St Lupus Church, Malew

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August, 2018

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I have always liked St Lupus. It is a lovely church and definitely worth visiting as it is one of the oldest churches on the island. Dating from the C12th, this was the parish church of the large and disperse parish of Malew, which included Castletown and Ballasalla. It was one of the most important churches on the island. In the C19th, new churches were built closer to the settlements, and St Lupus did become a bit forgotten and unloved. It has recently undergone a major restoration and is looking good again. On a sunny day, the church glows.

It is a small traditional Manx church, typical of churches before the Victorians started restoring or building new Neo-Gothic style churches. The very large graveyard, which now spreads across the road, is still the only burial ground for Castletown and much of the parish.

The original church may have been built on the site of an early Celtic keeil in the C12th. Very little remains of this church, except possibly the font. This is thought to be C12th and spent many years neglected outside the south door before being returned into the church. The base and lid are later.

The nave is the oldest part of the church. However, it has been rebuilt and altered many times over the years, and there seems to be little information about the early history.

The chancel dates from 1781, when it was rebuilt and enlarged. The north transept or ‘wing’ was added in 1782 as more space was needed in the church. It was paid for by the people of Castletown and offered them seating in perpetuity providing they funded future maintenance of it. They felt that an extension here was preferable to extending at the west end of the nave as they would be closer to the focal point of the services.
The church avoided Victorian restorations, still retaining its Georgian interior with box pews and a gallery, although the pulpit, altar and altar rails are modern. It was reroofed in 1929 when skylights were let into the roof to increase the amount of natural light in the church. A timber dated 1688 was found which now hangs on the north wall above the gallery.

The walls of the chancel are lined with memorials to the great and good of the parish. There is also a modern memorial to William Christian of Ronaldsway, otherwise known as Illiam Dhone, who was accused of high treason and shot in 1663 and was buried in the church.  He is regarded by many as a Manx martyr.

The lovely stained glass windows date from the end of the C19th and commemorate many important local families. The stained glass window at the back of the nave was installed in 1922 as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War. Their names are recorded on brass plates on either side of the window.

A steep staircase behind the font leads up to the gallery. The west gallery provided seating for the tenant farmers who did not own their land and could not afford to rent a pew in the nave. The pews are made from whatever wood they could find. The narrow north gallery was added in 1818 by Mr Thomas Moore of Billtown and Great Meadow as a private pew. It was restored in 2016 by the Riggall family who still own and manage Great Meadow House.

Tucked away in the west gallery are the remains of three crosses found in the local area. Two are simple boulders with crosses carved on them. The larger stone, known as the Sigurd Stone, is C10th. Only the shaft remains and the carving is now eroded and it is difficult to make out the detail of the Sigurd legend. There are plans to display the crosses in the body of the church, if money becomes available.

The church is on the A3 just over a mile north of Castletown. The nearest post code for north of Castletown is IM9 1TE. The grid reference is SC 268694. The building is open from 9.30 until dusk every day. It is a lovely church and well worth finding.

More pictures of the “church”: and “crosses.”:


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