Ireby Old Church, churchyard and two cross bases


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Ireby Old Church, churchyard and two cross bases
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Allerdale (District Authority)
Ireby and Uldale
National Grid Reference:
NY 22391 39301

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of population at the time they were founded. In regions of dispersed settlement parishes were often large and churches less numerous. The densest clusters of parish churches were found in thriving medieval towns. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement. A significant number of surviving examples are identified to be nationally important.

Crosses were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries and are found throughout northern England. They were frequently heavily decorated, have shafts supporting carved cross heads, and may be set within stone bases called socles. Crosses served a variety of functions; some being associated with established churches, others acting as cenotaphs, boundary or route markers, and meeting places. They provide important insights into the art traditions and changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era, and into the impact of Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. In view of this a large number are nationally important. Ireby Old Church and churchyard is a good example of a medieval parish church which eventually became redundant after the construction of a replacement during the 18th century. It was in continuous use for about 700 years and the presence of two cross bases within the churchyard indicates the site was in ecclesiastical use for a considerable period before construction of the present church. Limited excavation during the 1930s located well preserved structural remains of the demolished parts of Ireby Old Church, and further evidence of the church and the medieval graveyard population will exist.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Ireby Old Church, its churchyard, and two pre-Conquest cross bases located in the churchyard to the south of the church. The upstanding remains of the church include the sandstone built 12th century chancel and two aisle columns of the north arcade situated between the now demolished nave and its north aisle. The buried remains of the church include the nave, porch and north aisle. The chancel measures approximately 11m by 6.4m externally and is entered through a door in the west wall. In the east wall there is a line of three round-headed Norman windows dated to c.1170 with a similar window in the gable above. Below the northern of the three windows there is an aumbry, a cupboard or recess used to keep sacred vessels in, and elsewhere in the east wall, fragments of carved medieval stonework have been built into the fabric. The south wall has two large windows with slightly pointed heads which have now been filled in. Adjacent to the eastern of these windows is a piscina, or stone basin in a niche where the Communion or Mass vessels were washed, and next to the piscina there is a an 18th century memorial stone constructed in the classical style. Beneath the east window there is the tomb of George Grage; its side divided into three carved panels, the centre one of which is dated 1626 and bears a shield with an heraldic device. The north wall has a small aumbry, a perpendicular break in the masonry indicating where the chancel ended when first built, and a blocked north doorway. The roof of the chancel is 18th century in its present form but incorporates timbers from its predecessor. Externally the chancel has two medieval carvings incorporated into the fabric of the west wall. Above these is a 19th century bell tower and modern bell. To the west of the chancel there is a grassy platform marking the site of the medieval nave, north aisle and porch, together with two upstanding octagonal sandstone aisle columns which were re-erected in their original positions in 1977. The churchyard was used from early medieval times up to the beginning of the 20th century. To the south of the church there are two pre- Conquest socles, or cross bases; the northern one measures 0.8m by 0.5m by 0.6m high, the southern one measures 1.1m by 0.6m by 0.25m high. Ireby Old Church was built about 1150 on what is thought to have been the site of an earlier church. In its original form the old church consisted of a short chancel, probably with an apse, and a nave. About 1170 the chancel was extended to its present length, and in the 13th century a north aisle was added to the nave and the south porch built. In 1845-6 a new parish church was built in Ireby village. The north aisle, nave and porch of the old church were subsequently demolished. The chancel arch was filled in and provided with doors and the remains of the old church were retained for use at burial services. The chancel was repaired in 1880. In 1971 it was declared redundant along with the churchyard, and in 1975 a programme of conservation and repair was completed. In 1977 the aisle columns were re-erected. The chancel is a Listed Building Grade I, and the aisle columns are Listed Grade II*. Limited excavation during the 1930s confirmed the existence of below ground archaeological features associated with the demolished parts of the church.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Ireby Old Church Cumbria, (1987)
Swift, Rev F B, Bulman, C G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Ireby Church, (1965), 222-39
Swift, Rev F B, Bulman, C G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Ireby Church, (1965), 222-39
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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