Irton, Cumbria – St Paul

Before we drove over Hardknott we stopped at St Paul’s church, Irton. NY092005 – website. The church is up a long track off the road, and it was raining.


The OS map marks “Cross” in that lovely antiquarian script it uses – but we’ll do the inside first. In 1856 the old church building was demolished and work started on a new one. The foundation stone was laid on 21 May 1856 and the new church was dedicated on 16 June 1857 – they didn’t hang around in those days! Miles Thompson of Kendal was the architect, and Lord Muncaster paid for the church. The vestry was added ten years later, then the chancel arch and organ, and in 1887 they paid £1500 for restoration work to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It is lovely that the church contains Victorian stained glass and Victorian banners, but it didn’t feel like a museum.


The first window was in the porch – does the angel look happy?

DSC00309The window below has an interesting combination of images. On the left is St Paul beside the altar to the unknown Greek God (Acts 17). On the right is The Tiburtine Sibyl – and you can look her up on Wikipedia. There is a legend that Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time of the birth of Christ, called his sibyl to prophesy. As she was speaking the Emperor saw heaven open and a virgin, robed in light, holding the Christ child while two voices called from heaven, “This is the virgin who will receive in her womb the Saviour of the world.” The vision of the virgin and child with two angels can be seen in the top right hand corner of the window. It is because of this legend that pagan sibyls may be represented in Christian churches. If I ever have the money to install a stained glass window in a church I will include a pagan sibyl – especially as the Tiburtine Sibyle is often pictured holding a book in her hand I have a wife like that … perhaps she is a sibyl. The trouble is that when someone says “Sibyl” I always think of Basil Fawlty! This window was designed by Burne Jones and made by William Morris & Co. Burne Jones’s original cartoon is in Birmingham City Art Gallery.


Here we have St Agnes with a lamb and St Catherine of Alexandria. Although there is no visible Catherine wheel, she bears a palm in token of her victory and a book in reference to her great learning. There are a lot more windows I should have worked round.


I also liked this original banner – one of six. This one has the symbols of the Evangelists. In 1871 the Whitehaven News reported that “Michaelmas Day. Irton Harvest Home. Hung around the walls were six richly coloured banners, exquisite specimens of art.”


The font and its cover were given by Charles Robert Fletcher Lutwidge (that’s a name to conjure with) as a memorial to his uncle Robert Wilfred Skeffington-Lutwidge (he wins!). Uncle Robert was a Commissioner in Lunacy who died after being hit on the head by an inmate of Salisbury asylum. He died on 28 May 1873 and is buried at Brompton Cemetery in London.


The Sanctuary was faced with oak panelling in 1907 in memory of Madge Heinemann, daughter of Jonas and Mary Burns-Lindow. Mrs Heinemann died in India, but her body was brought home. The East window is by Wailes of Newcastle, the gift of Mrs Hodgson.


It is the most open plan pulpit that I have ever seen. A little draughty I would think!


This memorial is to Admiral Skeffington Lutwidge. He was a son of Thomas Lutwidge, an outstanding figure in the tobacco trade in Whitehaven, and was second in command to Captain Phipps in the Arctic expedition of 1773. As one of the crew was a young midshipman called Horatio Nelson, you can read more at this website.


I liked this memorial to Sir Aubrey Brocklebank – nice and simple, the sort a loving wife should provide. Apparently he was a director of the Cunard Steamship Company, the Suez Canal Company and the Great Western Railway. We have him, and the granite business he founded, to thank for the survival of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, and one of their locos bore his name.


Outside it was getting even wetter. It was worth getting wet as we looked at the Celtic Cross, erected in the early C9 before the Danish and Norse invasions. Four ancient tracks apparently met here. You can imagine the traveller struggling through the rain towards it. It is carved from a single block of red sandstone it stands 10 feet high and still rests in its original socket stone. There are better photos at this website. Interestingly it bears no figures, either human or animal.


The Lych Gate dates to 1908 and was made by Joseph Wilson, one of the joiners on the Irton Hall Estate. Alex is looking wet!



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