The church was built in about 1415, but there's an 8th Century altar stone on the site, and it's known that in the 13th Century the church and its lands were owned by the Premonstratensian order of Croxton Abbey, Lincolnshire, which also owned Cockersand Abbey near Lancaster. The current exterior dates from later renovation, particularly in 1847.
That Saxon altar hints at the reason why the church is well outside the village, rather than having been a nucleus of construction. Allegedly, the village was once nearer, but was destroyed in the Norman invasion.
The most significant feature, and possibly the reason the Church has Grade I Listed status (the highest: "of exceptional quality and/or historic, heritage or cultural importance"), is the two-storey south porch, seen at the end of the path. Whilst at the School for Clergy Daughters in Cowan Bridge from 1824, the Brontë sisters regularly walked more than 3 km (each way) to attend Tunstall church, staying to eat lunch in the porch's upper room. Charlotte plainly found the experience memorable, since she immortalised the church as 'Brocklebridge Church' in her novel 'Jane Eyre'.
Another Brontë, Branwell, may have been inspired by the village too, naming a character 'Sir Henry Tunstall'.
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