Bassenthwaite, Cumbria – St Bega

Clare and I were a bit confused because the church we had just visited didn’t seem to fit the description in Betjeman’s Best British Churches.  A bit of investigation (i.e. the Cambridge Geographer read the map) took us to St Bega’s church, Bassenthwaite – NY 227287. They have the same website as the previous church – here. We parked and walked down to the church.

It was probably a pre-Norman foundation, and was given to the monastery at Jedburgh in the C12. Pevsner says it is disappointing to find it is so Victorian, with the interior by S. Watson of Penrith in 1874. (There is a painting of it, pre-restoration). We were not disappointed! The strange metal thing is an hour-glass stand – I want one!

The Highmore Memorial, probably late C14, is inscribed ‘His jacet Robertus de Hehmur cujus anime propricietur Deus’ (Here lies Robert Highmoor, upon whose soul may God be merciful). Alongside the cross, which stands on a Calvary mound, is shown a knight’s sword. I like the memorial that says Grace was “about her fiftieth year”. The Royal Arms is George II.

I like the East Window – and the lions look very hungry. I liked the photo of the lions (sorry, ladies) of NADFAS handing over their record of the church to Canon Harker in 1992. I wonder if photos of me will look so dated in 26 years time (and I fear I know the answer!).

We went outside and enjoyed the location. I also looked up St Bega – apparently she was a Princess of Ireland, also known as Bee. She fled the Royal Court rather than marry a prince from Norway, and tradition says she was miraculously transported to Cumbria (more fun than Virgin trains). She founded the monastery at St Bees.


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