A HISTORY OF NATLAND
With such improvements one might expect this church to have survived until the present day! but the parish was soon to experience further changes, and when an extension to the church was considered in 1908 the architects, Austin and Paley, gave the church a very poor report and the church warden, when asked his opinion, pronounced the church building "about done"
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In 1846 there was only one house in Oxenhorme within a mile of the station, Oxenholm, now Oxenholme Farm and Raysholme. Gradually a whole new community grew up to house the railway workers. First the five station cottages were built, Helmside Cottages were built in 1885 and Natiand Terrace and HilI Pace in 1897. Station Road was completed about 1890.
The 20 miles of completed railway between Lancaster and Oxenholme and the 2 miles between Oxenholme and Kendal were officially opened in September 1846. Of course there was great rejoicing. Most of the shops in Kendal were closed so that everyone could attend. Every vantage point was covered with sightseers and the slopes of the Castle hill were black with people. The 40 mile section to Carlisle was opened in December 1846 and the Kendal to Windermere section in April 1847.
Oxenholme became important as the unction for Kendal and Windermere and as a station on the busy West Coast main line. It was also very important for its engine shed. As many as 23 locomotives were based there in summer and 15 in winter. At one time it employed 120 men and boys and most families living in Oxenholme worked on the railways, some of them for several generations Besides those employed in the engine sheds there were drivers, signal men, platelayers, guards, an inspector! clerk, porter and others
A whole new community had emerged, with social and spiritual as well as physical needs. There was a Railway Children's Choir which helped to raise the £850 needed to build the Oxenholme Mission Hall in which services, concerts, talks and children's parties were held. Also a Reading Room was provided by the Railway Company.
It is not surprising that both church and School found that their buildings were quite inadequate to provide for the needs of this sudden influx of population
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The Church has always been very much involved in education and, before the state took over the responsibility for them, most schools were provided by the church. In Natland, teaching was at first given in the church building itself, but in 1825, when the new church was built, a school was built alongside.
There are no records of the school before 1878 when the log books started. The early ones make interesting reading. They show that a number of the older children attended part-time as they were employed on milk rounds or by the Sedgwick Gunpowder Company. Some were absent because they could not pay their 'school pence' and there were many days when snow and bad weather resulted in bad attendance or even closure. The children took a full part in village life and there were half holidays for events of local importance as well as for special outings further afield. The children helped with the cleaning of the school and sometimes school closed early so that the premises could be prepared for some outside event to be held there in the evening Boys will be boys (and girls will be girls) and there are many accounts of the pranks the children got up to. As a punishment they might be kept in or even suspended Not infrequently they were sent to the Vicar for a serious talk'. in 1879 there was a much needed enlargement of the school buildings to help to accommodate the children of the railway workers and in 1909 there was a further extension. in the period between these two dates there were other improvements such as the provision of new toilets and the enlargement of the windows Accommodation was still mad equate, however, and frequently commented upon by the inspectors. For a short period, in order to relieve the
congestion, the Vicar lent the parsonage washhouse to be fitted up as a classroom. in 1907 the school was so over-
crowded that 15 of the bigger boys from St. Mark's Home were transferred to Crosscrake Financial contributions to the running of the school were made by individual subscribers and also by the Railway Company and St. Mark's Home Committee.
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Pupil teachers were used to help out with the teaching and, as the number of pupils grew, the managers agreed to an increase
in staff. Regular inspections started in 1878 and the curriculum followed that to be found in most schools at that time. 1917 the school garden was acquired and instruction in gardening became a special feature which developed over the years as the garden was extended and improved.
The school continued to develop and to meet changing educational needs. It was not until 1957 that the seniors left Natland to pursue their secondary education elsewhere. This meant a considerable change in the life of the school and of the village In 1959 there were only 44 children on the roll, but this had nearly doubted by 1969 as the population I increased rapidly.
Modernisation was now necessary and in 1966 the foundation stone was laid of a new school building on a new site. There was a special service and the children laid individual stones. Later they planted trees and shrubs. On June 10th 1967 the new school was dedicated by the Bishop of Carlisle. The old school was sold for £1,800; the new one cost about £31,000. It is now a flourishing voluntary aided school.
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The church is not a building but people, and in the history of Natland there must have been many! both clergy and laity, who had a profound influence on village and church life. Few surely can have done more than Charles Whitaker, Vicar of the parish from 1875-1897. His father was James Whitaker, Master of the Blue Coat School, Kendal, which gave 45 boys free education and clothing for four years. He was Headmaster for 46 years and has been described as the 'Arnold of Kendal' but first and foremost he was an 'earnest Christian'. No doubt he had an important influence on his third son, Charles, who was a considerable scholar and showed great concern for the underprivileged.
Charles was trained at the London College of Divinity and then worked for three years at St. Peter's, Limehouse Mission. While he was there he saw the pitiful state of the orphan boys in the streets of London and he met Edward Rudolf, the founder of the Waifs and Strays Society, later to become the Church of England Children's Society. His friendship with Rudolf had an important result for Natland as it led to the foundation of St. Mark's Home. After Charles Whitaker had become Vicar of Natland he received into the school house in 1882 four waifs and strays from London. The following year he spent a great deal of time visiting various parishes to stimulate
interest in and raise money for St. Mark's Home which was opened in 1885 as a home for 24 boys. This was a period of great building activity in Natland. In 1879 a chancel, vestry and organ chamber were added to the church. An extension to the school was opened in the same year and the present vicarage was built in 1884.
One might think that all this activity, together with the ordinary work of a parish priest, would have left Charles Whitaker with little time for study. Yet at the vicarage he had several resident students who were preparing to train for the ministry. We know that he coached at least one bright local boy in Latin and Greek before school fn the morning He wrote two books, Student' Aid to the Prayer Book and Rufinus a condensed history of the creeds. They were intended to help students taking the University Preliminary Theological
Examinations and they were printed by the boys of St. Mark's Home
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When he founded St. Mark's Home Charles Whitaker could not have foreseen how it would develop and change over the years.
It was evidently always a friendly place. As early as 1883, when the boys were still in the old school house, this was remarked upon by a reporter from the Westmorland Gazette who visited Natland in order to write a feature on it as part of a series on local villages. It is worth quoting:
'Expressing a wish to see the extemporised Home, we went there Half a dozen ruddy, bright little fellows came into the room, saluting as they did so, and then formed into a fine. There was something about them different from any other boys connected with an "institution" I had ever seen. I can only express what I mean by saying that they were out and out boys. Then we had some conversation - full of fun and laughter They told me their names, their sad reminiscences of town life, and how happy they were here in the pleasant country One would like to be a teacher, another a farmer, a third a soldier, and so on. We were in their library and kind friends had sent them piles of interesting books. Two things struck me - the more than earnestness of the founder of the
Home, and the real happiness that beamed upon the boys' faces. St. Mark's Home cannot be otherwise than successful. Each boy has his own particular "mother" in some lady of the county. She selects her boy and volunteers to clothe and care for him during his stay. But the Home is only in its infancy. It is to grow and develop A beautiful St Mark's Home is to be built for twenty boys, and a favourable site has already been obtained . Those who have great hearts and have been endowed with riches should obtain the details from the founder, the Vicar. But those interested should go themselves and personally see the lads'.
The foundation stone for the new Home was laid on April 1st 1884 and it was opened on Whit Monday in 1885. From the first it was affiliated to the Waifs and Strays and was formally taken over in 1894 by the society which was to become the Church of England Children's Society in 1947.
The policy of the Society has changed and developed over the years and St Mark's Home has changed with it. in the early days the need was to take destitute boys off the city streets where thousands of them were sleeping rough. The best solution seemed to be to house them in residential homes.
St. Mark's started as a Boys Home for these boys and for and from the Carlisle Diocese At first they lived a rather institutional life with strict rules and uniforms, but gradually it became more homely and relaxed and the wearing of a uniform was abandoned. The boys played a considerable part in village and church life. They attended Natland School, often helped the local farmers at busy times and many of them were members of the church choir.
In 1960 the Home was closed for a short period and was re-opened in 1961, after alterations to the building, as a Family Home taking both boys and girls. Meanwhile a big change had taken place in the policy of the Children's Society and it was now felt that children should not be taken away from their own homes unless absolutely necessary and that the Society should try to provide the help
needed to keep the family together at home. This was done by the employment of professional child care officers. For this and a variety of other reasons the need for residential homes dwindled and the Society concentrated much of its effort on adoptions, work with the handicapped and with teenagers tinder stress, and work in the community.
In April 1975 St. Mark's became a Holiday Home providing children in special need with an experience of living together for a short time in a beautiful part of the country, very different from the environment in which they rived. Usually about 500 children and their helpers used the Home each year Some of them came from other Children's Society Homes, others were sent by Local Authorities. Some of them were from special schools and hospitals and many of them were handicapped in some way.
Charles Whitaker would surely have approved of this use of the Home, although it was no doubt different from anything he
could have envisaged. The children being helped were children in reap need, many of them suffering from the evils and
inadequacies of the society in which they were being brought up, just as the early waifs and strays suffered as a result of the dreadful conditions in which they lived.
On 81st December 1994 St Mark's Home was closed, as the Children's Society decided there were more urgent needs in other spheres, especially in their work with teenagers in the big cities
Natland only became a parish in 1872, but before this there had been a resident minister in the village. This was Joseph Fawcett In June 1840 he wrote to Mr. W.D. Crewdson to stress the desirability of buying a house which could be used as a parsonage.
There was never a resident minister, he wrote, till I, having been previously employed for nearly 15 years a Curate of the Parish Church in Kendal, relinquished the said stipendiary curacy, to reside in Natland. Having no Parsonage, I have hitherto rented a house of W.W.C Wilson Esq, of Casterton Hall (who has considerable property in the Chapelry) at the annual rent of £9 - which low rent was fixed by the owner, with a view to inducing the Minister to reside. The said House Ls about 100 yards from the Chapel, is now in good repair, sufficiently large for a considerable Family, has a good Garden, with a Barn and Stable and other appurtenances, and is in every
respect a suitable and desirable residence for the Minister of the Chapel' He went on to say that Mr Carus Wilson was now willing to sell the house on very generous terms and he advised that it should be bought so that there could be a permanent residence for the
Minister So this house became the first Natland Vicarage. It stood within the grounds of the present vicarage to the right of the gate.
It did not remain the vicarage for long, however, as the foundation stone of the present vicarage was laid on June 25th 1888. The account of the celebrations given in the Westmorland Gazette reads as follows: