Parish of St. Mary the Virgin,

Walney Island.

CHURCH OF ENGLAND Diocese of Carlisle, Archdeaconry of Westmorland & Furness, Deanery of Barrow

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Historical Notes

The first chapel-of-ease on Walney Island was probably erected in the mid 16th century, when the island was part of the large ancient parish of Dalton-in-Furness. The site was roughly midway between the main communities on the island, the hamlets of Biggar and North Scale - beyond which lay the former Furness Abbey granges of North End and South End. At that time there was no direct link to the adjacent mainland. The channel could be forded at low tide, but otherwise the only communication was by boat.

The 'new' church in construction

This picture is taken from our Gallery.

The Elizabethan chapel was rebuilt around the end of the 17th century. But its deteriorating condition led to its eventual demolition and complete replacement between 1852-53. By the 20th century, with the expansion of the shipbuilding industry and the growing population of Walney's new Vickerstown estates, the church building had once again become too small. The foundation stone of the present church was laid in 1907 by Archbishop Maclagan. The new church was dedicated in 1908, but not finally completed until 1930. For some years, the old and new church buildings remained side-by-side in the churchyard, until the older building was eventually taken down. However its four corner stones were left as markers and they can still be seen.

The Procession to the new Church, October 3rd 1908. For more pictures like this please see our Gallery .

The earliest Walney church registers date from 1744, and are currently held in the Cumbria Record Office & Local Studies Library, Barrow, which forms part of the Cumbria Archive Service. There is a modern transcript of the registers between between 1744 and 1858, whilst the subsequent burial registers down to the 1990s have been indexed by members of the Furness Family History Society. The registers record several instances of bodies being washed ashore - the worst being in 1789, when twelve persons were interred in the graveyard after the wreck of the brig "Druid", from Amlwch, North Wales. Other parish records include a vestry book purchased in 1805, which begins by recording a special collection of 7 10s 6d for the widows and orphans of Nelson's men who fell at the Battle of Trafalgar. A similar collection was held ten years later after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.  Amongst the list of incumbents, the island's longest-serving clergyman was the Rev. Samuel Hunter, who ministered as perpetual curate between 1744-1802.

Despite the increase in the population, the island never had more than the one Anglican church. A Mission Room (illustrated) was built at Biggar in 1897, in anticipation of expected building development nearby. But this never really materialised, and the structure was taken down in 1947. A National School was provided in 1856, largely through the generosity of Mrs. Michaelson of Barrow Island. It was replaced shortly after the First World War by a new municipal school in Ocean Road, although Mrs. Michaelson's building still remains on The Promenade alongside the churchyard.

For information about pre-Reformation Christian history, the page for St Columba's has quite a lot of information. Or you might like to read about Furness Abbey.

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