St Mary Magdalene's Church, Broughton-in-Furness
St Mary Magdalene's Church, Broughton-in-Furness

The picturesque parish church of Broughton-in-Furness stands well west of the historic town centre. Why was it built so far from the town?

One theory is that it was erected close to the head of the Duddon Estuary so that building materials could be more easily brought to the site.

The church is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene but you will usually see it referred to simply as St Mary's.

The medieval font
The medieval font


There has been a church here since the 12th century, though that first building was simply a chapel under Kirkby Ireleth, in the York diocese. In 1541 Broughton was transferred to the Chester diocese, and in 1856 it was transferred again, this time to the diocese of Carlisle, which makes much more sense geographically.

Some sections of stonework remain from that 12th-century building between the tower and the porch. The south doorway is also from the Norman building.

In 1547 a new sanctuary was built. A north aisle was added in 1738 and a south aisle followed 20 years later. The west tower was the last major addition in 1782. It is unusual to see so many additions during the 18th century, a time of relatively little church building. The explanation is simple; the success of the wool trade made Broughton a prosperous place during the Georgian period, and some of that wealth was put into the parish church.

The 12th-century doorway
The 12th-century doorway

The north and south aisles were removed in 1856 and a totally new nave was added with Norman style windows. An arcade of Gothic arches linked the old and new naves. A new tower replaced the 18th-century tower.

The major rebuilding took place under the direction of the architectural partners Edward Graham Paley and Hubert James Austin of Lancaster, who were extremely prolific church architects across the north of England during the late Victorian period.

Several 1587 windows survived the rebuilding, as did the priest's door.

The original 15th-century bell
The original 15th-century bell

What to See

Historical highlights include a late-medieval octagonal font with blank shields on the bowl, and a 15th-century bell stored under the old parish bier near the organ. Also near the organ in a glass case is a copy of the Bishop's Bible, printed sometime before 1611. Tucked against the wall next to the bell is an old parish chest dated to 1735.

The real treasure of St Mary's Church is the array of wonderful 19th-century stained glass windows. Several windows in the north nave wall and the west wall were designed by CE Kempe. In the south aisle is a window designed by Edward Burne-Jones from the William Morris company. The window was designed for Christ Church in Oxford but several copies were made, including this one.

One window that really caught our eye was a richly-coloured window in memory of Rev Frederic Malleson, the vicar of Broughton from 1870 to 1898. Another window commemorates James Sawrey Cookson of Broughton Tower (d 1888).

St Mary's boasts outstanding 19th-century stained glass
St Mary's boasts outstanding 19th-century stained glass

In the churchyard is a sundial made from the stump of a medieval cross. Only one grave is listed for its heritage interest; on the south side of the church is the tomb of Jane Atkinson (d 1805). Jane was the wife of John Atkinson (d 1821) and the sister of William Ashburner Esq of Bombay. The tomb also records the tragic death of her son Thomas, who died in 1775 at just four years old.

Getting There

St Mary's Church is up a long lane off Church Street, between the south-western edge of Broughton and the junction of the A595 and A593. If you ate coming off either of those major roads simply take the signposted exit for Broughton-in-Furness. You will find yourself on Church Street immediately. Look for the church lane on your right before you reach the town.

From The Square in the centre of Broughton take Griffin Street and turn right onto Church Street. Just as the road leaves Broughton you will the lane to the church of to your left.

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About Broughton-in-Furness, St Mary's Church
Address: Church Street, Broughton-in-Furness, Lake District, Cumbria, England, LA20 6HA
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: On a long lane off Church Street, well west of the town centre.
Website: Broughton-in-Furness, St Mary's Church
Location map
OS: SD209873
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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