Plan of the church on the page following the notice about it (on p. 474) in the Building News.

St James, Tebay, Cumbria is a Grade II listed church designed by the Carlisle architect, Charles John Ferguson (1840-1904) and completed in 1880. It was planned in 1878 in response to calls for a church there to serve the community which had grown up around the junction of the Durham and Lancashire Union Railway (later, part of the North-Eastern system) and the London and North-Western Railways — calls to which the Lord Bishop of Carlisle had responded by making an appeal in the Times. The proposed church was to add to "the series of mountain chapels already erected in this diocese," and was to be large enough to seat a congregation of about a hundred people. Moreover, it would have scope for "future enlargement" ("Tebay Church"). It was funded by both railway companies, which had built terraced housing for their workers there (see Biddle).

Left: View of the church: what looks as if it might be a chancel apse is the large apsidal baptistry at the west end. Right: The "quirky" tower (see last paragraph below).

A sense of urgency accompanied the announcement of this provision: "The church is the first 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 may be pushed forward in the spring" ("Tebay Church"). The listing text accordingly begins:

Rock-faced snecked granite blocks; dressed-stone details. Graduated slate roofs. Built on sloping site: Single-storey aisle-less nave and chancel; north porch and apsidal western baptistry are 2-storey, with 3-stage bell-turret between. 5 bays overall.

The architect was an established figure for whom (just as an example) Philip Webb had much respect (see Letters I:108, especially the editor's footnote). He managed to make the church, partly because of its accommodation to the steep slope, quite distinctive.

Looking east down the central aisle to a traditional three-light east window.

Inside, there is well-judged polychromatic brickwork, its colours echoing the livery of the North-Western Railway Company, and a wide chancel arch which keeps the view to the sanctuary open and gives a feeling of spaciousness. The listing text notes that the sturdy pulpit and font are both made of granite, though the pulpit was not installed until 1930. The stained glass was by Ward & Hughes, but that came later, in the early twentieth century.

Looking down towards the west end, where the font matches the hefty dimensions of the baptistry.

Although many towns and villages expanded or even grew up along railway lines, it is fascinating to see such a concrete example of this inter-relationship at Tebay. The diocesan website also points out, "The relationship of the circular sacristy [below the baptistry], which has a meeting table wrapped around a central support column, with the remainder of the church must be extremely rare." It also finds the bell tower with its conical slate roof "quirky." It is, in all, a very characterful building.

Photographs by Simon Cooke, scanned image, commentary and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee.You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer or person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL, or cite the Victorian Web in a print document. [Click on the images to enlarge them].

Related Material


Biddle, Gordon. Railways in the Landscape. Barnsley, S. Yorks: Pen & Sword, 2016. See chapter 5.

The Building News and Engineering Journal Vol. 35. July-December 1878. Internet Archive, from a copy in Gerstein — University of Toronto. Web. 27 August 2019.

Church of St James. Historic England. Web. 27 August 2019.

"Tebay St James." Carlisle Diocese. Web. 27 August 2019.

Webb, Philip. Letters. Vol. I: 1864-87. Ed. John Aplin. London: Routledge, 2016.

Created 27 August 2019