The Selston Tower Sermon

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Selston Tower Sermon' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Selston Tower Sermon' page

A July Custom

By R B Parish

The annual Selston Tower Sermon is a little known event.  It was started by the Reverend Charles Harrison in 1907. What prompted him to start the sermon is unknown, but it is thought that he did so to attract local travellers, who camped on Selston Green and would visit the grave of Boswell, the King of the Gypsies, often with their new born babies, in a local ritual of blessing. He may have done it to commemorate its restoration in 1904/5 and the date was thought to coincide with their Wakes week, although this would suggest another date as such weeks were often developed from the patronal festival.

I was informed by Mr Tew, the present church warden, that one year an estimated congregation of 1000 attended, although they must have spilled over the churchyard wall and into the street!  Despite the precarious nature of the event, no accident has ever been recorded...except for one incumbent who almost never made it, this was when thirty years ago, the Rev Vic Simmons, was about to read his final tower sermon set his foot alight with weed killer (accidentally). He was determined to do it, stating:

"It was the highlight of the church year. I didn't want to miss it."

So a chair was carried up and no doubt he made a slow and rather tender climb to the top.

Originally the choir sung from the tower but no more. There is a tradition of inviting a guest preacher, for the 100th anniversary in 2007 saw the presence of the Rt Rev Anthony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood. This year the guest was the Rev. Liz Murray, having a local association with the church but was currently the curate of nearby Eastwood, Brinsley and Underwood joined the Revd Pauline Key of Selston.

Mr Tew doubted that the tower service was enacted every year since, but I had the fortune to speak to a 90 year old parishioner who remembered being taken 'babe in arms' to the service and regularly attended from her infant years. Long may it continue. 

This page was added by R B Parish on 01/08/2013.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.