Ravenstonedale Parish History Group

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

Our programme of evening talks began on September 20th 2017.

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 her decorations. Happy Christmas everyone!

For our first evening talk on 20th September we were very pleased to welcome back Ian Carradice, who gave 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 fascinating talk – 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.

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 the evening talk on 17th January 2018 will now be Newbiggin Village Hall and the talk on 21st March 2018 will now be in High Chapel. This is a change from the venues shown in the newsletter.

Over the summer we have organised several events. 

On Friday 1st September eleven members of the History Group visited the Swaledale Museum in Reeth, where the Curator Helen Bainbridge gave us insights as to how we could best reorganise our ever-growing archive to make it more easily accessible to members and researchers, particularly those interested in their ancestral ties to the Parish.  We are also discovering families who migrated in the past between Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and the Eden Valley (nowadays linked by the spectacular route from Kirkby Stephen through Nateby).  We can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Museum – probably more than one as there is so much to take in! Their website is at http://www.swaledalemuseum.org/index.html

The History Group AGM was held on Wednesday 17th May 2017 at 7.30pm. Our thanks to all the members who attended. Our Treasurer and Membership Secretary who has filled these roles since the Group began is now standing down. We are very pleased that we have had a volunteer (yes really!) to join the committee and details of the new committee and their responsibilities will be in the Newsletter.

On Thursday 22nd June, some members of Hesket Local History Group visited Ravenstonedale for a walk around the village, similar to the walk we organised for Shap Local History Society last year. We visited the Church and the Coldbeck area before returning along High Dykes to Townend, and then walked up the hill past Low Chapel to High Chapel. Three members of our committee kindly shared their local knowledge about the buildings and the history of this part of the village and it was much appreciated by the visitors, and some local people who joined the walk.

Four Ravenstonedale village gardens, the allotments and the Kilnmire traditional haymeadows (as pictured in High Chapel) were open for the National Garden Scheme over the weekend of 1st and 2nd July. The History Group put on an exhibition of photographs of Parish Gardens Past and Present in High Chapel, where the refreshments were on sale between 11am and 5pm each day.  The exhibition showed photos and plans of former Victorian Parish gardens, as well as photos taken during Parish “garden trails” in the early 2000’s which raised funds for St Oswald’s Church. There was also a display about the history of Tarn Gill Bridge (aka Chantry Bridge) and the History Group’s contribution to the Friends’ ongoing efforts to save the bridge from demolition. Some folders featuring previous Local History exhibitions were also on display.

The NGS opening raised over £2500 for the various nursing, medical and carers’ charities which are supported, and this includes over £700 takings from the excellent teas, coffees and cakes served in High Chapel co-ordinated by the High Chapel Community and Heritage Centre Committee. 50% of the refreshments takings goes to High Chapel and 50% to the NGS for their charities.

On Wednesday 19th July, eight History Group members enjoyed a guided walk around Shap by kind invitation of Shap Local History Society. Arriving in a torrential downpour, we sought refuge in the Heritage Centre where we were given an introductory talk by Jean Scott-Smith. When the rain stopped, we visited the church and walked around the village, noting the different styles of architecture and hearing about aspects of life in Shap from pre-history onwards…ending up back at the Heritage Centre for delicious homemade scones and cake!  Our thanks to Jean and to Liz for their hospitality.


Last year’s exhibition entitled The Three Parish Schools – or is it Four? on 8th and 9th October 2016 was a great success – over 100 people attended over the two days and we were very pleased to welcome former pupils from Ravenstonedale, Newbiggin-on-Lune and Fell End Schools who were able to help us identify many of the pupils in the school photographs we have been given. Our thanks to everyone who lent or donated items for the exhibition – we are particularly pleased to have been able to show the cast-iron fireguard which stood round the stove in Fell End Schoolroom to one of the former pupils who used to stand next to it to keep warm during the 1940’s when she attended the school from the age of 5.



The first evening meeting of last season was on Wednesday 21st September 2016Continue 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 →