Morland – A brief History of the Building

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A Brief History of the Building

St Lawrence’s Church has the only Anglo-Saxon Tower in Cumbria; although the top storey was added in the 17th century, the rest retains many original features. The tower contains a 17th century bell-chamber housing three bells, dated 1696, 1727 and 1764.

Although nothing is known of the original building that went with the tower, the present 12th century nave and 12th and 13th century chancel and transepts are well documented. The chancel was largely rebuilt in the 16th century, but some original features were retained.

The interior was restored in the 1896, with the woodwork being influenced by the ‘Arts and Crafts’ movement. Luckily some of the earlier woodwork was kept, including two mediaeval screens, a 17th century communion rail and font cover (1662 stone font), and and early 18th century pulpit.

St Lawrence’s Church is a Grade I listed building. It is one of the ecclesiastical buildings listed as ‘especially worthy of preservation’ in the inventory of the Historical Monuments of Westmorland, prepared and published by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments England in 1936.

Even with all these changes, the interior is light and spacious, but gives an intimate feeling, the stonework reflecting the mixture of pink sandstone and white limestone found locally.

A book written by a former Rector of the parish, Canon Gervase Markham, about the history of the church is available at a cost of £5 (+ post & packing).

The book tells you about the many changes that have taken place over the years.  It seems that every church needs a makeover every 100 years, and we are now in an advanced stage of planning for this generation’s contribution.  We see the building as being for many purposes, as opposed to the Victorian view of the centrality of the Holy Eucharist, almost to the exclusion of anything else.  Our main entrance is not DDA compliant and is not specially welcoming.  Our arrangements for coffee after services or during concert intervals are of a temporary nature.  Too much of our space is occupied by our very fine pews, leaving little flexibility in seating arrangements.  We have nowhere to take the children during services for their activities.  We have a wonderful and ancient 17th century clock mechanism stored away where nobody can see it.  In the tower there is an oak ladder dating back to 1672, hidden away out of sight.  Our WC, seen as a great step forward when it was installed in 1984, is now considered out of date and inaccessible.  Apart from the book mentioned above, there is very little information to visitors about the history and activities of the church.

We plan to remedy all these things.  There will be a new porch with level access, built around the north door, to correspond with the existing south porch.  This will contain modern WC facilities.  It will have glazed doors facing the road, offering a warm welcome to all.  Inside, many of the pews will be retained, but there will also be a large open space with flexible seating.  Our temporary ‘kitchen’ area in the north transept will be replaced with permanent, custom-built fittings.  The 1896 vestry will be extended to make a meeting room, suitable for the youngsters during services, but also suitable for many another meeting.  The ancient clock mechanism will be restored and put on display and the old tower ladder will be replaced by a modern ladder, leaving the old one on display.  The existing south porch will have doors to keep out the weather and will be used as an area to explain our history.

Altogether, we aim to make the church building ready for the next 100 years (at least) as a centre for many community activities and as a tourist attraction.  By these means, we hope to spread the word about the history of the Christian faith in Morland, and to encourage those who visit now in that faith.  Do look in and see the display showing how we hope to achieve all this.