King’s Arms Lane, Alston CA9 3JF
A characterful vernacular building with a varied history. It has been used variously as the town jail, a stable and, during the Second World War, a canteen for Italian prisoners of war. It became a Catholic church in 1953.
The building was formerly the town jail. It was also used as stables and, during the Second World War, as a canteen for Italian prisoners of war. In February 1950, Father Hill of Penrith acquired the building, which was then converted into St Wulstan’s Church. It was named in honour of Bishop Wulstan Pearson, the first Bishop of Lancaster.
The church was detached from the parish of Penrith in the late 1950s, and transferred to Our Lady and St Joseph’s, Warwick Square, Carlisle. At some point, it was agreed that the building would be shared by the Catholic Church and the Methodist Church. The Methodists hold services on a Sunday and Mass is said on a Saturday evening.
On 20 September 1993 Cardinal Basil Hume celebrated Mass to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of St Wulstan’s Church.
The church is a rectangular, single-volume stone structure with a slate roof. The only entrance is via a full width stone porch in the gable end. The building has been much altered over the years, as the stonework along both sides of the building testifies: there are various blocked doorways and irregular-shaped brickwork.
The interior decoration dates mainly from 1953. It includes an oak reredos and canopy, wooden floor, oak pews, white painted walls, Stations of the Cross carved in copper. The diamond leaded windows are also ca.1953. There is a modern wooden altar.
The church is overlooked by the large Anglican church of St Augustine (1869), and the contrast between the two – one humble and small, the other ornate and enormous – could not be more marked.
There is a house at the back of the building which may have been bought at the same time as the church to provide a presbytery. If so, this is no longer used as such.
Architect: This building was formerly the town jail. Architect not known.
Original Date: 1953
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed