Ravenstonedale Kirkby Stephen Cumbria

From Margaret Greer, Wigan, Lancs

My 3 x great grandmother's brother was the Rev Thomas Moss, reputedly the vicar of Ravenstonedale in the early part of the 19th century but I can't find any documentation which supports this information. He is listed in the 1824 & 1829 Trade Directories as the Master of the Grammar school at Orton. Do you know where I could find any records which lists the incumbents at the local church? Thank you. Margaret Greer, Wigan, Lancs.

The Book House, Ravenstonedale provided the following in response to Margaret Greer's enquiry:

Thomas Moss

According to the list of incumbents he was Curate at Ravenstonedale from 1833 to 1842.

This needs a few words of explanation. Ravenstonedale was a "Perpetual Curacy" from the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries until the 1850s. This was possibly because as a property of the Gilbertine monks it never had a priest as such, these duties being carried out by one or other of the monks living in the monastic property alongside the church. After the dissolution the manor passed (indirectly) to Lord Wharton and later to the Lowthers.

It might be thought that a curate was inferior to a vicar or a rector but ecclesiastically this apparently was not so. All 'priests in holy orders' are vicars, even if they are a bishop! Basically the difference was that a curate was paid by someone else, such as the Lord of the Manor, and was usually employed as an assistant priest in a large parish; a vicar was one who had the freehold of his parish but the tithes went elsewhere, such as to a religious order or a college or even a layman; and a rector was a clergyman who received the tithes for his own benefit. This is an oversimplification and as with any English institution there are lots of oddities and exceptions, but basically your ancestor was incumbent of the parish church but paid, probably by the Lord of the Manor.

As an aside Brough, a few miles away, was a very wealthy church and the incumbent had a large income from it. One such is on record as having only visited the place twice in some 30 or 40 years as vicar, but living very well in London on the income while he employed a curate for a few pounds a year to take the services!

Incidentally, Thomas Moss's predecessor was also the schoolmaster at Ravenstonedale Grammar School. A very religious man, under his rule the school became a sort of ecclesiastical college and at least twenty of his pupils became clergymen. No doubt he knew your ancestor well before Moss became the curate, as the two parishes adjoin and no doubt the two schoolmasters would have much in common.

At our shop we sell a few books on the history of the village. We have a guide to the Parish Church and another to the adjoining Gilbertine monastic ruins, both at GBP 1.50. Then there is the "History of Traditions of Ravenstonedale" by the Rev William Nicholls, the Congregational Minister in the 1870s. This we reprinted a few years ago at GBP 5.00. If you want any of these we should be happy to send them to you - postage would be extra - or you might like to visit the village on one of the days when the village records are available, about 4 days a month. Next one is this Thursday, 22nd May, 3-5pm, or I could send you details of forthcoming days if you like.