St Michael & All Angels

Isel church is a beautiful Grade I listed building, which is located in an idyllic position in a carefully tended churchyard close to the River Derwent.

About this church

It stands near a site where an ancient British village is thought to have existed on the hillock above the present roadway. The pre Conquest name of St Michael, and fragments of crosses on display inside the church, indicate the presence of a church on this site before Norman times.

Situated beside the River Derwent, close to the grounds of Isel Hall, this church dates from around 1130AD.

Despite being extensively renovated in Victorian times, the widespread survival of the Norman shell of this church for nearly 900 years, is truly remarkable. The Chancel arch being one of the chief architectural beauties.

The interior was reordered in 1878 by CJ Ferguson, a pupil of George Gilbert Scott. It is not surprising that Ferguson did a reasonably careful job, which included opening up blocked Norman and Early English windows, as he was the premier church architect in the region at the time.

This has helped to return something of the church’s feeling of antiquity. Two Norman arches survive, in addition to four Norman windows. The oddities that have also endured from the past include an early stone staircase ambiguously set in the wall below an early window near the pulpit, what was it for? Several historical wall plaques, table and chest tombs can be found inside and four intriguing sundials are carved into the outside wall.

There is a slate monument of 1632 to Sir Wilfred Lawson, twice MP for Cumberland.

The pre Conquest name of St Michael, and fragments of crosses on display inside the church, indicate the presence of a church on this site before Norman times.

Here, by the River Derwent (the river of oak trees), not far from the Roman fort of Derventio at Papcastle, a village community worked and worshiped under the influence of the Christian ethic until the arrival of the Normans.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Magnificent memorials
  • 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 nearby
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike

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The outward appearance is perpendicular but inside is something unique to English parish churches and was described by Nicholas Pevsner as ‘one of the architectural sensations of Cumberland’.

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