Brougham, Cumbria – St Ninian

While on holiday in Orkney, Virgin Trains had a seat sale. Thanks to the power of web I organised a day with Clare, and got a single from Crewe to Penrith for £4 for Friday 15 September. We started with coffee, then headed out to Brougham. Brougham Castle is English Heritage – website – and will be saved for another day. We drove a little further east along the A66 to visit St Ninian’s Brougham – NY559299 – a Church’s Conservation Trust church – website. If you are visiting, approach from the Penrith direction, have someone else map reading, and slow the traffic down before you turn left into the parking space. The A66 is a very fast road – be careful. Once parked, it is a lovely walk of about a mile beside the River Eamont.

The original Norman church was completely rebuilt in the C17 by Lady Anne Clifford, who inherited Brougham Castle. The porch dates to 1841, but once you are in, it feels a much older church. Tradition has it that the church was founded by Ninian in the C5, and a horde of coins dating from this time was found in the vicinity. In the porch is a medieval corbel, and the present chapel is mentioned as a chapel of ease in 1393. The medieval chest probably dates to this time.

Under a wooden cover in the chancel is a sandstone grave slab with cross and sword, believed to be that of Odard and Gilbert do Burgham, father and son. Although the brasses are dated from 1570 to 1830, they were installed in 1846 – part of the process of reclaiming the family history.

Lady Anne Clifford’s restoration work is recorded in the plasterwork above the altar, in a wreath with her initials AP (Anne Pembroke; the Earl of Pembroke was her second husband) with the date 1660.

The furnishings date to her restoration, and are wonderful. You can imagine curtains in place, drawn to keep out the cold and the preacher.

In the pulpit is a proper Queen Victoria copy of the Book of Common Prayer. The font is dated 1662 and the poor box 1663.

Up against the south wall of the Chancel is some wonderful Jacobean panelling, probably from a vestment chest. My apologies to Clare that it is not the most flattering photo of her. The carving on the panel is wonderful.

This is a lovely spot, but a very long way from habitation. It is not surprising that the church was replaced by the next one we’ll go and visit. It was worth the walk.



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