Yesterday afternoon I received a photo and text message from my sister, taken by her hubby, as she 'zip-wired' down the front of the Church in our home town, as part of the charity event to celebrate the ‘Flying Man of Pocklington’.
I hadn't been aware she was going to do this, so it came as a surprise to me. Although I am no longer surprised by what my little sister does; she has begun to do things she would never have thought she was capable of five years ago!
All Saints' Church, (where I sang in the choir for 15 years), began to the hold the event ten years ago, in honour of Thomas Pelling, the daredevil, who died during a stunt at the church, and is buried in the graveyard.
Pelling was a travelling showman who toured the country in the 18th century, showing off his daredevil routine of 'flying' between buildings, using a mechanism of ropes and pulleys. He arrived in Pocklington in April 1733 with the aim of 'flying' over Market Street between the tower of All Saints' and the local Inn, but his equipment failed and he fell to his death in the church grounds.
A rope had been attached to the top of the tower, with the end wound into a windlass
near to the Star Inn on Market Street. Straps had been inserted into iron rings on the rope and wrapped around his chest and one leg, leaving his arms and one leg free for balance. He also wore a set of wings designed to make him look like a large bat.
Unfortunately for Thomas Pelling, as he began his descent the rope began to slacken. He called out for the windlass to be tightened, but his helpers misunderstood and did the reverse, slackening the rope even further. Pelling fell onto the battlements at the east end of the church and fractured his skull, dying two days later. The folk of Pocklington buried him at the exact spot he fell, and erected a plaque on the wall of the church, in his memory.
Since I last visited the church, the memorial has been replaced enabling the words to be read clearly again. The original sandstone has weathered well for almost 300 years, but the replacement marble inscription should easily last another 300 years plus!
The parish register notes the death of Thomas Pelling in its list of burials for the year 1733, as the following. April ye 16th: Thomas Pelling from Burton Strather in Lincolnshire a Flying Man who was killed by falling against ye Battlement of ye Choir when coming down ye Rope from ye Steeple.
Known locally as the Cathedral of the Wolds, All Saints' Church is an important Grade I listed building, dating mainly between 1200 and 1450. Its hundred foot high tower, the tallest structure in the town, and its four blue-faced clocks, which were designed to been seen from the town and the fields beyond, have kept the inhabitants 'on time'
for almost 200 years.
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MILTON KEYNES City Centre
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