About this church
St Mary’s prominence is made more striking by its tall west tower, decorated in distinctive chequer pattern stonework. The present structure replaces an earlier building, that Pevsner believes is one of the most spectacular churches. The churchyard includes the grave of the celebrated painter George Romney who was born at Dalton.
St Mary’s church, built between 1883-1885 on a site where it is believed there have been churches since the 8th century. A church was first recorded here in 1138 because of associations with the nearby Furness Abbey.
Designed by Paley and Austin it was, and is one of their most spectacular buildings. It is built of red sandstone in a 14th century Gothic style. The red and white chequered stonework on the square tower and the upper walls is distinctive. One is struck by the chequer pattern and by the two hexagonal porches, one of which is now used to access the church centre built around 15 years ago.
The decision to rebuild the church was taken with the promise of financial help from James Ramsden, Henry Schneider and others of wealth in the area who felt that Dalton as the leading church in the area, should not be less imposing than ones recently built in the new borough of Barrow in Furness.
Internally, it is a lofty space and there are some fine stained glass windows including fragments from Furness Abbey. The ancient glass in the North porch is of figures of saints, and is believed to be from the ancient church 1320-1360. All the rest of the stained glass is Victorian, in the chapel by John Hardman, and elsewhere by Burlison and Grylls, Shrigley and Hunt, and Heaton Butler and Bayne.
There is a 14th century font, much weathered and bearing shields came from Furness Abbey. There is a peal of ten bells in the large tower, which are rang weekly.
In the wooded churchyard can be found the grave of George Romney, the famous portrait painter, who was born in Dalton in 1734. Also in the churchyard is a plaque which outlines the devastating effects of Bubonic Plague which hit the town in 1631.