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Church of Low Furness

One Church five locations

 The Church of St. Mary and St. Michael, Urswick.

 The Early Church

In 1123 Stephen de Blois (later King Stephen of England 1135-1154) gave land at Tulketh near Preston to monks of the Order of Savigny.  Four years later he wrote asking them to come to Furness to set up an abbey and gave them the land on which they built Furness Abbey.  In 1148 the Order of Savigny was amalgamated with the Cistercian Order, but before that date the monks had already claimed patronage of Urswick Church.  Tradition has it that the Church had already been in existence for 200-300 years before that date, something that was borne out by the discovery of a fragment of an Anglo-Scandanavian cross in 1909 and the Tunwinni Cross in 1911.  The latter, found in the wall of the Church when a window was being enlarged, was originally dated to the 9th century by W. G. Collingwood, and is now being suggested as possibly from the late 7th-early 8th century.

Whichever of these two dates we take, both would indicate that Urswick was the mother church of the Furness area, due to the inscription from the Tunwinni Cross indicating the existence of a literate Christian community here.  There is also the strong suggestion that Urswick was the early centre of Celtic Christianity in Furness, which may be further supported by a recent theory proposed by the British Geological Survey, that in the 8th century and before the sea came into Urswick Tarn.

 The Dedication of the Church

The original charter, giving land to the monks who built Furness Abbey, refers to an already established Church of St. Mary in Urswick.  Later reference was made to St. Mary in the Fields.  Now the Church is known as St. Mary and St. Michael’s, though no one seems to know just when the name of St. Michael was added. However, in his honour Rushbearing takes place each year on the Sunday nearest to St. Michael’s Day (29th September).

Points of Interest


Urswick Church

1 Church Road

Great Urswick



LA12 0TA

More details of Urswick church can be found here

Tunwinni Cross