Ulverston, South Lakeland - a spiritual and artistic center in a secluded corner of Cumbria.

Geography
Ulverston  is an old market town located in the Furness Peninsula of the English Lake District. To the north of the peninsula are the Furness Fells, the Cumbrian mountains, and lakes Coniston and Windermere. The peninsula itself has a gentler landscape than the mountainous areas, consisting of rolling pasturelands,  ancient picturesque villages and unspoilt tarns (small lakes).

Ulverston can be reached by rail (there are frequent trains from Manchester International airport, change at Lancaster if coming from London) and by road, leaving download iq option the M6 at junction 36 and following the A590 in the direction of Barrow-in-Furness. See Arriving in Ulverston

This part of Cumbria is a walker's paradise. There is a network of footpaths, green lanes and bridleways which link  the villages and ancient sites, and pass through an idyllic pastoral countryside ( visit http://www.explorelowfurness.co.uk/guidedwalks.htm)

Furness is rich in Neolithic remains, including a stone circle on Birkrigg Common and other ancient sacred sites (the circle was once known locally as the Druids' Temple - it still does strange things to dowsing rods). There are also a number of Neolithic sites in the Gleaston Mill area which are currently being excavated.

Birkrigg stone circle and alignment through path, steeple, northern tip of Chapel Island and most prominant hill


Arts and Culture in Furness
The Furness Peninsula is an English speaking area of Celtic Britain. The native Cumbric language died out many centuries ago.

The Coronation Hall is Ulverston's major civic and social centre and attracts many artistes including an annual visit from the English Touring Opera.  It is also one of the major venues for  Ulverston's programme of Festivals including the Music Festival, Folklore Festival and Comedy Festival. (Ulverston was the birthplace of Stan Laurel, and fans come from all over the world to visit the Laurel and Hardy museum).  The town's tourist information centre is also housed in the 'Coro' (Tel 01229 587140). 

There are a number of performing arts organisations in the town such as  Furness Youth Theatre, Ulverston Outsiders, Ulverston Amateur Operatic Society, the Ghyll Singers and and Ulverston Bach Choir. There is also a major new arts complex at The Lantern House, which is home to Welfare State International,  the 'Engineers of the Imagination'. 


SUNBRICK

Plaque at Sunbrick Quaker burial ground, Ulverston

'Society of Friends, Sunbrick Burial Ground'

'Between the years 1654 and 1767 there were buried here 227 Friends among whom was Margaret Fox, wife first of Judge Thomas Fell and secondly of George Fox founder of the Society of Friends. She died at Swarthmoor Hall on April 23 1702 aged 87 years'

Religions - Quakers, Buddhists and Celtic Christians
Ulverston and its surrounding area has exerted a powerful cultural and spiritual influence upon the world by being the origin of two  major religious movements  (and possibly three following recent discoveries):

The first was Quakerism. George Fox, the founder of The Society of Friends (Quakers) lived at Swarthmoor Hall (at that time spelt 'Swarthmore Hall') on the Western outskirts of the town [How to get there].  The Quakers' influence spread from Ulverston throughout the world. Their enlightened and compassionate actions played a major part in bringing about the abolition of slavery, the equality of women and many social reforms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The second movement is the NKT (New Kadampa Tradition) of  Mahayana Buddhism, based at Conishead Priory (Manjushri Centre) to the south of the town [How to get there].   The publishing company Tharpa, which is a major international and multilingual publisher of Buddhist books, has its headquarters in Ulverston.

Celtic Spirituality and Celtic Christianity in Furness
South Cumbria has a strong association with Celtic Spirituality and it seems possible that St Patrick originated from this area. Following his escape from captivity in Ireland, Patrick tried to make his way home by sea but was was shipwrecked at Heysham, which is ten miles from Ulverston across Morecambe Bay. According to legend he then set out by land in the direction of South Cumbria.

Recent archeological investigations suggest that the Church of St Mary and St Michael at Urswick is a religious centre of great antiquity, going back at least as far as the Roman era.  In fact, the dedication to the Archangel Michael is an indicator of a Christianised pagan site, as Michael was regarded as the subduer of  the heathen gods.   There is a neolithic dolmen close by:

 

neolithic dolmen at urswick

Dolmen at Urswick


It therefore seems likely that the Church is built upon a pre-existing Celtic sacred site and was probably a very early centre of Celtic Christianity. The Celtic Church was officially suppressed by the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD, though its customs and beliefs (including subversive Pelagian vestiges) persisted in isolated parts of Western Britain for several centuries afterwards.

Urswick Tarn (small lake) on a bright winter afternoon

Tranquillity - Urswick Tarn on a winter afternoon

Arts | Community | Crafts | History | Literature | Music | Spirituality | Stage & Screen