St Martin's logo - 'You're always welcome' - link to home page St. Martin’s Church,
Bowness-on-Windermere
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Our Mission:
As people at St. Martin's by God's grace we strive to live by his values, worship together, reveal the Good News, and see God's kingdom grow


Our Vision:
To see a thriving, growing Christian community

Tour (still under construction)



A Guide to St Martin's Church, Bowness-on-Windermere


A VERY WARM WELCOME TO ST MARTIN'S, THE ANCIENT PARISH CHURCH OF WINDERMERE. Please note that this is not much more than an uploading of the text of our current guidebook. We plan to improve it.


We are very fortunate to live in a wonderful part of the country and even more fortunate to be part of this beautiful and historic church. We would like to take this opportunity to welcome all visitors and hope this guide will add to the pleasure of your stay with us. We also hope that you, like us, find moments of peace here.

Some History

There was a previous church here at least as early as 1203. It was originally a chapel under Kendal, which was the mother church for a large part of South Westmorland. The old Parish of Windermere once extended from the Lancashire-Westmorland county boundary, to the south, and northwards to include part of the village of Ambleside. It still includes all of the lake. The earlier church was burnt down in 1480. Of that church there remains only the font, the base of the tower and its low external door. An ancient floor existed five feet below the present, as indicated by the height of the door archway on the west face of the tower.

Sepia print of the church After the fire the parishioners rebuilt their church on the original site and it was completed and re-consecrated in 1483. It was then a simple rectangle, with nave and aisles, and a squat tower at the west end, which is slightly offset. The wide south porch was probably added some fifty years later. The whole church was roughcast and limewashed outside and within to make the most of the light. One of the more unusual features is the low-pitched, lead covered roof; most churches in the Lake District have slate roofs. The use of lead enabled the parishioners to build a much larger church than if they had used the heavier slate. It is said that a local carrier named Bellman brought the lead for the roof, free of charge, on his packhorses. He was one of many local benefactors who made the rebuilding possible.

Old photo of interior - pre-1870 The interior of the 15th century church has altered from time to time according to need and taste. There was, apparently, a rood loft near the east end and, in 1812, a gallery at the west end. A three-decker pulpit stood near the middle of the church, below the text from St Paul’s Letter to Timothy. This was surrounded by box-pews.

Some of the unique features inside St Martin’s are the decorative murals, the sixteenth century instructive sayings and the quotations from the Bible on the walls and the roof beams. The only remaining part of the original pattern of decoration is to be found above a window in the south aisle.

The appearance of the present church owes much to the 1870 restoration and enlargement under the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster. The chancel was extended to the east, as the differing roof beams demonstrate, the tower was heightened and all the seating renewed. Most of the mural decorations (by a Mr Henry Hughes of Frith St, London) including two large paintings in the chancel, date from this time. They serve to relieve the bareness of the smooth re-plastered walls and pillars. Details of the 1870 restoration were given by Frederic Clowes (1874) in a book describing the old church, profits from the sale of which were applied to the repayment of the costs of the restoration.
The outstanding treasure of St Martin’s is the East Window which was so successfully restored in 1870 by Mr Hughes, under the supervision of the Society of Antiquaries, when the new chancel was built. A full photographic record of the window is available on the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi: Medieval Stained Glass in Great Britain web site. Details of this beautiful stained glass may be found near the communion rail

During the 20th Century a number of major improvements were made to the church. These included enlargement of the Choir Vestry, provision of the Memorial Chapel with attendant alterations, releading of the roof and interior redecoration following the 1870 scheme, removal of pews at the back of the church to create a social area and conversion of the old choir vestry into a children’s wing whilst the robing room was established behind the St John’s screen.

An ambitious programme of renovation and improvement was started as we entered the new millennium. This included total re-flooring, introduction of a new, under-floor, heating system, restoration of the East Window and murals, the construction of the Curwen Screen in front of the tower and the new inner doors, restoration of the organ, and the restoration and rehanging of the eight bells.

A Tour of the Church

Photo of ancient Font The font is the most visible remaining part of the original church. It has an octagonal bowl carved from sandstone, certainly not local, with roughly carved heads at each alternate angle. The two incised crosses are probably consecration crosses, one carved when the font was first used, and the other at the re-consecration after the fire. Only the bowl is ancient, its stem and base are modern.    more>>>
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