Ravenstonedale Parish History Group

23rd February 2018
by rphg2015

Summer Programme 2018

We are now putting together our outdoor programme for the summer and also next season’s talks from September onwards.

The first date for your diary is an evening walk round the village of Ravenstonedale with Andy Lowe, who gave us such a entertaining and informative talk on Lakeland farmhouses last November. Details are being finalised as to which house or houses we will visit to see architectural features inside and out, but please make a note of the date: Wednesday 27th June 2018. More information will follow here.

The second summer evening walk will be in Orton on Wednesday 11th July 2018, when we will have a guided tour of the village with Wendy Higgins, a Blue Badge guide and member of Orton and Tebay Local History Society. It will start at 7pm from the square by the Market Hall (where you can also park) and will last for approximately one and a half hours (weather permitting!)

Our first talk of next season, on Wednesday 19th September 2018 at High Chapel, will be on Cattle Droving through Cumbria by Peter Roebuck, author of the book Cattle Droving Through Cumbria 1600-1900. Peter is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Ulster, and is the current Chairman of Cumbria Local History Federation, to which we belong. Not to be missed!

More details of next season’s programme will follow on the website in due course. We are planning a collaboration with the Friends of St Oswald’s to present an evening to mark the centenary of the end of the Great War.  This event will be held in St Oswald’s Church on 9th November, and will include (we hope) an idea of what life was like in the Parish from 1914-1918.

20th December 2017
by rphg2015

Thursday afternoons

The History Group archive upstairs at High Chapel is open to visitors from 2 to 4pm on Thursday afternoons from now until the end of the year (we don’t open in January).


13th November 2017
by rphg2015

Recent visitors

We’ve been pleased to welcome several visitors to the archive who are undertaking family history research recently, including a brother and sister descended from Thomas Carver. They had contacted us as a result of a newspaper report of Val’s talk on the Carver family and their connections to the village, and we were able to show them, among other things, the family gravestone in High Chapel burial ground (which incidentally is duplicated in St Oswald’s Churchyard). Thomas Carver and his brother John were both trustees of High Chapel, and in the 1890’s were responsible for renovating the Chapel, the upstairs Schoolroom and the Manse and for enlarging the burial ground in memory of their mother Elizabeth Airey. This is recorded on a wall plaque in the main part of High Chapel which the visitors were able to photograph. We have subsequently sent them some photographs, including one of their ancestor Elizabeth Airey. We thank them for their kind donation to the History Group.

27th October 2016
by rphg2015

History Room refurbishment

The good news is that we are now able to resume opening the History Room at High Chapel upstairs on Thursday afternoons between 2 and 4pm. The bad news is that we have to do a lot of sorting out in the archive and cataloguing that we haven’t been able to do for several months – but we are able to welcome members and visitors! We have a new floor now in the History Room – and a radiator – so we will be reorganising our storage over the coming weeks. We now have some new shelves, tailor-made by two members of the Committee to accommodate our growing archive, and enabling us to display books, scrapbooks and folders which until now have been kept in boxes. We are very grateful to Phyllis and Jon Ring (who visited the village from the USA earlier this year) for their donation enabling us to refurbish the storage in the room – members of Phyllis’s family lived at The Chantry and Chantry Lodge for many years.

20th May 2016
by rphg2015

This Season’s Programme

This season’s evening talks began on September 20th 2017.

Our final talk of this season was Les Neal’s presentation on 21st March on the changes in Ravenstonedale Town up to the early 1900’s, featuring stories of landowners, tenants and the farms and cottages. We learnt about the families who became part of the village’s history –  some of the surnames have now disappeared from the village because the family had no male heirs, such as the Bovells. les also showed how the houses and cottages had changed over time – this will be an aspect on which Andy Lowe can focus during his walk with us round Ravenstonedale village on 27th June.

On 21st February Jackie Wedd spoke about the life and work of Edward Jeffrey, a versatile and talented artist who lived in Ravenstonedale from the late 1940’s until just before his death in 1978. A member of the Lake Artists Society for over 20 years, and illustrator of the popular series of Toby Twirl children’s books in the 1940’s and 50’s, Edward Jeffrey also painted the watercolours used as the cover illustrations for over 200 issues of the small-format Cumbria magazine in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and somehow also found time to take a full part in village life. serving not only as a  Churchwarden for many years, but also as the Chairman of the Bowls Club, and as the auditor for the Tennis Club accounts. About twenty original watercolours by Edward Jeffrey were on show, kindly lent to the History Group for the evening – along with many well-loved copies of the Toby Twirl books, many of which show local Ravenstonedale references in his artwork. Other books with his illustrations were also on show. A summary of Jackie’s talk will appear on the website shortly.

On Wednesday 17th January 2018 Val Fermer gave an entertaining and informative talk on the history of the various licenced premises in the Parish. Despite the snowy weather, over 20 members and friends came to Newbiggin Public Hall to hear about the former establishments in Newbiggin, which over the years changed their names several times – being known variously as The Oddfellows, The Horseshoes, The Pig and Whistle and The Commercial Inn. Some of the current and former public houses in Ravenstonedale village and nearby had been temperance houses and coffee houses at various times in their past, and we were also treated to stories about the families of the numerous innkeepers and their customers, which included a dramatic elopement to Gretna Green, duly celebrated by the happy couple in one of the pubs on their return to the village!

For our first evening talk of the 2017-2018 programme on 20th September 2017 we were very pleased to welcome back Ian Carradice, who gave us glimpses of life in Ravenstonedale – and the wider world – from about 1905 to 1920, seen through the picture postcard album of his grandmother, Lizzie Fothergill, who lived at Wray Green, Fell End. Sometimes the interest in such albums comes from what is written on the postcards, not just the scenes depicted on the front, although some postcards were made from family portraits and photographs, which is fascinating from the point of view of family history research. Lizzie’s family were keen correspondents – as Ian pointed out, a postcard then was perhaps the equivalent of a text message sent now – but of course it’s available to future generations to study and learn about the day-to-day life of their ancestors…obsessions with health and haymaking were evident among the Fothergills which no doubt reflected common topics of conversation and concern (as in Ravenstonedale nowadays too!). It was a super talk – even though Ian pointed out it is a “work in progress” as he follows up all the leads – and we wonder how many of the audience went home and searched out their own family postcard albums to take out the cards and discover the messages hidden inside…

Our annual exhibition on 14th and 15th October in High Chapel from 2pm to 5pm each day featured some of the old maps of the Parish and sales prospectuses which we hold, including a bound copy of the first Ordnance Survey maps of the Parish dating from 1859, donated to the History Group earlier this year. More of our photographic archive relating to Parish gardens past and present, and more of the history of Ravenstonedale School – photos and yearbooks from around 2000-2001 – were on show too, as well as the story of how the Parish Millennium Map was created.

The evening talk on Wednesday 18th October in Newbiggin Village Hall at 7.30pm by John Dunning told the story of Westmorland Motorway Services which he and his family started when some of their farmland was compulsorily purchased to build the M6 motorway through the Lune Gorge. None of the usual motorway services providers were interested in building a service station between Lancaster and Carlisle (“not enough people would use it”), so the Dunnings decided they would start their own. Now as well as the two at Tebay, they own and run Rheged and the two Gloucester services on the M5 and have expanded into the Borders as well. All in all, a fascinating talk.

On 15th November Andy Lowe returned to give us another of his popular talks – this time entitled “Inside a Lakeland Farmhouse”. He showed us how much can be learned from clues inside these houses to do with methods of construction, those who lived there and their daily life, superstition, and social change. For instance, it was interesting to discover that the saying “a square peg in a round hole” was originally a good thing, not a misfit, as a square wooden peg in a round hole to fix two pieces of wood together would grip better than a round peg in a round hole. Of course there are examples of these 17th and 18th century houses and barns around our Parish too, and we hope to fix up an evening walk around some of them with Andy next summer. Keep an eye on the website for details.

On Wednesday 13th December at 7.30pm in High Chapel we held our annual Christmas get-together with a Quiz. Dave’s Quiz this time was an Eggheads inspired list of multiple choice questions on the Lakes and Dales, followed by the killer Sudden Death questions (no choices) to sort out any ties between the teams….all did very well with the winners scoring an impressive 29 out of 40. Thanks to Bill for his keyboard accompaniment to our carol-singing and to Ann for the Christmas decorations.

Our annual Ravenstonedale Parish History Group newsletter was published in early September and emailed to all members. Members who do not have access to email receive a copy in the post. Please note that the venue for Les Neal’s talk on 21st March 2018 will now be in High Chapel. This is a change from the venue shown in the newsletter.

Over last summer we organised several events.  Continue Reading →

11th December 2015
by rphg2015

Christmas Get-together 2016

Our annual Christmas get-together of members and friends took place on 7th December in the High Chapel Community and Heritage Centre. We enjoyed mulled wine, nibbles and mince pies – with soft drinks on offer for those who unfortunately had to drive – and we were treated to another of Les Neal’s entertaining quizzes. He did promise it would be easier than last year’s on the Norse-derived place names in the Parish – hmmm! If you are a devotee of BBC2’s Only Connect you will understand it when I say that the “Christmas Connecting Wall” – including anagrams as well –  seemed very difficult to me, although the “missing consonants” section (rather than the Only Connect missing vowels) was slightly easier. The winning team managed to remember all Santa’s reindeer names (including Rudolf of course), not to mention all the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas in the correct order, and were presented with their prize of a bottle of wine made from grapes grown in the village. Congratulations to them and our thanks to Les and to our members who helped with decorating the hall – and the washing-up afterwards! Continue Reading →

12th February 2015
by rphg2015

Tarn Gill Bridge saved?

Chantry Bridge 1970s

Tarn Gill Bridge (known locally as Chantry Bridge), Townhead, Ravenstonedale, has been saved from demolition – for the moment. Friends of Tarn Gill Bridge commissioned a survey, design and specification for repairs from a firm in Kendal, but this was not acceptable to Cumbria County Council Highways (who own the bridge) as they do not agree with the surveyor’s findings. Although the Council have reinstated the sum of £15,000 into their budget for the bridge, they are not prepared to use any of this to investigate the problems with its structure, which they are sure stem from the bridge support being eroded by water disappearing down a sinkhole upstream. The Friends are therefore exploring other sources of funding for investigation and repairs, including the Orton Fells Hidden Landscapes Project, an initiative to bid for Heritage Lottery Funding for projects in the area which became part of Yorkshire Dales National Park on 1st August 2016. Continue Reading →