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Life in Ravenstonedale

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the article and data that initiated the Ravenstonedale  project


our project page on the Family Tree DNA website

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I am gradually adding a variety of articles, books and documents to this section, describing how life may have been for our Ravenstonedale ancestors. Scroll down for the most recent additions! If you can add documents, stories, images, etc., for inclusion in this section,  please send them to me (ideally in JPG, PDF or Word format).

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Tarn House
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The Ravenstonedale Sheep Dog Trials, September 1907

I bought the programme for this event on ebay, and  though I couldn't find a newspaper article setting out the results of the various competitions listed in the programme, I did come across a very interesting article, describing a similar event that took place in Threlkeld, Cumberland the same month, which may help those of you that don't remember the television series 'One Man and his Dog' to understand what sheepdog trials are all about!




 Knitting in Ravenstonedale

According to Rev Nicholls in his 'History and Traditions of Ravenstonedale" (volume 1 printed in 1877), everyone in Ravenstonedale used to knit ... men, women and children. Apparently it was quite normal for a shepherd minding his sheep to occupy himself knitting stockings.  This short article explains the importance of knitting to the people of Ravenstonedale.



Agriculture in Westmorland 1800-1900

On this page you will find a link to a fascinating book which is available to read online at, which describes the way of life for agricultural workers in Westmorland two hundred years ago, along with some of the illustrations from the book


Tarn House and Brownber

These were ancient homes of the FOTHERGILLs, and this short article by Cyril Harrington from a 1951 edition of 'The Dalesman' provides some background to their origins. 

An Account of Ravenstonedale 

These two articles appeared in 'The Monthly Magazine' in September 1801.  It describes many aspects of the parish of Ravenstonedale: the Church and Meeting House, the Grammar School, the division into four Angles, the economic and social aspects for residents in the parish, as well as the ancient privileges held, concluding with the wild life living in the area (did you know there were wild cats, pole-cats, ermines and weasels living in the area?); and also describe the weather phenomenon known as the 'helm-wind' - all fascinating reading. 

Read Part 1     Read Part 2

Poor Relief in Ravenstonedale

Before 1834, responsibility for the poor, sick and old was down to the local parish officials.  The financial burden was great and many strategies were put into place to prevent any poor arriving in the parish from elsewhere!  In Ravenstonedale, there are records showing a strategy adopted by the Grand Jury of Four and Twenty to manage the situation.  This link will take you to an article on the Adamthwaite Archive.



History & Traditions of Ravenstonedale

by Rev W Nicholls

The maroon one is a paperback which is an exact reproduction of the original Volume I which was published in 1996 by The Book House in Cumbria. Copies are still available from Books Cumbria (£5 + P+P)

The blue one (though I believe first editions are maroon!) is a hardback original copy of vol I, published in 1877 and available free online at or in facsimile format as above

The green one is a hardback original copy of vol II, published by Abel Heywood, Manchester in about 1916 (the publication date is NOT shown on the book) and very occasionally available on ebay or at Abe Books (see above) at anything between £40 and £80.


Ravenstonedale Tales

'Ravenstonedale Tales - volume 1' - by Val Fermer


Ravenstonedale Tales – Volume 1

Three fascinating family histories, each of which starts with an interesting discovery, found in the local archives of the Ravenstonedale Parish History Group,  a small Cumbrian village, that takes the reader far beyond Cumbria to stories of wealth, High Court litigation and a legacy of historic buildings, celebrating success in the Victorian age.


About the author

Val Fermer began researching her family tree as a teenager, inspired by her Grandfather. This was well before the internet and consequently much time was spent at the various record centres in London and wandering around churchyards looking for gravestones. On moving to Ravenstonedale in 2007, Val became involved with the Ravenstonedale Parish History Group and began to apply her genealogical knowledge and interest to local history research projects which evolved to become annual lectures given to the History Group during its winter season of lectures.

Three of these lectures have formed the basis of the three ‘Tales’ in this first volume of ‘Ravenstonedale Tales’, further volumes in the series are planned.


About this book

Each Chapter began with a research project inspired by a clue or interesting finding discovered when investigating the extensive archives held by the Ravenstonedale Parish History Group. Subsequent research revealed three fascinating stories which begin in the village but go far beyond the small Westmorland community and chart the journey to great wealth or the dissemination of wealth as a result of a High Court case.

This 96 page paperback book is extensively illustrated. Most of the illustrations of documents and reproduced photographs were drawn from the Ravenstonedale Parish History Group archives. Where images are drawn from other sources these have been individually acknowledged. Original drawings are also included. These have been commissioned from local artist Stuart Wells.

Each chapter is intended to take the reader through a story which unfolds, much as the research unfolded as it was undertaken by Val. Recognising that some readers will have a genealogical interest, a ‘Genealogists Checklist’ is included as an appendix, to facilitate easy reference to the family names included in the three stories presented here.


About buying a copy

Ravenstonedale Tales – Volume1 is available from The Bank House Press - £18.00 plus £3.00 postage and packing. Please contact or call 07496521895 if you would like to purchase a copy.


NEW - and now Volume Two is available!

Introducing three more Ravenstonedale tales about sons and daughters of the village who embarked upon an economic migration to the first industrial city of Manchester and beyond.  In the second 'tale' she reveals the tale of a bankrupt, a marriage of convenience and a connection to gin, cricket and horse racing.  In the third tale the reader is introduced to the survivors from World War 1, sharing their wartime experience and their post-war life in peacetime. Contact to purchase your copy of Volume 2 - at £18.00 plus £3 postage packing.  I'm looking forward to receiving my copy which I am about to order!

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'Ravenstonedale: An Extraordinary History from Farm and Village Records'

from David Tunstall’s book, transcribed and edited by Dawn Robertson: 276 pp with 58 b&w photographs 


This fascinating publication has recently been released from Hayloft Publishing Ltd, Cumbria and contains material originally recorded in a leather bound book – hand written by members of the Fothergill family and passed down through generations (who continued to add details) eventually ending up with the Tunstall family.  It contains a large variety of farming records and numerous lists of Ravenstonedale residents commencing in the late 17thC.  The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs from the Frankland and Tunstall families.


Here are some snippets of information I discovered on my initial trawl through the book:

  • several Adamthwaites rented grasslands from other Ravenstonedale farmers (the lists show the extent of the land and how much was paid);

  • some wonderful remedies for rheumatism, toothache, a windy belly, bites from mad dogs, etc;

  • lists of prices for goods bought and sold (e.g. in the mid 1800s a pound of coffee cost 2 shillings, but a pound of tea was 5 shillings and sixpence!);

  • But for me, possibly the most fascinating chapter details borrowers and books borrowed from the Lending Library , which began in 1736 probably by Anthony Fothergill – this revealed that Isabel Adamthwaite (who MAY have been my 5xgt grandmother) borrowed a very popular book called ‘Adam’s Fall’ a supplement to ‘Wicked Christians practical Atheists’ by Anthony Fothergill, published in 1755 – which you can read yourself at Google Books! The supplement appears after page 255 of the main book.


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Ravenstonedale DNA project

Ravenstonedale DNA project

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