St Mary's Parish Church History

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A History of St Mary's Church by Richard Rhodes

A church was first established on this site in the aftermath of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536 – 40), During that time, the Priory at Cartmel was dissolved as part of the Henrician Reformation and a Chapel was built on the present site using materials from Cartmel. The exact date is not known.

The first documented mention of the church was in 1618 when Henry Longman is recorded as curate and schoolmaster. He was ejected in 1647 as a malignant and a Royalist and died in 1662 just after the Restoration. His role was taken over by Gabriel Camelford, the Quaker, who is alleged to have given his flock a hard time! Edmund Law was curate and schoolmaster from 1693 – 1742 – he lived in Lindale and is thought to have walked to services there and back (unless he had a horse ) – after which he still found energy to work his small farm. Clearly there was a significant amount of energy in the genes - his son became Bishop of Carlisle, he had two grandsons who became bishops, another who became Lord Chief Justice and his great grandson became Viceroy of India in due course. Edmund Townley was the seventh minister of Staveley and he, together with his uncle William, were generous benefactors to church and village.

The entrance pathway and view of the church clock

photo of St Mary's entrance & pathway

In 1678 the church had undergone its first restoration. More windows were added – a fact that is recorded on the stone over the east window and outside the north window in the chancel. This was largely the work of William Robinson (of Fell Foot) and Thomas Barwick (a cousin of Dean Barwick of St. Paul's) and was intended as a thank offering for the return of Charles II. A Faculty for the installation of a new pew in the Church was granted in 1742.
In 1793 a second restoration was undertaken in which the south aisle was added together with the present tower.
In the early nineteenth century – in 1841 – an adjacent piece of land was purchased to form the churchyard. The two manual organ was added in 1862 and located in the north west side of the building. This was built by Wilkinsons of Kendal and is a good example of their village church organs.
The Church was licensed for marriages in 1886.
The last service in the old building was the Harvest Festival on September 13th 1896.

The Church and Clock Tower

photo of St Mary's Staveley

St Mary's Staveley: The Altar and East Windows

photo fo St Mary's alter and windows

The third restoration took place between 1896-7. 1008 was raised by subscription for the purpose. The old pews were replaced by the present sittings – wooden pillars replaced the rubble pillars between the nave and the south aisle and the organ was moved to its present site in the south east corner of the church.
In 1889 the pulpit was installed and has retained its original style. This was a gift from the Rev C.G.Townley and the Misses Townley as a part of the restoration. Other gifts received at this time, which are still in use, include the brass altar cross, brass flower vases and two brass standard lamps.
The Church was reopened by the Dr J W Bardsley, Bishop of Carlisle on May 29th 1897 (Royal Oak Day ) and dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin – it is not clear whether the Staveley Chapel had a previous dedication.
Sam Taylor, in his book ‘Cartmel – people and Priory', suggests that the remarkable symmetry and sense of comfort and space which has been retained in this church, despite three substantial renovations, owes much to the fact that the works were largely conducted by succeeding generations of the same family – much in the way that the more sympathetic restorations of some of our country houses stem from the fact that they have been increased bit by bit by succeeding generations of the same family.

The Lych Gate

photo of St Mary's Lych gate

The substantial Lych gate was erected in 1927. It was constructed of locally grown oak grown in the Parish with a slate roof. It consists of double gates with a single gate alongside. The Lych gate takes the form of a war memorial to those who fell in conflict.
Electric lights were installed in 1934!

photo of the font at St Mary's

The Stone Font

As a result of a donation of two and half acres of land by Sir John Fisher, the churchyard was extended in the early 1980s and the extension of the burial ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Penrith on 7th May 1989.
The Clock in the Church Tower was made by Smiths of London and came originally from Fell Foot. It was installed in 1991 as a gift from Mr John H. Atkinson (Churchwarden) in memory of his son Raymond.
The present stone font, situated opposite the main door is thought originate from the third restoration. It is made of sandstone, octagonal in shape with four green pillars and an octagonal oak cover. At some time, the original font (dated 1678) was taken to form a sundial on the rock south west of the church door.
In its present condition, the Church is built of local rag stone rubble with a slate roof. There are a number of interesting stained glass windows which have been installed over the years (between 1909 and 1948) representing local families, notably the Ridehalgh family from Fell Foot. The lectern is made of solid brass, there is no record of its origin but it is thought to date from 1906. The Churchyard contains numerous headstones. There are also some vaults, some of which are hewn in the rock. A number of yew trees decorate the churchyard.
The Church contains memorial stones on the inside walls to Rev Henry Ashe, Rev Edmund Townley, Thomas Michaelson Machell, Seddon Brown, Raymond James Atkinson and the Restoration of 1896/7.
The yard of the adjacent Church Hall provides adequate parking facilities. There are no access problems to the Church and a loop system was installed in 2003.

photo of entrance & west windows

The Entrance and West Windows viewed from inside the church


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