By Linda Manas
Three weeks ago I went on a very interesting visit to St Michael’s Church, Much Hoole near Preston. I have recently read two books about transits of Venus and I wanted to see the windows in the church commemorating both Jeremiah Horrocks’ observation and the 2004 event. I have always been fascinated with eclipses and transits. In fact I have been on three total eclipse trips but have only seen one, last year in Tennessee. The previous attempts: Cornwall 1999 and Faroes 2015 were failures. I was lucky to see the Venus transit though in 2004. As I am sure you all know Jeremiah Horrocks was of course the first person to observe a transit of Venus in 1639. It is thought that he was a cleric at the church and also likely that he was a tutor to the Children of the Stone family who lived at the nearby Carr House. The former is disputed as it is thought he was not old enough to be a cleric. Horrocks is thought to have observed the transit of Venus from the room at the front of Carr House directly over the porch. He predicted it would occur at 3 pm and it actually occurred about 3:15 pm one November day. Of course he was on the Julian calendar as the UK unlike some European countries did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the mid eighteenth century.
The church is open Wed and Sat 2-4 pm between March and September. I rang beforehand and the Verger Emeritus Mr William Carr kindly arranged for me to join another prearranged visit to both St Michael’s Church and Carr House.
The stained glass windows commemorating Horrocks’ observation and later transits were really beautiful and are well worth seeing. The church also houses very unusual church bells operated by a mechanical percussion device rather than the more common bell pulling mechanisms. This was of great interest to me as I was trained as a musician and did a music degree before doing a maths degree afterwards.
After a good look round the church Bill Carr kindly drove us to Carr House. The owners are Dr Clive and Mrs Jane Elphick and Jane kindly showed us round their beautiful home. The area where Horrocks is supposed to observe the transit houses a telescope. The house has an unusual square staircase, a commemorative transit of Venus window and two lovely orreries, one illustrating the transit of Venus and the other the transit of mercury. I was quite envious of those two orreries. I did not ask to photograph them as they are family belongings.
It was a lovely day and I would highly recommend a visit. It is advisable to ring beforehand but well worth the trip to Preston. The church held festivals in both 2004 and 2012. What a pity the next transit of Venus is in 2117!