Dendron an odd name for an English hamlet, since it
is highly improbable that the Greek word for tree should become
a village name in Furness, J. Richardson in his book "Furness
Past and Present" gives the derivation as being Den-rann Anglo-Saxon
for a sheltering place for deer. This would appear to be a reasonable
conjecture as in the year 1239 A.D. an agreement was entered into
between William le Fleming and the monks of Furness "that they
could hunt in common over the lands at Lies" (Leece).
St Matthew's Church was originally built as a Chapel
of Ease in 1642 for the people of Leece, Dendron and Gleaston as
stated on the brass plate over the door into the nave, at the cost
of Robert Dickinson, a citizen of London, who was born in Leece.
This gentleman also provided sufficient capital to maintain, when
invested at 8 percent, a Minister to read Divine Service on Sundays,
and to teach the village children on weekdays. According to the
book published by S. Soulby in 1852, "Public Charities of the
Hundred of Lonsdale North of the Sands", the money was invested
by the trustees not in land as laid down by Mr. Dickinson's will,
but was "secured by mortgage on certain premises in Ulverstone,
belonging to Mr. Fell, at 4 percent only."
Up to 1652 no one seems to have been appointed to the
"living" since George Fox (the renowned Quaker) states
in his diary for that year - "I went to a Chapel beyond Gleaston,
which was built, but no priest had ever preached in it", and
goes on to say that many of the country people at the meeting he
held were convinced of the truth.
It is doubtful indeed if the Divine Service, referred
to in Mr. Dickinson's will (which would be the 1604 revised version)
was ever read in St Matthew's. The reason being that this was the
time of the 'Long Parliament', the troubled times of the decline
and fall of the 'Divine Right' of Kings' in this country culminating
in the rise of Oliver Cromwell to power through Civil War and the
execution of King Charles I in January, 1649. During the ensuing
years of Puritan England, the church may have been visited by itinerant
preachers, many of whom had been dispossessed of their livings by-the
"Commonwealth" established by Cromwell.
It was not until eleven years after the return of Charles
II to the throne of England, that one James Penny was appointed
to the curacy of Dendron in 1671.
Probably one of the longest serving curates in the
district was Thomas Fell who was born at Gleaston, and held the
curacy at Dendron from 1715 to 1767, a total of fifty-two years.
It was during Mr. Fell's incumbency that George Romney - the famous
artist - was sent to school at Dendron from his home at Cocken near
Dalton. Romney who was boarded out with a Mr. Gardner, apparently
made little progress, and was removed by his Father, who had a small
farm and joinery business.
The expense of £1 per annum for tuition and threepence
a day board and lodging would probably have some bearing on the
decision. The year was 1745, notable for the attempt by Charles
Edward Stuart to regain the crown. His armies passed through Carlisle,
Penrith and Lancaster on their road to Derby and return to Scotland,
where' the Stuart's hopes disappeared in April, 1746 at the fateful
Culloden Moor. However, the threat of the approaching Highlanders
under Charles persuaded a Mr. Thomas Greene of Slyne, near Lancaster,
that his own district was liable to be decidedly unhealthy for a
while, so his wife, being a daughter of a Mr. George Barker of Rampside,
chose to settle quietly in this area until the uprising was over,
When he returned home to Slyne he left his son Thomas, then eight
years old, at Dendron School, from which young George Romney had
just been removed. Romney's younger brother was still at school
and became a friend of young Greene, the friendship lasting throughout
In April, 1774, Mr. Thomas Greene, writing from Grays
Inn, in reference to the consecration of Dendron Chapel, states
that "the townships to be benefited by an augmentation of £200
ought to contribute to now glaze the windows and whitewash and put
the chapel in thorough repair" It was consecrated on 2nd August,
1774 by Bishop Markham of Chester. The same Thomas Greene in 1795-6
bore the cost of rebuilding the church and school where he had received
his early education (see marble tablet in the church).
The Vicarage at Dendron was built in 1833 on a piece
of ground purchased from James Gardner. In the same year the new
(now old) school was built on the ground opposite the churchyard
In May, 1892, St Matthew’s was made the parish
church of the new parish of Dendron and the Rev. MH Hayman who had
been the curate became the first vicar since the Rev. Hayman had
been responsible for the raising of the £210 required to refurbish
the church he no doubt deserved the preferment.
The children of the parish were originally educated
in the chapel-cum-school, until 1833 when the "new" school
was built, the building across the road from the church gate, now
known as the Sunday school. The school at North Hill was built in
the eighteen seventies to cater for the children of the parish,
latterly becoming a primary school. The former school continued
to have a role as Sunday school and parish meeting room. The North
Hill school was replaced in 1995 by the new Low Furness primary
school at Urswick, built at a cost of some two million pounds.
The fabric of church and Sunday school was not neglected.
In 1990 it was found that the church bell had worn through its bearings
and was becoming dangerous. Repairs were carried out by a parishioner
and the bell re-hung. The church roof was renewed in 1991, in time
for the 350 year anniversary celebrations in 1992, when there was
a magnificent flower festival and a display illustrating the history
of church and parish. A toilet was installed in the Sunday school
in 1991, and the Sunday school roof was renewed in 1993.
In 1995 the seven Low Furness parishes began a policy
of co-operation in a variety of ways, and in 1996 they were formally
joined in a group ministry, served by two clergymen, the Revs Simon
Rudkin and Charles Potter. The seven parishes hold joint services
in one of the churches in turn whenever there is a fifth Sunday
in the month.
Although rather reduced in numbers, the parishioners
of Dendron church continue to show a strong loyalty to their church.
The church has been fortunate in the way many people have helped
in practical ways, both in maintaining the buildings and in raising
money in the ever increasing struggle to make ends meet.
There is always a welcome
to newcomers to the church, where the emphasis is on simple services
and applying Christian principles to everyday life.