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Crosthwaite Church



The earliest written evidence of a more permanent Christian ministry is a reference to "... the spring of the chapel of St Mary..." in Deeds of Grant of land made by Gilbert, son of Roger Fitz-Reinfred in 1187. There are a number of springs near the present Church (or Kirk) Hill rising behind the church. The spring could have been a "Holy Well" or it could have served as a water supply for monks living at the chapel.

In another Deed, dated about 1215, Gilbert Fitz-Reinfred and his wife Helwise confirmed to the monks of St Mary's Abbey in York ". . . inter alia the churches of Eversheim, Bietham, Kirkeby in Kendale with their chapels." Again, this points to there having been a chapel at Crosthwaite within the Parish of Heversham since the late twelfth century and, quite possible, much earlier.

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The earliest chapels would have been simple structures of wattle and daub, thatched with straw and reed, so that no trace now remains. However, the earliest part of St Peters Church Heversham, which dates from1180 was of stone and it is possible that the chapel at Crosthwaite could have been of stone by that time.

It is possible that a chapel continued to exist at Crosthwaite, and at some time, possibly in the late fifteenth century, the first chapel was built on the site of the present church. for the next written evidence is a document in the parish records specifying "The order and method how the inhabitants of Crosthwaite and Lith ought to place themselves in their parochial chapell for ever . . . 2nd October 1535" which was the year in which the Anglican Church made the break with Rome. This was followed by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, )including St Mary's, York) and the document could therefore have been drawn up as a mark of the various changes brought in at that time, the most significant being the use of English rather than Latin in the services.

After the Dissolution in 1535, one of the most important consequences to Crosthwaite was that the Rectoral rights of the parish of Heversham, which included Crosthwaite chapel and which had been owned by St Mary's Abbey in York, passed to the crown, and eventually in 1558, to Trinity Collage, Cambridge. This must have been in prospect for some time, as in 1556 John Christoferson, Master of Trinity Collage, petitioned Cuthbert, Bishop of Chester, for a licence to administer the sacraments at Crosthwaite chapel. The deed granting the licence states:

"Cuthbert by divine permission Bishop of Chester to all Sons of the Holy Mother Church. . . We would have it known to you all in general that the Parishioners and Inhabitants of the parish of Heverahsm in our Diocese and jurisdiction who sojourn in the villages and hamlets of Crosthwaite and Lyth manifest, situated within the bounds and limits of the same parish, have lately by heavy complaint made known unto us that they live so far distant, viz 4,5,6 miles distant from the said parish church of Heversham, they can neither carry the bodies of their dead for burial to the aforesaid Church of Heversham as they are obliged to do without great expense and inconvenience, nor their children to be baptised without great danger as well of Soul as of Body . . "

The inhabitants undertook, at their own cost and charge to provide a Curate, whose salary was fixed at £5.8.10 At this time, in the reign of Mary and Philip, Roman Catholocism had been restored, briefly, to be ousted again when Elizabeth I came to the throne on 1558.

There is no description of this early church, but we can guess that it was similar to that of St Anthony at Cartmel Fell, built in 1504. It would have been a simple stone building with a few small windows and a thatched or slated roof. Looking at the sketch of the church as it was in 1806, and imagining it without either tower or chancel (added in 1626) gives a good idea of its simplicity. Inside there would have been benches for the parishioners and, after 1557, a communion table and a font used for baptism. This font, a simple octagonal bowl of limestone, is the only object that remains of the earlier church and can still be seen beside the main doorway, having been retires after more than 300 years, when a new font was provided for the present church in 1878.

Soon after the church was given its licence to administer the sacraments and have its own curate, an unknown benefactor gave a silver chalice for use at Holy Communion. The chalice, which has a cover for the use as a Paten, was made in York in 1567 and is one of the oldest surviving pieces of Communion plate in the county,

Originally the church had no tower until in 1626 a William Gilpinbuilt the chancel and a square tower, and gave £50 towards 3 bells. These bells were inscribed:-
1) Jesus be our speed
2) Soli Deo Gloria
3) "A young man gave in Godliness
William Gilpin by name gave £50 to make these sounds
to God's eternal fame."

The same William Gilpin made a will leaving amonst other bequests, £50 towards the use of a minister or schoolmaster for the instruction and teaching of the children of Crosthwaite and Lyth, most probably in church. This is the first record of the establishment and maintenance of the school at Crosthwaite which continued to the present day. The school has always been associated with the church and has also benefited much from the public spirited generosity of individuals in the parish.

The basic structure of the church continued much as it was in 1626. After relative prosperity of the 16th and early 17th centuries based on wool trade, the later 17th century was more turbulent. There were several outbreaks of plague in the parish, particularly in 1657 and 1667, during which more than one person in ten in the parish died. One can only imagine not just the sorrow and the terror this brought, but also the serious economic affects it had on the whole area.

The civil war was followed by the Protectorate (1653 - 1659) during which a strict form of Presbyterianism was introduced. At this time the alter would have been replaced by a communion table placed in the centre of the church. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660 there was a return to the earlier, less rigid, forms of worship and this is probably the reason for the reissue of the seating plan in 1669, in which the alter it returned to its traditional place in the Chancel, at the east end of the church.

In about 1816 an application was made by the vicar and churchwardens for "... removing the old roof and putting on new, rebuilding side walls, raising roof and making ceiling, adding three windows on each side of chapel, raising floor at west end to a level with east end, reserving two aisles for passage, and placing pews in remainder of chapel."

There have been reports that the rebuilding followed a serious fire, but there is no mention of of this in the application or in the parish records of the period. Indeed, the application for the faculty was strongly opposed by many of the parishioners and this would seem unlikely if the church had been seriously damaged by fire. In due course the Bishop granted the faculty and in 1817 the work was completed. A plan of this church gives the internal dimensions as 25ft wide by 80ft long; since the application of 1816 referred to "rebuilding" of the walls, it can be inferred that the earlier church was of the same basic size. A photograph taken in 1866 shows a rather plain rectangular building, practical and weatherproof no doubt, but lacking the charm of the old church.

In 1860 Crosthwaite became a separate ecclesiastical parish and, although the church (chapel) had been rebuilt in 1817, it was probably felt that the parish should have a rather more imposing church, appropriate to its new status. Thus it was that the church that you see today was built entirely in the late nineteenth century, as a result of a gift by Mr F.A. Argles and his brother, the Rev M. Argles, canon of Peterborough Cathedral. The faculty for rebuilding was granted by the Bishop of Carlisle in May 1877 on the grounds that "... the church at Crosthwaite is dilapidated. . " and the new building was completed the following year.

In 1885 a new tower 53ft high was built to replace the old one, which had stood since 1626. The costs of the new tower, together with ".. a peal of six bells and the necessary machinery for chiming same. . " were met by a further generous gift from Mr Argles, made shortly before his death. The tower was designed by Joseph Bintley of Kandal, and is very similar to that at St Peter's at Heversham erected a few years earlier. Although by a different architect, it was also donated by Mr Argles who must have been well pleased with the result.

Finally, between 1878 and 1885 (the precise date is not known) the chancel was added in the form of an apse. This, together with the south transept, does much to relieve the squareness of the previous church.

The external walls are faced with limestone taken from the quarries at Whitbarrow Scar, to the south of Crosthwaite. The parishioners were responsible for carting this stone, and as well as that from Whitbarrow, they are said to have carted more than 400 loads from Windermere. The window tracery was excavated in Carnforth Freestone, a kind of sandstone, and was quarried some 20 miles away.

The pews are of Oak and seat up to 265 worshipers; the pulpit was presented by the Rev T.M. Gilbert, vicar of Heversham. A new font was presented to the church by the contractors and workmen.

The reredos in the chancel, behind the alter, is of five carved and painted wooden panels in new-gothic style. The large central panel shows the last supper, white side panels are of the virgin Mary, and St Peter, patron saint of the old mother church at Heversham. It was erected in 1885 "... to the memory of F.A. Argles Esq by his widow, Mrs Argles and his only son T. Atkinson Argles Esq."

In his History of Crosthwaite (1966) G.P Jones states Frank Atkinson Argles (1816-1885), though a relative newcomer, conferred more benefits on Crosthwaite in the course of a few years than its feudal Lords had over several centuries.


All the stained glass in the church dates from the time of the rebuilding (1878) or later; if there was stained glass in the earlier churches there are no signs of it now and no mention in the church records. The Victorian windows are all by Heaton, Butler and Payne of London, well known makers of stained glass of the time.

The three windows in the apse above the alter show from left to right, 'The Anunciation', ' the feeding of the five thousand', and Jesus disputing with the enders in the temple'. They were given by public subscription in memory of the many benefits conferred on the parish by Mr T. Atkinson esq of Tooting.

The window in the north wall of the chancel is a gift by Miss Cartmell in memory of her parents, of High Birks (1878) and illustrates Christ's charge to Peter. Later, after here marriage, she also gave the beautiful 20th century window in the middle of the south wall of the Nave in memory of her son, Anthony Marchbank Carrick (1949). The two figures adorning the Virgin and Child are William of Wykeham (Bishop and founder of Winchester School) and king Henry VI (Founder of King's Collage. The coats of arms below are those of the school and the collage. It was designed by Harry Stammers whose signature (an S over a wheel) can be seen at the bottom left hand corner.

The Major Lawrence Hoggarth (1881-1962) and Isobal Alice Hoggarth (1899-1971) window behind the font is a striking modern design by Professor Leonard Evetts, full of shadowy symbolism. The pelican, chalice and lamb represent the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism, while above the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove.

Finally, the windows in the west wall depict 'the empty tomb' in the tower and the 'baptism of Christ' just behind the door.


There are four memorials in the church (A bust and three tablets) all of which date from before the rebuilding in 1878 and must be presumed to have been moved from the earlier chapel. together they reflect life in the parish over more than 200 years, with names and places which are familiar today.

Close to the font is a bust of William Pearson, who is buried in the churchyard. William Pearson was born at the Yews and lived for much of his life at Borderside and became friendly with William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

On the south wall of the nave is a large memorial tablet to several members of the Dickinson family who died over the period 1764-1803, the memorial probably being erected some time after that date. The verse on the tablet reads:-
Peaceful your travail closed in deaths abode
Your tasks fulfilled O rest your spirits with God
Beloved lamented. And your praise be mine
Prosperous or suffering, to the will Devine
Resigned, obedient, thankful to employ
Life's fleeting hours for heavens eternal joy.

On the opposite (North) wall is a memorial to William Strickland of Whitestock Hall, who died aged 34 in 1804. The inscription reads:-
Censure be mute, no Prejudice betray
Suspend thy judgement to the last great day.
That day will show, what none but God can tell,
Whether my part was acted ill or well.

In the parish registry entry for his burial, William Strickland is recorded as an "attorney at Law" of Kendal and one wonders what may have been behind the rather bitter words on the epitaph for this apparently successful young man from an old and respected Crosthwaite family.


The organ was built by Wilkinson of Kendal and placed in the church in 1865, that is to say, 13 years before the present building was completed. The organ was reassembled in the south transept in its present position in 1878. However, it is interesting that an old photograph taken during building of the apse (in about 1884) shows a window in the position now occupied by the organ, which must have been filled in at some later date.

In 1965 it was recorded in the Westmorland Gazette that "... Miss Lester of the High School, Kendal kindly gave a beautiful recital to commemorate the 199th birthday of the Organ".


Before 1885 there were only three bells in the old church at Crosthwaite, these being the three given by William Gilpin in 1626. Who cast these bells or what ultimately became of them we do not know, for in 1773 Kendal Parish Church sent three of their six bells to Crosthwaite, as their 35cwt tenor was to be recast into three smaller bells by Pack and Chapman, and two new ones were being added. There is no record of whether the bells were sold or given as a gift to Crosthwaite.

In 1885 Frank Atkinson Argles Esq bore the cost of having a ring of six installed, probably incorporating the metal of the old bells. These new bells were cast John Warner and the tenor weighs 10.75cwt. In 1982 the peal was tuned and rehung with new fittings and roller bearings by John Taylor of Loughborough.










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