The site for this church was chosen by the founder, John Marshall, Lord of the Manor of Castlerigg and a son of a Leeds linen manufacturer. He was a friend of William Wordsworth who influenced his choice of the position, ensuring that the graceful spire might be seen from miles around. It would become a constant witness to Almighty God in an area of great natural beauty.
The architect was Anthony Salvin (1799-1881). The material he selected for the outer walls was soft pink sandstone from quarries in the Eden valley but the main structure was of local stone. In 1836 when the building was in its early stages John Marshall died leaving a wife and young son Reginald Dykes Marshall. Mary decided that the plans for the church should be carried forward as a fitting memorial to her husband and she met the whole cost of the building herself, which was £4000.00.
Hugh Percy, the Bishop of Carlisle, consecrated the newly built church and churchyard on St. John’s Day, December 27th, 1838. Later, the remains of John Marshall were interred below the centre aisle of the nave.
The building, in the Old English style, originally comprised the west tower and spire and what are now the central nave and the vestry. The east end of the church was just beyond the first window on the south side of the present chancel opposite where the organ is now situated on the north side. The east window and the side windows were plain glass with a coloured border and the furnishings consisted of a stone pulpit and font with a communion table and reading desk.
In 1862 the building was enlarged and a north aisle was added by introducing columns and arches to support the roof and moving walls and windows outwards. Twenty years later the south aisle was constructed to match and, in 1889 the present chancel was created by moving the east wall outwards, raising the floor above the level of the nave, and moving the sanctuary and altar on to a higher level.
A Lady Chapel was created to the left of the organ and dedicated in 1917. In November 2000 this was altered by using a screen which was formerly between the pulpit and the first pillar separating the nave and the north aisle. The oak screen was erected there in 1894, by John Milburn, a craftsman and Churchwarden 1891-93, in memory of his son Jonathan who died aged 21 in 1892. The wood accurately matched to provide a rear wall for the present chapel and the altar and aumbry were brought forward. Behind this screen a choir vestry was formed.
There is also an interesting selection of stained glass. (Read More)
Much is owed to the Marshall family for their foresight and commitment in the building of Keswick St John and to the vicars and local parishioners that have followed through the years, many of whom requested to be buried in our graveyard.
Today we are still moving forward adjusting to the needs of this and future generations. We cannot do this without your help and support – see the Donations & Bequests page.
If you live in Keswick or are a visitor you would be warmly welcomed to one of our services followed at our 10am Sunday service with tea and biscuits on most Sundays.
When you visit our beautiful church there is a free leaflet to help you identify more interesting aspects within our church. If you wish to find out more about the history of the Marshall family and the church there is a very good book available in the church called Linen and Liturgy by Margaret Armstrong. Post Cards and Greetings Cards are also available.