The Strange Stepped Window Sill at Isel Church

isel-church-cumbria(Images by Alexandra Smith, all rights reserved)

In a Norman church in the Lake District, UK, stands a mysterious stone staircase leading to an unknown location. For centuries, the ‘stepped window sill’ has confounded observers – no one remembers why it’s there.

Past vicars suggested it may have given access to a minstrels’ gallery or rood loft, which was removed during the English Reformation in the 16th century. But the church’s enchanting wooden ceiling appears too low to accommodate any such platform.

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The curious window sill belongs to St Michael and All Angels’ Church in Isel, Cumbria, originally constructed on a pre-Norman site around 1150 AD. It’s thought that the window overlooking the steps is a later addition to the church, but the exact age of the staircase itself is unknown.

In 1894, the Cumberland Times allegedly reported that the steps may have led to a lantern tower back in the 14th century, at a time when Scottish invaders destroyed a defence tower at nearby Isel Hall during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

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In more recent times, St Michael’s battled the 2009 Great Britain and Ireland floods, when the church, which sits alongside the River Derwent, was damaged by a three-feet-high flow of water that unsettled the graveyard as well as the building. The steps, along with the rest of the church, were quickly restored.

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Notably, St Michael’s is also home to the remains of an Anglo-Saxon cross. Another mystery tells of an unknown thief, who stole a Viking triskele stone from the premises in 1986. The Isel ‘Church Bells Restoration’ appeal is currently in full swing. Check out Blindcrake.org.uk to learn more.

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