A rustic woodland church built as a chapel of ease of Cartmel Priory
Cartmel Fell church was built to save the inhabitants the long journey to the mother church at Cartmel. It dates from about 1505, and the visitor today might feel that very little has been done since then! This lack of major restoration is key to the charm of this building.
At the west end the church has an unfinished stone tower capped by a saddle-back roof. This very plain structure is described by Pevsner as "aesthetically successful", and certainly its utilitarian character sits easily with the unadorned quality of the rest of the exterior. The nave is stone built, rendered, and pierced by square-headed three-light windows with arched tops and hood moulds - a type frequently seen in C16 North Country churches. A plain south porch sits at the west end, and shallow transepts at the east. Half way down the south side is a priest's door with a small two-light window above.
Inside the tower is entered by a narrow arch of radially set unfinished stonework. The space below the tower is lit by a squat arched window which was formerly the top of a doorway. This was revealed in 1911 after soil that had been washed down the hillside had and built up against the tower, was removed. The nave has a single aisle, that is undivided in any way. The roof timbers are original.
A three-decker pulpit sits with its back to the south wall. This was remodelled in 1698 and carries that date. A window was inserted at this time to light the reading desk. Parish accounts record "To Thos Seath, 13 days work... 13s."
The floor of the church was covered in rushes each year before Easter. This widespread practice is still commemorated in a number of parishes in a rushbearing ceremony. However, in 1727 stone flags were laid at a cost of £9.3s.4d.
At the east end of the nave are two elaborate pews. On the north side is the Cowmire Pew which was associated with the Briggs family of Cowmire Hall. It dates from the early C16, is enclosed and has a screen of single light divisions, tracery and a cornice. Opposite is the Burblethwaite Pew of the C17 (restored in 1810). It also has a screen, this time of Jacobean balusters, a canopy, and a Gothick frieze.
In 1911 a large quantity of stained glass fragments was found behind an internal wall. This was arranged in the east window by Knowles of York. It recreates a significant part of one of only seven known depictions in England of the seven sacraments of the church, linked by streams of blood that flow from Christ's wounds. The glass is probably C15, of the York school of glaziers, and may have originated from Cartmel Priory at its dissolution in 1536. Its subjects include St Anthony (with his pig), a donor, Penance, Mass, Extreme Unction, the Crucifixion, Baptism (represented by John the Baptist), Ordination, Marriage, and a saint (probably St Leonard). See below.
A hillside setting among the trees
A saddle-back roof on an unfinished tower, south porch, and a nave with shallow transepts.
The pulpit was remodelled to its current form in 1698. The Burblethwaite Pew is beyond.
East Window (detail)
Above are John the Baptist, the Virgin and a saint. Below we see ordination taking place.
The sacraments of the church are linked to the lines of blood that flow from Christ..
Nave looking east
The pews are the work of Arthur Simpson of Kendal, and date from 1910/1911..
Photographs and text © Tony Boughen