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St John the Baptist's Church, Tunstall facts for kids

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St John the Baptist Church,
Tunstall Church - - 1992925.jpg
St John the Baptist Church, Tunstall,
from the southwest
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OS grid reference SD 614,739
Location Tunstall, Lancashire
Country England
Denomination Anglican
Website St John the Baptist, Tunstall
Status Parish church
Dedication John the Baptist
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade I
Designated 4 October 1967
Architect(s) Austin and Paley (restoration)
Architectural type Church
Style Gothic
Capacity 250
Materials Sandstone rubble, slate roof
Parish Tunstall, St John the Baptist, Melling, St Wilfrid,
and Leck, St Peter
Deanery Tunstall
Archdeaconry Lancaster
Diocese Blackburn
Province York

St John the Baptist Church is located to the northeast of the village of Tunstall, Lancashire, England. It is an active Anglican parish church in the united benefice of East Lonsdale, in the deanery of Tunstall, the archdeaconry of Lancaster and the diocese of Blackburn. The benefice of East Lonsdale combines this church with St Peter, Leck, St Wilfrid, Melling, St James the Less, Tatham, The Good Shepherd, Lowgill, and Holy Trinity, Wray. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building. Services are usually at 11:00 on 2nd & 4th Sundays, in rota with the sister church at Leck. All are welcome.


A church at Tunstall is recorded in the Domesday survey but the oldest structure in the present church dates from the 13th century. The church was rebuilt around 1415 by Sir Thomas Tunstal. Alterations were made to the church in the 16th century. In the 1820s it was attended by the Brontë sisters during the time they were receiving education at the Clergy Daughters' School at nearby Cowan Bridge. The attic room where they had their lunches is being restored. There is a triennial Bronte festival and walk, from Cowan Bridge; the next one is due in Summer 2020. In 1907 the church was restored by the Lancaster architects Austin and Paley; this included re-roofing the church, enlarging the organ chamber, and adding a vestry, at a cost of about £1,000 (equivalent to £80,000 in 2021).



The church is built in sandstone rubble with a slate roof. Its plan consists of a west tower, a nave and chancel under a continuous roof, north and south aisles, and a two-storey south porch. The tower has diagonal buttresses and an embattled parapet. Above each of the small bell openings is a carved tablet of an angel holding a shield. The west door has a pointed head above which is a three-light window with Perpendicular tracery. The aisles have embattled parapets, as does the porch. Above the door of the porch is a niche with a sundial plate and above that a small one-light window.


Internally the responds of the north arcade have early 13th-century capitals and the west lancet windows of the north aisle are probably also from this century. Dating from the 1907 restoration are the roof, and the chancel screen. A Roman votive stone, thought to be linked to Over Burrow Roman Fort, has been built into the surround of a window in the north aisle. At the east end of the south aisle is a chapel known as the Chapel of the Holy Trinity. In the chapel is a damaged effigy which is said to be of Sir Thomas Tunstal. Under the tower arch is an 18th-century oval marble font on sandstone baluster base. The east window contains glass from the Netherlands dating from the late 15th and the 16th centuries. It was donated to the church in 1810 by Richard Toulmin North of nearby Thurland Castle. In the south wall is stained glass dated 1979 by Jane Gray. In the church are a number of memorials to the Fenwick family. The two-manual organ was built in 1923 by Harrison and Harrison.

The church also owns a 16th-century painting by Francesco Montemezzano probably donated, in the early 19th century, by vicar Frederick Needham, who was a half-brother of the church patron Richard Toulmin North. The painting was removed for restoration in connection with a BBC television programme discussed below. The painting is now back in church, and can be visited any time the church is open, usually 09:30 - 16:00 seven days a week. There is information about the painting, and copies of it for sale, in the church.

External features

Near the church there is a sandstone sundial base dating probably from the 18th century consisting of a round column with a square cap on a base of three octagonal steps. It is listed at Grade II. The churchyard also contains the war graves of four service personnel of World War II.

In media

In July 2015 the church was at the centre of an episode in the BBC television series Fake or Fortune?. The identity of the artist of its 16th-century painting of the Pietà had been a mystery. An investigation confirmed it to be by Venetian artist Francesco Montemezzano. The work is believed to have left Venice after the fall of the Venetian Republic when systematic looting of art took place.

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