Further information on St Cuthbert's

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.

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 1711.'

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.