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St Kentigern, Caldbeck, Cumberland

(54°44′58″N, 3°3′0″W)
NY 325 399
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cumberland
now Cumbria
medieval Carlisle
now Carlisle
  • James King
  • James King
04 Sept 2015

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Situated in the former ward of Allerdale below Derwent, Caldbeck is located on the Caldbeck River, which flows into the Caldew and onwards into the Eden River, which then empties into the Solway. Dedicated to St Kentigern, the church consists of a rectangular aisled nave, with a rectangular chancel. This chancel, built off of the east end of the church, has a width equal to the central space of the nave. On the interior side of the S wall of this is part of an early window. A chantry was built off the S side of the chancel in the early-16thC. and is now used as the vestry. At the W end of the church is a tower. A stone porch in front of the S nave doorway contains re-used Romanesque carved stones. 12thC. stones have also been built into the W interior nave wall. Kept inside the church are a few loose voussoirs, similar in detail to those found in certain other Romanesque churches. Later building works on the church are known to have occurred in the early 16thC, early 18thC., 1880 and 1932-3.


Documents conflict, but it appears that the church of Caldbeck was given to St Mary's priory/cathedral in Carlisle in the 12C. by either Gospatric son of Crinan or Gospatric son of Orm.

Domesday Book did not cover this part of England. Caldbeck is situated on the eastern edge of the former barony of Allerdale below Derwent, the territory north of the river Derwent in Cumberland. Before the arrival of the Normans, Gospatric/Cospatric held this part of Cumbria. His overlord was the king of Scotland, Cumbria having come under Scottish control in 945. In 1072, Gospatric was deprived of his holdings, but shortly after this he issued a writ addressed to his dependents, including those in the 'wood at Caldebek' ('weald aet Caldebek', VCH pp. 232-3). There is no evidence that at the time there was a church at Caldbeck. Dolfin, son of Gospatric, was subsequently made vice-regent of the land of Carlisle, but in 1092 King William II (William Rufus) of England seized back the control of Cumberland and gave it to Ranulf Meschin to govern. In about 1120, Waldeve, another son of of Gospatric, was enfeoffed by Ranulf Meschin with Allerdale below Derwent, giving Allerdale above Derwent (the area below the river Derwent) to his relative William Meschin. The latter region was called Copeland and later became known as the barony of Egremont. This division of Allerdale seems to have come about as a result of the sudden death in 1120 of the previous earl of Chester, whose seat passed to Ranulf Meschin. The priory of Carlisle was also founded in the first quarter of the 12thC., most probably in the early 1120s. At that time, the ecclesiastical management of this part of England had competing claims: from the bishops of Durham and York. A bishopric was established at Carlisle in 1133, and Allerdale-below-Derwent became part of the new diocese. In the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1291/2, the church of Caldbeck is listed amonst the churches located in the deanery of Allerdale. From 1136/8 Cumberland was again under the authority of the Scottish king, but Henry II of England took it back into English control in 1157. The baronies of Allerdale below Derwent and Allerdale above Derwent were united under William fitz Duncan in the early 1150s, following the death of Alan son of Waldeve, who had died without a surviving direct heir. When William fitz Duncan died, he left no male heirs. His wife survived him, as did two daughters. Through subsequent marriage, Caldbeck came into the hands of the de Lucy family. They held it until it passed to the Percy family, again through marriage, and into the hands of the earls of Northumberland. This continued until Henry the 6th earl of Northumberland granted it to King Henry VIII.


Exterior Features


Interior Features

Loose Sculpture


There is a difference in documents as to who gave the church and hospital at Caldbeck to St Mary's, Carlisle, but the dates for all of these would place the gift to either the 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 12thC. In one version of a confirmation charter of Henry II, the church and hospital of Calbeck are stated as having been given to St Mary's of Carlisle by Gospatric son of Crinan. ('Ex dono Gospatrici filii Crinani ecclesiam de Caldebech cum ominibus sibi adjacentibus et hospitalem dumum de Caldebech cum omnibus pertinentiis suis, secundum quod cartae ejusdem Gospatrini testantur.', Dugdale, Mon. Angl., VI pt1, p. 144). Gospatric son of Crinan is not well known, but may be the same person who witnessed a charter of Earl Gospatric of Dunbar in Scotland before 1138 ('Gosp' filio Crin' , Lowrie, no. CXVII). William fitz Duncan was a witness to the same charter. Hutchinson (pp. 376-7), and Nicolson and Burn (p. 134), state that the hospital at Caldbeck was given to the priory of Carlisle by Ranulph Engaine, 'chief forester of Englewood' and that the church was given by Gospatric son of Orm. Nicolson and Burn provide the quotation 'Ex dono Gospatricii filii Orme ecclesiam de Caldbeck' but do not provide a source for it. Both Gospatric son of Orm and Ranulf Engayne appear in the Chronicon Cumbrie (Reg. of St Bees, p. 493). There it states that Alan son of Waldeve gave them certain places in Allerdale below Derwent, but Caldbeck is not mentioned. Alan was succeeded as heir of Allerdale below Derwent by William fitz Duncan. Alan son of Waldeve was alive in 1150 but must have died not long afterwards, leaving no surviving direct heir. When William fitz Duncan died, first his wife and then his two daughters inherited his estates.

The dedication of the church to the northern saint Kentigern (d. 603), along with a well near the church, have led some to believe that a church must have been established in Caldbeck in the 7thC. There are, though, no early references known to survive concerning Caldbeck, and no early carved stones discovered as yet which would support the claim for an early church.

It is not unlikely that there were two different building periods during the 12thC. at the church of St Kentigern. The re-used arch with beakhead, almost certainly not before the 1120s, as well as the carved stones incorporated on the W interior nave wall appear to be earlier than the remaining section of window on the S interior wall of the chancel. This section of window, with its bell capital, is likely to be the result of later work on the church and date more closely to 1200, or possibly a bit later.

Beakhead is a form of decoration which first appears in SW England, probably in the 1120s in the then diocese of Old Sarum (now Salisbury). There are some differences of opinion as to the location where it first appears, but it is generally thought to be either Old Sarum Cathedral or Reading Abbey. It can be seen to have begun to spread by about 1130. Within Cumberland and Westmorland, bird-head beakhead is known at only one other site, that being the church of Cross Canonby (Cumberland) on a loose voussoir. Animal-head beakhead of the Caldbeck type is not found elsewhere in Cumberland but appears twice in Westmorland, on a doorway of the church at Brough, and on two loose voussoirs kept at the church of Ravenstonedale. Beakhead in the form of humanistic heads appear regionally at the churches of Dacre and Glassonby. Related heads, but carved on top of chevron instead of a roll, can be found at Great Salkeld and St Bees. The fourth type of beakhead decoration, known as geometric beakhead or clasp beakhead, appears on the church doorway of Burgh-by-Sand (Cumberland). The appearance at Caldbeck makes it likely that these Romanesque features were part of a church construction dating to either the 2nd or 3rd quarter of the 12thC.

The two label stops on the inner doorway bear strong similarities to the animal-head beakheads on the outer arch of the porch and are likely to have been carved at the same date.

The loose voussoirs kept inside the church are most likely to come from the soffit of an arch, perhaps the earlier chancel arch. Comparisons within Cumberland for the use of a half-roll on a soffit can be made at such places as the churches of Isel, Plumbland and Warwick-on-Eden.


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