Brougham, St Ninian Ninekirks
Brougham, St Ninian Ninekirks
Set in fields beside a bend of the River Eamont is St Ninian's Church, also known as Ninekirks. The setting is superb, offering views east to the Pennines and west to the Lake District fells. The church is built of local red sandstone.

It was founded in the Norman period, but almost entirely rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, the amazing woman who helped restore so many Cumbrian churches and castles.

Lady Clifford inherited the local Brougham estate, including nearby Brougham Castle. She rebuilt Ninekirks, and other local churches including the parish church of St Wilfrid in Brougham village. Her initials can be seen in the plasterwork above the altar (A.P. for Anne of Pembroke).

The interior is simple, but has a great historic appeal as it is essentially unchanged since 1660. The whitewashed walls set off the windows fitted with clear glass, and make the interior bright. The oak fittings are well carved and include box pews (and canopied family pews for the local aristocracy), a triple-decker carved pulpit, and an ornate wooden screen.

Outside the church is evidence of the deserted medieval village that once stood here. Field boundaries, pits, and enclosures surround the church. Around 1914 a hoard of coins dating to the 3rd century was found in the churchyard. Another unexpected find occurred in 1846 when repairs to the chancel turned up a gilt cup dated to the 8th century.

Ninekirks is not the easiest church to find. Head east from Penrith on the A66 and after 3 miles park in the layby opposite Whinfell Park Farm. There is a track across the fields to the church about a mile distant. On the other side (south) of the A66 is the Countess Pillar, a 17th-century memorial erected by Lady Anne Clifford in memory of her mother.