Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Bassenthwaite, St Bega

St Bega

The tiny church of St Bega can be found about three miles North of Keswick (town) and about a quarter of mile North of Mirehouse on the East shores of Bassenthwaite, the only 'real' lake in the English Lake District. The church is partly hidden from view by a small copse of trees, and is approached from two footpaths. The first one, which is the one I followed, leads North from Mirehouse, across fields and well marked footpaths. The second, descends South across the fields from the A591. Towering over Mirehouse, the church and Bassenthwaite to the the East is spectacular Skiddaw, the sixth highest mountain in England! The church is one of only three in England dedicated to St Bega, an Irish Princess today considered more of a 'cult' of personality rather than a real historical person.

Above. St Bega through the trees.

Above. The North facade of the church.

The first interesting feature of the church that struck me, was the wall to the left of the North door. The stone work is obviously older than that surrounding it, and closer inspection revealed a blocked doorway. The wall, consisting of rough stone work, and the tiny blocked door, standing to only around four and a half feet tall, are some of the oldest features in the church, and date to the original build date of the church, put at 950, over one hundred years before the Norman invasion of the British Isles. 

Above. Pre-Norman door and wall on the North wall.

Above. The Bellcote at the West end of the church.

Above. The South facade of the church.

Above. Looking down the Nave into the Chancel.

The Chancel arch, plain and in remarkable condition, is Norman, and probably represents part of the original Norman rebuild of the tiny church.....the original building would have been half as wide as the church we see today, 

Above. Interior view of the high doorway in the North wall.

The door in the North wall is also Norman.....again, very plain and simple, not with the more familiar dog-tooth or chevron decorations more commonly associated with Norman architecture. 

Above. Looking East down the South aisle towards the chapel.

Above. Looking West along the South aisle.

Above. 16th century Chance arch leading into the East chapel.

Above. The second 16th century arch leading from the East chapel into the South aisle.

Above. Another view of the Norman Chancel arch looking from the Nave.

Above. Sketch of the grave slab, rescued and presented against the wall.

Above. Photo of the grave slab....details not very clear - refer to the sketch for more features.

The windows throughout the church date from the restoration of the building that took place in 1874.....a plan shown in Mike Salter's book, The Old Parish Churches of Cumbria, shows no original windows anywhere in the church.

Above. Memorial to the Wane and Pearson families.

Above. Royal Coat of arms of George II

The church is operated on an 'open door' policy, so is accessible during daylight hours, and is well worth a visit, as is the surrounding countryside. Mirehouse is a great place to while away the hours walking the gardens and exploring the walled bee garden for example.

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