A church was first established on this site in the aftermath of the Dissolution of the Monasteries when Cartmel Priory was dissolved as part of the Henrician Reformation and a chapel was built on the present site using materials from Cartmel around 1537.
St Anthony’s Church nestles on the east side of Cartmel Fell, it has the characteristics of a Lakeland long barn but somehow possesses a dignity above agricultural utility. The visitor’s first challenge is to find it!
Built as a Chapel of Ease for the residents of Cartmel Fell in 1504 as an alternative to travelling to Cartmel Priory each Sunday. Very little has changed except the addition of the south porch, the building itself slopes so that the pews at the back of the church are noticeably higher than the altar.
The interior, with its barn like wooden beams, is plain without being austere, setting off the rare three decker pulpit of 1698 and screened box pews. The lower deck of the pulpit is where the clerk sat, the middle was for the reader and the top was where the sermon was, and still is, preached. The boxed pew on the north side is known as the Cowmire Hall pew, thought to have been made from the 1571 chancel screen. It was used as a school until the mid 19th century. Children's graffiti can be seen engraved in the seats. On the south side is the more decorated 17th century Burblethwaite pew.
The oak pews, reredos, rough plastering and resetting of stained glass, formed part of an Arts & Crafts reordering sympathetically done in 1911.
It is the only church in the north of England dedicated to St Anthony. He is depicted in the east window, with his bell, staff and little pig, and his companion St. Leonard. The small groups of the seven sacraments are linked by streams of blood from the wounds of the crucified Lord. Much of the stained glass is 15th century, though there is some debate to whether this striking window came from Cartmel priory, or was made for St Anthony's. A modern window was fitted in the Baptistry in March 2017.