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Cockermouth Post Article May 2014 – All Saints' Church

There is presently a debate about the future of All Saints’ Church in Cockermouth and I’ve felt a growing concern that this lovely building, a key part of Cockermouth’s identity and history, should even be being considered for closure. I appreciate that the maintenance of old churches, with a falling church-going population, is a major concern for those responsible for such buildings, but All Saints’ is about so much more than the building itself, or the people who may or may not use it for worship.

If you take a walk around town, or view it from afar, the spire of All Saints’ Church will be visible from many locations, the Church standing serenely on top of a hill, with its delightful churchyard and grounds around it, a picture in springtime when all the daffodils are in bloom. Looking at its history, a church has stood on that site for hundreds of years, certainly from the time of Edward III in the fourteenth century and quite probably before that. The picture shows the old All Saints’ Church that stood from 1711 to 1850, when it was destroyed by fire. Back in those days, before the existence of local government, the church was very much the centre of the community, concerning itself not only with maintaining the church but also with matters concerning the town itself. For example, in January 1847 there was a notice to the effect that a Public Vestry meeting would be held in All Saints’ to consider the necessity of having a Local Act for Paving, Lighting, Watching, Cleansing and Improving the Town and Township of Cockermouth (‘Wordsworth’s Birthplace’, John Bolton).

It was to All Saints’ Church that William Wordsworth came as a boy (and where his father is buried). He received his early education in what was then the Old Grammar School, now the Saints’ Rooms. William writes:

I remember my mother only in some few situations, one of which was her pinning a nosegay to my breast when I was going to say the catechism in the church, as was customary before Easter. I remember also telling her on one week day that I had been at church, for our school stood in the churchyard, and we had frequent opportunities of seeing what was going on there. The occasion was, a woman doing penance in the church in a white sheet. My mother commended my having been present, expressing a hope that I should remember the circumstances for the rest of my life. “But,” said I, “Mama, they did not give me a penny, as I had been told they would.” “Oh,” said she, recanting her praises, “if that was your motive, you were very properly disappointed.”
(‘Wordsworth, A Life in Letters’, by Juliet Barker)

Whether we need two Anglican churches in Cockermouth is another debate (Christ Church began life in 1865), but All Saints’ Church is a focal point in the town, an important part of what makes Cockermouth a good place to live, and why people like to come here to visit it. Just imagine if it were abandoned; fast forward a few years to a vandalised building, looking the worse for wear, with people complaining about an eyesore and wondering why we let such a gem deteriorate in this way. There must surely be alternatives to what is being considered regarding All Saints’ future. Please make your views known if you feel the same way.

Gloria Edwards

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