‘The small village of Rampside, at the southern extremity
of Furness, is frequently a place of resort for genteel company,
who repair thither to bathe, or for the advantage of the sea air’
So noted West in his Descriptive View of Furness and its Antiquities
in 1805. The Conckhole a little distance from the village was noted
for its saline bath and its healing qualities. He recorded then
that the Harbour called the Old Garth was now ‘rendered useless
by the accumulation of sand and pebbles at its entrance’ whereas
fifty years earlier it had been much frequented.
The Parish currently has a population of some 700 folk
who reside mainly in Rampside or on Roa Island across the causeway;
those who work commute mainly to Barrow and Ulverston. There is
an active Lifeboat Station and a popular Yachting Club on Roa Island
; windsurfing also takes place there.
a chapel of ease under Dalton, St. Michael’s Church is on
a mound open to the elements some half a mile outside of the village;
it affords excellent views towards Piel Island.
As with many of our churches St.Michael’s can
trace its roots way back into the mists of time: it claims to occupy
one of the oldest religious sites on Furness. Tradition has it that
it was built on the site of an ancient barrow.
In the 1860’s William Jackson, the sexton, found
a stone axe-hammer of the Neolithic Age. He also found what has
been named ‘The Rampside Sword’, a Viking relic possibly
from the last resting place of a Scandinavian sea-rover.
also uncovered a large freestone slab covering a skeleton; this
slab bearing a circumscribed cross is believed to be a medieval
gravestone; it is now retained inside the church. Other graves revealing
large stones resting on human skeletons or bones, the ‘graves
of ancient warriors’ have been unearthed.
The graveyard contains the remains of a number of drowned
sailors and the remains of a giant of a man buried in a sea chest
having been removed from a vessel off Piel Island with the plague
Despite its past strong associations with the sea it has also been
regarded as the ‘farmers’ church for the area; many
generations of the same few families have worshipped there and are
buried in the churchyard. The farming community, like the maritime
activity before it, has declined over the years, leaving a faithful
remnant behind who keep the church going.
The chapel of ease was probably built by the monks
of Furness Abbey before 1292; the old chapel was built of cobbles,
with freestone quoins, and paved with cobbles.
A foundation stone dated 1621 is to be seen in the wall, marking
its rebuilding. Nothing else of the former building can now be seen.
The present church was built in 1840 and a new porch
and vestry added in 1866.
The church fabric seems to have been allowed to fall into a bad
state because in 1879 the sexton was required to ‘ keep the
church and pews cleanly swept and sufficiently dried’…
In 1892 the new chancel was built by public subscription
and material from the old Sunday School used in its erection. Further
work was undertaken in 1920 but a great deal more was required to
be done. In 1997 the vestry, kitchen and toilet areas were developed
from funds generated by the sale of the old ‘mission’
church on Roa Island; the communion table and ornaments were also
introduced to St. Michael’s at the same time.
In the south west wall of the baptistry is a life-size
representation of Simeon holding the infant Jesus; this picture
was executed in tiles by J A Gibbs and Howard of London.
A ‘hidden gem’ in what appears to be a
very ‘ordinary country church’ is the East Window; this
contains three lights. The central one depicts the Crucifixion.
This is a fine example of the celebrated work of Shingley and Hunt
working out of Lancaster and London. The window was presented in
memory of Thomas Huddleston, Esq. MP. of Arrad Foot House near Ulverston.