Tens of thousands of people must drive along the main A591 every year, with the majority giving little more than a casual glance at the church; that is if people notice it at all. The road itself actually passes within a couple of yards of the church door, but sadly, the lack of any roadside parking or indeed any apparent reason to stop means the church is rarely visited.
Those that do make the effort to visit the church must question the reason for it being here in the first place. Even the most unobservant of people must notice the absence of any nearby village, hamlet or dwellings. And although the building is consistent with the simple, almost humble appearance of many other dales churches, there is enough evidence both inside and outside the building to arouse suspicion as to where all the people remembered in the church and church yard came from.
The awful truth is that this area of the valley was once home to a thriving community of over two hundred people which has all but disappeared, with the exception of the farms at Steel End.
The valley had been chosen as a place to live as far back as the Bronze Age. The Roman occupation came and went, the Vikings settled here, leaving us with many of the place names we use today and as recently as the 13th century the monks of Furness Abbey came to the valley. In the centuries that followed, the valley settled into much the same pattern of life as many other Lakeland Dales. Then, in 1874 when the Manchester Corporation Waterworks Committee made the decision to use the Lake District as their water supply, everything was about to change forever.
Despite a great deal of opposition, Parliament passed the Manchester Corporation Waterworks Act in 1879 and in the following year building work started on the dam. Slowly but surely all the properties in the lower lying areas were purchased by Manchester Corporation, these were subsequently demolished and the water level began to rise taking with it centuries of valley history.
Prior to the creation of Thirlmere as a reservoir, the valley had two lakes; Wythburn Water found at the southern end and to the north there was Leathes Water, named after the Leathes family who lived in Dalegarth Hall from the 16th century until Manchester Corporation purchased the property. The two lakes were separated by a short stretch of river which was could be crossed by using Wath Bridge. It is thought to be this gap between the lakes which actually gives the valley its name.
The Old English (thyrel) meaning (a gap), and the Old English (mere), meaning (lake). Resulting in Thirlmere; the lake with a gap.