The Churches of Britain and Ireland

Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

Kirkby Stephen on Wikipedia.

Baptist Church. NY 775 085. Steve Bulman.

A Double Mortuary Chapel stands in the cemetery to the north of the town at NY 7733 0928. The leftmost (southern) chapel is Church of England, the other Nonconformist. Philip Kapp. Two further views- 1, 2, both Dennis Harper (2012).

Gospel Hall. NY 776 086. Philip Kapp.

Centenary Methodist Church. NY 774 084. Steve Bulman.

Friends Meeting House. NY 775 084. Howard Richter (2011). Link.

An old Hearse House stands at NY 775 089. The door has fine hand-made iron fittings. Both Martin Richter (2011).

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 7752 0882. 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 - - 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.

The Salvation Army are known to have met in the Temperance Hall (1856) on Victoria Square. NY 7755 0851. Salvation Army Philatelic and Historical Society (SAPHA), which has a reference to an officer leaving the corps in 1928. Grade II listed.

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).
The other building is more regular in pattern. If anyone can identify these buildings with certainty, I'd like to hear from them. Both Steve Bulman. Another view, Alan Blacklock.

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 is 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.




04 March 2023

Steve Bulman

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