A church and churchyard on the site of the Roman fort, Bremetennacum.
The church of St Wilfrid stands over, and is surrounded by, the remains of the Roman fort of Bremetennacum. This was established in the late C1, and garrisoned by cavalrymen from Spain and Hungary. A settlement (vicus) grew up outside the walls. Remains of the Roman bath-house and other buildings can still be seen. The museum, near the entrance to the churchyard holds a number of smaller finds. The church itself was not begun until c.1200. This is probably because of the existence of a small church dating from Norman times at Stydd, half a mile north of the village.
The church is essentially an Early English structure. The east wall of the chancel has 3 stepped lancets, the centre one being the tallest. There is a piscina and sedilia, and what appears to be a hagioscope or “leper’s squint”. It has been argued that it is an Easter sepulchre but that is surely not so. A further lancet and the south doorway underline the C13 date for the building. The old steep roof lines evident in the tower and the end of the nave are further confirmation. The original church would have been the nave and chancel, but, as in many English churches, this core has been substantially extended.
In the C14 the north chapel was added as a chantry chapel. This was a common development at the time. A rich person would pay for the building of the chapel, a chantry priest would be appointed, and his role was to pray for the soul of the benefactor. The chapel itself has a re-set lancet, an aumbrey, a piscina, and a typical Decorated pillar. The east window has curvilinear tracery, and contains fragments of late C14 or early C15 stained glass. Traces of a medieval wall painting of St Christopher and the Holy Child can be seen on the north wall.
The west tower is Perpendicular, embattled, with angle buttresses. Pevsner suggests a date of “before or in the middle of the C14.” Others have argued for the C15 or early C16. Stylistic evidence is limited, and either date is possible. It holds a peal of 6 bells hung in 1882, and a clock of 1813.
The Jacobean pulpit of 1636 was erected by the then vicar, Christopher Hindle, whose initials it bears. It is panelled and ornately carved with blank arches. In its time it has been converted into a 2 or 3-decker, and painted! Other woodwork includes the remains of C18 box pews. The nave of the church is quite light, partly due to the dormer windows that were added in 1712. The Lancashire rose features prominently on one of the roof bosses.
The west gallery was added in 1736. It was used, as many galleries of that time were, by minstrels i.e. instrumentalists who accompanied the services, usually on string and woodwind instruments. The minstrels at Ribchester were disbanded in 1861 when the present organ was fitted. The gallery is supported on stone Tuscan columns. It is said that two of these are re-used from the Roman remains.