Touching tributes to influential Briercliffe vicar

Cannon Peter Hallam
Cannon Peter Hallam

Tributes have been paid to a retired vicar who has died following a long association with Briercliffe.

Canon Peter Hallam MBE, who was Vicar of Briercliffe for more than 30 years, arrived in Burnley in 1967 taking over from the Rev. Peter Samman.

Historian and Briercliffe resident Roger Frost paid tribute to Mr Hallam who was born in Oldham but evacuated to North Wales during the Second World War.

Mr Frost said: "Peter Hallam was grammar school educated and won a scholarship to Cambridge before accepting a position at Durham where he taught theology. He was a very intelligent man – a linguist in ancient and modern languages, a noted Biblical scholar, artist, musician and singer.

"However, he always wanted to be a priest serving a local community. It was Briercliffe that was to benefit from his ministry. Peter arrived in 1967 taking over from the Rev Peter B Samman, and, in this position, he touched numerous lives. He didn’t mind whether they were Anglican or not and, such was his personality, that people of all religions, and none, were drawn to him.

"His arrival at Briercliffe St James the Great coincided with the end of an era in which Nonconformist churches had held sway. In the past there had been more than a little rivalry between the four churches, two Baptist, one Methodist and St James. But, in recent years, the churches have worked together and this is the consequence, in part, of Peter Hallam and one of the Baptist ministers at Haggate, the Rev. Miss Joy Ford.

"Peter was Vicar of Briercliffe when the present St James Lane Head CE School was built. There had been an old building on Marsden Road which had served as an Infant and Junior School for many years. Its replacement was long overdue and Peter was one of a number of people who worked hard to build a modern building almost in the shadow of the old one.

"The new building had become possible partly because of the Laycock Bequest. In the 1960s a number of plans were discussed and, by the time of Peter Hallam’s appointment, the local community was some way towards realising its ambition of a new school that would serve the Anglican Infant and Junior children of Briercliffe.

"Permission for the new school was granted in 1969 and the dedication of the first phase of the building took place in June, 1971, when the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev. Charles Claxton, came to Burnley to lead the service. Also present was Mr K. Happer, the headteacher, who was also one of the church wardens, the other church warden Mr E. Scott.

"Peter Hallam was the modest receiver of a number of honours. First among these was becoming a Canon of Blackburn Cathedral, a reward for his great work in Briercliffe. The Briercliffe Parish Council made Peter its first Honorary Citizen, one of only two that have been awarded.

"He also received an MBE and he was asked, by the parish council, if he would allow them to suggest that the street adjacent to the church be named after him.

"In later life Peter met and married Debbie. They married at the Marble Church in St Asaph in Wales where the couple had a static caravan near Carnarvon and it was from there that they set out with their dogs for many a walk in his beloved Welsh countryside.

"Peter became a family man, a father and adviser to Debbie’s children. He will be missed by them, of course, but Canon Peter Hallam will be missed by the many whose lives he touched. At his funeral St James the Great was full, such was the mark of the man."