The parish church in Aldingham dedicated to St Cuthbert has been referred
to as 'this exquisite little church', an opinion which is shared by
its congregation and many visitors. The date of the building cannot
be exactly determined, but it appears to be about the middle of the
12th century, in 1147. No part of the church can be dated earlier,
nor is there any evidence of an earlier Saxon church.
The dedication to St Cuthbert has been attributed to
the 9th century flight of the monks of Lindisfarne with the saint's
coffin, seeking to protect it from the invading Danes on the east
coast. The monks fled west hoping to cross to Ireland but the weather
was too bad for a crossing and they turned back. Everywhere they
stopped is said to have a church named after the saint, who now
rests in Durham cathedral.
The first recorded mention of Aldingham appears in
the Domesday Survey of 1086 when Ernulf, a Saxon lord, held the
manor. Sometime later Furness fell into the hands of the Crown,
and the manor was granted to Roger de Poitou, who forfeited it back
to the Crown because of his treason. Henry II then became lord of
Furness. Henry in turn granted a large area of land to William le
Fleming, which included the parishes of Dalton, Urswick and Aldingham.
Michael le Fleming was lord of the manor in 1127 when
Furness Abbey was founded, and in 1180 his son Daniel appears as
the first rector of Aldingham. The title to the manor passed through
many hands until in 1554 it reverted again to the Crown on the execution
of Lady Jane Grey for treason. Ever since, the patronage of the
living has been held by the Crown, although now alternating with
the Vicar of Dalton.
MAIN POINTS OF INTEREST
During the reign of Edward VI, about 1550 and after the Dissolution,
the parishioners bought two bells, probably from Furness Abbey or
Conishead Priory. They were hung alongside the 'one great bell in
the steeple of the said pyrshe chirche.' One bears a Latin inscription
which says 'Christ, King of Heaven, may this sound please thee.'
The other has a triple 'S' for the Latin 'sanctus' ('holy'), the
three holy persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The original great bell was apparently recast by Abraham Rudall
of Kendal, as shown by the inscription, 'God save Queen Anne AR
From the inner doorway you can see the difference between
the old and new in the line of pillars. The southern arcade (row)
consists of round Norman arches supported by massive pillars, alternatively
round and octagonal. They were probably built between 1150 and 1190,
as suggested by the concave curve of the capitals (at the head of
the column) and the leaf ornament on the westernmost pillar.
The font has a bowl of twenty scallops. This is dated
at about the 12th century, but the pedestal is modern.
The Norman windows were replaced about 1350 and, with
the exception of the one nearest the chancel, disappeared in 1845-6
when new ones of a similar design were inserted. At the same time
the west door through which you entered was reopened and the south
porch pulled down and replaced by a window. On the outside under
this window the outline of the old doorway is indicated by stones
set in the roughcast.
Traces of the earlier chancel remain. The existing
vestry doorway on the north side was a lancet window and shows traces
of 13th century work. On the south side, the existing priest's doorway
had the form of a trefoil (three-lobed ornamentation), with a hone
moulding and traces of nailhead decoration. This doorway replaces
an older one which was built up to allow the provision of a large
window of two lights. It is thought possible that this window may
have been brought from Furness Abbey at a later date.
On the right hand side of the altar there is a hole
set in the wall of about five by three inches: It was found during
restoration work in 1932 and is thought to be a leper hole. In pre-Reformation
days, when leprosy was common in England, communicants received
only the bread, the wine being consumed by the priest. He would
pass the communion bread to lepers through the hole by means of
a long-handled shovel of wood, which was more easily disinfected.