St. Patrick's Church Patterdale

Banner image © Gordon Lightburn

It is said that the name Patterdale comes from “St Patrick’s Dale” and that the Christian religion was brought to the valley by the saint in the 5th century AD, when he baptised local people, but the truth of this cannot be verified. It is possible that a wooden church was erected at that time, but the present church was erected in 1853 to replace an edifice which was built in 1600 and which itself replaced a church built in the 14th century. Patterdale was a chapelry within the wider parish of Barton and did not become a parish in its own right until 1866.

Patterdale Old Church, c. 1810-15, courtesy of

A fund was opened in 1852 to collect prescriptions for the new building. The benefice was in the gift of the Earl of Lonsdale, who donated £100, with William Marshall of Patterdale Hall giving £300, his wife £100, Rev. Henry Askew of Glenridding House £200 and Henry Howard of Greystoke Castle £200. William Marshall gave land adjacent to the old churchyard for the new building and stones from the old church were reused. The architect was Anthony Salvin who had designed Greystoke Castle in 1840 and the alterations which William Marshall carried out on Patterdale Hall. The mason was Levi Hodgson and the joiner Robert Macadam, both local men. William Marshall and the Rev. John Thompson laid the cornerstone in 1852 and the new church was finished in June of the following year and consecrated by the Bishop of Carlisle on 3 November 1853.

It was common before the end of the 19th century for Anglican churches to have appropriated sittings – that is pews which were reserved for certain households or families. The new church of St Patrick had 150 unappropriated sittings, so was accessible to newcomers and visitors. As Patterdale developed as a tourist destination, the church welcomed many visitors in the summer months and the offertory collection was increased as a result. One of the more distinguished visitors was HRH Albert, Prince of Wales, who attended a service in May 1857.

The Rev. John Thompson who was the minister at the time of the new church ministered at Patterdale from 1800 until 1861 and his father before him from 1765 – a total of 96 years between them. The Rev. John Thompson held prayers and lectures at the ends of the parish on alternate Sundays, making worship more accessible for those who lived at a distance from the church. His successors seem to have continued this with cottage services recorded in the 1890s.

The 1853 church had a harmonium which was later replaced by an organ. Prior to that, music had been played by a small band. The east window had originally been of plain glass, but it was replaced with stained glass depicting the Crucifixion. Another, opposite the south door, depicts St Patrick evangelising in Ireland. In 1850, The Greenside Mining Company donated silver from which the communion plate was made. The pride of the church are embroidered panels made by Ann Macbeth who lived in the valley from the 1920s.

In 1994, the church joined with the Methodist church in Glenridding to become a Local Ecumenical Project.

For more about St. Patrick's Church, Patterdale, see the article by Richard Theobald on Patterdale Today

by Emma Bray


William Prosser Morris, The Records of Patterdale: Historical and Descriptive (1903)

Marjorie Ives, A History of Patterdale and its Parish Church

St. Patrick' window, courtesy of Patterdale TODAY

Embroidered Panels by Ann Macbeth

Ann Macbeth, a renowned embroiderer and teacher at Glasgow School of Art, moved to Patterdale in 1921.

She made two religious panels that have Patterdale in their background. The first, The Good Shepherd, hangs in St. Patrick's Church. It depicts Christ as a shepherd, with the fells, village, sheep and wild flowers of Patterdale in the background. It is sewn in silk and wool which she dyed at her cottage in Patterdale. It is said that she re-worked one of the lamb’s faces because a local boy did not like the first attempt.

The second panel, The Nativity, shows the infant Jesus in a cradle with the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel against a backdrop which is clearly the village of Patterdale. Macbeth was inspired by a tiny manger that she had found in a derelict barn in the valley. A copy of this work is displayed in the church.

St Patrick’s also houses a panel depicting a bright bowl of flowers sewn for the Gordon family and a beautiful panel on silk with flowers and doves which states “Peace when thou comest, and when thou goest, may thy footsteps echo peace.”

The Nativity from The Life of Ann Macbeth by Marjorie Ives, courtesy of Patterdale WI

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