Waberthwaite – St John’s Church
The setting of this little church, by a bend in the tidal River Esk, protected from northerly gales by the wooded sloped of Muncaster Fell, is truly idyllic. Squat and simple, this typical dale church has witnessed many centuries of worship.
It was probably built in the 12th Century, and could well have replaced an earlier church, as there is an ancient cross-shaft in the churchyard, comparable with the Irton Cross.
The interior has a homely atmosphere, uninfluenced by outsiders, so has no memorial tablets so loved by the Victorians. There are box pews which were installed at the beginning of the 19th Century, and apart from these and the ceiling, the church must look much as it has done for the last eight hundred years. Box pews were very common is churches all over the country from the 17th to the mid 19th Century, but from then most churches replaced them by the now conventional rows of seats, and it is rare for this old style to be retained.
The font is probably Norman, and is a solid block of sandstone, quite massive, and may have been made from the base of a Roman pillar.
There is an ancient Anglian/Scandinavian Stone Cross at Waberthwaite church. The Cross Shaft is 2m high, and quite badly weathered, making it difficult to see the carvings on the main panels, however the edges (north and south sides) are still remarkedly clear.
The cross is thought to date from the 9th to 10th century, and shows influences of Anglican and Viking carving styles.
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