The Old Rectory, Aldingham

The Old Rectory, Aldingham, Cumbria: House History

The Old Rectory in Aldingham was probably occupied by the rectors of Aldingham parish from at least the 16th century. Although the names of most of the rectors are known since the earliest days of the church in the 12th century, it is not known when a rectory was first built on this site, and many of the rectors, even in the 19th century, did not even reside in the parish.

The rectory and its land became the property of the crown after the estate of Lady Jane Grey was seized in 1553, before which it had been part of the manor belonging to the le Flemings and then the de Harringtons. The earliest references to a rectory, or parsonage house, date to the 1550s, so it is possible that it did not exist until shortly before this date. The first description of the building(s) only dates to the early 18th century, and it is recorded that it was substantially altered during the early 19th century.

The vast wealth of the living of Aldingham rectory and its status, being the gift of the crown, means that it has attracted a number of talented and wealthy rectors. This in turn has attracted a number of important visitors including William Wordsworth and Queen Victoria.

The building itself appears to have been in three parts. The earliest section was to the west, and seems to have originally comprised a small house that was enclosed by later additions. This entire section was, however, demolished in 1974-5. Of the remaining building, the north side is earliest, and was probably constructed some time before 1727, although the west end of this is likely to incorporate elements of the earlier building(s). The south side, facing onto the beach, was almost certainly added by John Stonard shortly after his arrival in 1814, and may have been added in 1816 when he built a large sea wall to protect the church and rectory from erosion. At the same time he apparently also re-organised the rest of the building, adding a new decorative scheme and new staircase.