St Cuthbert, Great Salkeld

I called at the St Cuthbert’s Church at Great Salkeld this month. It is up in old Cumberland, not that far from the Scots border, and a redoubtable fortress it is. That huge tower might belong to a castle as much a church. Its thick walls have a formiddable iron door interlaced with bars, and was thought to be a place of refuge for locals (or just the rector?) when marauding Scots paid a visit. The entrance to the church, below, while incredibly decorated with Norman stonework, is only 2ft 7 inches wide, another indication of the building’s defensive posture. So narrow a door would have prevented the surliest, best armed warriors from entering, at least in hurry. Further adding to the place’s martial feel, it boasts a set of armour from the civil war, believed to have been captured at a local skirmish or when Scottish General Leslie’s troops passed through. For all this militarism, it is a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable place to visit.


Although Scots raiders are now a thing of the past (and a current crop of Scottish politicians wish to further separate our English and Scottish interactions), it is always worth remembering that the Church of God is on a war footing. Against the world (i.e. its values), the flesh (our sinful natures) and the devil (that ancient, fallen angel) do we wrestle and make war. We have peace with God and with each other, but may our churches be places of refuge and defence, as well as bastions of truth and light from which sorties and assault parties emerge and sally.


Blessed be the Lord my Rock,

Who trains my hands for war,

And my fingers for battle—

My lovingkindness and my fortress,

My high tower and my deliverer,

My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,

Who subdues my people under me.

A Psalm of David, Psalm 144, verses 1-2, NKJV.