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History of Crosthwaite Church

Welcome to Crosthwaite Church


It is thought that Christians have worshipped on this site for nearly 1500 years.  This church is dedicated to St Kentigern, also known as St Mungo in Scotland, who had been driven out of Glasgow and set up his cross in a clearing or Thwaite in 553AD – hence the name Crosthwaite.


Legend has it that as a young man St Kentigern performed four miracles which are represented by four emblems.  These emblems can be found throughout the church building and on the church gates.

  • The tree recalls how after St Kentigern had let the holy fire go out in a Culross monastery, he took some frozen branches from a hazel tree and reignited the fire.

  • The bird is a pet robin which belonged to his master St Serf and was accidentally killed by some of St Kentigern’s fellow students.  He prayed over it and it was restored to life.

  • The fish with a ring in its mouth is a reminder of how St Kentigern found the lost wedding ring of the Queen of Cadzow from a salmon caught in the River Clyde.

  • The bell was probably brought back from St Kentigern’s travels to Rome and was used to announce a death and mourn the departed.



In all likelihood a church building has stood on this site since the sixth century AD when St Kentigern first set up his cross although there is nothing that remains of that. 


1180 Built by Alice de Romili, Lady of Allerdale whose son was drowned in the river wharge and she also founded Bolton Abbey and restored the nave of Carlisle Cathedral.  Small portions of this building still remain under the floor of the existing one.


1198 Richard Coeur-de-Lion gave the church to Fountains Abbey the parish was run by monks until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1533.


1327-77 Further rebuilding took place during the time of Edward III which included a chapel on the north side of the chancel, an aisle or chapel on the south side, and a new tall three light east window.


1523 The church was rebuilt with a clerestory but without a chancel arch in accordance with the fashion of the time along with the existing arcades, a new south aisle and some other modifications.  Further work was done over the next 30 years including the tower and this is essentially the church you see today.


1844 Subscriptions were being gathered for a Southey monument and mostly through the generosity of James Stanger Esq. of Lairthwaite the building was extensively restored (some say drastically so), re-roofed and re-seated, by the architect Gilbert Scott.


1915 A considerable amount of work was done for stability and preservation to the tower with rebuilding of some of the buttresses.

What to look for


The baptistry, to the left on entering, is dedicated to Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley who was Vicar for 34 years from 1883 and in addition to the impressive stonework and woodwork there are several artefacts on display. The font has an octagonal basin which is richly carved and was as a gift to the church at the end of the 14th century in recognition of the 34 years work of the vicar Sir Thomas de Eskhead.


Canon Rawnsley and his wife Edith founded the Keswick School of Industrial Arts (KSIA), although she was the driving force. There are numerous examples of her designs and work in the church and outside including the reredos behind the communion table, the white altar frontals, the pulpit, and the church gates. Other KSIA artefacts can be seen including the electric light fittings.


The Consecration Crosses are thought to date from 1523 and are where the Bishop anointed the walls of the church during the service of consecration.  Crosthwaite has the full set of twelve outside as well as nine inside and these can be found on the left hand jambs of the older windows.


Sanctuary – dating from 1889 the panels in the reredos depict the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus; and the mosaic pavement includes the emblems of the tree, robin, fish and bell as well as the earliest and latest Arms of Fountains Abbey.



Monuments of interest include

  • The Southey memorial is a white marble effigy of Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate with an inscription written by Wordsworth

  • The marble Radcliffe memorial is inlaid with brasses representing Sir John Radcliffe and Alice his wife. The two alabaster effigies nearby are of Thomas Radcliffe and his wife Margaret 


The stained glass in the windows is predominantly 19th century but there are three fragments of mediaeval glass in a north aisle window and in the south-east corner.  


Crosthwaite church has a peal of eight bells with the largest weighing 712kg.  The bell chamber can be viewed through the glass screen and there are various interesting inscriptions on the hanging boards.

The organ was built by Bishops of London in 1837.  It was enlarged by Jardines of Manchester and then rebuilt and installed as a war memorial in 1920.


The board of Vicars names in the north aisle is a good historical record although notice the nearly 200 year gap when records weren’t kept!


The main door with its ancient oak batten acts as a door lock and retracts into a hole in the door jamb.


The Tower Clock outside the church on the south side dates from around 1720, and only has an hour hand. There is also a sundial dated 1602 on the south wall.

Source documents

St Kentigern’s Crosthwaite Notes for Visitors 1916

The Parish Church of St Kentigern Crosthwaite, Francis C Eeles, 1953

History of Crosthwaite Parish Church Keswick by Tom Wilson, revised 1970 by J W Kaye

Churches of the Ancient Parish of Crosthwaite, A Brief History, Betty Walker

Parish Church of St Kentigern, Crosthwaite Notes for Visitors (in current use)

Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley – Aspects of his Life, Harriet Spence, 2020

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