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On the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle

Whittington church stands on the mound of a Norman motte and bailey castle. Arkholme and Melling, nearby in the Lune valley, are also associated with these ancient sites. Fragments of stone in the churchyard date back to this period. A church is believed to have been on the site since about 1200. However, the present church dates from the late C15 or early C16.

The oldest part of St Michael's is the tower. It rises to fifty feet and is a prominent landmark from the west across the River Lune. The diagonal buttresses have seven set-offs between the base and the embattled parapet. On the west face is a door, a window, and between the latter and the bell opening, a statuary niche with a Victorian figure of the Good Shepherd. The tower contains a peal of 6 bells. The oldest is a treble of 1739 by Seller of York. It is inscribed with the names of the rector and four church wardens, and the words "Gloria in Altissimis Deo". The second oldest bell, of 1754 by Rudhall, is inscribed "Prosperity to this Parish". Four bells are by Taylor and Co. of Loughborough and date from 1875. The tenor bell was recast by Taylor in 1875from a bell made in 1673, and carries both dates.

The nave arcades are Perpendicular in style, but much of the nave and chancel are the result of a major restoration by Paley and Austin in 1875. An exception is the re-used base of aC13 pier used as a capital in the north arcade. Paley and Austin invariably restored churches with sensitivity and invention, and this is true of their work at Whittington. There is variety in the window treatment - see the clerestory lights above the aisles. Here each window is in a square frame but has varying tracery including quatrefoils and mouchettes formed into a circle. At the exterior of the east end of the chancel are heavy stepped buttresses, and extending northwards from the aisle is a vestry. This has a pair of slender stone chimneys.

The church has five stained glass windows by James Powell and Sons. These are quite distinctive, though the west window (possibly by Henry Holiday) has deteriorated. The windows in the east and west of the south aisle have subtle colouring and portraiture that recalls the Pre-Raphaelites. In fact Burne-Jones worked for Powell before joining Morris & Co, though this is not his work. Other glass is by Kempe &Tower, and looks old fashioned alongside Powell's work. A recent window on the south of the church is by Lawrence Lee. It represents St Blaise, the patron saint of animals, woolcombers and woolstaplers. His emblems are a comb and candle.

The church from the north east

Pevsner praises the "varied grouping" around the east end of the church.

A view from the south

The hill on which the church is sited rises still more to the left.

The nave from the west door

Paley & Austin completed a majorrestoration of the church in 1875.

Powell glass & Victorian font

Powell glass shows great subtlety of colour. The font is a highly finished work in polished stone.

Photographs and text Tony Boughen