Also known as Kirkby Lonsdale Parish Church, in the diocese of Carlisle, the Church of St Mary the Virgin is Norman in origin, probably built between 1093 and 1130, although there was an old Saxon Church on the site before. The church displays a range of architectural styles, some dating from the early 12th century. The north aisle has three magnificent Norman columns, similar to ones in Durham Cathedral, with a diamond pattern on the stone. These represent an era of extensive church building and re-building, in contrast to the remaining less ornate columns. The first pillar has a carving of ‘The Green Man’, with foliage emerging from the mouth.
Another Norman feature is the outer door archway on the tower, displaying a variety of styles of stonework. The tower houses six bells, the oldest dating from 1633, and the newest from 1724. The stained glass is 19th century, with the east window lancets showing traditional narrative scenes – the important stages in the life of Christ from the Annunciation to the Ascension.
The church has seen many alterations over the years, but perhaps the most significant were in 1866 by architect E. G. Paley (of Paley & Austin – also responsible for the renovation of Holker Hall). He raised the roof, giving the outer north aisle a separate roof, reseated the church, re-floored the chancel, added a south porch and installed a screen and a font.
In the churchyard are ten monuments that have been listed at Grade II, including a monument to the Burrow family, dating from the middle of the 18th century. Also there is a table tomb from the early 18th century and a monument to John Dent dated 1709 and a table tomb to Rowland Tarham dated 1716. To the south of the church is a monument to two members of the Preston family and also a memorial to five women who died in a fire in the Rose and Crown Inn in 1820.
St Mary’s continues to play an integral role in the life of Kirkby Lonsdale, with active services and being the host to many community events throughout the year.