St Andrew's Church, Kirkandrews on Esk

St Andrew's Church of Kirkandrews on Esk, Cumberland, was once the centre of the lawless ‘’Debateable Land’ straddling the fluid Anglo-Scottish border. It is the most northerly church in England, and a strange one at that. 


The exterior of the church is a pleasing and symmetrical Georgian, with its large, rounded windows and a tasteful classical theme, with its beautiful, Italianate bellcote tower. 

Yet the interior takes visitors by surprise; it is a splendid and grandiose Baroque, with a gilded altar screen and a reredos containing a copy of Raphael's Transfiguration. The Georgian box pews were pulled out, the pulpit lowered and the Florentine ceiling repainted. This internal grandstanding was the work of distinguished architect Temple Moore in the early 1890s.

If the Georgian Church of England was genuinely protestant (if somewhat lifeless), the late Victorian Church of England was ‘moving higher’, and had fallen back in love with its Catholic heritage. Aesthetically, it is wonderful; a surprising contrast to the measured dignity and sobriety of the outer walls. Theologically, I find it pretty revolting. When a pulpit is lowered and an altar raised, theology is amiss. Furthermore, I suspect the insides were made more elegant to better contrast them with the dour plainness of the presbyterian Scottish Kirk, whose southernmost premises lie just a few miles to the north. The layout of our churches ands chapels bespeak the priorities of our hearts, the precision of our theology and the direction of our travel.

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  Rev 3:17-18