The Very Revd. Henry Edward Champneys Stapleton MBE was Vicar of Seaton Ross from 1961 to 1967, moving to Carlisle to become Dean from 1988 to 1998. Whilst at Seaton Ross, he penned a history of the church and the village. This page and the attached document reproduce the church material with Henry’s kind permission and consent. Additional material has been included where appropriate to record what has happened in the 55 years since it was originally written.
The church is the one building where evidence of the true age of Seaton Ross can be found – in the form of a Norman font.
Extracts from the article:
The Church is dedicated to St Edmund whose cult began soon after his martyrdom in the ninth century.
The present building consists of Tower, Chancel and Nave, in red brick and dates from 1789. However, there is evidence of a previous church building on this site and these likely go back to at least Norman times: Under the Tower is a large Norman font dating from the eleventh century. Its large size is no doubt dictated by the fact that in early times the font was filled and children were plunged under the water.
In the twelfth century Geoffrey FitzPain gave to the monks of Warter Priory the Church and lands called Prestthwarth (Priest-bridge)… This land was to be the site of a new Monastery but the proposal was never carried out, although Pope Innocent Ⅲ gave it his approval in 1140. Nevertheless the Church was confirmed in 1170-1180 as the property of Warter. When Warter Priory was dissolved in 1536 the Church received a number of vestments from the monastery.
The Canons of 1604 ordered the Ten Commandments to be: “Set up on the East End of every church and chapel where the people may best see and read the same”. The Commandment Boards show signs of water having come in from the roof and these may have been on the East Wall of the original church. The Ten Commandments are on one board, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer on the other. For centuries the Priest used these as his blackboard to teach his candidates for Confirmation.
The Parliamentary Survey of 1650 refers to ‘Seton Chappell’ and it was about this time that the bell was put up. It has the inscription SOLI DEO GLORIA PAX HOMINIBUS (to God alone by the glory – peace towards men) and the initials TT which probably are the initials of a seventeenth-century bell founder, Thomas Tompion.
We may assume the pre-1789 church was built of wattle and daub or rough masonry, like Bielby Church. It probably had a small tower for the bells.
The Church was rebuilt in 1789 – ‘one new uniform complete fabric perfectly decent and in all respects becoming the House of God.’ We cannot fail to admire the co-operative effort – the parishioners build the Chancel, two wealthier members supply the upper part of the Tower and the Cornice, the Squire improved the Chancel and the Vicar the Pulpit and Reading Desk.
We are fortunate in having William Watson’s Notebook of 1845 which shows the church as it was then rebuilt. The outline is the same as today. There were Georgian sash windows, no window in the Chancel. The congregation sat in box pews, the panelling of which was reused as the dado, pulpit and reading desk in the 1901 restoration.
Extensive repairs were carried out in 1833 but little was altered apart from the addition of the Memorandum Board about Henry Watson’s bequest and the addition of the candelabrum over the font. Outside, the sundial was put up by William Watson in 1825. His own tombstone records the gift of the Sun Dial:
‘At this church I so often with pleasure did call
That I placed a sun dial upon the church wall.’
In 1901 Mr. Temple Moore, the famous Victorian Church Architect, undertook the restoration of the Church which cost £600 (£72k today); he bricked up the lower part of the nave windows and inserted a new one in the Chancel. The gallery was taken down and the ceiling of the Nave removed.
Continue to the next section – The Church Yard