27 March, 2014

St Patrick’s Church, Patterdale

St Patrick’s Church, Patterdale

Patterdale is the name of the valley running south from the head of Ullswater in the east of the Lake District in north-west England.

Map link: Patterdale

The name was recorded as Patrichesdale, meaning ‘Patrick’s Valley’, in 1184 (Gambles 1994).

There is a local legend that the 'Patrick' of the place name refers to St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He is said to have visited north-west England in the 5th century and conducted baptisms at St Patrick’s Well, a spring located a mile or so north of the present village (you can see it on the above map link).

Sadly, as far as I know there is no evidence for this, and a simpler explanation may be that the valley takes its name from a later Irish settler, perhaps one of the inhabitants of Norse Dublin who moved to Cumbria in the 10th century. However, it isn’t impossible that St Patrick may have had connections with the valley.  St Patrick says in his Confessio that he was born and brought up in Britain at a place called Bannaven Taburniae, where his father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest. He was kidnapped by raiders as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland.  Some years later he escaped back to Britain, but later returned to Ireland to preach Christianity to the land of his captors.

Bannaven Taburniae has not been identified. Since Patrick was taken to Ireland, a location on the west coast of Britain seems likely.  On the basis of the name, it has been suggested that it could be the Roman fort of Banna (now Birdoswald) on Hadrian’s Wall) or the Roman fort at Glannoventa (now Ravenglass).  Birdoswald was evidently occupied by someone rich enough to build a succession of two timber feasting halls at some time in the fifth or sixth century (see earlier posts on Birdoswald: Post-Roman activity and Birdoswald: Dating the post-Roman halls).

If Patrick was indeed from the region that is now Cumbria, it is not impossible that he preached and baptised in the area, either before he set off on his mission to Ireland, or a during a later visit.

The present-day church of St Patrick was built in 1853, replacing a Tudor chapel.  It is an attractive small church in a beautiful setting, especially in spring when the churchyard is full of daffodils.

Daffodils at St Patrick’s Church, Patterdale
There are some interior pictures here, and some pictures of the embroidered wall hangings on the church website.

When I was there, a pair of great tits were nesting in a crevice in the stonework in the front wall, although, alas, they didn’t pose by the entrance for me to take a photograph.  This song thrush prospecting for grubs in the churchyard was more obliging:
Song thrush in St Patrick’s Churchyard, Patterdale

And it wouldn’t be spring in the Lake District without some adorably cute lambs.

Cute twin lambs

Gambles R. Lake District place names. Dalesman, 1994. ISBN: 0-85206-814-X.

Map links


Kathryn Warner said...

Gorgeous pics of a lovely little church! I always love your Lake District posts :-)

Carla said...

Thanks, Kathryn! I am very fond of the Lake District :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

Me too :-) Hoping to get home for a visit sometime in May or June.

Constance Brewer said...

What a beautiful little church! Thanks for sharing.

Gabriele Campbell said...

They quite successfully managed to make that church look old.

Carla said...

Kathryn - Hope you have a good trip! May/June is beautiful in the Lakes.

Constance - thanks!

Gabriele - well, 1853 is quite a while ago now :-)