Kirkby Stephen

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1936.

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'Kirkby Stephen', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland, (London, 1936), pp. 140-144. British History Online [accessed 16 June 2024].

. "Kirkby Stephen", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland, (London, 1936) 140-144. British History Online, accessed June 16, 2024,

. "Kirkby Stephen", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland, (London, 1936). 140-144. British History Online. Web. 16 June 2024,

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. (a)XXIII, S.W., (b)XXX, N.W., (c)XXX, S.W.)

Kirkby Stephen is a parish and small market town 9 m. S.E. of Appleby. The church and the earthwork called the castle are the principal monuments.


a(1). Parish Church of St. John or St. Stephen (Plate 62), stands on the N. side of the market-place. The walls are of local sandstone rubble and ashlar with dressings of the same material; the roofs are covered with slates and lead. Various fragments indicate the existence of a late 12th-century building on the site and the thick W. wall of the N. aisle is part of this structure. The whole church including chancel, Crossing, Transepts, Nave and Aisles, was re-built c. 1230. At some unknown date N. and S. chapels were added; the South Aisle was re-built and widened late in the 15th century and c. 1506 the West Tower was built. At some late period the N.W. pier of the crossing was removed and an arch sprung from the E. respond to the first pier of the nave; before this alteration a square block, no doubt for a stair-turret, adjoined the N.W. pier and the E. bay of the N. arcade did not exist. In 1847 the Chancel with the North and South Chapels were re-built and in 1871 the N.W. pier of the crossing was replaced, the narrow E. bay of the N. arcade built, the N. transept, previously roofless, re-built with the old materials, the S. wall of the S. transept and much of the N. aisle re-built and the clearstorey added; the South Porch was built in place of an earlier structure.

The church is one of the two largest in the county and the 13th-century arcades are interesting. Among the fittings the pre-Conquest stones, the monuments and the sedilia are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (44 ft by 21 ft.) and the N. and S. Chapels are modern.

The Crossing (formerly 15¼ ft. by 19¼ ft.) now forming part of the nave, has modern E. and N. arches. The 13th-century S. arch is two-centred and of three orders, the outer plain and the other two chamfered; it has perhaps been re-set; the responds have each two round and one filleted shaft with moulded capitals and modern and partly restored bases. The former W. arch was removed at some uncertain date and the rough cutting away on the S. side was refaced in the restoration of 1871.

The North Transept (22½ ft. by 15 ft.) has, in the E. wall two modern openings to the N. chapel and a modern doorway; S. of it is a 14th-century altarrecess with square jambs and moulded segmental-pointed arch. In the N. wall is a re-set and largely restored 14th-century window of three trefoiled ogee lights in a square head. In the W. wall are two lancet-windows, modern externally but partly of the 13th century internally; the southern lancet was re-set to the N. of its former position, where it was blocked by the aisle-wall; further S. is a modern arch.

The Parish Church of Kirby Stephen

The South Transept (22½ ft. by 15½ ft.) has a modern arch in the E. wall. The S. window is also modern but below it is a re-set 14th-century doorway with chamfered jambs, two-centred head and label with carved foliage-stops. In the W. wall is a late 15th-century arch, segmental-pointed and of two chamfered orders; the responds have each a semi-octagonal shaft with moulded capital and base.

The Nave (104½ ft. with the crossing, by 19½ ft.) has early 13th-century N. and S. arcades (Plate 124) of six main bays with a narrow bay to the E., the narrow bay on the N. being modern; the two-centred arches are of two chamfered orders with chamfered labels; the columns are cylindrical and the responds have attached half columns, all with moulded capitals and bases, the latter standing on heavy round chamfered plinths; the lower stones of the columns are larger than those towards the top and may be 12th-century material re-used; the first pier on the N. is modern and the N.E. respond has been re-set. To the W. of the arcades the former W. wall of the nave has been cut away when the tower was added. The clearstorey is modern.

The North Aisle (8 ft. wide) is modern except for the W. wall which is probably of the 12th century below the string-course; the window is probably of the 14th century but is modern externally.

The South Aisle (20½ ft. wide average) has in the S. wall four windows with 15th-century jambs, heads and labels and modern mullions and tracery; the 14th or 15th-century S. doorway has jambs and two-centred arch of two chamfered orders. In the W. wall is a window, modern except for part of the label. Above the nave-arcade is a row of old roof-corbels.

The West Tower (16 ft. by 15½ ft.) is of early 16th-century date and of three stages with a moulded plinth and an embattled parapet with eight partly restored pinnacles. The two-centred tower-arch is of two chamfered orders and the responds have each a semi-octagonal shaft continued from the inner order and finished with a moulded base. The W. doorway has chamfered jambs and two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label; on and near the doorway are five shields-of-arms—(a) Musgrave impaling Ward, (b) Wharton impaling Stapleton, (c) Clifford, (d) Beauchamp of Holt impaling Musgrave and (e) Warcop; the W. window is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label; above it is a small stone carved with a plummet and the initial R. The second stage has, in the S. wall, a window of two trefoiled ogee lights in a square head with a moulded label. The bell-chamber has in each wall two partly restored and coupled windows each of two uncusped lights with tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label and a finial.

Fittings—Brackets: In S. chapel—on E. wall, moulded, with zig-zag leaf ornament, probably 13th-century, re-set. In N. transept—in altar-recess, moulded semi-octagonal, with pateræ on face, probably 15th-century. Coffin-lids: In S. chapel—with ornamental cross on stepped base, with sword and shield, early 14th-century. In churchyard—S. of S. chapel, with remains of cross and stepped base, 13th or 14th-century, much worn. Consecration Cross: on E. jamb of S. doorway—small formy cross in circle. Cupboard: In S. transept—of two panelled stages and of local secular type, with recessed upper part and enriched frieze carried on turned posts, late 17th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with moulded top and lower edge, plain stem, probably 17th-century. Monuments: In N. or Wharton chapel—(1) cenotaph of Thomas, 1st Lord Wharton [1568] and Elionor (Stapleton) and Anne (Talbot) his wives, altar-tomb (Plate 122) with effigies of white stone, altar tomb with inscribed slab resting on angle-balusters (one missing) standing free from main tomb latter enriched with shell-headed arches, four on the sides and three at the ends, with balusters between the bays, kneeling figures of two sons and two daughters under four of the arches and large inscribed tablet at E. end, seven large shields-of-arms under other arches, effigy (Plate 123) of man in plate-armour with feet on beast, effigies of women in French caps, close bodices, full skirts, etc., all arms or hands broken off. In S. or Musgrave chapel—(2) attributed to Sir Richard Musgrave, early 15th-century altar-tomb (Plate 122) and effigy of white stone, altar-tomb with moulded and enriched slab, sides each with six niches divided by buttresses, niches with trefoiled, vaulted, crocketted and finialed heads, plain ends of tomb, effigy (Plate 123) in plate-armour with hip-belt, bare head on bascinet with crest, feet on lion, jupon with the arms of Musgrave, remains of sword with same arms on hilt; in S. wall, (3) to Sir Richard Musgrave, 1464, Elizabeth his wife and Thomas his son, altar-tomb and wall-recess (Plate 100), altar-tomb, plain with moulded slab and shield-of-arms of Musgrave on edge of slab, recess with moulded segmental-pointed arch, richly carved and crocketted label, carving apparently based on that of an Anglian cross-shaft, at ends of label crouching beasts, at W. end angel with a scroll inscribed Iwr (?), at apex an angel with a shield-of-arms of Musgrave, with lion and pelican as supporters. Niche: In nave—in N.E. respond, recess with trefoiled ogee head and enriched sill, 14th-century. Paintings: In S. aisle—on S. arcade, running ornament in black line on sixth bay and remains of 'black-letter' inscriptions on fifth and sixth bays, probably 16th-century. Piscina: In chancel —recess (Plate 47) with moulded jambs, trefoiled head and label, quatre-foiled drain in restored foliated projection, 13th-century, re-set. In N. transept—in E. wall, square-headed recess, possibly piscina. In S. chapel—in S. wall, round drain in half-round projection, mediæval. Plate: includes cup with balusterstem and inscribed with the date and name 1656 John Fothergell, and late 17th-century cup (Newcastle). Pre-Conquest Stones (Plate 5): In S. aisle—(a) part of cross-shaft (25 in. by 13½ in. by 18 in.) with horned and bound figure (Plate 7) of man on face (the 'bound devil') interlace at sides and defaced back, probably early 11th-century; (b) two fragments of semicylindrical shaft with part of one arm of cross-head (24 in. by 10 in. by 5 in.), front with band of interlace flanked by bands of scroll-ornament, flat back with panel of interlacement, probably 10th-century; (c) part of wheel cross-head with interlacement, 10th-century; (d) part of plain wheel cross-head, with round boss in middle, probably 10th-century; (e) part of cross-head with extended arms, linear ornament enclosing a central boss and smaller bosses on the arms, probably 8th to 9th-century; (f) hog-back stone with gabled top cut to represent tiles, traces of scrolled ornament on sides, probably 11th-century; (g) two fragments with foliage ornament, possibly 11th-century. Now in yard of No. 33 South Road (Plate 5)—(h), head of shaft (about 10 by 9 in, and 6 in high) with spring of cross-head on top, crude animal forms on one face, interlacement on back and late scroll on one side, probably late 10th-century. Now in garden of Eden Place, Hartley, formerly at Kirkby Stephen (Plate 5)—(i) part of cross-shaft (8½ by 6 in. and 2 ft. high) with late interlacement on two faces and a form of key-pattern on two sides, probably early 11th-century. Recess: In N. aisle—in N. wall, with moulded jambs and segmental-pointed arch in a square head with a moulded label, probably tomb-recess, 15th-century, re-set. Scratchings: On masonry of tower—various masons' marks. Sedilia: In chancel—of three bays, (Plate 47) with moulded trefoiled and gabled heads, Agnus Dei in one gable, shafted jambs and free intermediate shafts, with moulded or foliated capitals, 13th-century, re-set and one shaft modern. Miscellanea: In W. end of nave—various capitals (Plate 14) of half-cylindrical and angle shafts with foliage and animal-ornament, late 12th-century. Forming parapet to area of house in Market Square, S. of the church, fragments of 14th or 15th-century window-tracery. In vicarage-garden—head of two-light 15th-century window. Incorporated in house S. of the church, 15th-century moulded oakbeam.



a(2). Bridge, over the Eden, 240 yards N. of the church, is a rubble structure of two spans, with segmental arches and a central pier with cutwaters. It dates perhaps from the 17th century.


a(3). Footbridge, over the Eden, 150 yards S.E. of the church, is a rubble structure of two spans, with segmental arches and a central pier with cutwaters. The foot-way is 4¾ ft. wide. It dates probably from the 17th century.


a(4). Grammar School, two buildings opposite one another in Vicarage Lane and immediately E. of the churchyard. The school was founded by Thomas Lord Wharton in 1566, when the former parsonage house became the headmaster's house and a building was erected for the school itself. These buildings are presumably represented by the existing W. and E. blocks respectively. They are of two storeys, with rubble walls and slate-covered roofs. The E. building was largely reconstructed in the 18th century except for the base of the E. wall which is probably of the 16th century. The back-wall was re-built in 1906. In the S. end is a modern traceried window, said to reproduce an ancient feature. The W. building has a taller central portion, probably refronted in the 18th century. In the E. wall is a stone with the initials and date S.S. 1677.


a(5). Manor House, 270 yards S.S.E. of the church, is modern but incorporates a square-headed doorway with a cornice; on the lintel (Plate 30) are the initials and dates H. and A.H. 1672 and E. and I.H. 1725 with a quartered shield-of-arms in the middle.

a(6). Cottage, on the E. side of the road, 100 yards N. of the church, has no ancient features except a panel over the front doorway and the back doorway. The panel is inscribed "Quisquis amat dictis absentum rodere vitam hanc portam vetitam noverit esse sibi"; the doorway has a three-arched head and the initials and date C.I. 1666 on the lintel.


a(7). Old Fountain Inn, on the W. side of the Market Square, 80 yards S.W. of the church, is probably modern but incorporates a door-head with the initials and date B.I.G. 1636.

a(8). House, No. 89 on the W. side of South Road 600 yards S.S.W. of the church, formed part of the old workhouse. It is probably modern but incorporates a door-head with the initials and date I. and T.A. 1681.


a(9), Croglam Castle, earthwork ¾ m. S.S.W. of the church, occupies the top of a hill (725 ft. above O.D.). It consists of a roughly oval enclosure of about 1½ acres surrounded by a ditch with an outer rampart; the inner scarp of the ditch has been much flattened out. There is a gap in the rampart on the N.E. presumably representing the entrance. The work has certain features in common with Castle Hill in Dufton.


c(10). Mound, on Wiseber Hill 1½ m. S.W. of the church, is about 28 ft. in diameter and 1½ ft. high. It was excavated by Dr. Greenwell (Brit. Barrows No. CLXX) who found, in the middle, a hollow 2¼ ft. below the natural surface, containing a wooden cist or coffin (6 ft. by 2¼ ft. tapering to 1¾ ft.) in which were a shallow bronze bowl and a glass bead (now in Brit. Mus.); there was no lid. The hollow appeared to have been cut through an earlier deposit of burnt bones and near them was found a leaf-shaped flint arrow-head (now in Brit. Mus.). The excavator considered the coffin to be a post-Roman burial in an earlier tumulus.

c(11). Mound on Ash Fell 370 yards S.W. of the junction of the Ash Fell and Kirkby Stephen-Sedbergh roads, is 45 ft. in diameter and 2½ ft. high. There are traces of a ring of boulders round the base.

d(12). Mounds on Windy Hill near the parish boundary and 3½ m. S.S.W. of the church are two in number, the more easterly 33 ft. in diameter and 4 ft. high and the second, 45 yards to the N.W., 31 ft. in diameter and 3½ ft. high. These would appear to be the mounds excavated by Dr. Greenwell (Brit. Barrow's. Nos. CLXVI and CLXVII); their relative position according to the dimensions of the excavator are however reversed. He describes the more westerly as containing an empty cist and the other as containing a grave with the bones of an old man lying on his right side with the right hand under the chin and the left on the knees.

c(13). Mound, 380 yards W.N.W. of the westerly mound of (12) is 18 ft. in diameter and 1½ ft. high. This may be Dr. Greenwell's No. CLXVIII, which he describes as having a circle of small stones round the base and containing both burnt and unburnt bones; it had been previously disturbed.

c(14). Mound, 380 yards N.N.W. of (12), is 24 ft. in diameter and 2 ft. high.

a(15). Lynchets, on a N. slope, 120 yards N.E. of (9), have been largely obliterated and the traces are very faint.

b(16). Lynchets, on the N. slope of Stenkrith Hill, ½ m. S. of the church, vary in length from 70 yards upwards. The average width is 12 ft.