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The First St. Bridget's Lecture - Thursday May 19th 2011
St Bridget's Bridekirk: The Hidden History of a Parish Church
Dr Hugh Doherty Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford

We were fortunate to be able to hear an excellent and very detailed lecture on 'St. Bridget's Bridekirk: The Hidden History of a Parish Church' given by Dr Hugh Doherty, Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.

Hugh's lecture was filled with a wealth of fascinating detail about our church and those who lived in the area and created the buildings and its artefacts from the twelfth century onwards.

He explained that the dedication to St. Bridget suggests adherence to a cult of Bridget, which was linked to Ireland, and which spread over the whole of that wider north western area which relied on the sea as its means of communication. There is a suggestion that this cult grew out of Scandinavian settlers and the Scandinavian-style runes (writing) on the font, and the presence of Norse Christian names in the area at the time would tend to confirm this.

He revealed to us that St. Bridget's was not simply an ordinary country church, but was in fact a very important and ancient Minster Church, which would be in receipt of significant gifts. Architectural features from the ruin of the former church in the churchyard are present today in the Victorian church, and these, he considered were exceptional for a twelfth century church, and would only have been present in a building enjoying generous endowment from rich and influential local people. These features include the arch which was taken from the old church and installed in the Victorian building behind the present organ, the entrance porch archway, and of course, the font. The presence of these and other evidence suggests a local community of great importance and power.

We are able to discover much of the early history of the area because there is useful preserved evidence of this early history in records of visits made to Bridekirk by William Dugdale and his clerk Gregory King made in the 17th Century whilst surveying the area. Fortunately these records survive, though they are in Latin, and thus not able to be understood by many of us.

We must record our thanks to Dr. Doherty for so freely giving his valuable time to us on this occasion.

 

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Bridekirk Parish Council, Cumbria