Drawing 350: Grasmere Church
Direction of view: E
Notes: This Grade 1 listed church is dedicated to King Oswald of Northumbria, who is believed to have preached on the site some time before his death in battle in 642AD. The church, which is probably the third one to stand on the site, dates back to 1250, and William Wordsworth is buried in the churchyard. Wainwright’s viewpoint is in the grounds of a garden centre. Lighting is best mid – late afternoon, to get sun on both sides of the church tower.
Comments: I first took this picture on slide film on 6th April 1977, during the Easter holidays of my first year at University. It was a day out with Andrew Amos and Peter Messenger, and we snapped a clutch of sketches around Wythburn and Rydal, before heading to Grasmere and up Easedale for a walk on the fells. My photo wasn’t good enough to display here; instead, here is the picture taken by Peter Messenger.
I visited this location on 27th July 2012, after the preview of the Lake Artists Society summer exhibition in Grasmere village hall. Some of the cladding near the top of the tower had fallen, and a sign outside the church proclaimed “Danger – falling masonry”. Fortunately the only thing visible from AW’s viewpoint was a small light patch near the top of the tower. My next photo was taken on the same occasion four years later: 29th July 2016. The light patch of masonry was still visible, but the danger signs had been removed. Inside the church, a couple were “practising” for their wedding the following day.
In November 2017, it was reported that a major project to replace hazardous render on the church tower had been completed at a cost of £270,000; and the new lime mortar render would ensure protection and breathability. Its cream and yellow colours are very striking compared to its drab predecessor (and the drab walls of the rest of the church). Earlier in the 20th century, the walls were all of bare masonry.
The other picture was taken on 23rd July 2019. Two men in a cherry picker were attending to the clock on the shadowed face of the tower. I went into the church, where an organist was practising Pachelbel’s “Canon”, and I sat and listened: a very calming experience.
This sketch also appears on page 105 of Westmorland Heritage, page 167 of Wainwright in Lakeland, and a different drawing is on page 29 of A Coast to Coast Walk.