St Mary

The beautiful Norman church sits above the River Lune with commanding views from the churchyard.

About this church

Turner (1775-1851) painted the River Lune at a spot now called ‘Ruskin’s View’. John Ruskin (1819-1900), influential English critic, social theorist, painter and poet, was so impressed by the picture, that he was inspired to eulogise ‘I do not know in all my own country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine’. Ruskin’s view is accessed through the churchyard.

St Mary’s is both a sacred place and a venue for music, drama, exhibitions and other community events.

The building is Norman in origin, probably built between 1093 and 1130, although there was an old Saxon Church on the site before. It represents a range of architectural styles, some dating from the early 12th century. The north aisle has three magnificent Norman columns, similar to ones in Durham Cathedral, with a diamond pattern on the stone. These represent an era of extensive church building and rebuilding, in contrast to the remaining less ornate columns. The first pillar has a carving of ‘The Green Man’, with foliage emerging from the mouth. Another Norman feature is the outer door archway on the tower, displaying a variety of styles of stonework.

The tower houses six bells, the oldest dating from 1633, and the newest from 1724. Written on the wall are the ringers orders.

The stained glass is 19th century, with the east window lancets showing traditional narrative scenes, the important stages in the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension.

The chapel in the south each corner has resources for quiet prayer and items that are written in the book are included in prayers of a group that meets each week. St Mary’s is one of the eight churches of ‘The Rainbow Parish’ and it works very closely with the other denominations in and around Kirkby Lonsdale.

The churchyard is also a place of interest. Turner (1775-1851) painted the River Lune at a spot now called ‘Ruskin’s View’. John Ruskin (1819-1900), a lover of Turner’s work, influential English critic, social theorist, painter and poet, was so impressed by the picture, that he was inspired to eulogise ‘I do not know in all my own country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine’. Ruskin’s view is accessed through the churchyard.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Café within 500m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Church shop or souvenirs

Other nearby churches

Holy Trinity

Built in 1833 by William Carus Wilson, Founder of the Clergy Daughters School, as school chapel and parish church with a strong connection with local heritage and Bronte sisters.

St John the Baptist

There has been a church in Arkholme believed to have been dedicated to St John the Baptist, since at least the middle of the 15th century.

St Leonard

The church of St Leonard is only 48 feet long and twenty feet wide and is a welcome haven to many walkers, cyclists, climbers, cavers, and passers by who explore the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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