A HISTORY OF NATLAND
The most striking feature of Natland is the village green, with houses clustered round it and a very beautiful church. The church was
only built in 1910 hut it is the fourth one to be built on or near the site. This part of the Kent valley has been an important focus of local life for many centuries. There was an Iron Age fort on Helm and a Roman fort and settlement at Watercrook. The Anglicans occupied the region and Natland village green is a typical feature of an Anglian settlement. The Norsemen followed, and the name Oxenholme includes the Old Norse element 'helmr' which means an island or water meadow The name Natland is also Morse and is still a common place name in Norway The suffix 'Pundr' means a wood or sacred grove of the pagan religions of Northern Europe and Nat was the name of a giant of Norse mythology. It may be that the Scandinavian settlers built a temple in Natland to serve their pagan gods. It is an interesting possibility. We know that a cross was erected at some time in Natland, probably on the green, as 'the cross in Nateland' Is mentioned in the records of Kendal of 1812 The earliest church was built in 1246. There are deeds at Sizergh which tell us about it! And about the tithe barn erected at the same time, probably on the site of the bungalow now bearing the name 'Tithe Barn'. in 1246 'Ralph Dancurt gave to Master Roger Pepin, rector of the mediety of the church at Kirkeby In Kendale, land In Natelund in a competent place, 801t in length and 40 in breadth, to hold during his rife, for the site of a barn in which to put his tithe at Natalund'.
'On the morrow of Martinmas, Si Henry III, at Appleby, Roger Pepin, parson of the mediety of the church in Kyrkeby in Keridale, acknowledged that 14 a land in Natelund were the right of Ralph de Eyncurt and released them to Ralph for himself and his successors, parsons of the said mediety; and further granted that Ralph and his heirs should henceforth have a chapel in their court at Natelund for the celebration of divine service. For this agreement Ralph gave to Roger and his mediety of the said church, a message and 10 a land in Wynnefel which Richard Prat sometime held and 10 a of the said Ralph's land next the said messuage to hold in alms' The abode of the 'court at Natelund' may have been Natland Hall, though we cannot be certain of this Nor do we know if the chapel was an integral part of the hall itself or a separate building. It was certainly a chapel of ease in the very Large parish of Kendal. These chapels were set up because the parishes were so big and communications so difficult that people living in the villages and hamlets could not get to the parish church to attend services. Although by 1600 about 75 chapels had been consecrated in the area covered by the present diocese there was still a great deaf of hardship as baptisms, marriages and burials had to take place at the parish church There are stories of corpses being taken through the mountainous country to Kendal. In winter conditions Christian burial was sometimes impossible and bodies had to be left unburied or deposited in woods, streams and lakes.
Natland was in the Archdeaconry of Richmond, which, until 1541, was part of the Diocese of York. It is probable that Natland Abbey was used by the monks who came from St. Mary's, York to collect the rents. Fn 1541 the southern part of what is now the Diocese of Carlisle was transferred to the bishopric of Chester and it was not until 1856 that the diocese took its present shape.
This part of the country suffered greatly from attacks by the Scots. Travelling was difficult, clergy were few and money was in very short supply. it is perhaps not surprising that so many chapels, Natland among them, were allowed to fail into disrepair and disuse
It is not until 1691 that we hear anything more of the chapel at Natland That was when Thomas Machell 'set forward to Natland, where there is a little chapel lately rebuilt (and) a delicate plain, level green with houses about it, of which S or 4 are very good houses There was a chapel (here) formerly which was fallen into decay! to the repairing of which Miles Troughton, a burgess of Kendal, cordwinder, gave 3 (?) who had one close called Yorkfield. Five years since it was repaired and some now living can remember prayers in the old chapel read by the schoolmaster, having (no) vic(ar). (It has) one little bell. (It ~5) nine yards long and almost 5 broad There is no chapel yard now! nor formerly (They pay) tithe corn in kind in dry stook; no hay (tithe) not (anything) for it. A school (is) sometimes taught in the chapel but (there is) no salary.'
The chapel was so small that it would have fitted into the chance of the' present church and there is an amusing story told of a worthy alderman of Kendal, who was very expert in and fond of hunting, On one occasion while pursuing his favourite pastime it is said he 'leapt over the old chapel at Natland'
The mention of the schoolmaster in Thomas Machell's account of 1691 leads us to another fascinating chapter in the history of church life in Natland.
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The schoolmaster who read prayers in the old chapel was almost certainly Richard Frankland. He became a Presbyterian minister in 1658 and after the Restoration was one of the first to be attacked for his nonconformity Under the Act of Unformity of 1662 he was ejected from his living and went to Rathmeil in Yorkshire where he founded the first of the nonconformist academies. It trained students for law, medicine and the ministry There were Presbyterian and independent students and some Anglicans. Persecution continued and in 1674 Frankland moved to Natland, at the invitation of a group of dissenters. One of his friends was
John Archer who was Mayor of Kendal from 1648-9 and lived at the house which is now Oxenholme Farm and Raysholme
Academic standards at the Academies were high, the range of subjects offered and the standards attained being comparable with those of the universities of the time. Students at Natland had a big disadvantage in that they had no good library and at least one of them got rnto debt through buying too many books. The routine was a rigorous one, comprising many hours
of prayer and study. As at the universities, all lectures were in Latin. A visiting preacher described his visit to Natland in 1682: 'After prayers,' he wrote, 'and the family breakfast, we called all the scholars of the house together, with all above 20, and I spent more than 2 hours with them praying, preaching purposely to the scholars from 2.Chron.29~1 1 "My sons be not negligent'
Doubtless the students were far from negligent in their studies hut we know that they also enjoyed sport and other student activities while they were in Natland. One of them was described as 'the strongest man of his age in or about Natland! and excelled all of us in any exercise of the body - his distemper came by a strain got while reaping'. The students also bathed in the river and one of them was drowned while learning to swim. Another had a narrow escape! being pulled out of the water by a fellow-student
Persecution continued and the Academy moved from one place to another In 1689 Frankland moved back to Rathmelr where he died in 1698. His students, however! carried on the work and it was John Chorlton, a student who had been entered at Natland, who was responsible for carrying on the Northern Academy at Manchester It seems certain that this was the forerunner of Manchester College, Oxford There is a students' hostel there called Pathmer and it bears Richard Frankland's coat-of-arms.
During the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth there was a great surge in church building in this part of the country Sixty churches were built or restored in the Carlisle Diocese and forty-seven in the Chester Deaneries During this period two churches were built in Natland, the first in 1735 and the second in 1825.
We know little about the church of 1735 except that the profits of two enclosures belonging to the township, together with an annual subscription were given by the inhabitants to a person who should teach their children and read prayers in the chapel on Sundays Further money was obtained later from Queen Anne's Bounty and other sources so that in 1777 the revenue amounted to about £33 a year.
This church was built on the site of the original chapel and had a small churchyard, which was not, however used for burials
There has been some spocutation about the actual site of the first two Natland churches It was apparently about 100 yards from the present church and about 10 yards away from a Pot House, probably the present vilraqe shop which used to be the Horse and Farrier Inn'. There was a tradition that there used to be a chapel at what is now Compton House and when the sewers were excavated near the house some oLd walling was exposed. API the evidence we have seems to suggest that the site was near the north west corner of the green.
In the middle of the eighteenth century only about thirty families rived in the Manor of Natland. The earliest register for Natland church is dated 1777, previous to that date baptisms, marriages and funerals were recorded in the registers of Kendal parish church Burlais took place at Kendal until 1826. Some of the registers make very interesting reading and from 1814 onwards give valuable intormation about the occupations of the inhabitants and so indicate changes in social conditions. The list of clergy in the church porch begins in 1735 with Thomas Head who was vicar when the new church was built.
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It may seem surprising that a church built in 1735 should need to be replaced less than 100 years later, but between 1735 and 1825 there had been an increase in population so that a larger church was needed. We know little about the second Natland church but a great deal about the third, since there are records and photographs of it.
A new site was chosen for this church, a hundred yards from the old one, and where the present church stands. There was also a burial ground for the first time. The cost was £550 of which £100 was given by the Society of the Building of New Churches and the rest was subscribed by parishioners £300 of it by three individuals. This church building provides us with a very interesting lesson in social and ecclesiastical history. It was built at a time when class distinctions were considered very important This is reflected in the allocation of the pews. At least two of them were box pews with seats on three sides and a door opening onto the aisle. The chapel wardens had one pew reserved for them, the minister for the time being and his family another. Other pews were reserved for the owners ot the big houses including High House, Watercrook and an unnamed house owned by the Revd W Carus Wilson who lived at Casterton Hail and owned considerable estates in Westmorland including land and houses in Natland. These special pews were for the use of themselves and their families respectively so long as
they shall continue inhabitants of the said Chapelry and Protestants according to the Doctrine and Discipline of the United Church of England and Ireland'. It was further declared that 'an the seats or sitting places in this chapel which are not otherwise appropriated shall be set apart and perpetually remain for the use of the poor inhabitants of the said Chapelry of Natland'
The pews were so arranged that they all faced the pulpit rather than the altar. This was a time when the emphasis in worship was on the preaching of the Word rather than the administration of the Sacrament. The altar, therefore, had a very insignificant place at the east end in a very shallow chancel, little more than an apse. The pulpit, on the other hand, was a fine three-decker, situated half way down the south side and was the dominant feature of the church. The parish clerk would occupy the lowest tier and it was his duty
to read the responses and say the "Amens". The parson would read Morning and Evening Prayer from the second deck and would mount the pulpit at the top for the sermon. This would probably be very long and could be read from a book. In most churches Holy Communion was only celebrated four times a year.
We have a plan, but no pictures, of the interior of the church at this period. In 1872 and 1879, however, significant changes were made and these can be seen on the photographs. The changes were no doubt made in order to bring the church into line with the liturgical changes taking place in the Church of England as a whole, mainly inspired by the Oxford movement. There was to be a new emphasis on the sacraments, especially Holy Communion All pews or chairs should face east Three- decker pulpits galleries and box pews were condemned. The altar was now to be the most important feature and many churches introduced frontals, cross and candles for the first time. A chancel was recommended, preferably separated from the nave by an arch or rood screen.
In line with these suggested reforms Natland (which had just become a parish in its own right) completely altered the internal appearance of the church At a cost of £350 the three-decker pulpit was ripped out, the whole church was reseated, air pews facing east, being uniform in size and shape and free for a~ to use. In 1879 for a further £550 a chance!, organ chamber and vestry were added and the churchyard was enlarged. Stained glass windows beautified the sanctuary and round the chance arch were painted the words 'Holy, holy, holy Lord Cod of Hosts later changed to 'Then will I go unto the altar of Cod' There were choir stalls in the chancel, a pulpit on the south side and a vicar's stall on the north side.