The Churches of Britain and Ireland
Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
Baptist Church. NY 775 085. © Steve Bulman.
Gospel Hall. NY 776 086. © Philip Kapp.
Centenary Methodist Church. NY 774 084. © Steve Bulman.
Former Primitive Methodist Chapel (1865), now in use as a Masonic Hall. Another view. Howard's examinations of old maps indicates that this building was used as a Sunday School after the Fletcher Hill P.M. chapel was built in 1902. NY 775 089. Both © Howard Richter (2011).
St. Stephen (Anglican and R.C.). A fine imposing church. NY 775 088. © Steve Bulman. Stephen Walker has contacted me to advise that the latest scholarship is that the correct dedication may be St. John. St. Stephen may have become attached to the church, either because the church was given to Stephen, Abbot of St. Mary in York, or from stevven (which corresponds with the local pronunciation of St. Stephen), an Anglian or Danish word for "moor". Whether this is correct, most sources still refer to it as St. Stephen, though it's interesting to note that the CoE website - http://www.achurchnearyou.com/ - lists it as Kirkby Stephen Parish Church. The church information board at one point said St. Stephen or St. John, but by 2012 it just said Kirby Stephen Parish Church, without mentioning a dedication. Another view, and two interior views - 1, 2, altar, 17th century font, and the Victorian font, all © Dennis Harper (2012). Grade II* listed - link.
The former Sandemanian Chapel. Another view. NY 775 086. Both © Martin Richter (2011). The Sandemanians no longer exist - they were secessionists from the Scottish Presbyterians. More on them here. See also the Wikipedia article on Kirkby Stephen - link near the top of this page.
Kirkby Stephen has two other buildings,
which appear to be disused churches, both on the main street. Both have the look of
non-conformity about them. Pevsner (1967) describes only one other in addition to St.
Stephen and the Methodist, which is Holy Family (R.C.), which he says was formerly
Congregational. He describes it as having a turret at one corner, and, but for his
statement that the turret lies at the S.W. corner, I would have said that this building fits the bill.
However, its turret is at the NE corner. Howard Richter has suggested that
Pevsner will have been correct if he meant ritual south-west, and the
altar stood at the end of the church opposite the main door from the street
(hence the ritual East end).
Philip Kapp has been able to confirm the status of these buildings. The first was initially Congregational, then R.C., before changing to secular use. The second was the Primitive Methodist Chapel, and is now a Youth Hostel. St. Stephen is now shared between the Church of England and the Roman Catholics. Kevin Price has advised that by 2020, the former Congregational Church had now become Kirkby Stephen Evangelical Church - news story about the change.
In 2006, the Cumberland News, (20 Oct. 2006) reported that the former P.M. chapel, then Youth Hostel, had recently been sold off. However, Kevin Price advised in 2010 that it still a YHA property. Kevin also advises that the P.M. Chapel was properly the Fletcher Hill Methodist Chapel, and it closed in the 1970's when the congregation combined with Centenary Methodist Church.
Kevin further says that the Congregational Chapel closed in 1965, and was used by the Roman Catholics until relatively recently. The building is now in secular use. Judy Flynn has advised that a Catholic Directory of 1963 lists The Holy Family, Market Street (1946). This is puzzling - it can't be the date they took over the old chapel, as this contradicts the Congregational closing date above. Possibly the congregation formed in 1946 and met elsewhere for some years? A later directory (2005) doesn't list Holy Family, so it must have closed by then.
Howard Richter has been looking into this Congregational question. In the book Church Planting - A Study of Westmorland Nonconformity by Alan P. F. Sell, it states that the Congregational church opened in 1865, and that it closed circa 1945 - this from the fact that it is last mentioned in the Congregational Year Book for 1945. This is consistent with the Catholics taking over the church in 1946. Margaret Green agrees. Her grandfather, the Rev. William Henry Skinner, was minister here from November 1943 until November 1945, when he had to retire due to ill health. She has also consulted some papers in the Kendal Archive, which confirm that the church was closed soon after his retirement, and this is consistent with the Catholics taking over in late 1945 or 1946.
21 May 2020
© Steve Bulman