The history of the church is an interesting one. Originally a chapel-at-ease of the Kendal Parish Church of Holy Trinity situated in Kirkland, the first St George's Chapel of 1754 was not unlike the Victorian idea of heaven, earth and hell. It occupied the upper part of a building which used to be in the Market Place, close to the present war memorial. The upper storey was the chapel: the ground floor was used as the butter market, whilst below this was the notorious dungeon of the town jail.
The present building, designed by the local architect George Webster, was opened in 1841. When the church was opened, the east end terminated at what are now the chancel steps, but there were no rooms at the west end as now – the porch opened directly into a longer nave. Additionally, there was a large gallery, of which only the front remains, across the back of the nave, approached by winding stairs in both towers. This gallery continued along both sides of the church. By positioning the pulpit where the lectern now stands, it was said that every one of the 1066 seats had a clear view of the preacher. It is interesting to note that, because the river Kent was prone to flooding, the church ground was raised four feet and walled round. The twin octagonal towers were originally 100 feet high, surmounted by spires, but in 1978 it proved necessary to remove these for safety reasons.
The church has seen other major alterations. In 1911 the chancel, vestries, organ loft and transepts were added and the organ moved from the south gallery to its present position. This is the finest Wilkinson organ in the country and was made in 1883 at the Kendal Organ Works, Aynam Road. In 1963 the length of the nave was reduces to create a committee room at the back of the church and a foyer, which later was made into a lady chapel. Above, in place of the gallery, is a large upper hall approached by the original tower stairs or by the staircase at the back of the nave. In the early 2000s a new foyer was built at the front of the Church incorporating new toilets, including disabled facilities, and the provision of a Parish Office. Then in 2013/14 the Kitchen was extended and equipped to modern catering standards to allow the preparation of meals and the Committee Room was refurbished.
There are a number of interesting artefacts in St George's. In the porch is a stone plaque which was designed by a pupil of a school in the parish to commemorate the church's 150th anniversary. It was made by a parishioner. An icon of St George is also to be found in the porch.
At the back of the nave is a list of past clergy and a stone memorial listing past benefactors from the time of the old chapel. There are also several brass memorial plates around the nave. In the north aisle, beneath the union flag, there are two memorials – one for those members of the Parish and the other for employees of Provincial Insurance who gave their lives in the service of their country in two world wars.
The aumbry lamp, on the sanctuary wall, was made by a local student, Lisa Murphy. It can be turned to show each of its three faces which represent the Holy Trinity. The choir with its beautifully carved oak stalls, and the sanctuary, are the most cherished part of the church. The sanctuary floor is made of white marble from Carrara in Italy and crinoidal limestone from a local quarry in Dent. At the end of the vestry corridor to the left of the font is a Chapel in which is to be found a wall hanging created by a local weaver, Susan Foster (now deceased).
Directions and Parking
St George's Church is on the corner of Castle Street (one-way) and St George's Walk. From any direction, follow signs to Kendal Railway Station, and at the small roundabout (County Hotel) follow signs to Sedbergh A684 (one-way system). After 100m turn left into Castle Street, opposite the Riverside Hotel and immediately before the bridge over the river. The church will be found on the right opposite the repair garage, before the Castle Inn.
Limited on street parking may be available in Castle Street and other nearby side streets, plus Kendal Museum car park (Pay and Display).