St. Paul's Church, Pooley Bridge

by Janet Wedgwood and others

All images © Janet Wedgwood

There are several churches in the Ullswater valley but only two of these, St Patrick's, Patterdale at the south end and St Paul's, Pooley Bridge at the north end, are situated within a village.

In the 12th century, the Ullswater valley had just one church, St. Michael's Church, Barton, which had vast parish boundaries extending south from Penrith down both sides of the lake to the Kirkstone Pass. It was not until the 1860s that the Church of St Paul, Pooley Bridge was built as a daughter church of St Michael's to serve the developing tourist trade in the village. It is Gothic in style with nave, chancel and bell turret (one bell), a north porch and lancet windows with stained glass at the east and west ends. A fine Bevington organ was installed in 1877 at the front on the south side, and this is still in use today.

St. Paul's Church
The font
Latticed nave window with secondary glazing
Interior of St. Paul's Church

The only wall plaque in the church, positioned below the central west window, is a memorial to the Rev William Airey who donated the land for the church. It also records that the foundation stone of the church was laid by Bishop Waldegrave on 26th July 1867 and the church was consecrated on 28th July 1868. It had cost £891 to build.

Moving into the 21st century, in 2011 St Paul's became the first church in Cumbria to install solar panels on the roof. In most years the electricity generated on the roof exceeds that used inside the church.

At the about the same time there was a drive to make the church more energy efficient with the installation of secondary glazing throughout and electric under-pew heating. An extra layer of insulation was added under the roof during re-roofing work in 2019. More than one visitor has been heard to exclaim “This must be the warmest church in Cumbria!”.

Installing photovoltaic panels

In 2016 the church layout was changed to cater for younger families with push chairs and for some older members who arrive on mobility scooters. Indoor 'parking space' was created opposite the front door by moving the font forward to replace the pulpit. The easy access to this space makes St Paul's a 'drive-in' church.

As a further improvement for those with mobility issues, all internal steps were removed to create a church on one level throughout,. The altar rails were not replaced after the alterations and the increased space in the Chancel provides more scope for dramatic readings and children's activities, and sometimes for extra seating.

A full church during the summer holidays

Refreshments after services are provided from a small kitchen installed in the vestry.

As Pooley Bridge (resident population less than 200) now has several thousands of summer visitors, St Paul's has developed a series of informal and inclusive services (Church4All) held every Sunday throughout the school summer holidays. Extra seating can be deployed when the congregation overflows the18 fixed pews.

More information, including details and times of services, can be found at, clicking on the St. Paul's tab (top right) on the website.

by Janet Wedgwood and others