There’s a first time for everything, so here am I writing about a Victorian neo-Norman church. Amazing! More amazing, however, is the Norman font here which must rank, surely, amongst England’s most important church artefacts. It was this that drew me to Bridekirk and it would be easy to dismiss the church itself. I was so impressed with the church, however, that I felt it would be wrong to treat as just the host for the font!
Bridekirk is just beyond the western fringe of the Lake District close to Cockermouth, There was a wooden church here but it was replaced by a Norman stone one in 1130. It became so dilapidated that it was demolished in 1868 and a new one built with its east end close to the west end of the old one. Some fragments of the old church’s chancel are still visible.
The builders, Cory & Ferguson, opted for a neo-Norman church built on a cruciform plan - that is, with a central tower and two transepts - and with an apsidal chancel. There are none of the decorative flights of fancy so beloved of the Norman builders: this church has an austere, almost Methodist, feel to it. The exterior is faced with stone but the interior is all of brick, giving a somewhat “industrial” feel to it. If you were to be dropped into it you might guess it to be located in Birmingham or Manchester rather than in rural Cumbria. Pevsner says pithily: “...all competently and dispassionately done”.
The builders did, however, retain one or two elements of the old church. The south door, complete with faded carved tympanum and the doorway now