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Backwords: God's Mansion In Marsden

...Ours was a traditional wedding. In one of those Colne Valley chapels whose nonconformism was as strong as the tea brewed in their huge copper urns…

Mike Shaw, who is as much a part of Yorkshire’s Colne Valley as the hills and streams which form it, tells of the day he was wed.

Ours was a traditional wedding. In one of those Colne Valley chapels whose nonconformism was as strong as the tea brewed in their huge copper urns.

They say the sun shines on the righteous. Be that as it may, we certainly had a beautiful day for our wedding.

It was a case of upstairs, downstairs at God’s mansion built by the Methodists of Marsden.

Upstairs for christenings, weddings and funerals in the chapel. Downstairs for all the other going-on in the schoolroom.

I suppose all brides look beautiful to the bloke waiting at the altar to plight his troth. Mine did, anyway.

She knew all about life both upstairs and downstairs at the chapel.

If she hadn’t been getting married herself, she would probably have been singing in the choir that day.

And downstairs, only a few months earlier, she had been singing her swan-song on the amateur stage as the leading lady in Oklahoma!

A lot of people have wondered how I come to know all the songs from Oklahoma! off by heart. So would they if they’d heard them nearly every night for weeks at rehearsal time.

When I saw the show I can’t say that I took too kindly to my bride-to-be swooning all starry-eyed in the arms of another man and crooning People Will Say We’re In Love.

The leading man certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I did from my seat in the audience. It didn’t help matters because he was one of those insurance men and I never thought a lot of them anyway.

So my bride’s on-stage wedding in October became the real thing in June. Followed by a reception at the Liberal Club, because even wedding toasts in sherry were banned in the schoolroom.

Then it was off to Ireland for the honeymoon. I wish we could do the same trip again today at the same prices.

As it happens, I still have the 1958 tariff card for Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin, where we spent our first night. It was fifty-five bob -- £2.75 in today’s money -- for a double room and breakfast, and dinner cost 12s 6d or 63 p.

And I’ve also come across the bill from Scott’s Hotel in Killarney, a homely little place where we paid £22.12.6d -- including three shillings for a bath apiece -- for our six-day stay.

Sadly, the Methodist chapel at Marsden was pulled down many years ago.

It and others like it helped to create a chapels and chimney dominance of the Colne Valley as they were built side by side with the mills in the Industrial Revolution.

Now the textile slump and smoke-free zones have made a lot of the mill chimneys redundant.

And the so-called return to Victorian values doesn’t seem to have stopped the shutdown of our chapels from Marsden to Milnsbridge.

Some of God’s mansions have now become homes for mere mortals. That includes the Sunday School which in my childhood days used to be packed to the doors at anniversary time and filled with sandwiches and sunshine when they had the Whitsuntide procession.

Even the giant of Colne Valley’s chapels built by the Golcar Baptists in 1869 to hold congregations of 1,200 has bitten the dust.

I wonder what we’ll have left in another hundred years.

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