Burton in Kendal Church of St James

Has been described as a Rejected Fortified Ecclesiastical site, and also as a Rejected Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameBurton in Kendal Church of St James
Alternative Names
Historic CountryWestmorland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishBurton In Kendal

Parish Church. Base of Tower and North-West angle of Nave C12, North aisle possibly C13, North Chapel late C13, South Arcade to Nave and South Aisle C14, North Arcade, North Aisle and South Chapel late C15 or early C16. Restored, Chancel and North Chapel rebuilt and clerestory added in 1844; further restoration and South Arcade to Chancel rebuilt in 1872. Limestone rubble with limestone and sandstone dressings, slate roofs. West Tower, Nave with aisles, Chancel, North and South Chapels. 3-stage Tower has later embattled parapets, C14 West window with 2 trefoiled ogee lights, square-headed window in North wall and early C16 2-light windows in each wall of bell-chamber. South wall has gabled porch and C14 doorway with chamfered jambs and 2-centred head, 2 windows c.1330 (RCHM), each of 2 trefoiled ogee lights, and 2 C16 windows with moulded ogee lights and reset doorway c1300 between them. East wall has C19 East window in rebuilt wall, C13 3-light window, with pointed heads to lights, in North Chapel and reset window c.1300, of 3 trefoiled lights with intersecting tracery, with carved head over, in South Chapel. West wall has C16 2-light window with remains of moulded label and headstops to North of Tower and partly restored early C16 3-light window with moulded label to South. North wall has 3 2- or 3-light windows, one reset C14 2-light window with ogee heads to lights to right and traces of blocked doorway. Interior has 9-bay king-post roof to Nave and Chancel (no Chancel Arch) the 4 most Western probably early C16, others later; C16 or earlier 8-bay roof to South Aisle; probably C16 roof to North Aisle. South Aisle has 2 recesses in South wall: one with trefoiled head and round drain and one with chamfered jambs. 5-sided oak Pulpit has enriched C17 panels assembled with C19 posts, base and cornice. Glass mostly C19, including window by Shrigley and Hunt of Lancaster dated 1877 in South Aisle. Fragments of medieval cross shafts

(Listed Building Report)

Parish Church of St. James (Plate 11) stands in the middle of the parish. The walls are of local limestone rubble with sandstone dressings and the roofs are slate-covered. The earliest part of the existing building is the 12th-century West Tower; at this period the nave appears to have been rather wider than, but of the same length as, the present nave; the N.W. angle is still preserved in the W. wall of the N. aisle. A N. aisle was perhaps added in the 13th century, and late in the same century the N. Chapel was added. The S. arcade was built and the South Aisle added in the 14th century. Late in the 15th or early in the 16th century the N. arcade was built and the North Aisle added or re-built; at the same time the chancel-arch was removed and the South Chapel added. The South Porch is probably of mediæval date, but retains no old features. The church was restored in 1844, when the Chancel and North Chapel were re-built and the clearstorey added; the church was again restored in 1872, when the S. arcade of the chancel was re-built.

The West Tower (15¾ ft. by 15 ft.) is of 12th-century origin and of three storeys with a later embattled parapet. The 12th-century tower-arch is semi-circular and of one plain order with chamfered imposts. The late 14th-century W. window is of two trefoiled ogee lights with tracery in a semi-circular head. The second storey has a square-headed light in the S. wall. The bell-chamber has, in each wall, an early 16th-century window of two elliptical-headed lights. (RCHME 1936)

It has been suggested that the 4 feet thick tower walls are indicative of a pele, but this is unlikely since the nave arch is of the same date, and it would mean that the nave was part of a defensible structure. (PastScape ref. Perriam and Robinson 1998)

There has been some suggestion by a few authors that the tower of Grade I listed St James at Burton in Kendal "may have been a pele" (to quote the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 1901) I've included a few photos of the tower here for reference. Though the tower, dating from the 12th century boasts walls some four feet thick in places, and no windows at ground floor level, it's very unlikely that this would have formed part of a fortified church, as at Great Salkeld for example. (Matthew Emmott 2014)

Gatehouse Comments

Walls 4 feet thick are not exceptional in a C12 bell tower. There is nothing to suggest residential accommodation in the bell tower. Can be rejected.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSD530769
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Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 331 (plan)
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (Harmondsworth) p. 237
  • RCHME, 1936, An inventory of the historical monuments in Westmorland (HMSO) p. 63 no. 1 online transcription


  • 1905, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 5 p. 278 online copy
  • Chalmers, J., 1895, 'Burton Church' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 13 p. 64-68 online copy