On Tuesday 9 October I wanted a day with Clare, so braved Virgin Trains to go north. She met me at Penrith station, and we drove west, past Keswick on the bypass, and into Crosthwaite. The church of St Kentigern is by the school – NY 257243, website. It always good to know where the Gas valve is!
St Kentigern, also known as Mungo, is a Scottish saint. He came here in 553 AD and set up his cross in a clearing or ‘thwaite’. There have been several different churches on this site – which remained in Scotland until William Rufus took it for England in 1092. The first written evidence for a church here is one built by Alice de Romelli in about 1190. Apparently traces of it can be seen in the north wall. In 1198 Richard the Lion Heart gave the church to the monks of Fountains Abbey, and there was a rebuilding in the reign of Edward III. The current building dates from 1523, and was heavily restored by Gilbert Scott in 1844.
It is quite some building, not a church you can miss. The sundial is dated 1602. One guide says it is probably the oldest sundial still in place (probably fair enough to say the oldest which isn’t simply a hole and a series of scratches on the wall), a leaflet says it works when the sun shines …. . The tower clock is 1720 – another one with just one hand (see Whalton in Northumberland). A bearded man welcomes you in – that’s a PhD, beards on faces carved on church porches.
The font dates from 1395, and commemorates Sir Thomas of Eskhead. He was Vicar here between about 1374 and 1392, and the inscription asks for prayers for his soul. On the north wall are a series of Consecration Crosses for the 1523 church. There are 12 in all – although every church would have had them, they are rarely seen.
You can see another Consecration Cross next to the War Memorial, there is a Victorian pulpit with impressive floral display, an impressive organ (Bishops of London 1837, enlarged by Jardines of Manchester, rebuilt as a War Memorial in 1920, rebuilt again in 1980), and some sensible (and neat) disabled adaptations.
The East End has a memorial to Edward Stephenson, late Governor of Bengal, died 1768 – website. The mosaic shows the salmon which retrieved the lost ring of a Scottish queen and bride to be – Kentigern was involved too. The brass work in the reredos was made by the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, which was founded by Mrs Rawnsley. Her husband, Vicar here from 1883 to 1917, is one of the founders of the National Trust. This is on the NT website. (He is buried in the churchyard, but we couldn’t find any sign to his grave). Canon Rawnsley was behind the re-design of the East End with his architect Mr Ferguson. The glass is by Kempe – St Herbert (a local saint) to the north and St Kentigern to the south.
There are quite a lot of other interesting memorials. Thomas Radcliffe and his wife are 1495.
Robert Southey was Poet Laureate and worshipped in this church for 40 years until his death in 1842. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of him – read this website. There is a memorial to him in the church, and his grave is signposted outside. It seems as if money raised in his memory was also a catalyst for the 1844 rebuilding and renovation of the church.
There is a little medieval glass, and quite a lot of Victorian glass – including Jesus with muscles.
Inside the porch were some notices telling us what to see in the graveyard, so we went for an explore of a huge churchyard. A couple of interesting WW1 people, though we didn’t find the nurses’ grave. Apparently the red altar frontal at Carlisle Cathedral was given in memory of Nurse Hermione Lediard – website. (Clare, as mother of a Carlisle chorister, please take note, I expect a photo). Percy Ogden has been written up in this blog. “Mr. Percy Ogden, who died at the Military Hospital, Shornecliffe, on June 8th, after a few days illness, was in his 42nd year, and was a lieutenant in the R.F.C. He was the son of the late Thomas Ogden, founder of Ogden’s Ltd., which in 1902 became a branch of the Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain and Ireland Ltd.). He was a director of the latter company, and of late years he had undertaken charge of its manufacturing operations in this country” (14 June 1917).
I had not realised that Bishop Eric Treacy was buried here. His grave is the other side of the railway line from the church – but I’m sure he’d love to see the Penrith-Keswick Cockermouth line reopened. The line is here – website. The National Railway Museum (though for a reason I can not understand those in charge have dropped the word ‘National’) has a blog about him – here. His work is exceptional – and he was a brilliant parish priest and bishop. May he, and his wife, rest in peace and rise in glory.