a painting of the Quaker meeting house in Fell End
Primitive Methodist chapel in Fell End
Primitive Methodist chapel in Newbiggin
22 feb 2022
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Snippets from the Ravenstonedale parish registers, and a little about the local places of worship
A church is believed to have existed in Ravenstonedale since around 1200, when it would have been strongly associted with the Gilbertine Priory which was established in Ravenstonedale circa 1200. The current building dates from 1744, though a description of the Church was written in 1681 by Thomas Machell, Vicar of Kirkby Thore, and there have been a series of excavations of the Monastery site which have revealed more details of its history (source 'The Gilbertines and Ravenstonedale', Irwin CR and M, publ. The Book House, Kirkby Stephen 2002) - see additional note at foot of this page. The Ravenstonedale Parish Registers for St Oswalds (Anglican) church contain records of many Adamthwaites who were baptised, married and buried in Ravenstonedale between the years of 1572 and 1812 – varying amounts of information are given about these people, but there are occasional mentions of their place of abode: Adamthwaite, Artelgarth, Hill, Malastang, Town, Lowcomb Head, Fell-end, Newbiggin, Murthwaite, Steps Beck, Streetside (all these places are within a short distance of Ravenstonedale village and still within the parish boundary). The names of Ministers and other officials are also recorded: in 1742 it was noted that Wm Adamthwaite was a Church Warden. We are most fortunate that The Rev. Robert Weston Metcalfe (~1850-1908), MA, during his period as Incumbent, painstakinly made full transcriptions not only the Registers themselves (whilst they were still in the parish chest!) but also inserted details of Bishop's Transcripts to fill gaps in the registers or to record any differences between the two. (Ravenstonedale Parish Registers, R W Metcalfe, T Wilson, Kendal vol 1 1893; vol II 1894) - also available on CD from Anguline Research Archives)
St Oswalds' Parish Registers contain some fascinating notes: there were plagues recorded in 1579, 1588, 1623 and 1730. A notice concerning 24 burials which took place between 1678 and 1679 (including two Adamthwaites) states:
‘Affidavits were lawfully made and brought to ye Curate of Ravenstondale Parish that ye persons whose burials are hereunder registered were wound up and buryed in nothing but wt was made of sheepswool only according to an Act of Parliament for that purpose enacted’.
It was recorded that following the 'Bare Bones' Act of Parliament, no weddings took place in the parish between 1653 and 1659 - they all took place in either Appleby or Kendal. As in many parishes at the time, there were also some exceeding judgmental statements made about some of the events recorded ... one poor young woman who took her child to be christened suffered the embarrassment of having the following written about her innocent little child "gotten in fornication by a pedler", and there were other references to children being "the supposed daughter to ...[name of father] ... in adultery".
Our search for Adamthwaite records from the late 17th and early 18th centuries has been somewhat hampered by the fact that a number of families were known to be dissenters. A succession of Curates at St Oswalds were sympathetic to the Dissenters and an arrangement was made whereby a bell was rung following the Nicene Creed so that the Dissenters could then enter the church and listen to the sermon and hear the notices. A number of records of christenings and weddings that took place at local Meeting Houses have also been included in the parish registers, as well as being listed in Quaker Records and those of the 'High Chapel'. We have been able to find some Adamthwaite records amongst the Quaker records of the period, but we know from Wills and other documents that there are still many individuals (and possibly whole families) whose christenings, marriages and burials we have not yet been able to identify.
Quaker Meeting House(s)
The earliest births recorded in the Ravenstonedale registers (source 'The Quaker Registers of Ravenstonedale, Grisedale and Garsdale, 1650-1837' John Breay, Hollett & Son 1994) are dated 1650 and predate not only George Fox's visit to Ravenstonedale in 1652 but the establishment of the earliest known Meeting Houses. Marriage records commence in 1656 and burials in 1659. After meeting in private houses for many years, the first Friends Meeting House in Ravenstonedale was built in Fell End in 1705 (close to Dovengill), but this was closed in the 1790s when the meeting moved to Narthwaite (where a Meeting House was built in 1823).
The chapel was built in the main street of the village in 1727 and was licenced as a meeting place for Protestant Dissenters, though various groups of dissenters had been meeing in private houses in the area since at least the middle of the 17th century - the first of these known to have been Licensed as a Meeting House following the 1689 Act of Tolerance was George Parkin's house (their Minister was a Timothy Punshon). In 1697, a Mary Adamthwaite married Mr James Mitchell, who was the Minister at the High Chapel. I have located registers and membership lists for High Chapel which date back to 1775 but there are only isolated appearances of any Adamthwaites. The High Chapel was eventually closed in 2006 and following renovation work, the building now houses the Ravenstonedale Community and Heritage Centre.
A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in the main village in 1839 (this is still open), and there is also a small Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Fell End (built 1861) and a Primitive Methodist chapel in the small village of Newbiggin (built 1837). To date, I have not located registers for the Methodist chapels to check for any Adamthwaite entries (however, births and marriages would appear in the GRO index at this period).
(source for information about places of worship from the very informative Ravenstonedale page of the Cumbria County History website)
You can get the full flavour of life in old Ravenstondale from Rev W Nicholls' 'History and Traditions of Ravenstonedale, Westmorland'. Rev Nicholls was Minister at the High Chapel from 1869-1883 and during his time there he gave three lectures about the History of Ravenstonedale - from these lectures he produced two volumes of 'History and Traditions of Ravenstonedale'. Volume II of this book is very hard to find (though I did manage to buy a copy on ebay and hope to produce a write up of some of the many mentions of Adamthwaite, the place, and mentions of Adamthwaite individuals at some point.) However, you can now buy your very own reprint of Volume I from Cumbria Books (currently £5). this volume is a faithful reproduction of the original book, produced by the Book House in Kirkby Stephen in 1996 [ISBN 0902520083]. Alternatively, you can access an on-line version of this volume at Archive.org (But please take care if buying either History and Traditions OR the Ravenstonedale Registers online, as there are also many 'print on demand' versions available which omit ALL formatting, making them impossible to read!)
Another book available online at Archive.org is 'Westmorland Agriculture 1800 - 1900' written in 1912 by Frank W Garnet, which includes some wonderful descriptions of life in the dales.
a Westmorland dalesman
The links to the right will take you to other parts of this 'History' section of the website, where you can discover more about the history of the Adamthwaites, and Adamthwaite Farm.
This is one of the Sections of this website where I regularly report new discoveries, so do come back often to see what's new!
St Oswalds Church
Note: It's wonderful what you can find on ebay! I recently obtained a reprint of the article 'Explorations in Ravenstonedale' by Edward Percy Frankland, BA, PhD, MSc, which was first published in The Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological Society vol XXIX, 1929), which is one of the sources for Chris Irwin's booklet mentioned in the first paragraph above. This 1929 bound reprint is endorsed "With the Author's compliments" and includes numerous additional handwritten notes by Dr Frankland containing his findings subsequent to the original publication.