Peaceful is the adjective most used by visitors to describe the Parish Church and its environs. This is not surprising, for St. Paul's stands on a rocky eminence and overlooks an extensive valley. The valley itself is enclosed by well-wooded hills embracing jutting crags, heathey washes and meadow land, all watered by streams which ultimately join the Leven, a river rising from Windermere which, although in direct line only 21/2 miles distant is excluded from view by the range of hills to the east and north-east. No wonder W.G. Collingwood in his book 'The Lake Counties' used the following words to describe the valley:
"At Satterthwaite the sister valley of Grizedale joins Dale Park to make the lakeless but most charming Rusland Vale - Role's Land in old documents, and perhaps once the possession of some forgotten Rolf".
Dedicated to Saint Paul, Rusland's church was built as a chapel-of-ease to Colton. Consecrated on the 29th June 1745 by the then Bishop of Chester, Dr. Samuel Peploe, in whose Diocese and Jurisdiction it belonged. It consisted of a nave and low western tower, all covered over in rough cast and built in a style of extreme simplicity.
In 1868 it was restored and largely rebuilt through the exertions of the Reverend L.R. Ayre. The walls of the nave were taken down to the foundations and rebuilt. It was enlarged by the addition of a chancel with vestry on the north side of it. The tower, which was left standing was raised fifteen feet and encased. The material employed was the blue slatestone of the locality, faced with white freestone from near Lancaster. An interesting feature of the restoration is the arched recess in the external south wall of the chancel which was incorporated to avoid building over an existing tomb. There is more information about the restoration here.
The present open benches of pitch-pine replaced the original square pews. The base of the Font and Pulpit of Caen stone, and the pulpit and font-cover of oak all date from this restoration. The reopening of the church took place on Friday May 26th 1868 and the consecration of additional churchyard on Friday 25th September of the same year. A further enlargement of the churchyard to the east and a second gate were added as the millennium project in the year 2000.
The Rusland Registers of Baptisms and Burials commenced in 1849. The first recorded marriage was on Christmas Day 1867 between Joseph Fleming aged 24 and Agnes Muncaster aged 22 years. The Officiating Minister was the Rev'd A.L. Ayre. Sadly Agnes died at the early age of 44 but her husband lived to see his 83rd birthday.
In the Burial Book dating 1826-1908 it is recorded that on '23rd Feb 1893 Daniel Dawson was buried 26 feet from the east wall and 59 feet from the north wall aged 88 years'.
Another revealing record is the Chapel Warden's Account Book. Here are some typical entries: July 8 1848 1 gall of wine 15s. March 1849 Betty Dixon for washing surplice and cloths and cleaning chapel, 3s.6d. 1850 To Mr. Tyson for catching moles 1s. 1851 To Mr. Tyson for catching moles 6d. Dec 24 1856 To 1 gall of wine 18s 6d.
One wonders whether or not Mr. Tyson had come twice in 1850 to clear the moles for the subsequent years only show a payment of 6d (one visit maybe). One noted with interest that 5 cwts of coal cost 4s 2d in 1860. That is 20.8p in decimal coinage.
The stained glass is typical of the period the main interest lies in the treatment of the subjects portrayed. The East Window was inserted in 1873, being the gift of Francis Drinkall Pritt in affectionate memory of his father Thomas Pritt. It consists of three lights, at the head of which are three clover-leaf lights depicting angels. The foot of the window has the quotation from Isaiah 61 and St. Luke 4 "He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted: To preach deliverance to the captives: and the recovery of sight to the blind". On inspection it would appear that the main light to the left which portrays the healing of the blind man, would have been better inserted to the right of the central one in order to coincide with the text.
A memorial window to Edward Twisaday, whose name occurs in the Chapel Warden's record, is to the east of the South Wall. The subject of this double light is Nathaniel and bears the text "Behold an Israelite indeed: in whom is no guile".
The window to the west of the south choir wall depicts Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. The text at the foot of the window is from St. John 6:35 "He that believeth on me: shall never thirst". It commemorates Juliet Augusta Archibald who died at the very early age of 27 years. The stained glass window in the nave South Wall is in memory of Bridget Archibald who died on the 27th November 1880 aged 69 years. Consisting again of a double light it portrays St. Paul making his defence before Felix the governor of Caesarea, Acts 24:16. The text reads "Men and brethren I have lived in all: good conscience before God until this day".
The simple oak reredos was installed in 1889 in memory of John Costilar and is executed with a vine motif. The Tablet at the east end of the North Wall is to Ann Taylor who, despite her early death, seems to have been a good influence for we read: "Her amiable character, and her mild gentle manners, will long remain impressed upon the memory of her surviving friends".
The Rev. Jesse Gregson M.A., who was the vicar of the parish for seventeen years is remembered by a brass plaque on the north wall of the chancel. The Archibald family whose residence was then the neighbouring Rusland Hall (whose peacocks were well-known) have a series of memorial tablets in the proximity of what was the 'family pew' near the lectern. Those remembered are: Charles William Archibald died 1893 Lieut John Arnold Archibald killed in action 1918 Isobel widow of C.W. Archibald died 1926
In addition there are some graves belonging to the family in the churchyard.
Another recent memorial is a plaque near the west door in memory of Maurice Wilson Burns 1899-1983 the son of Samuel Wilson Burns the sexton from 1888-1908. The cost was met by subscriptions of the Backbarrow & District Branch of the Royal British Legion of which Maurice was a founder member. A full list of the memorials and a plan of the churchyard can be found here.
The mellifluous tone of a single bell, tuned to G sharp, calls the parishioners to worship. Bearing the inscription 'J. Scales 1752 Rusland Church R.W.' it was recast and re-hung in 1959 in accordance with a Faculty granted to John Sidney Boulter (Vicar) Geo Max Lyne and Madeline V. Archibald (Churchwardens).
The Communion Silver was purchased from E. Barnard & Sons Angel Street London and dates from 1866. The chalice consists of a bowl supported by a stem on a scalloped base. The bowl is girdled with the inscription 'Calicem salutaris accipiam et nomen Domini invocabo' (I will accept the Chalice of Salvation and I will call upon the name of the Lord).
The Paten edge is engraved 'Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi da nobis'. Very often the ending of this invocation, the third of three, was shortened e.g. 'da nobis' as here. It should be read as 'dona nobis pacem', the third Agnus Dei invocation (Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace). The reverse of the Paten is inscribed 'To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Thomas Brooks, October 30th 1866'. The design of the accompanying Flagon is the same style as the chalice with a scalloped base. The neck is engraved with a vine motif (similar to the reredos of 33 years later) and the body is encircled with the inscription '+ Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus' (Christ or Pasch, or Passover, is sacrificed). The lettering on all three pieces is a particularly attractive design of high quality and a joy to behold.
There existed until 1890 an ancient parish school situated across the road and opposite the church. The plot of ground on which it stood was enclosed by the Incumbent about 1867. The date of the building of the school is open to conjecture. One indication is on a stone near the foundations on which the initials and date 'I.C. 1773' were roughly cut. Here the children of the parish would be regularly taught by the minister or by the schoolmaster until a school was built near Satterthwaite for the use of both parishes jointly. The old Rusland School was replaced by the present building in 1890 which comprised a large room, the Mission Room, and a smaller one, the Reading Room. It was erected to serve the Sunday School, religious and other meetings together with parish purposes generally. The cost was raised by public subscription £300 apart from a sum of £30 granted by the Diocesan Society. This building seems to have been erected on a portion of the curtilage of the old school, which had been enclosed and claimed as Glebe Land. It is therefore believed to be ecclesiastical property. It is let at a peppercorn rent to a Reading Room committee.
Among the graves in the churchyard will be found several of the family of George Romney, including those of Mary, the famous painter's wife, and the Rev'd John Romney his son. The artist himself was buried in Dalton-in-Furness churchyard.
Arthur Ransome the author of 'Swallows and Amazons' and many other books is buried beneath the Corsican pine in the south-east corner of the churchyard. Admirers and devotees of make pilgrimages from all over the world to visit his last resting place. Time has no barriers for even today his books continue to give lasting pleasure to a new generation of readers. In St. Paul's churchyard, those who make the pilgrimage to his last resting place are united in thankfulness for his work.
updated from history by original author, STUART FIFE