The history of the church is an interesting one. Originally a chapel-at-ease of the Kendal Parish Church of Holy Trinity situated in Kirkland, the first St Georges Chapel of 1754 was not unlike the Victorian idea of heaven, earth and hell. It occupied the upper part of a building which used to be in the Market Place, close to the present war memorial. The upper storey was the chapel: the ground floor was used as the butter market, whilst below this was the notorious dungeon of the town jail.
The position of the original St Georges Chapel accounts for the odd shape of the parish which, apart from a large area on this side of the river from Sedbergh Road northwards, forms, on the west side of the river, a wedge shape which seems to divide the Parish of Holy Trinity to the south from the parish of St Thomas to the north. When the new church of St George was built on the present site in 1841, to cope with the expansion of the town on the east bank of the river, it still retained its old parish area including the Market Place and Finkle Street; and does to this day. However, modern preferences of worship mean that Anglican worshipers from all over Kendal choose whichever of the three parish churches offers the style of worship they like the best.
The present building, designed by the local architect George Webster, was opened in 1841. A little later, associated schools were built in the locality, but they are now used for other purposes. There was also a cemetery, now closed, in Castle Street. When the church was opened, the east end terminated at what are now the chancel steps, but there were no rooms at the west end as now – the porch opened directly into a longer nave. Additionally, there was a large gallery, of which only the front remains, across the back of the nave, approached by winding stairs in both towers. This gallery continued along both sides of the church. By positioning the pulpit where the lectern now stands, it was said that every one of the 1066 seats had a clear view of the preacher. It is interesting to note that, because the river Kent was prone to flooding, the church ground was raised four feet and walled round. The twin octagonal towers were originally 100 feet high, surmounted by spires, but in 1978 it proved necessary to remove these for safety reasons.
The church has seen other major alterations. In 1911 the chancel, vestries, organ loft and transepts were added and the organ moved from the south gallery to its present position. This is the finest Wilkinson organ in the country and was made in 1883 at the Kendal Organ Works, Aynam Road. In 1963 the length of the nave was reduces to create a committee room at the back of the church and a foyer, which later was made into a lady chapel. Above, in place of the gallery, is a large upper hall approached by the original tower stairs or by the staircase at the back of the nave.
There are a number of interesting artefacts in St George’s. In the porch, over the notice board is a stone plaque which was designed by a pupil of a school in the parish to commemorate the church’s 150th anniversary. It was made by a parishioner.
Through the double doors in the Lady Chapel, there is a wall hanging created by a local weaver, Susan Foster (now deceased). There is also an icon of St George, and in their temporary testing place hang the stations of the cross, though these are moved in to the nave for Holy Week. Pause in the Lady Chapel and leave a prayer on the board for those you would remember, or light a candle.