Holm Cultram

St Mary


If you have arrived here from a search engine, this site uses frames. If your server supports frames, link here.

You will then need to navigate back to this page using the County Index

Holme Cultram church exterior

The west end of the present church

Quote from the Parish web site - 
"The Church you see today, 6 of the 9 bays of the nave of the original Abbey, is the result of restoration begun in 1703, and further work done in 1883 and 1913. There is a wonderful Norman arch at the west doorway, and a fine arcade of pillars in the side walls. There are fragments of tombstones, inscriptions, medieval tiles and masonry in the porch which are worth studying. The stained glass windows are also worth studying."
Holm Cultram was the site of a great Cistercian Abbey with possessions and influence both wealthy and wide-spreading. This history is preserved in its Register or Cartulary.

Cistercian monks came from Melrose Abbey in the middle of the 11th Century, and settled in Cumberland under the protection of the Scottish Crown, which happened at the time to be dominant at Carlisle.  

In the 15th Century the abbey was much larger than it is today, in fact it was bigger than Carlisle Cathedral. 

Very little remains of the pre-Reformation fabric, except the Transitional west doorway, and the wall, 7 foot thick with a newel stair in it, on either side of that door.  The present church was rebuilt in the 18th century, leaving only six piers of the nave and the area of walls around them. The mediaeval church was much larger than the present building, larger indeed than Carlisle Cathedral. It was cruciform, with a nave of nine bays, a choir and transepts. Its total length was 279 feet, of which the nave measured 162 feet. The greatest width of the transepts was 135 feet; the tower was 38 feet wide and eventually 114 feet high. Remnants of the Chapter House, when found between 1872 and 1906, were judged to be of the earliest [i.e., Transitional] period.

On 6th March 1538 the Abbey was dissolved by Henry VII.   “Gavin Borrodaile, Abbott of . . . Holm Cultram . . . do give, grant, render, deliver, and confirm to. . .Henry VIII . . . all that Monastery of Holm Cultram aforesaid . . . 6th March [1538].” 

The land passed to the Crown, and the monks were dispersed. The centre of the Abbey has survived as the Parish Church, with much repair work needed over the intervening years to keep it even wind and weather-tight. It survived fire and tempest, raids from across the border, but with the tower eventually falling. The rest of the Abbey fell completely into disrepair, and only two cottages survive the period.

In 1730, agreement was reached between the Churchwardens and Richard Smirke of Wigton, house-carpenter, "who is to set up all pews, galleries and all other works in the church, using wood from Wedholme [which was owned by the parishioners]", and “to work all wood to the best advantage as to make no waste” etc., “all chips and shavings to be at the Churchwardens’ disposal”.  All this cost £37.

When all was done, it was described by Dr Waugh as – “neatly and conveniently seated, with handsome galleries, and it is altogether a beautiful church; but though it stands high, [it is] strangely damp. It contains seats for 846 persons”  

EMLM 2002


Holme Cultram Church interior looking east

The interior looking east


Map reference  :   Sheet 85: NY 176508


Photographs © 2002 someone - who?


Please see our Home Page for important copyright notice

Up Arrow


email logo






This site has been constructed by, and remains the copyright of, its authors,
Edwin and Sheila Macadam,

Shelwin, 30, Eynsham Road, Botley,
Oxford OX2 9BP
© July 2001 -