Ravenstonedale Parish History Group

Winter Programme 2019


About 30 members and friends enjoyed Hilary Wilson’s informative talk on Wartime Farming in the Howgills on Wednesday January 16th. In 2008, Hilary published a book entitled Heritage of the Hills in collaboration with the late Judy Dunford, and the talk featured images from a collection of photographs taken in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s by the late Jim Cookson. The photographs belong to a collection owned by Margaret Postlethwaite and most were taken at the Postlethwaite family’s farm near Sedbergh. Hilary also brought many items from her own family’s collection of farming memorabilia – everything from old receipts to homemade tools, including a chopper for cabbages made from an old scythe blade by the local blacksmith. Many of the audience, as well as Hilary, had first-hand experience of life on a hill farm, and this led to much discussion and reminiscing after the talk!

The next evening meeting is on Wednesday 20th February at 7.30pm, and will be a talk by Les Neal on changes in Newbiggin-on-Lune over the last few hundred years. It is our second talk in Newbiggin-on-Lune Public Hall this season.

Meanwhile, we start opening the archive room again on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4pm as usual on Thursday 7th February.

Our annual Xmas get-together on Wednesday 12th December 2018 featured two quizzes which were enjoyed by all – thanks Dave – and also Bill’s accompaniments to our carol singing – thanks Bill – as well as Steve’s summaries of our first two talks of the season…unfortunately for some, the talk which would have provided the answers to some of the quiz questions was not featured! However our members then proved their knowledge of breeds of sheep, some quite obscure it must be said, while unscrambling the anagrams in the second quiz. Congratulations to the two winning teams! All in all, a great way to start the Christmas party season here in the village. Thanks to Ann for the lovely decorations and to all who brought food and drink – and helped with washing up afterwards!

The Friends of St Oswald’s Supper Theatre’s poignant and heartfelt performance to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice on 11th November 1918, which signalled the end of the fighting between the Allies and Germany, was entitled From Westmorland to the Western Front and was held in St Oswald’s Church on 9th November 2018.

The History Group were asked to put on an exhibition to accompany the play focussing on what life was like in the Parish during the War years – we are lucky to have two first-hand accounts in our Archive which formed the framework of our exhibition. The exhibition stayed in the Church over the Remembrance weekend, and we then moved it to High Chapel for Val Fermer’s talk entitled From the Western Front to Westmorland on Wednesday 21st November.  Val had added to her research on the men who left the Parish to fight in the Great War but who did not return, but this time she also managed to find information about some of those who fought and then returned home. Such research can be very difficult, because in 1940 the building which housed the Great War service records was bombed and many records were lost entirely or damaged by fire and water, but despite this Val had succeeded in finding detailed historical information about all those had died and a selection of those who returned. These survivors served across all the theatres of War, including not only France and Flanders but Italy, Bulgaria, Mesopotamia and Salonica. After the War, some remained in the area but others left Westmorland for good. The History Group was pleased to welcome relatives of two of the men named on the War Memorial in St Oswald’s – one came to see the performance and the exhibition on 9th November, and the others came to the exhibition and Val’s talk. Part of the exhibition featured local diary entries which referred to the housing of Belgian refugees in the parish, and local fund-raising for the SSFA and the National Relief Fund. We also showed Great War letters and postcards from the Front as well as medals, kindly lent by members. Our four Parish There But Not There figures were placed in the Church during the performance of From Westmorland to the Western Front.











Our first talk of the season on Wednesday 19th September 2018 was a fascinating and informative account of 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 we were especially pleased to welcome him as he is the current Chairman of Cumbria Local History Federation, to which we belong. A good turnout of members and non-members attended – in spite of the weather!

Our second talk of this season dealt with the Great War and its impact on Cumbria. Richard Preston has undertaken extensive research over many years into the subject and his talk entitled  No Labour – No Food – No War on Wednesday 17th October in Newbiggin on Lune Public Hall (itself built in the immediate aftermath of the Great War as a place of recreation for the returning soldiers – to try and keep them out of the public house) focussed on the impact of wartime on farming in particular.

We enjoyed two summer evening history walks:

Outside the Ravenstonedale pig house where the Parish pig was fattened up…you can still see the feeding slot where the slops were put in

But…no-one really knows why this structure is here…or where it came from originally…

Our evening walk round part of Ravenstonedale village with Andy Lowe on 27th June – for once a beautiful summer’s evening – was attended by 28 people who were treated to a very informative and entertaining guide to what can be learned from looking at the outside of the houses, as to when they were built, and why certain features were designed as they were – most of which have stood the test of time and are still working well today. We’ll never walk through the village again without noting the clever designs to take rainfall away from windows, or how the carts were stopped from hitting the walls – or which house owners and builders were wealthy enough to incorporate the latest technology and fashions (sometimes many at once!) into their new houses.  We also saw some of the more unusual window designs in the village as we walked up the main street. Our thanks to Steve and Val for the refreshments afterwards, and our thanks also to those who were kind enough to let us view internal features such as a cruck beam, a (re-used) medieval timber post, cast-iron beam-mounted brackets for storage shelves, and original HL hinges too.



The second summer evening walk on Wednesday 11th July was led by local Orton resident and guide Wendy Higgins, and was an interesting two hour walk around Orton village. 14 members attended and enjoyed an informative talk on another warm summer’s evening. The tour started at the Market Hall, revealing the history of the very ancient market charter and a tale of an evening in the Vicar’s cellar that led to a court martial in the English Civil War. Orton Hall was discussed, and a number of buildings built by the Revd John Septimus Sisson, as denoted by initials in stone carved above the door of each property. On one of these properties, there is a porch possibly re-utilised from one of three vicarages built over the years. The Mill, now being faithfully restored as a dwelling, and  other notable homes in the pretty lane along the Chapel Beck were described in terms of their history.  The walk concluded with a tour of the Church, showing features inside the building that give an insight into the date of construction including the ancient Parish Chest, and also the mystery door revealed in recent restoration work. Excellent tea and biscuits refreshed the walkers, who all thoroughly enjoyed the evening.



Thanks to all who attended the AGMThe Friends of Tarn Gill Bridge also held their AGM recently, and have good reason to celebrate! Not only have Cumbria County Council (the owners) agreed to repair the bridge, but it has now been listed at Grade II by Historic England for its architectural and historic interest, and group value. The List Entry Number is 1455814 and HE have named it Artlegarth Beck Bridge.


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