Wetheral Parish Church
Wetheral is one of only two Churches in England to be dedicated to St. Constantine; the other is in Cornwall. The cells of this mysterious hermit are to be found a short distance south above the river. This dedication is much more common in Scotland of which Wetheral was part a thousand years ago, from 945-1072 and occasionally subsequently. Constantine is thought to have been martyred near Whithorn, the ancient Christian site in Galloway, less than 100 miles away.
After the Dark Ages, the Normans founded a Benedictine monastery, Wetheral Priory, a daughter house to St. Mary’s Abbey, close to York Minster. That Abbey is a ruin and all that remains of the Priory is the Gatehouse which dates back 900 years and was restored by English Heritage. Access is free and it commands fine views over the river Eden. The Church today dates largely from the dissolution of the monasteries when Wetheral fell to the patronage of Carlisle Cathedral, which had previously been an Augustinian monastery.
The architecturally significant addition of a memorial chapel to the Howard family of Corby Castle came in the late C18th. It houses the finest marble statue in Cumbria, ‘Faith’ by Joseph Nollekens. At his death, this was regarded as his greatest work. Above his tomb in Paddington, London, he is shown in bas relief working on this statue, the miniature of which is to be seen in the main sculpture of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is a memorial to the wife of Henry Howard, Maria, who died in childbirth. William Wordsworth visited Wetheral and wrote a poem about this statue. The chapel also contains some of the earliest cast iron windows in the country.
Wetheral Parish Church displays some of the little remaining medieval stained glass in Cumbria. The west windows are thought to depict St. Constantine and the Virgin Mary. Mary’s name was amongst the church's dedications before the Reformation. The most recent major addition was the pipe organ installed in 1984 by Richard Bower of Norfolk.
Over recent years, Wetheral Parish Church has had the opportunity to welcome schools and young families on a more regular basis. With a desire to be more welcoming and accessible to people of all ages, it was agreed by the Church council in 2015 that work should be taken to increase accessibility into the Church building itself. This led to new modern, inner doors being fitted, in keeping with the style of the Church building, enabling visitors and regular attendees to Church events easier access. This work was completed in May 2016.
St Paul's Church, Holme Eden
The story of St Paul's Church Holme Eden, is closely bound up with the history of the Dixon family - a very familiar name around the Carlisle area. Peter Dixon Sr had been a successful merchant and ship-owner in Whitehaven, who had moved to Carlisle early in the nineteenth century some years after his marriage to Mary Ferguson.
Holme Eden Church was the brain child of Peter Dixon Jr, the second of Peter Dixon's sons, who has been described as "decidedly the ablest and most energetic" of the sons. In 1807 he was placed in full charge of Langthwaite Mills, even though he was only eighteen years old at the time. In these early years the business flourished and a new mill was built in 1835 in Carlisle's Shaddongate, with a towering three hundred foot high chimney "Dixon's Chimney".
However, alongside his business and political interests (he was the second Mayor of Carlisle under the Reform Act of 1832) Peter Dixon was a devout Christian. It was said of him that he "loved to attend the services of God's House on the Sabbath Day, and after coming into residence at Holme Eden, he superintended the Sunday School on Sunday mornings and read the Scriptures to the sick and aged in their homes in the afternoons". Shortly after moving into Holme Eden he had offered to build and endow a Church for the district. It was recognised that a new Church was needed, as the existing parish church at Wetheral could "not afford accommodation for more than one third of the inhabitants", so Dixon's offer was gladly accepted by the Diocese of Carlisle.
Peter Dixon provided the land for a Church, churchyard and burial ground, met the cost of the building itself (said to have been about £1,500) and gave £2,500 at 4 per cent per annum towards the stipend of the Vicar. The stipend of the minister was to be augmented by rents paid by the regular occupants of the pews at Church services. The level of these rents varied from three shillings (fifteen pence) to twelve shillings (sixty pence) per seat per annum. One third of the pews were free. In view of the seating habits of many modern churchgoers, it is interesting to note that the best (i.e. the most expensive) seats were towards the front of the church! The new Church (dedicated in the name of St. Paul) and the surrounding churchyard were consecrated by Hugh Percy, Bishop of Carlisle, on Tuesday, 2nd September 1845.
(This extract is taken from 'St Paul's Holme Eden 1845-1995' and was compiled by Stuart Casson)
Another significant event in the history of Holme Eden Church occurred in September 2013 when the Church was forced to close due to major problems with asbestos. WIth a desire for the church to be used for mission and outreach to our local communities, the Church council made the decision to apply for permission from the Diocese of Carlisle to reorder the interior of the Church building. Over the next nine months extensive work was undertaken with the Church reopening in the spring of 2014, now complete with chairs, carpet and a fully flexible space (see picture below). The journey to the reordering was not easy, but we have seen a complete transformation in what God has done in and through us as a result, with great work happening amongst children and families which was never thought possible! We have seen God's further provision when funding allowed a car park to be built at the church in 2014 to accommodate the growing numbers of people attending events and activities.