Keswick, Cumbria – St John

Usually when we go to the Lakes it rains – but the last week of September, first of October was a glorious week of weather, so on Thursday 1 October we got up bright and early and drove through the fog to Keswick. After refreshment we had a wander and found a very nice Oxfam shop with an excellent book collection.

Then we walked down to the parish church of St John – NY267232 – it is a shame it isn’t a bit more in the town – and followed the disabled access sign to the side entrance and into a very warm church. You can see the ramp in this photo, the main door is not accessible!

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october a 029october a 023The site for the church was chosen by John Marshall, Lord of the Manor of Castlerigg and son of a Leeds linen manufacturer – presumably he had the money to buy the Lordship. He was a friend of William Wordsworth, and the chose a position where the spire could be seen from miles around. The architect was Anthony Salvin (1799-1881) who used a soft pink limestone from the Eden valley for the outer walls, and local stone for the main structure. John Marshall died soon after work had begun, and his wife Mary took the plans forward in his memory and at her cost – about £4000. It was consecrated on St John’s day, 27 December 1838. The building was enlarged in 1862 when the North Aisle was added, and the Chancel was added in 1899.

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The oak choir stalls in the Chancel and the first organ were installed in memory of Henry Cowper Marshall, a brother of the founder. The organ was rebuilt in 1912 by Arthur Harrison of Durham. The eagle was carved by George Brooker, who came from a West Cumbrian family of wood carvers. One of his skills was making figureheads for ships. The font cover was made at the Keswick School of Industrial Arts.

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The East window was designed by Henry Holiday, principal designer for the London firm of Powell and Sons. They were experimenting with fluxes to fix the colours to the glass, and some of the pigment has not worn very well. The lower figures show Old Testament prophets, with NT scenes above.

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The other chancel windows, designed by the same firm, were installed in 1889 – I liked the sower.
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The designer of this window in the South Aisle was Veronica Whall (1887-1967). Note that one child is holding a ball, and another is pulling a toy wagon.

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october a 014The memorial is to Thomas Dundas Hartford Battersby, second Vicar of the parish. In 1875 he held three days of Meetings for the Promotion of Christian Holiness, using tents in the Vicarage garden. Thus was the Keswick Convention formed. They have a website.

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This is a nice little detail from another of the windows.

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At the west end of the nave are seven paintings of Celtic saints, painted by Sister Irene of the Community of the Holy Name. She was Parish Sister for ten years until 1998.

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A nice church, but it was sad that there is no proper guidebook (just a folded A4 leaflet), and while they have various places where you can pray and light a candle, there is no real welcome and well-organised place to pray. They also have lots of leaflet and literature displays – but it all needs a major sort out. Why is there no tourist display in this central church, pointing people to other churches elsewhere in the Lakes? Their website isn’t bad, but has rather too many broken links and non-existent pictures. It is a beautiful spot for a church, but they need to work on getting people to visit, deepening their faith, and then sending them on to discover other glorious churches.

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