From at least Saxon times a place of worship has stood where St Michael and All Angels church is today in the village of Beetham—coins dating from the early 11th century were found buried in the church near the foundations of an earlier building. In the late 1800s the church served a large parish that included Arnside, Witherslack, Meathop and Ulpha.
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The rectangular, asymmetrical church is constructed of mostly rough rubble walls—limestone with sandstone dressing. The 16th century roof is oak-beamed with five bays in the nave and four in the chancel. The church has a 15-foot square tower at its western end. The 12th century tower is off-centre; the six-bell chamber was added in the 16th century. Above the door of the tower is a window that contains medieval glass.
Visible in the church are other 11th and 12th century features: the tower arch is early Norman while the arches of the south side are late Norman. The north arcade and the two bay arcades of the north and south chapels date from the 15th century. The north aisle, added in the 14th century, contains a number of memorials.
The font cover, made of oak, is dated 1636. Two effigies of Beetham family members on a tomb chest date to the 15th century. These were damaged along with other parts of the church in 1647 when a mob and a group of Cromwell’s soldiers desecrated the church, destroying most of the medieval glass.
Other medieval glass windows are found in the Lady Chapel. The remainder of the stained glass windows date from the late 1800s, as does the organ. Restoration work was done in 1872 with a revival Gothic porch being added. Here is an effigy of St Michael. Both the pulpit and fine chancel screen date from after the restoration. The newest addition is an oak high altar consecrated in 1999. At the same time the Lady Chapel was restored.
In the church is a window commemorating St Lioba, and her life is celebrated each year on September 28. It is thought the Saxon church on the site was named after her. St Lioba was sent to Germany as the leader of a group of nuns in AD748 where she became widely known and respected. A shrine dedicated to her is located near Slackhead.
In the churchyard are a number of slate memorial stones. Near the porch is what is thought to be the base of an old cross, demolished in 1654. A rose pergola leads to the churchyard gate.
Beetham is 1˝ miles south of Milnthorpe on the A6.
Photos by Graeme Dougal