Torpenhow, Cumbria – St Michael

The final church visit of the day was St Michael Torpenhow – NY 206397 – website. The guidebook was first produced in 1969 “and coincided with the truly remarkable Parish Flower Festival.” Even now the PCC are meeting to plan the 50th anniversary celebrations of a remarkable Parish Flower Festival! They suggest the Britons called the small hill a ‘Pen’. The Saxons, not understanding ‘Pen’ called it a ‘Tor-pen’ a pinnacle pen. The next bunch called it the ‘how’ (hill) of Torpen. Believe it if you wish!

The church dates to about 1120, and is a C12 church which has not been much altered. A Will of 1319 refers to it as St Michael’s. For many years it was held by Rosedale Priory in North Yorkshire – a lovely church I haven’t been to for years, but a very long way from Torpenhow. There may well have been a Saxon church on the same site – this Norman church has an aisleless nave and a chancel separated by an arch. Some of the stone seems to have come from a nearby Roman camp. I liked the Bellcote and the Norman arch in the porch, and the sundial above it – not a lot of sun in the porch!

The Norman arch inside the church has wonderful carving – Clare found the light-switch and I enjoyed taking photos.  Can you imagine what the Vicar said when he saw the figures?

I liked the little door into the North Aisle, and there are some lovely bits of stones and carving scattered around. I should sit and work out exactly how the chancel developed – or just enjoy it. The chancel was extended in 1160 and the north aisle added in 1260.

In 1703 Bishop Nicholson wrote “The body of the church was lately beautify’d by Mr Thomas Addison; who having enlarged his paternal estate at Low Wood Nook, and wanting a Seat answerable to his present Quality, offr’d to cover the Middle Isle with a fair painted canopy of Firr”. That was in 1689, and the ceiling reminded me of the one at Grandtully in the Highlands’ – though that’s a little earlier (1636). Have a look at my blog. Apparently it was once the ceiling of a London livery company – can you imagine how they transported it to Cumbria?


It is a lovely Norman font, although the column is C15. The Memorial is to Thomas Nicholson, Vicar, who died in 1735. He did a lot of restoration work on the church and Vicarage. A World War list too, and some nice stained glass.

I liked the books on the graves outside – must do something like this for northernreader. She will need books in death as well as life. I assume it is the hand of God, about to turn our page. We meditated on our existence – we had not lunched!

We drove into Carlisle and had lunch at Tullie House, then went and collected Jonti. He is a chorister at the Cathedral, so went to rehearse, and Clare and I did a bookshop. Evensong was lovely – Rose responses, and I could hear him singing away. I got down to the station in time for the 1846 which was on time, but I had a reserved seat on the 1857 which was 20 minutes late. No, I couldn’t get the earlier train. The 1857 got later and later, and if I had been catching the connection I would have missed it. Fortunately my car was parked at Crewe. Why is it that every time I have a day out in Cumbria, Virgin Trains spoil it?

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