of Holy Trinity & St. George, Kendal
The present church of the Holy Trinity and St. George described
here replaced an earlier chapel in 27 Stramongate. A house in Stramongate
had been acquired from the Braithwaite family some time after 1762.
Robert Stephenson of Dodding Green bought this house in which was
a chapel in disguise. Later, these premises were to become a new
chapel in 1793. The present church and the 1793 chapel were the
work of Rev. Thomas Wilkinson, priest of this parish for a remarkable
sixty years. Today’s church was built at a cost of £4000
and the foundation stone was laid in October 1835. It was opened
on the 15th September 1837 and met the needs of a rising Catholic
The building was designed by the renowned local architect George
Webster who was responsible for other fine buildings in Kendal.
The neo-Gothic style of architecture was fashionable in the 1830’s
and this church is a good example of it. From the outside, before
you enter the vestibule, glance up at the statue of St. George in
the act of slaying a dragon. This fine piece of sculpture is the
work of Thomas Duckett, a trained wood carver and employee of Francis
and George Webster, the architects. Two more examples of Duckett’s
work may be seen inside the church. These are statues, Ecce Homo
on the left and St. George on the right. Two other sculptures of
the Virgin Mary and St. Mary Magdalene have disappeared. The ceiling
pendants and paneling are also Duckett’s work. The floor of
the church was raised in 1908 after the devastating floods which
resulted in damage to the fabric and furniture. Electricity replaced
gas in 1927.
Inevitably over a span of 165 years this building has undergone
many changes. Some of them have been circumstantial, e.g. the raising
of the level of the floor in 1908 to cope with the constant flooding
by the overflowing River Kent. Some changes have reflected the various
liturgical renewals of the past two centuries, particularly those
of the Second Vatican Council. In recent years the parish has sought
to stabilize the church fabric and make it more watertight, and
latterly to enhance the interior of the church for use by the parishioners
in worshipping God.
Until recently the entrance to the church on New Road was rather
dark and drear.
In 2002 a new vestibule and narthex were created
using the existing ‘gathering space.’ This has imaginatively
opened up the entrance and given an immediate view of the beautiful
stained glass window behind the altar. In this phase of works a
piety stall has been installed. Once through the glass screen door
into the church you are greeted with the stained glass windows in
the church which are of fine quality and enhance the church interior
by their richness of colour.
Behind the altar is a three light window.
In the central light is shown the founder of the church, Rev. Thomas
Wilkinson, the long serving pastor and priest in Kendal. He is shown
kneeling, offering the church he built to Christ. In the left light,
St. Cuthbert, patron of the diocese, looks on. In the right hand
light is St. George. These windows are the work of John Hardman
of Birmingham. The two chancel windows depict, right, St. Joseph
and, left, St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary. Both were made by
H. Barnett of Newcastle upon Tyne.
On the south wall is a window
dedicated to Rev. James Gibson who followed Fr. Wilkinson, serving
47 years. It is a fine piece of design and shows The Good Shepherd
and St. Peter. A second window depicts St. John, holding in his
hand a quill pen, and below, St. Simon’s crucifixion and the
execution of St. Dorothea. Both windows are by Hardman. The middle
window on the south wall is by Meyer of Munich. It is undated but
is a very good example of late 19th century glass. On the north
wall a beautiful window shows the Madonna Child with St. George
and St. Catherine. The artist is unknown. In 2002 the windows were
fitted with uplights. In the vestibule are four small glass panels
which are very old and earlier than the church. They are of continental
origin. It is tempting to suggest that Fr. Wilkinson brought these
with him from Douai when the college there was closed.
The present organ, situated close to the chancel, is a new addition
installed in April 2000. It is an electronic organ which uses computer
technology. It has ‘chips’ which have digitally sampled
English cathedral organs, the sound of which is faithfully reproduced
on the new instrument. This organ superceded the previous one which
was situated in the gallery at the rear of the church and was brought
here from Whitbarrow Lodge in 1935. That organ was an adapted Aeolian
Organ which has been transferred to the Musical Museum in Brentford.
It replaced an earlier small pedal harmonium which, in its turn,
replaced the original 1837 organ by Davis of Liverpool.
One of the two wooden side altars, that dedicated to the Sacred
Heart, was constructed and carved by W. W. Cornthwaite, who was
organist at this church for 40 years through to 1925. The other
altar on the opposite wall bears a statue of the Virgin Mary and
Child. This altar was at one time used as the altar of repose. It
was used temporarily in 1908, for the celebration of Mass when the
floor was raised. Mass was said in St. George’s Hall. Both
these side altars were originally to be seen beneath the chancel
In the 1980s certain works were undertaken on the sanctuary to bring
it into line with the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
These works were completed in 2002 when the original altar was taken
back to its place under the tabernacle and a new marble altar, with
matching ambo and presidential chair, installed. This has meant
a slight re-modeling of the sanctuary which is now bound by the
chancel arch. Two items retained from a previous re-ordering come
from the pulpit used in the 1973 chapel. They are the small carving
of a lamb, now to be seen on the church side wall of the piety stall
and a panel depicting the descent of the Holy Spirit which is now
on the wall by the font. Both are of great beauty and extremely
high quality. Also on the wall by the font hangs a panel taken from
the baptistery which was housed where the confessional now is. In
2000 the baptismal font was moved onto the sanctuary to allow a
space to be created at the front of church for the use of those
The nearby panel depicts the Resurrection. It is not of such good
quality as that of the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless was carved
by someone with a love of their faith. It is of great age and probably
predates the 1793 chapel. It may well be a panel which formed part
of a secret chapel of the penal times and is the most valuable object
in the church. The crucifix was purchased by Fr. Gracey soon after
he arrived in 1932. It hung on the wall below the chancel window
of St. Joseph and the child Jesus. It has now returned to a position
envisaged by Fr. Gracey, suspended above the altar of sacrifice,
but in such a position as not to obscure the windows.
The two Holy Water stoups at the entrance to the church are the
work of Sylvester Mooney and bear the date 1837, the year the church
was built. The Holy Water stoups are of Kendal marble, that is,
flawless polished limestone.
The church today presents a different appearance to that of 1836.
Perhaps the raising of the floor gives a feeling of greater width.
The roof timbers then were dark in colour and there were two heavy
dark oak doors beneath the chancel windows. The altar rails, dark
with gilded ornamentations, curved round to the chancel wall allowing
access to the two doors and connection passage which ran round the
rear of the apse leading on to the sacristy. There was an ornate
reredos covering the entire wall behind the altar. The three bays
of the original altar where richly carved and gilded. The original
pews were gated and attracted a quarterly rent.
A metal tie bar can be seen spanning the sanctuary arch. This was
placed in position as recently as October 1998. It was speedily
followed by a second tie bar which spans the gallery and also acts
as a guard rail. These were needed to remedy structural defects
and cost in excess of £10,000. In 2001 the former organ gallery
was upgraded and now provides extra seating capacity.
The upgrading of the lighting system in the body of the church took
place in 1999. This provided ten chandelier light fittings which
enhanced the ambience of the church.
In the Jubilee year 2000 the parish decided to mark this celebration
of the incarnation of Christ by installing an electronic bell system.
This was principally to sound the ‘Angelus’, that prayer
which recounts the incarnation of Christ. It also had the added
advantage of giving the church other bell peals to use.
List of Parish Priests at Kendal since 1803:
||Rev. Thomas Wilkinson
||Rev. James Gibson
||Rev. William Stevenson
||Rev. Henry Gillett
||Rev. A. L. Gracey
||Rev. J. C. Cromblehome
||Rev. Thomas Candlish
||Rev. John J. Moxham
||Rev. William McBride
||Rev. Michael Taylor
||Rev. Alfred Parker
||Rev. Christopher Loughran
||Rev. Paul Embery
||Rev. Hugh Pollock