St Michael’s is situated on the northwest Cumbria coast with spectacular views across the Solway estuary to Dumfries & Galloway. The area is a designated AONB, and Bowness sits on the site of the Roman Fort called Maia, the second largest on Hadrian’s Wall.
The church itself is built very largely with stones taken from the Roman Fort of Bowness which marked the western extremity of the wall built by the Emperor Hadrian. Good examples of these Roman stones can be seen particularly in the west wall and to the east of the window near the pulpit.
Visitors should be sure to explore the graveyard which has some significant stones recording an interesting social history.
Look for the ancient sundial, smuggler’s grave, hearse house and medieval stone coffin.
The church was restored at the end of the 19th century when the low ceiling was removed and the roof opened out. One can now easily imagine the church to have been built in the shape of a ship, upside down with the central beam running the length of the church to represent the keel.
The church has an enviable collection of stained glass windows. There are 21 stained glass windows; the glass in east window dates from 1891 and is by Daniel Bell; rest of the glass is from 20th century and contains a number of recurring local themes including the sea, fishing, agriculture, children the church building.
The early morning sun shining through the east window, the evening sun through the west and the late midsummer sun lighting up all the glass in the transept is breath taking.
There is a fabulous collection of banners, hassocks and cushions, most designed by a local lady and made in or near the village. They are notable for their colour, individuality and representation of the locality, including the varied wild life.
With Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserve, and the RSPB Campfield Marsh nature reserve nearby, Bowness is also a perfect base for exploring the Solway Coast. Within easy reach of the Northern Lake District and the Scottish border, it offers the visitor a wide range of interests and opportunities.