/England/Church

Saint John's Church Levens

4 Church Cl, Levens, Kendal LA8 8QE, United Kingdom

Saint John's Church Levens
Church
4.8
5 reviews
5 comments
Orientation directions
7685+26 Kendal, United Kingdom
Location reporting
Claim this location
Share
Write a review
Robert Freeman
Robert Freeman
Lovely church and welcome.
Noel Cooper
Noel Cooper
This is a treasure and a lovely peaceful church. It's so well looked after and loved by the village. Views from the churchyard are very special. It always feels very spiritual and homely at the same time.
Bob McMillan
Bob McMillan
Lovely friendly place of worship well worth a visit
Courage Aiguobasinmwin
Courage Aiguobasinmwin
Scot Grange
Scot Grange168 days ago
An idyllic little church in a picture-perfect location that's well worth a visit if you don't mind the pain of seeing the wreckage of one remarkable man's remarkable dream.

That's because St John's will forever be associated with one of the most extraordinary individuals ever to grace the Church of England: Sidney Swann, Super Hero of his age, (he was born in 1862) and vicar of St John's, Levens from 1912 to 1914.

Neither we nor Levens nor St John's will ever see the like of the Rev Sidney again: first man to cycle across the whole of Syria, holder of the English cycle speed/distance record for pedalling from Carlisle to London in a single day, and cross-Channel rower in under 4 hours.

Aside from all that, he rowed in the Oxford & Cambridge boat races of 1883, 1884, 1885 and 18887, and then in later life designed and built not one but two 'flying machines'. Nothing daunted Sidney, and especially not the horrors of Belgium in World War I where he drove ambulances through shell fire and gunsmoke to rescue the wounded and the dying.

At St John's, Levens, he found a suitably testing -- nay, heavy -- challenge: to equip the church, which though it has a spire lacks a bell tower, with some bells of its own.

He organised the transfer of a trio of old unwanted 'clangers' from a Milnthorpe church and set about building what he called a 'Japanese shed', an outside wooden structure from which the bells could hang, the style of which he remembered from his own time in Japan in 1888 competing in international athletics events there and winning at just about everything from rowing to hurdling to sprinting to cycling and even pole jumping.

God bless Sidney, in later years committed to a mental asylum from which he escaped, only succumbing to mortality after a tragic yet ironic fall from his bicycle in 1942 at the age of 80, and his bells.

The extent to which his story is known in the Levens area isn't easy to discern, nor the reason why St John's no longer prizes Sidney's bells.

They lie abandoned behind the church amidst the broken wreckage of Sidney's 'shed', the sight of them provoking a deep sadness within those who know Sidney's story (a group which seems to exclude all so-called 'local guide' reviewers here who in apparent ignorance of the man and his achievements can instead only wax lyrical about the glaringly obvious --the 'beauty' of St John's -- without referencing the ugliness of Sidney's forlorn legacy mouldering away into rust and dust in the shadows behind the church.
Recommended locations