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St Bridget, Beckermet, Old St Bridget's Church, Cumberland

(54°26′23″N, 3°31′18″W)
Beckermet, Old St Bridget's Church
NY 014 060
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cumberland
now Cumbria
medieval York
now Carlisle
  • James King
20 May 2014, 02 Sept 2015

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Feature Sets

Old St Bridget's Church sits about half a mile SW of the centre. Although the church is now isolated from the present inhabited part of Beckemet, a settlement closer to St Bridget's once existed, but has not survived. The church of St Bridget consists of a chancel, nave and W bellcote. During repairs on the church, archaeological investigations were undertaken in 2014. At the top of the S wall, parts of a medieval baptismal font were found re-used as infill. Many of the carved stones were recovered, but other parts remain inside the wall. Two cross shafts in the churchyard have proposed dates ranging from the 9thc to 11thc, suggesting that this was a religious site before the arrival of the Normans. A larger and more modern church was subsequently built on a new site in Calder Bridge in 1840-42. Old St Bridget's Church is now used only occasionally.


Domesday Book does not include this part of England. There are two churches in Beckermet, one dedicated to St Bridget and the other to St John in the town centre. Because of the historical divisions between the two parishes, St John's parish became known as 'Little Beckermet' and the parish of St Bridget's as 'Great Beckermet', a name which appears already in the 12thc. Although both churches were appropriated to Calder Abbey, it is uncertain when this took place for St Bridget's Church. Richard, vicar of St Bridget's, appears as a witness to a grant about 1160: 'Ricardus fillies Osberti de sancta Brigida, et Ricardus eiusdem ecclesie vicarius'. In a slightly later grant of Richard 'de Boyvill', the same vicar seems to appear as a witness: 'Ricardus presbiter de Beccheremed'. Early maps made after the Reformation showed Beckermet with St John's, while St Bridget's was shown further away and listed only as 'Sct Brides' (1576) or 'St Bridget's (early 1770s). Calder Abbey was established within the parish of St Bridget in 1134 (re-established in 1143) and its estate appears to have been sectioned off from the parish. Land in Great Beckermet was given to the abbey by William de Esseby and his wife Hectreda/Ethereda about 1160. Hectreda/Ethereda was formerly married to Ranulf de Lindsay, who died before 1158. After the death of Hectreda/Ethereda, William married Goditha, daughter of Michael le Fleming. Beckermet was in the Barony of Egremont, which was given to William le Meschin by Ranulf le Meschin about 1120. It is thought that Michael le Fleming was given the manor of Beckemet (St John's) by William le Meschin and that either he or his son was responsible for the construction of Caernarvon Castle in the parish of St John's, Beckermet. The lordship of Beckermet remained in the hands of the Fleming family throughout the medieval period. However, as Nicolson and Burn (1777) pointed out, the parish and church of St Bridget remained under the direct control of the Earls of Egremont, unlike St John's. In the Taxatio Ecclesiastica the amount given for Beckermet is £7. 0s. 0d. Modern scholars have stated that this refers to the church of St John, but no dedication name is actually mentioned. Twelfth-century references to Beckermet use a variety of spellings, including 'Bikyrmet' and 'Bikermet'.





The early history of St Bridget's Church is somewhat difficult to disentangle from that of St John's Church, as some references mention a church but do not name it.

The fragments recovered from the church wall were taken to the Greenlane Archaeology offices in Ulverston for further inspection and investigations. The fragments are presently (April 2019) kept in the stores there, with the hope that at some point they will be fitted together and returned to the church.The stem and leaf forms have analogues elsewhere in Cumberland, for example a capital in the W tower porch of St Mary's Church, Harrington and on a grave cover in St Mungo's Church, Bromfield. The font has also been compared to that in St Kentigern's Church, Aspatria, particularly because of the use of the heavy roll mouldings in the main designs.


Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, The Pipe-Rolls, or Sheriff's Annual Accounts of the Revenues of the Crown for the Counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Durham during the Reigns of Henry II., Richard I., and John. (Newcastle 1847), 52 and 55.

F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications: or, England’s Patron Saints, 3, London, 1899, 75.

T. Bulmer, History, Topography, and Directory of Cumberland, Preston, 1901, 548 and 614-5.

W. Collingwood, ed., The Memoirs of Sir Daniel Fleming, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Tract Series no. XI, Kendal, 1928.

W. Collingwood, ‘An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Cumberland’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2nd Series: 23 (1923), 262.

J. Cox, County Churches: Cumberland and Westmorland, London, 1913, 46-48.

J. Hunter, ed., The Great Roll of the Pipe for the first Year of King Richard the First, A.D. 1189-1190, London 1844, 139.

M. Hyde and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Cumbria: Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness, New Haven and London, 2010, 149.

W. Jackson, ‘A Sketch of the History of Egremont Castle’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 1st Series: 6 (1883), 150-62.

J. Nicolson and R. Burn, The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, 2, London, 1777, 9 and 29-30.

C. Parker, ‘Caernarvon Castle, a forgotten Stronghold’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2nd Series: 3 (1903), 214-22.

C. Parker, The Gosforth District: its Antiquities and Places of Interest, new edn. edited and revised by W. Collingwood (Kendal, 1926), 90 and 118-31.

W. Sedgefield, The Place-Names of Cumberland and Westmorland , Manchester 1915, 12.

The Surtees Society, The Register of the Priory of St Bees, Durham and London 1915, 57 no. 29 and fn. 2, 83 no. 52 and fn. 1, 550 no. XXXII, 551 no.XXXIV, and 558 no. XLVI.

Taxatio Ecclesiastica Angliae et Walliae Auctorite P. Nicholai IV. circa A.D. 1291, London 1802, 328.

J. Thorley, ‘The Estates of Calder Abbey’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 3rd Series: 4 (2004), 137 no. 3, 138 nos. 5 and 6, 142 no. 9, 143 no. 13, 148-9 no. 34, 153, 156 no. xiii, 158 and 161 fn. 36.

J. Wilson, ed., The Victoria History of the County of Cumberland, 2, London, 1905, 176 and 183 fn. 3.