Records : The ancient chapels of the Holm

Register and Records of Holm Cultram. Originally published by T Wilson & Son, Kendal, 1929.

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, 'Records : The ancient chapels of the Holm', in Register and Records of Holm Cultram, (Kendal, 1929) pp. 163-167. British History Online [accessed 20 May 2024].

. "Records : The ancient chapels of the Holm", in Register and Records of Holm Cultram, (Kendal, 1929) 163-167. British History Online, accessed May 20, 2024,

. "Records : The ancient chapels of the Holm", Register and Records of Holm Cultram, (Kendal, 1929). 163-167. British History Online. Web. 20 May 2024,

XII. Ancient Chapels of the Holm.

In Whellan's 'Cumberland and Westmorland' (p. 237) it is said that there was a tradition of a church founded by St. Ninian at Newton Arlosh. The source or authority of this statement is not given, and we know of nothing to support it; but if it were true, this would be the earliest church-site, still remaining a church-site, in Britain, for the occasion alleged for its foundation is Ninian's return from Rome, that is to say, before he began to build Candida Casa in A.D. 397.

There were, however, seven medieval chapels in the ancient Holm, of which we have definite though scanty accounts.

St. John's, Skinburness, was licensed by Bishop Halton in 1301 (p. 136) but it had a very short life except that the site was used for burials when divine worship had ceased to be performed there. It is in the fourth field from the Grune point, now long since ploughed over, though chippings of sandstone have been observed, indicating the remains of masonry. Some exploration was begun, but the late Chancellor Ferguson said that digging had to be given up, owing to the great number of interments found; meaning that the burial-ground was more extensive than the few years of the known history of the chapel would account for. A lease of 1582 to John Tiffen of property granted to Christopher Matthew in 1567 mentions 'the chapel called Sainct Johnes Chappel de Groyne,' with an acre of land worth 20d. a year. In 1732 it was described as 'the acre on the Groyne called the Chapell, anciently belonging to St. John's Chappel there;' and it was then sold, with the adjoining pasture, to the inhabitants of Skinburness.

St. John's, Newton Arlosh, was licensed in 1304, but it is doubtful whether a building was at once erected. The fortified tower was certainly not built as such until late in the fourteenth century; in 1393 the king and the bishop gave leave afresh for this church (p. 145) as if still unbuilt (for a full description see Mr. J. F. Curwen's articles in C. & W. Trans. N.S. xiii, 132–121, and Castles and Towers, 329). We have noticed the tradition that an abbot Gregory, otherwise unknown, tried to demand tithes for this as a parish church (p. 147) and the confirmation in 1411 by the Pope giving leave to serve this church otherwise than by chaplains occasionally sent from the abbey (p. 149). In 1535 William Robinson was vicar. Any doubt as to the following period is set at rest by the mention in 1553 of its furniture, 'a chalice, two vestments, a small bell and a sacring bell.' But in 1603–4 the pleadings of the tenants of the Holm in the great tithe-suit (of which in Chapter XV) state— "That twenty years since the chapel of Newton Arlosh did decay; the door stood open; sheep lay in it. About fifteen years since the roof fell down and the lead was taken away by some of the tenants and converted into salt-pans." But the burial-ground was still used, for the same document elsewhere classes it as a parish church; and so late as 1749 the Terrier states, "N.B. at Newton Arlosh there is an Ancient Burying-place for which Burials there the Surplice fees is 16d." Its ruined condition at the beginning of the 19th century is shown by the engravings in Lysons' Cumberland facing p. cxci. In 1844 on the initiative of Canon Simpson of Holm Cultram and by the generosity of Miss Losh the ruin was restored and re-used as a church. In 1894 considerable additions were made to the interior. The later history of Newton Arlosh church will be found in chapter XIV.

St. Roche. "The dedication is given as 1327" (C. & W. Trans. N.S. ii, 335). In a parish document of 1580 mention is made of various tenants at God's house, God's house Law and St. Rooke's cross, near Guddihills (now Goodyhills); the parish register at Aug. 20, 1752 names "Clement Hayton of Dubmill at Rooks," and the name still attaches in local use to the modern St. Cuthbert's church half a mile S.W. of the site. The grandfather of Mr. Pape of Goodyhills told him that about the end of the 18th century part of the chapel could be seen near the hedge of a rough field known as the Wilderness. In September 1899 some digging was done under Mr. T. H. Hodgson, F.S.A. and Mr. F. Grainger, which brought to light sandstone blocks, apparently the foundations of the east wall of the chapel. It is probable that the stones were removed for the building of Plasketlands. A stone trough there has been made out of part of the full-sized effigy of a man in chain armour; the Rev. G. E. Gilbanks thought it had come from the abbey, but as that would mean a journey of six miles for a heavy weight, it might be asked whether St. Roche's was not at one time a place of burial, though no evidences of a cemetery have yet been found.

St. Cuthbert's ancient chapel was at Chapel Hill or Chapel Fields, only half a mile south of St. Roche's. In the farm at Chapel Hill there are many ancient stones, and a stone basin which may have been a holy-water stoup; at the site marked in the Ordnance Map, midway between the east and west hedges and near the north fence, freestone chippings seem to show the place whence stones have been removed. This chapel may have taken the place of St. Roche's before the Dissolution, for the survey of 1538 mentions it as "St. Cuthbert's Chapel with two garths containing one acre in the occupation of Richard Stanley, hermit there, with a little moss thereunto belonging." This Richard Stanley was one of the witnesses against Gawen Borrodaile (p. 154). How long he survived we do not know, but in 1552 the chapel owned a vestment and two bells, suggesting that it was in working order. In 1572 the chapel was included in 'cottage rents' and so continued until 1649; the rental of 4s. is still paid as a fee-farm rent, part of the New Cowper tenements.

Wolsty chapel is mentioned in the pleadings of 1603–4 as one of four chapels (Newton Arlosh, Wolsty, Skinburness and St. Cuthbert's) kept up by the abbots in former days. We have seen that the castle was built about the middle of the fourteenth century, licensed for crenellation Oct. 13, 1348; and in 1572–3 it was said to have contained a hall, chamber at the end of the hall, evidence house [muniment room], kitchen, peathouse, byre and stable, all ruinous. It was then granted to the Chamber family who were keepers at 20s. a year until 1606, when the office was abolished, though they still used it as their dwelling-house and spent much money on its repairs. On May 20, 1634, the roof of the bed-chamber fell in; Robert Chamber's wife was "so affrighted with fear of hurt of her children that she is not yet recovered (1636) though (praise be to God) nobody therein was hurt thereby. And the said chamber is now built up again by Robert Chamber aforesaid." James Jackson's Diary (C. & W. Trans. N.S. xxi, 103f) describes the demolition of the castle in 1652–53, and enumerates "The Hall, one Tower at ye end of the Hall, one great Barne, one Larder house, one Long gallerye, one Chappell with a Chambr at ye end, one chambr called Michall Scots Chambr, one House called ye prison, one Tower above the sd House, one Long Bier [byre], one Great Stable," which he valued at £500 and the stones of the house then built for John Jackson out of the material at £100. This fixes the site of Wolsty Chapel and explains its complete disappearance.

St. Christian's was at Chapel Garth, Sandenhouse; it stood probably north of the garth, which adjoins the Waver and a rivulet there falling into the river. The rental of 1538 names "St. Christian's Chapel with a little garth containing half an acre of ground; now Hugh Stamper keepeth the same. Rent nil." Hugh Stamper, not a monk but one of the abbey bailiffs, was a witness against Abbot Carter for his share in the Insurrection of 1537. The chapel was therefore desecrated before the Dissolution. Its name recalls Bishop Christian of Whithorn, who had been a great friend to the abbey; the remembrance of his services and burial at Holm Cultram may perhaps have suggested the dedication to St. Christina.

St. Thomas' is also named in the rental of 1538, and in a manor roll of 1649; — "All that demolished Chappel called St. Thomas Chapell scituate in Abbeytown now in the tenure of Peter Bell and a little backside. 1 acre. Rent 3s. 4d. All that house called the Bedehouse with a backside thereunto belonging, containing by estimation one perch, scituate in the Abbey Town, now or late in the tenure of Wm. Chambers, and a little Stable scituate near the Abbey Mill in the tenure of John Cormalt. 1/40 acre. Rent 6s. 8d." The mill was on the left of the road leading to the Abbey House farm, and continued in use until the deepening of the Crummock and Waver, in the middle of the 19th century, tapped the course which supplied the mill-race. St. Thomas' seems from its position to have been the infirmary chapel of the monastery; the Bedehouse (or Beadhouse) means an almshouse, the inmates of which were to pray for the soul of the founder (Oxford Eng. Dict. quoting West's Furness, 'Lodgyns and bed-howses for x poor men').

St. Laurence holm ought perhaps to be added, though we know nothing about it except that the name is given as that of an 'island' in the Wedholme marshes forming a point in the boundary described by the charter of Richard Cœur-de-Lion, 1189. In the absence of further information we venture to suggest that it may have been a hermitage of the twelfth century. The dedication, at Appleby, was very early post-Conquest, and there was another ancient chapel of St. Laurence, long since extinct, on the north side of the Derwent.