Our History


History of St. Mary's, Windermere


St. Mary's Church came into being as a direct result of the coming of the railway to Windermere in 1846. The population of the scattered township of Applethwaite increased rapidly and there was obvious need for a church more central than those at Bowness or Troutbeck.


The Rev. John Aspinall-Addison born in Liverpool in 1814 was responsible for the building of the first chapel of St. Mary's in 1848. He was fond of gothic architecture and several buildings in the area, including the church, testify to this. The chapel, accommodating 200 people, was soon found to be inadequate and in 1852 a southern aisle was added, funded largely by Mr John Braithwaite of Orrest Head. The chapel thus far had been built entirely at its founder's expense, and remained his private property until 1854 when negotiations began to secure it for the town. By April 1855, £1,400 had been raised by public subscription and the purchase was made. In 1856 Windermere was transferred from the Chester Diocese to Carlisle and on Friday 8th August 1856, Bishop Villiers of Carlisle consecrated "this Church of St. Mary, Applethwaite, Windermere". Mr John Lingard of Holehird presented the font to mark the occasion.

The Rev. Charles Clayton Lowndes was the first incumbent, and was licensed on August 22nd 1856 as "perpetual curate of St. Mary's Applethwaite" thus recognising the rector of the mother church of Bowness technically as an ecclesiastical superior. The Rev. Sir Richard Fleming of Rydal Hall, was at that time both rector of Windermere and Grasmere until his death in 1857. Then Applethwaite became a new parish and the incumbent a vicar. Rev. Lowndes first concern was the need for yet more space in the church as the parish continued to grow, and in 1858 this problem was solved by the gift of a northern aisle. The donor was Mr Gandy of Oaklands, in memory of whom the Eagle Lectern was installed in 1870. In 1861 the nave was extended westwards, and an organ chamber erected. In July 1871 a faculty was obtained for the building of a more adequate vestry and a north transept, provided by the generosity of Mr William Inman of The Abbey. In 1859 attention had been given for the provision of a vicarage for the incumbent and 'Annesdale' was bought for £1,400. The original name 'Annesdale' was transferred to a house further up the road. In March 1873 Rev. Lowndes died suddenly in his study and was buried in the churchyard near the south porch.


The Rev. Henry Ainslie his successor was appointed on 6th June 1873. In 1874 he supervised yet more changes to the church building - mainly the removal of several architecturally poor features. A more ambitious scheme of reconstruction took place in 1881-1882. This involved both aisles being lengthened, a bell tower placed centrally, the vestry extended, with a boiler room below, a new chancel being built to the east of the new tower, and the organ moved to the south transept. All that now remained of Rev. Addison's chapel was part of the roof of the nave. This work was again funded largely by a parishioner, Mr William Pollard of The Abbey. A dedication service for the re-opening of the church was held on 9th November 1882, a fortnight after the tower clock and set of eight bells had been dedicated. On 10th September 1883, Mr Addison died and is commemorated by the Addison Window in what is now called the Addison Room.

The Rev. George Crewdson succeeded Mr Ainslie in 1893 and the parish was in his care until 1910. It was initially a period of peace and prosperity, and the church was well supported by the large Victorian houses of the parish. The vicarage family played a large part in the social life of the place. By the time Canon Crewdson resigned the living after the tragic death of his wife and daughter in 1910, church finance was beginning to give cause for anxiety, with a substantial falling off of pew rents, which formed a good part of the living. Canon Crewdson presented a two manual pipe organ to the church in memory of his wife and daughter. The brass plaque and screens are now in the Harrison Room.

In 1910 the Rev. Reginald Mayall followed Canon Crewdson as the next incumbent, and proved an efficient administrator. He put the church finances on a sound footing again and brought the building into modem times with electric lighting and a new heating system. During 1917 Canon Mayall went to war as Chaplain to the Forces and his duties were undertaken by Rev. W.J. Jones, curate of St. Martin's Bowness. In 1920 the Parochial Church Council came into being based on the parish roll of electors. The original roll of 1920 was 730 and a PCC of 33 members was duly elected. One of their first duties in 1921 was to erect the War Memorial near the pulpit, and in 1936 a plaque in memory of the boys of the Old College who fell in the Great War was placed in the north transept near the place where they used to sit. Canon Mayall completed 25 years as a vicar in 1926 and the event was marked by the purchase of the Processional Cross. He resigned the living in 1937 after 27 years in Windermere and moved to Whitehaven in west Cumbria. He died in 1944 and he was interred in St. Mary's Cemetery on Rayrigg Road. 

St. Mary's parish was, as usual, fortunate in the Bishop's choice of a new vicar. The Rev. Maurice Harland, who came from Leeds in 1938 'was a man of quite outstanding personality'. He was responsible for the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, dedicated on 23rd August 1942. The same year he was appointed to be Bishop of Croydon then, later, Bishop of Lincoln and eventually Bishop of Durham.

The Rev. Lionel du Toit was instituted on March 11th 1943. Between 1945 and 1948 he was responsible for a number of improvements in the general appearance of the church interior - the replacement of the alabaster reredos by curtains, the lengthening of the altar, the provision of five new altar frontals, and the erection of screens between the chancel and the transepts and between the transepts and the nave. Other alterations involved the moving of the organ from the south transept to the north transept, with the Chapel of the Holy Spirit being moved in the opposite direction to the southern transept. Additionally, the churchyard appearance was enhanced with new gates - donated by the churchwarden, Mr J. W. Longmire and a scheme for landscaping the grounds.

In 1960 Canon du Toit was appointed as Dean of Carlisle Cathedral and was succeeded early in 1961 by the Rev. Michael Westrop. In the course of this rear the new vestry was completed and in 1965 concealed lighting was installed as a gift from a parishioner and the church redecorated. He was also involved in the rebuilding of the Junior School and the re-siting of St. Mary's Infant and Nursery School on the same site. The old St. Mary's School adjacent to the church was purchased from Westmorland County Council and became the Parish Centre in place of the Elleray Rooms (adjacent to the Windermere Hotel). In 1970 he was appointed vicar of Natland and Rural Dean of Kendal.

In 1970 Rev W. E. Barker succeeded Michael Westrop. In 1978 he was asked to take over the responsibility for the Parish of Jesus Church in Troutbeck and he became Priest-in-charge of Troutbeck and Vicar of St. Mary's. These parishes are now a United Benefice with the incumbent vicar of both while each retains its own individual identity and character. Following the death of Dean du Toit in January 1979, Rev. Barker was responsible for the building of the lych-gate to commemorate his ministry at St. Mary's. Rev. Barker marked the 25th anniversary of his ordination by presenting a Crucifix to the church. This was placed in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

In 1987-1988 the Parish Centre underwent a major restoration. This was being completed in August 1988 whilst Mr & Mrs Barker were on holiday. Two days before they were due to return the church was devastated by an arson attack which entirely destroyed the roof of the nave and the north aisle, and caused extensive damage to the interior of the church generally. Fortunately the fire did not reach the east end, and the vestries, chancel and Lady Chapel only suffered damage from smoke and water. The tower remained intact and restoration was possible.

Before Mr & Mrs Barker had returned from their holiday the congregation had rallied round and the newly renovated Parish Centre was converted into the centre of worship. Services were held in the Centre until June 1990. Restoration work started on the church in March 1989 and was completed in the summer of 1990. The architect was Mr M Bottomley and the honorary clerk of works, Mr Jack Connell, one of the churchwardens.

The church remained essentially as it was before the fire, although certain improvements were made. A new inner porch, donated by the people of Troutbeck was erected in the north aisle. The crossing which had previously divided the congregation was moved towards the back of the church. Pews in the side aisles were set at an angle and some at the back of the north aisle were removed completely to create an open meeting area. New heating, lighting and amplification systems were installed. Steps were removed from the entrance to the church and replaced with a ramp to make wheelchair access easier. A service of thanksgiving was held on 7th June 1990, when St. Mary's was re-dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Rev. Ian Harland, the event being commemorated by a plaque just inside the main entrance.

Rev. Barker resigned the living in August 1993 and Canon Derek Jackson was instituted as Vicar of St. Mary's and licensed as Priest-in-Charge of Jesus Church, Troutbeck on February 25th 1994 by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle. Canon Jackson like the Rev. George Crewdson, had been Vicar of St. George's Kendal, so history repeated itself.

A very successful stewardship campaign was led Philip Harrison and included a 'Time and Talents' element. A major part of this was to open the church to visitors with stewards on hand to safeguard the building and to greet people. Molly Gibson pioneered this work and developed Church watch so that the church is now open three days a week in the tourist season.

Mrs Betty Potter became St. Mary's first lady churchwarden in 1996 - a landmark event. Also, in the move towards emancipation of ladies into the priesthood, Mrs Joan Jackson, Canon Jackson's wife was ordained in 1998 and was licensed to serve Staveley and Kentmere parishes and be Chaplin at Furness General Hospital.

The life of the congregation during Canon Jackson's ministry was considerably influenced by a national trend for early retirement which brought a significant burst of lay leadership into the Parish. Malcolm Ford, a long standing member of the congregation, retired as Headteacher of Goodly Dale Primary School and devoted even more energy to parish life as Chairman of the Parish Centre Committee and later as churchwarden. Christopher Bradbury came to Windermere upon concluding his career working for NATO. A Reader in the Diocese of Europe, he was licensed to exercise his ministry at St. Mary's. The Parish also benefited greatly from the ministry of Rev. Derek Goddard. After a career in the Ministry of Defence he trained for the Non-Stipendiary Ministry. Leonard Lambert retired to Windermere from London where he had been National Staff Welfare Officer for the Abbey National Building Society. He brought a dedication to God's service and a wonderful sense of humour to St. Mary's.

The Millennium saw the conclusion of three major projects. Malcolm Ford headed up the work to establish a refectory in the North West comer of the church. Tim Potter led the project to restore and electrify the carillon which had been disused for many years. Additionally a new sound system was installed.

In November 2000 Canon Jackson left St. Mary's and became a Residentiary Canon at Bradford Cathedral.

Recent History


The Rev. David Wilmot, Vicar of Milton, Stoke on Trent and Rural Dean of Leek became the 11th Vicar of St. Mary's and Vicar of Troutbeck on 24th April 2001.

Shortly after his installation the Rev. Judith Ware became the first lady curate at St. Mary's and after two years she moved to become a stipendiary priest in Wakefield.

During recent years the building has been altered considerably. Firstly, the old St. Mary's Girls and Infant School behind the church, which had served well as a Parish Centre for nearly 40 years was sold to a property developer and converted into five cottages. The funds raised were then used to re-order the interior of the church.

The old pipe organ, which needed many thousands of pounds worth of renovation, was removed and replaced by a modern digital one. The space which had been occupied by the organ pipes was converted into disabled toilets, storage rooms, with ramp access. Above, a new meeting room (The Upper Room) was created. The choir vestry was reshaped with corridor access and stairs to the Upper Room. At the west end of the North Aisle the refectory was repositioned and extended to provide office space. The South Aisle was redeveloped into a new Parish Centre, comprising of two meeting rooms, kitchen and disabled toilet. In the nave the pews were removed and replaced by chairs. A forward plinth provided with communion rails, and a new altar were installed. The nave was separated from the two aisles by glazed screens and new heating and lighting systems were provided throughout the building.

Various historical features from the old building were preserved and in some cases repositioned. These included the oak panelling which surrounded the original organ and made by Edward Mallinson; the screens in the chancel, north and south aisles (given in memory of Lt. Robert Fallowfield Kipling RN) and the hanging light which was moved from the Lady Chapel to the Sanctuary. This light had been donated in memory of Dr. Mervyn Hatt who was killed in India during the 1949 uprisings. The architect for all the work was Mr Paul Grout.

During all these changes, which took a number of years, services were still held in parts of the building, depending upon where the builders were active at the time. The church was rededicated on 27th May 2006 by the Right Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, the event again being commemorated by a plaque just inside the main entrance.


In 2008 the St. Mary's PCC attended an Away Day with the intention of drawing up a vision and strategy for St. Mary's for at least five years. This was under the guidance of an expert in strategic planning and management. The Away Day was a great success and the PCC commissioned a small team to draw up and formularize a detailed strategic plan for approval. In April 2009 the Strategic Framework document was launched by St. Mary's PCC outlining a five-year rolling plan. The plan envisioned four teams working under the PCC to drive the vision and strategy forward - the Christian Action & Service team, the Finance & Management team, the Social team and the Worship, Teaching & Ministry team.


A number of major projects and changes from the Strategic Framework have been undertaken and completed, including the opening of the St. Mary's building on all week days, a number of varied styles of worship and a greater number of pastoral and social activities.


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