wait up at Sunderland Quay for the tides to swell the river and allow access to Lancaster. Progress came again with the building of a new style of dock on the opposite bank of the Lune. Glasson Dock was  a dock with lock gates to control the water levels.  A canal was added and a new transport system had evolved.

So where does the Church come into this…well it doesn’t, not this week for the simple reason there is no church at Sunderland.

I mentioned the special atmosphere and indeed this small wind swept , sea surrounded isolated point in giant Morecambe Bay is very special… even the shadows of a modern Nuclear Power Plant takes nothing away from this barren yet enchanting place.

Sunderland Port though does have a dark secret, sadly it was once  a Port on the so called ‘Slavery Triangle’

I mentioned that there is a Spiritual feel and for me and many others there is.  Perhaps that feel is hightened by the following true story.

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This is “Upstep Cottage” just off the old Quay.  It was here in 1736 that a Slave and Personal Servant to one of the Ships Captains died. Samboo (or Sambo) was the name he was known by.  By all accounts his ‘Master’ considered him  as both a faithful servant and a friend, they had sailed on may an ocean together. But as Sambo was not a Christian he could not be buried in any nearby consecrated grounds, so it was thought fitting that a grave amongst the sand dunes with his head towards his home across the seas would be appropriate.

The grave was respected for many years and indeed in 1796 it was felt fitting that a metal plaque and inscription be added.  The wording for the elegy was written by Rev James Watson a retired local Head Teacher. That wording I think expresses local feelings and respect well

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At some point in the 1900s the plaque was desecrated but a replica was soon installed.  It is not clear why Samboo died, it might just have been illness after all the years at sea. But local belief is that he died of a broken heart.  His Master had travelled on business to Lancaster and left Samboo alone…it is said he had felt that he had been abandoned and left alone in a foreign land.

What is for sure is that Samboos Grave is still well cared for. I have never know it without flowers and by some local tradition decorated stones are added.

Now you must agree there is a spiritual feel to the place

2nd October

(C) David Oakes 2016

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4 thoughts on “Sunday…..So Off to Church (not this week)

  1. He he, I was kind of wodering where the church was in all this untill you cauth my thoughts and solved the riddle elegantly, I might dare say!
    But – it must be nearly impossible to live out there in 2016 being isolated by tide every 12 hours?

    • I have always found it a relaxing spot…that expanse of water (or sand at low tide) the bird calls that are the only noise to disturb the peace. I think many visitors feel that way without knowing Sambo’s story……but story is very thought provoking as you stand looking out to sea. -)

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