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Rich Pickings - issue one

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

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.

A sketch of Urswick Church by William Urswick in about 1850A photograph of the Church towards the end of the 1890’s






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 (
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 was fitted?
And if so, where then is the rest of it?

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 behalf!
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 is fascinating.

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…

Standing stone incorporated into stone wallThe 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 protection.

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 description.

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?

Do 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?