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!