The Ancient Church of St Michael and All Saints

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The ancient Church of St Michael and All Saints was built in the 15th Century or early 16th Century, and the north aisle was rebuilt in 1578; the date-stone has the initials IS and the Sandys arms. The roof was raised and the clerestory added in the late 16th Century or early 17th Century. In the north chapel there is a chest tomb for William and Margaret Sandys, with recumbent effigies, dated 1578. These were the parents of Archbishop Edwin Sandys, who carried out the alterations to the church. Some of the masonry of the church might be part of the 13th Century chapel. The vestry (on the north-west corner) and hearse house were built c.1793. The chancel is a continuation of the nave, unlike many churches where it was built separately with a lower roof. The aisles and chapels are under lean-to roofs. As often, many of the windows were renewed in the 19th Century. Inside, the nave and aisles have wall paintings, texts in ornamental surrounds, by J. Addison c.1680, also some of 1711 and some repainted by W Bolton in 1876. In 1219 the manor of Hawkshead was a chapelry of Dalton-in-Furness, twenty miles away, paying tithes also to Urswick, and the people wanted Hawkshead to become a parish with its own cemetery. This was supported by the Abbot of Furness but was opposed by the vicars of Dalton and Urswick, as they did not want to lose the income from the tithes. They appealed to the Pope in 1220, but he decided in favour of Hawkshead; however for some reason this decision was not implemented. It was not until 1578 that Hawkshead and Colton (the southern part of the manor) became parishes. Satterthwaite was made a separate chapelry in 1741, Claife became a civil parish in 1866 and Skelwith in 1894.

The township of Hawkshead was originally owned by the monks of Furness Abbey; nearby Colthouse derives its name from the stables owned by the Abbey. Hawkshead grew to be an important wool market in medieval times and later as a market town after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1532. It was granted its first market charter by King James I in 1608. In 1585 Hawkshead Grammar School was established by Archbishop Edwin Sandys of York after he successfully petitioned Queen Elizabeth I for a charter to establish a governing body.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Hawkshead became a village (or town at the time) of important local stature. Poet William Wordsworth was educated in its grammar school, whilst Beatrix Potter lived nearby, marrying William Heelis, a local solicitor in the early 20th century.

Upon the formation of the National Park in 1951, tourism grew in importance, though traditional farming still goes on around the village. Hawkshead has a timeless atmosphere and consists of a characterful warren of alleys, overhanging gables and a series of medieval squares. It is eloquently described in William Wordsworth's poem, 'The Prelude'.

Much of the land in and around the village is now owned by the National Trust. The National Trust property is called Hawkshead and Claife.

The modern parish is in the Diocese of Carlisle and Hawkshead is situated just north of Esthwaite Water, in a valley to the west of Windermere and east of Coniston Water. It is part of Furness, making it a part of the ancient county of Lancashire but in the administrative county of Cumbria since 1974.