A Brief History of the Church in Tebay by Reg Capstick
Tebay, until the middle of the 19th century, was a hamlet which formed part of Orton Parish. Only with the coming of the railways and the consequent growth in population did it seem necessary and right to create a separate ecclesiastical parish. In the 1841 census Tebays population was shown as 368 persons and 76 inhabited dwellings, whereas these figures had increased by 1871 to 684 persons with 135 dwellings. The need for Tebay to have its own church was recognised and, as a result of the Bishops of Carlisles' initiative, a subscription list was opened and sufficient was obtained from the Railway Company. For this reason, among others, Tebay can be designated "The Railway Church".
An architect was sought and C.J. Ferguson was appointed. He had been a pupil of George Gilbert Scott and was highly thought of as an up-and-coming young man. His design, with its baptistry apse, its north-west tower, and an interior based on contemporary railway architecture of yellow brick with red brick trim, had the design features he had submitted successfully in a competition for the church at Silloth (built 1870/71) when he was Scotts pupil.
|Other distinctive features include the interior roof timbers, which surely put one in mind of an upturned ships hull, and the circular vestry or meeting room below the baptistry, with its central pillar of granite, for which Ferguson made use of the natural slope of the ground, and the round tower.|
|The interior brickwork gives way to freestone window surrounds, wall facings and stringers. There were originally texts on the brick arches but these were removed about 1930 as it was felt the lettering marred the visual impression of the lines of the arches.|
|Also worth noting is the skillful "stepping" of the brickwork of the arches and window embrasures - I noticed this particularly some years ago when I slept in church to safeguard some valuable artifacts prior to our first exhibition weekend.|
|Shap granite was also
used for the pulpit (1930) and the font, showing clearly the difference
between polished and unpolished stone.
All these features add up to what I believe is a very special church.
The building was consecrated on July 20th 1880 by the Reverend Harvey Goodwin DD, Lord Bishop of Carlisle, who had family connections with Orton. The churchyard was licensed for burials in August 1881 and in 1882, Edward Holme - "curate labouring in Tebay" - was appointed Vicar of Orton and Rev. A. J. Wright, from Lichfield Theological College, was offered the living. He declined it, and it was accepted by Rev. Edward Oerton, assisted curate of St. James', Derby. He was instituted by Bishop Goodwin on May 2nd as the first Vicar of St. James', Tebay and took up residence on June 6th.
Certain themes punctuate the records of the church from early times. Members of the current PCC may smile a little ruefully to read that in 1886, only four years after its installation, the heating apparatus was in need of repair - at an estimated cost of £30.10s.0d.! No more expense was incurred for the heating for another 10 years.
The first confirmation at St. James; was conducted by the Bishop of Carlisle on Wednesday 1st September 1886, with sixteen candidates - nine male and seven females.
A bazaar was held on 10th and 11th September that year and it raised £115.8s.0d. of which £29.27s.20d. was profit. In opening this event Mr. James Cropper said it was always a pleasure to help the people of Tebay "because Tebay always helps itself".
A vital member of the community died in October 1886 at a comparatively early age and was greatly missed. Thomas Farrer is commemorated in church by a tablet .
On a lighter note, part of the programme for a concert in the Market Hall in 1894 might well show that the participants were the natural predecessors of the infamous Tebay Concert Party of later years. The programme included these gems:
The second full-time Vicar of Tebay came in March 1896. He was Rev A.E. Palin, who held a BA Degree from Durham and the London College of Divinity. He had previously been curate at Maryport, Scotby, St. Johns Workington and Stannix. His arrival coincided with a crises regarding the heating system, which had become so inefficient that people refused to attend services and to compound the problem the organ needed urgent repairs as well. A sum of £200 was required to effect both sets of repairs. By July 1st £30.0s.d. had been raised and this must have seemed a large amount considering that the annual income of the church was only £36.10s.3d. with a balance of £1.17s.6d.
If I seem to be stressing too much the financial problems the church has faced ever since it was consecrated it is because such problems have continued and become more urgent over the years, still troubling the members of the PCC today. Clearly, improvements have been made in certain areas from time to time - new boilers in 1919, thanks to the LNER Company; a replacement by parochial effort in 1928; the change from solid fuel to oil-burning in 1968 at a cost of £500; and another new boiler in 1990.
The church also has 3 stained glass windows (see separate item on Stained Glass Windows).
Tebay ceased to be a separate parish in 1977 after Rev. Arthur Aird left when it was combined with Orton under Rev. Harold Sawrey. Then in 1981 it became a member of a three-parish unit, with the addition of Ravenstonedale with Newbiggin-on-Lune, under Canon Norman Scott. The latest change came with the departure of Fr. Tony Dalton to become an army chaplain, when a Deanery Plan came into force by which a five parish unit - High Westmorland - was formed by combining us with Shap and Bampton, under Rev. Carole Marsden. Our Priest in Charge is now Rev. Beverley Lock.
Following a period of over 100 years when little has changed in Tebay except the Vicars, we have experienced radical alterations which are still causing concern and discussion - and may well continue to do so for some time. As has no doubt been the case ever since its beginnings the church is in demand by many of the villagers only when it comes to one of the major events in a family - baptism, marriage and burial - although even these last two are now less in demand than before.