Located close to the Cromwell Door of Cartmel Priory are the sculpted figures of Mary, Joseph and the Holy Child. The solid resin bronze sculpture stands only a few feet high and represents the Holy Family travelling to a strange land as refugees.
Entitled They Fled by Night, the sculpture is the work of the Brazilian born sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellas and was inspired by the text of the New Testament Gospel of Matthew 2:14 – “When he arose he took the young child and his mother by night and departed into Egypt.”
Depicting Mary and Joseph asleep, Jesus wakes to explore the beauty of the night. The sculpture was originally exhibited at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London during World Refugee Year (1959-60) which was an international effort to raise awareness of, and support for, the refugees across the globe. They Fled by Night was later presented to Cartmel Priory at the suggestion of Josefina.
In the northwest corner of the nave in Cartmel Priory is the above Cavendish memorial. The impressive alabaster tomb chest bears a marble effigy of Lord Frederick Cavendish, son of the 7th Duke of Devonshire, who was Chief Secretary to Ireland in Gladstone’s government. Lord Cavendish was assassinated in Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1882 along with Thomas H Burke, permanent undersecretary for Ireland. Born in 1836, Lord Cavendish was a British politician who entered parliament in 1865. He became financial secretary to the Treasury from 1880 and in 1882, he became Chief Secretary for Ireland. As part of a goodwill emissary from England at the height of the Irish Crisis, Lord Cavendish was murdered by a Fenian splinter group, known as the Invincibles, the day after his arrival in Dublin.
The fine tomb chest is the work of the 19th century English sculptor and poet Thomas Woolner. Each of the base panels are flanked by richly ornamented engaged pilasters. The chest features the Cavendish crest (below) and the inscription reads “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, or who shall rise up in his holy place? Even he that hath clean hands and a pure heart.”
Holker Estate stands within the stunning landscape of South Lakeland and encompasses a large area of the Cartmel Peninsula. While Holker’s Norse origins may be lost in the mists of time, the earliest records of a house on the present site date back to the early 16th century. The estate formed part of the holdings of Cartmel Priory until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 after which, it was purchased by the Preston family who were already substantial local landowners. George Preston established his family at Holker in about 1610 and the current building dates to the early 18th century with various extensions and alterations.
Lord George Augustus Cavendish inherited Holker in 1756 and engaged the architect John Carr of York. Carr made additions in an elegant modern gothic style to the east and north wings between 1783-1793 and also made extensive alterations to the grounds by replacing the Dutch gardens with a contrived natural landscape. Further alterations were carried out in 1818 by Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish who faced the front of the house with Roman cement. Between 1838-1842 Lord Burlington (7th Duke of Devonshire) employed the Kendal architect G Webster who altered and refaced the entire house. Giving the building a gothic appearance, Webster added tall ornamental chimneys, gables, square-headed, mullioned and transomed windows and added a new kitchen garden, arboretum, conservatory and fountain.
Cavendish Crest above the front door
Disaster struck in March 1871 when the entire west wing was destroyed by fire. The destruction was devastating with many of the contents and principal rooms lost forever. The 7th Duke began plans to rebuild the west wing on an even grander scale and employed the architects Paley and Austin of Lancaster. Covering the same site as the previous wing, the building was constructed of red sandstone in the Elizabethan style with the addition of a projecting bow window, a high roof with dormer windows, square parapeted tower and a copper cupola. Despite emulating Elizabethan architecture, it remains unmistakably Victorian and a wonderful reflection of its age.
Rich ornamentation (entrance porch)
The principle building is constructed of roughcast stone with ashlar dressings and features a first floor sill band and modillioned cornice. The courtyard reveals varied fenestration with a projecting Doric entrance porch. The building also features a two stage octagonal tower with ogival cupola and an octagonal open cupola on square base. Holker Hall is Grade II* Listed.
The Grade II Listed stable courtyard (above & below) dates to 1864 and is constructed of stone rubble with ashlar dressings. The two storey buildings feature decorative bargeboards and a central open timber bell turret with a pyramidal roof and four face clock. The wings feature segmental-headed coach house doors and the buildings are now home to Holker Food Hall, offices and a cafe.
“Soul is form and doth the body make” St Michael, 1991
Located next to the choir screen at Cartmel Priory stands the sculpted figure of St Michael. The bronze sculpture depicts St Michael battling his way through the abstract jaws of the Dragon (beautiful “Lucifer son of the morning” – made hideous by hate and pride) and shows that what is seen of evil is not the worst.
St Michael is the work of the Brazilian born sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos and portrays “God’s Ariel” battling his way through unseen thoughts, feelings, vibes and powers. Josefina describes seeing courage and laughter marching together and the beauty in it to be reminiscent of some words in a prayer, “high hearted happiness.”
Daughter of a wealthy Brazilian diplomat, Josefina gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy in 1921. Following her marriage to the artist Delmar Banner, Josefina and her family settled in Little Langdale in the Lake District. Many of her commissions can be seen throughout Cumbria.