St. James' Church

St.James' Church is a true railway church.  The land was conveyed from The  North Eastern Railway Company containing 1 acre 16 perches for the purpose of erecting a church and vicarage  for the growing population of railway workers. Money for the building was raised by  local people and the shareholders of the London and North Western Railway Company. The inside is built with railway bricks, the pews are like the seats in a  railway waiting room and the font cover is a railway engine wheel cover.

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.

From The Building News November 8th 1878
The church about to be erected at Tebay to service the wants of  a population which has grown up round the well known junction on The London and North Western Railway. The initiative in the matter has been taken by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, who personally made an appeal in the columns of The Times a short time ago. The church will add another to the series of mountain chapels already erected in this diocese. It will seat 165 persons, and is capable of future enlargement. The church is to be built of the local material - a rough slate - the dressings being either of slate or granite. Preparations are now being made to commence quarrying, so that the work made be pushed forward in the spring.

The difference - the apse at Silloth being at the east end, while at Tebay it is at the west - might, with justice, give our church some distinction.
The church is dedicated to St. James, the fisherman of Galilee, appropriate enough given its proximity to the River Lune where generations of fishermen have plied their craft.

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.

Old Poscard of the inside of St. James Church showing the writing around the windows and the
original lectern and lights

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 .
It reads:
"In affectionate remembrance of Thomas Farrer, schoolmaster and organist of Tebay, who died Oct 14, 1886, aged 32.
This tablet is erected by subscription. A sum of £15 is also invested to form an annual memorial prize for the parochial day school.
The interest on this bequest was still in use until recently to provide the Farrer Prize for regular attendance and good work at Sunday School and now helps to provide bibles for pupils at Tebay School when they leave for secondary education.

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:



Comic Duett
Auld Jammys Adivice

Mr J.C. Parkinson

Messrs Clark & Parkinson

Miss Tyson & Mr Clark
"Very improper indeed"

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.

It was June 22, 1898 before the organ was reopened with various recitals and a Parish Supper to follow. The balance sheet in February 1899 showed that the cost of heating repairs was £32.12s.0d. The rebuilding of the organ meant laying out £165 which was £15 more than the original cost of the instrument.
Inflation was apparently rife then as it is today!

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 provision of a magnificent American walnut eagle lectern in 1880, paid for "by those who had no intimate connection with Tebay" was recalled with great sadness when it was stolen in the 1990's.

 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.

Below is  the  Accounts of the Tebay Church and  Parsonage Building Committee , January 1883