Arthuret Church, Cumbria

Arthuret Parish Church also known as St Michael and All Angels, dominates the hillside in the village, about half a mile from Longtown. Said to be the resting place of the legendary King Arthur, the present gothic style church was erected in 1609, during the reign of King James I.

The northern flank of Arthuret Church

The northern flank of Arthuret Church

The site is known to have had a church since the 6th Century AD, often laid to ruins by the invading Scots Border Raiders.

This church was built as a result of a national fund raising to benefit the parishioners, who mainly rejecting Christ’s teachings and were considered to be “without faith”.  This, at this time, was the debatable lands of the Border Reiver.

During construction, the custodian of the collected funds absconded with a considerable sum. With resources weakened, the tower was left unfinished and was not completed until 1690 when Dr. Todd took over rectorship of the church.

The church tower stones are unusual in that many of them have masons marks which are clearly visible.

The main church building consists of nave, chancel, aisles, and tower. In 1750 it was re-roofed, slated, and flagged by the Hon. Mary Graham.

1868 saw a complete restoration costing about £1,000.  This was when the new east window was inserted in memory of the late Sir J.R.G. Graham, Bart. His monogram can be seen in the upper portion of the window.

In 1896 a new organ was installed and the chancel restored and fitted with oak stalls at a total cost of about £1,500, which was raised by subscripion.

Medieval wheeled cross

Medieval wheeled cross

The Graham Family
In the church are eleven monuments and tablets to members of the Graham family; Sir George Graham, Bart., who died in 1657 and the Rev. Robert Graham, D.D., who died in 1782. There is also a memorial plaque to the Right Hon. Sir J.R.G. Graham, Bart., M.P., who died at Netherby on 25th October, 1861.

In the churchyard is the tomb of Lieut. William Graham, who served the crown of England from the reigns of Elizabeth I to Charles II.

An ancient cross with pierced capital, in the form of a Maltese cross, is thought to have been erected by one of the Knights of Malta.

Nearby is said to be the unmarked grave of Archie Armstrong, court jester, to James I and Charles I, buried on All Fools’ Day (April 1st).

St. Michael’s Well
Steep steps at the west of the church, lead down to St. Michael’s Well.  A stone canopy is fronted by a moderately sized, rectangular pool, from which the water runs under another set of steps to seep into the land below.

The well was used for baptisms until the 1970s.

St Michael's Well

St. Michael's Well

Famous Battlegrounds
A wood to the east of the church is said to be the site of the Dark Age battle of Arfderydd, fought by Urien of Rheged and the invading Saxons.

Nearby Solway Moss is the site of the Battle, fought between the English and the Scots on 24th November, 1542. The devastating “Battle of Solway Moss” resulted in English victory over the Scots.

Arthuret Parish
A description from T. Bulmer & Co’s History, Topography and Directory of East Cumberland, 1884 reads;

“Arthuret parish has a length of seven miles and a breadth of four. It lies between the rivers Esk, Lyne, and Liddel, and is bounded on the west, north and east sides by the parish of Kirkandrews.

Also on the east by Stapleton and on the south by Kirklinton. The parish is divided into the four townships of Brackenhill, Lynside, Longtown and Netherby and contains territory once known as the debatable lands.”

King Arthur
The area is steeped in Arthurian legend and a plaque explaining the history of Arthuret Church lays strong claim to this being the place of his burial.

Arthuret church was built under instruction of the monarch and the building is certainly not reflective of other village churches of the same age in the region.  It is indeed a statement and would have been and still is, an imposing landmark.

More information
BBC – Arthurian Legend in Cumbria.
Parishes of the Esk
About the parish of Arthuret
English Heritage – Battle of Solway Moss
The battle of  Arfderydd
Lands beyond the Wall – The debatable lands

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