There are all sorts of ‘little gems’ all
over Low Furness, new discoveries, new features, ‘hidden tales’
worth dusting off, and much, much more which bring added colour
to the historical and cultural perspectives of the area. Having
found them, this is the place to ‘post them’.
If you have anything to share with others from your
visits or to ask for more information then e-mail me at email@example.com
Please note: we are NOT talking serious archaeology
here so please NO DIGGING around or disturbing the locals (both
human and animals)!
The Fifth Window (Urswick Church)
A chance observation of an illustration in a book about the Urswick
family led me to an intriguing mystery and which might have considerable
significance for our current archeological programme. A sketch of
Urswick Church by William Urswick in about 1850 (see below left)
clearly shows a significant monument in the graveyard in front of
the south nave wall.
A photograph of the Church towards the end of the
1890’s (see below right) shows no monument and an additional
long window in the nave wall.
Gaythorpe in an extract from Furness Lore (1882) noted
that when a party from the Barrow Field and Naturalist Club visited
the church around that time there were four very different windows
in the south wall of the nave. Canon Ayre writing the ‘History
of Urswick and its Church’ in 1897, noted that’ on the
south side are five windows’ and ‘that nearest the chancel
is a long narrow window with one light‘!
Isn’t it intriguing that when Revd. Postlethwaite,
a keen historian, the Vicar who followed on from Revd. Billinge
in 1902, began to undertake significant work on the chancel and
to have the Gale Pew brought down to floor level for safety reasons
in 1907, whitewashed plastered walls cleaned off, the lintel stone
above that particular window turned out to be a fragment of an old
stone cross identified by Collingwood as a Saxon Cross dating from
(he thought) the 8th Century! In fact it is much older (information
update from Steve Dickinson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This was hailed as a very important and significant discovery- rightly
so, but could it be that it was in fact part of a larger stone monument
outside the south wall directly in the line of the new window which
for some reason was taken down (or broken?) when the new window
And if so, where then is the rest of it?
NOWT SO QUEER AS (CLERGY) FOLK!
It appears that when Revd. Postlethwaite was buried in
Urswick Churchyard he had such an affection for his ‘flock’
that he was buried facing West so that on the Last Day when all
shall be raised he will be facing them. Presumably to plead on their
The theologists among us might like to ponder that one.
Postlethwaite also reintroduced the Rushbearing Service
at Urswick ( St. Michael and All Angels, September 29th September)
which continues happily to this day- although we don’t now
sing all of the verses of the marathon hymn he wrote for it!
One of the longest serving curacies on local record
was that of Thomas Fell who was born at Gleaston and held the curacy
at St. Matthew’s , Dendron from 1715- 1767, a total of 52
years. The briefest was Peter Richardson who arrived in 1786 and
left the following year. The curate at Dendron was also the school
master until 1865 although one Thomas Caddy (1808 to 1818) seems
to have had a ‘running battle’ with the parishioners
having decided to give up his teaching ministry! The correspondence
Aldingham was a sought-after Crown living and there
was no lack of ‘lobbying’ in high places. Two such instances
are recorded in copies of letters displayed in the Vestry there.
The most intriguing is the advice asked of Queen Victoria
by Disraeli in relation to the demise of Revd. Dr. Henry Hayman
formerly Head of Rugby School who left the School in rather a hurry
and faced being homeless, penniless and with nine children to care
for unless a suitable living was acquired for him. He served as
Rector at Aldingham from 1874 until 1904.
Obviously there’s a tale to be told there, so if you know
anything or can add to it, let us know…
Not to leave out Rampside. Arthur Evans a character
who writes for the local paper on many interesting features in ‘Out
And About’ tells us about the colourful Revd. John Stainton
, ‘con artist and former jailbird’ who was a quarrelsome
drunk, a womaniser, a lecher, a frequenter of Ulverston brothels,
a bully who fought parishioners on Rampside sands. Though suspended
several times during the 1820s and 30s, (apparently his behaviour
reduced the congregation at Rampside to six) he survived many ‘adventures’,
until finally removed by the Church authorities in 1836.
Nothing more is known. Unless of course…
SIZE DOES MATTER!
1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map has proved to be a God-send for our
local history- but is never-the-less incomplete. So, time detectives,
another opportunity to shine…
Wells were highly significant places for obvious reasons
and a whole community life could be built around them. Here in Low
Furness as in other ‘remote’ areas, for the Druids and
the Celts they had a great spiritual significance as well. They
were regarded as ‘doorways’ to the underworld and as
such were both respected and feared.
Now then, if you find a well on the map you should
be able to locate a standing stone in close proximity to it…
look for a piece of higher ground near to the well. Why? Well, these
are a sort of ‘divining rod’, between the spiritual
world above and the here and now, bringing the gods into play for
Of course, today it is not as simple as that because
some will have been removed over the years by farmers, used as gate
posts and the like- but you can still spot them!
If you do, check to see if any have carvings on them,
whether they be Christian symbols or otherwise because when Christianity
came to this area these sites, both as meeting points and as religious
sites were often ‘christianised’- made into holy places…
and by the way, the water tastes good, unless of course you find
a cow standing in it!
If you spot one (standing stone, not cow) which doesn’t
appear on the map, please let us know the map reference and its
One final question: you won’t find any pagan
artefacts within more than 200 metres of Urswick Church (bar one
which has been re-located from well outside that boundary area).
Do you know why?
you know anything about this construction? Its Grid Reference is
262742 and that’s probably significant as is its location
alongside the intersection of a path which drops off Little Urswick
Crags passing the old ‘Stone Walls’ settlement and then
crosses Hooks Lane to pass the Burial Chamber below Tosthills.
On the 1:10,560 OS Map a well is indicated (Bower
Well) somewhere there at the bottom of Bower Wood. Now, Bower means
‘a place closed in with foliage’ or an ‘arbour’,
‘summer’ house’ or ‘inner room’. Is
it possible, then, that this is a former Christian cell next to
or even built over a sacred well? If we take as read the current
view that a significant Celtic monastic community was established
in the area with distinctive boundaries marked out, then this would
be just outside and a likely place for spiritual engagement to be
entered into by a monk choosing the life of a hermit or for periods
of retreat from the community. How has it been used since? Any ideas?