‘Climbing church steeples appears to have been an unusual pastime, with those conquering the climb usually leaving a ribbon for challengers to retrieve. In 1812, labourer Robert Jarvis is said to have taken this recreation to new extremes by climbing Moulton church spire with his small child in his arms and tying the infant to the weathercock with his handkerchief. Leaving the child there he returned to earth and went home to fetch his wife to view the spectacle and admire his skill before ascending once again and safely retrieving the child. His wife’s reaction is not recorded!’
This extraordinary story appears in Wide Horizons: A History of South Holland’s Landscape and People.
Mary Bryce, who lives in Moulton, sent me these photographs, taken from the church tower (though not the top of the spire where Robert Jarvis dangled his child); they give some sense of what the climb involved. The originals are in the collection of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, the learned society which marked its 300th anniversary in 2010.
And the British Pathé film of Mr. C. L. Ager, though filmed in Surrey, shows that the tradition of tying a handkerchief to a weathercock was still alive in 1920. The way in which he presents the handkerchief to the vicar at the end of the film suggests the social deference that still existed too.
Wide Horizons was commissioned by South Holland District Council in 2010, written by Paul Cope-Faulkner, Hilary Healey, Tom Lane John Honnor and Liam Robinson, and published by Heritage Lincolnshire. A fascinating insight into how this part of the county came to be as it is, the book can be downloaded free from the Council’s website.
- Wide Horizons – PDF download
- Moulton Parish Council
- Moulton (Wikipedia)
- Spalding Gentlemen’s Society
- Heritage Lincolnshire
- A Daring Prank (British Pathé 1920)
PS And this is what the spire looks like from the ground up…