Friday, 28 June 2019

A church with a Norman origin - St. Cuthbert's Church, Kirkby

Heading up the west coast of the Furness Peninsula you will find the lovely little village of Kirkby-in-Furness and with it the church of St. Cuthbert.

St. Cuthbert's church is a typically quaint village church that stands just off the wonderfully named Lady Moyra Incline.

The origin of this church can be dated back to the Norman period of British history. The town of Kirkby is mentioned in the Doomesday book of 1086 with the name Cherchebei. This meant 'Village by the Church' which strongly suggests that there must have been a church here at this time. When exactly a church was first established here though is unknown.

Inside the church there are two chests made of oak, which are believed to date to an earlier Saxon church. The tree rings found on the wood have been dated to the Saxon period and this certainly gives substance to the theory. Whether they are from an earlier church on this site though or whether they were simple brought to the church from elsewhere we may never know.

The current church building is a mix of various stages of construction and restoration, as one would expect from a church of its age. The entrance doorway is a fine example of a Norman arch, which is believed to date to the 1150s. The use of lovely red sandstone for the arch making it stand out from the grey stone surrounding. Certainly an impressive entrance.

The main body of the church that stands today is thought to have been constructed under the orders of Sir Rodger de Kirkby sometime in the 15th Century. The de Kirkby family had been the lords of the manor in this area for many hundreds of years.

The tower of the present church, sadly, is not the original. In 1657 the church bells were being rung for the Sunday service when disaster struck. The tower gave way and fell to the ground damaging all but one of the bells inside. It must have been awful when this happened and I do hope the bell ringers made it out alive and unscathed.

During this incident two of the three bells that hung within the tower were damage beyond repair.

Many of the church windows, as well as much of the buildings interior, were restored or replaced in the 1800s, leaving the church in the state we see it today.

This lovely church is full of character and is a wonderful addition to the catalogue of churches found across Furness. If you are ever in the Kirkby area, do go and have a look.

The Churches of Furness Series does what it says on the tin, it takes a look at the many and varied churches of the Furness area of South Cumbria. From churches with Norman origins to Victorian houses of worship there certainly is an array of religious buildings here! 

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A Coastal Church with a Rich History - St. Cuthbert's Church, Aldingham

Perched beside the gravel beach on the east coast of the Furness Peninsula is the rather lovely Aldingham Church.

Aldingham Church, or St. Cuthbert's to give it it's proper title, has quite a long history with parts of the church dating back to the 1150s (the Norman period).

On entering the church you are first struck by the large arches that run on either side of the Nave. Both sides are built in different styles to match the period they were built. The right hand range is built in the later Gothic style with the left being the more ancient Norman design, with its semi-circular arches. These are remnants of the original Norman church, most likely constructed under the order of Michael Le Fleming who was lord of the manor. It was Michael's son, Daniel, who became the churches first rector in 1180.

The present church has been extended and altered several times over it's life. In the 13th Century the chancel was extended to form it's present state. A large arch providing entrance from the nave. Interestingly this archway is off to one side. This was done intentionally to represent Jesus with his head leaning, one presumes during Crucifixion.

It is worth taking a closer look at this arch also as at the base of each side are some wonderful medieval carvings of a woman and man.

Moving into the chancel there is another interesting feature. Off to the right behind the alter there is a small hole in the wall that reveals the outside. Is this some damage yet to be repaired? Well, no. It is in fact something that was placed here entirely on purpose.

This small gap is known as a leper's hole or squint. It was created so that people with the illness could see into the church and watch a service without entering the holy building. In the middle ages they believed that leprosy was highly contagious so went to great measures to ensure that anyone suffering with the disease was kept at a safe distance. Holes like this could also be used to pass communion bread to those outside.

The church tower here at Aldingham was added in the 1300s and much restoration has taken place within the church since to leave it how it looks today.

You may be wondering about the name of the church - St. Cuthbert's. Why is it named after a Saint who predominantly lived in the North East in Anglo-Saxon times? Well, this could be because the relics of St. Cuthbert (his body) were rested in Aldingham when the monks from Lindisfarne were fleeing from the Danes in the East sometime in the late 800s AD. An inscription in Durham Cathedral mentions Aldingham alongside other areas where the Saint was rested.

With such an important person's body having rested in the village it is little wonder that the church was dedicated to him. There may well have been an Anglo-Saxon church here at the time (a worn section of an Anglo-Saxon cross can be found in the walls of the church which may give evidence to this) which could originally have taken up the name.

This church is a great place to visit with a wonderfully layered history. There is lots to discover, more than I have mentioned in this post, so why not pop along for a look and even enjoy a wander along the beach that runs beside the church yard..

The Churches of Furness Series does what it says on the tin, it takes a look at the many and varied churches of the Furness area of South Cumbria. From churches with Norman origins to Victorian houses of worship there certainly is an array of religious buildings to discover! 

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Lost Railway at Greenodd | Snapshot Series

The small village of Greenodd, just off the A590 on the way in or out of Furness, today is a quite place with a few local amenities among the houses. Back in the 1800s though the sound of steam trains would have been heard regularly puffing by the village.

It might be hard to tell now but Greenodd once had a busy railway line running alongside it, as well as it's own station.

The line was opened in 1869 as part of the new Furness Railway, which was connecting much of Furness with Lakeside for the easy transport of goods.

The train line would have had many trains with industrial cargo hammering though but there was also a passenger train, which people could board from the station. This station once stood near the end of current Main Street with the railway running where part of the A590 now sits.

There isn't much evidence of the long lost train line but it’s nice to know that one once ran here.

Greenodd Station, image courtesy of NW Evening Mail.

The Snapshot Series is a series of short posts on singular locations, features or artefacts found in the Furness area. Not large enough to warrant a long blog post we will explore these sites in snapshots!

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Wordsworth in Furness

Furness has often held an interest for literary and artistic folk and holds links to several well known characters. One rather notable poet and writer who visited, and wrote about Furness, quite regularly is William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth in the late 1700s and went on to become one of Britain's most celebrated writers with famous works like 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' (known also as Daffodils) becoming globally known.

In his early career Wordsworth would often visit the lands of Furness and on several occasions wrote about famous landmarks of the area, most notably Furness Abbey and Piel Castle.

In 1807 he wrote a poem entitled (this one is a bit of a mouth full..) Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm, Painted by Sir George Beaumont, which, as the name suggests, was based on Piel Castle off the shores of the Furness peninsula.

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime, I love to see the look with which it braves, Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time, The lightning, the fierce wind, the trampling waves.

Wordswoth had visited Piel in 1794 at the age of 24 and, at the time of writing this poem, his wife owned a picture of the castle painted by their friend and his patron Sir George Beaumont. He was moved to write this poem following the death of his brother at sea and it was meant as an expression of grief for this event but also for the passing of his own youth and imagination. The painting and his memories of visiting gave inspiration for the work.

At the age of 28 Wordsworth started work on a volume of poems that would not be released until 1850 following his death. The Prelude was a much more personal, autobiographical work that was originally intended as an introduction to a poem The Recluse, a poem he would never complete.

Following his death The Prelude was instead published as it's own work and in one of the poems he wrote of a visit to the ruins of the Abbey of St. Mary's in Furness.

Of the day’s journey was too distant far For any cautious man, a Structure famed Beyond its neighbourhood, the antique Walls Of that large Abbey which within the vale Of Nightshade, to St. Mary’s honour built, Stands yet, a mouldering Pile, with fractured Arch, Belfry, and Images, and living Trees, A holy Scene!

Throughout his life Wordsworth was a great advocate for Cumbria (then Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland) and especially the Lakes. In 1810 he wrote the 'Guide to the Lakes', which became extremely popular following the release of its extended version in 1835. With in this book he makes mention of Ulverston, Dalton, Furness Abbey, Gleaston Castle, Urswick and Conishead Priory.

They who wish to see the celebrated ruins of Furness Abbey, and are not afraid of crossing the Sands, may go from Lancaster to Ulverston; from which place take the direct road to Dalton; but by all means return through Urswick, for sake of the view from the top of the hills, before descending into the grounds of Conishead Priory. From this quarter the Lakes would be advantageously approached by Coniston; thence to Hawkshead, and by the Ferry over Windermere, to Bowness: a much better introduction than by going direct from Coniston to Ambleside, which ought not to be done, as that would greatly take off from the effects of Windermere.

Wordsworth's passion for the Lakes and indeed the heritage around Furness help greatly in a tourism boom during the Victorian period. The Lakes became extremely popular with people from the inner cities taking the train up to Windermere and beyond. The same can be said for Furness as places like Furness Abbey became greatly admired and visited - a trip to the Lakes was generally seen as incomplete without a trip the the ruins (Queen Victoria herself even visited the site).

Who knows if these sites would have become as popular without William Wordsworth. It is safe to say though that he did have a major impact on the popularity and the preservation of many historic sites in the area.

Extracts From (in order of appearance):

Sunday, 10 February 2019

New Interactive Furness Heritage Map

I’ve been doing a bit of work on the Furness Hidden Heritage web page and have just released a new interactive map of Furness heritage.

In this new map you can navigate around the Furness area and click on the pin points to reveal more info about a site and find links to related blogs.

This will develop as new material is added so do keep checking back!

You can view the map on the website here - or have a look below...

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Sir John Barrow's Cottage, Ulverston | Snapshot Series

Sitting on the junction of two Ulverston roads stands a small building once home to Sir John Barrow.

Sir John Barrow, as mentioned in an early post about Hoad Monument, was born in Ulverston during the 18th Century and went on to be a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society.

This small cottage at Dragley Beck was where he was born on 19th June 1764.

It would have looked a little different back then, for a start the roof would have likely been made from thatch and there would have been a garden wall sweeping round the front of the building.

At the time Dragley Beck was also a small village in the parish of Ulverston. It certainly wouldn't have been as busy as it is today. Of course as time moved on the village was fully enveloped by the growing town.

John grew up in the area and went to school at Town Bank Grammar School in Ulverston. John left at the age of 13 though to set up a Sunday School for the poor, before moving to Liverpool where he found work at an iron foundry.

This building is a wonderful remnant of the past and it is excellent that it is still standing today.

The building is now looked after by Greenlane Archaeology who open it at various times throughout the year. You can find out more on their website here.

The Snapshot Series is a series of short posts on singular locations, features or artefacts found in the Furness area. Not large enough to warrant a long blog post we will explore these sites in snapshots!