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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Cumbria

by Steve Bulman & Peter Kessler, 28 February 2020

Carlisle Part 1: Churches of Central Carlisle

Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Carlisle, Cumbria

Carlisle Cathedral is inside the south-east corner formed by Castle Street and Paternoster Row. Henry I granted land here to what became an Augustinian priory, possibly replacing a Celtic foundation. In 1133 the priory church was designated a cathedral. What had begun as St Mary's (Old) Church became the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. The heart of the old church came to form the nave of the cathedral (the east end is shown here).

Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity with St Mary's (Old) Church, Carlisle, Cumbria

The break in the cathedral wall at the meeting of Paternoster Row and Castle Street immediately to the north of the cathedral's western end once led to the old entrance into St Mary's. On the other side of the north transept window another vestry covers the original entrance into the church. Extensions and rebuilds took place up to 1380 and the tower was completed by 1419. St Mary's (New) Church was built in 1870 to replace the lost 'old' church (see below).

St Mary's Priory, Carlisle, Cumbria

St Mary's Priory stood within the grounds of what is now the cathedral and its ancillary buildings. It may have replaced a much earlier monastery that had been visited by St Cuthbert in 685. Henry I granted land here for a religious community in 1102 and in 1122 invited the Augustinian order to take over and form a priory. In 1133 the priory church was designated a cathedral (see above). The priory was dissolved in 1541 and its foundation recreated as the cathedral church.

St Sepulchre's Hospital, Carlisle, Cumbria

St Sepulchre's Hospital seems to have been a vigorous institution in the 1200s, but the lack of detail regarding it makes it impossible to specify its precise location or even its later history. At a date between 1309-1327 John de Crosseby, master at St Nicholas' Hospital outside the city walls (see links), sent a petition to the king in council about certain arrears due on lands that had been leased to the hospitals by Henry III. Nothing more about it is known.

St Mary's (New) Church, Carlisle, Cumbria

St Mary's (New) Church was the replacement for the old church of the same name that had been incorporated into the cathedral construction (see above).  The site given to the new church was what is now a green space immediately outside the cathedral gates, and on the southern side. It was built in 1870 but its parish was combined with that of St Paul in 1932 and, with post-war church attendances tumbling, it was demolished in 1954. The site is now a garden.

Abbey Close Quaker Meeting, Carlisle, Cumbria

Abbey Close Quaker Meeting began in 1653 in the cathedral grounds, although where is not known. Quakers in Carlisle were amongst the earliest in the country to have a meeting house. This one was visited by George Fox in the same year, following a spell in prison in Carlisle Castle. Meetings continued to be held with difficulty - they were sometimes locked out of the meeting house and had to use the cathedral instead. Their premises were withdrawn from use in 1660.

Eaglesfield Dominican Abbey, Carlisle, Cumbria

Eaglesfield Dominican Abbey is sometimes marked on maps at the southern side of the present cathedral but in fact seems never to have existed. 'Egglesfield', or Eaglesfield, abbey was a tiny extra-parochial district, later a civil parish, near the cathedral, which existed between 1858-1904. Roughly, it seems to have consisted of the south-east corner of the abbey precinct, and the land between St Cuthbert's Church and the west walls, and including the tithe barn.

St Cuthbert's Church, Carlisle, Cumbria

St Cuthbert's Church stands at the northern end of Blackfriars Street, on its western side, and flanked along the south by Heads Lane. St Cuthbert is said to have visited Christians in Carlisle in 685, at which time there was a monastery operating amid the remains of the Roman town. The church of St Cuthbert is believed to have been founded around this time. It stands not on an east-west alignment but square to the Roman road north through Carlisle (now the A6).

St Cuthbert's Church, Carlisle, Cumbria

The present building is certainly not the original one. In fact it is thought to be the fourth, having been built in 1778-1779 (although the inscribed weather vane insists on the first of these two dates). The first was rebuilt in 870, and that was replaced in 1090. That version was clearly upgraded over time: a window of the 1300s survives in the current building which was altered again in 1880. Today it also houses a Methodist congregation, while the graveyard was closed in 1854.

Elim Pentecostal Church, Carlisle, Cumbria

Elim Pentecostal Church was located on the western side of West Walls, about eighty metres north of St George's United Reformed Church (looking north here along the wall). In 1927 the Elim congregation moved here, taking existing secular buildings that had previously been used by the Fawcett School between 1892-1914. They remained here until 1979 when they moved to St Paul's Church on Lonsdale Street. The West Walls premises was later demolished.

All photos on this page by Steve Bulman of 'The Churches of Britain and Ireland'.

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