Local historian Heather Ballantyne has kindly shared this essay and photographs with us, describing how Tebay changed from a tiny village into a thriving railway settlement with the arrival of the railway in the nineteenth century.
“Until the railways came to Tebay it was basically a farming community largely based around what is now known as Old Tebay. The old Tebay had a school, a smithy, a saw mill and a carrier as well as farms and cottages. I am going to look at what is now known as Tebay. Situated on a turnpike road. Tebay had its inn The Cross Keys, and beer house called Dyke and a few farms and the odd cottage.
When the Shap route, proposed by Joseph Locke was chosen for the Lancaster to Carlisle railway, I am sure nobody in Tebay realised how it was going to change their lives and the village. On 24 May 1844 the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Bill passed through both Houses of Parliament; the first sod was cut at Grayrigg in September of the same year.
The line opened in 1846 but the 1851 census shows only 13 people living in the Tebay area were working for the railway. These included: the station master, a Railway Inspector, an engine driver, 2 pointsmen, a stoker, a fireman, and 6 railway labourers all living in surrounding cottages. When the South Durham and Lancaster Railway (later LNER) made Tebay a junction it was obvious that they needed to build accommodation in Tebay.
Jo. Wharton had already built a row of terraces and many farmers were taking in lodgers but more houses were needed. Both railway companies had already bought land in Tebay and applied for permission to build 56 terraced houses between them facing the railway line.
Fourteen Houses called South Terrace, built of stone by North Eastern were the first ones finished followed by North Terrace. LMS then built their 28 houses to the south of these of brick and they were called Whinfell Terrace. In the middle of the terraces a larger house was built designed to be used as a lodging house for railway workers who finished their shift in Tebay before they returned to their home depot the next morning. In 1861 application was lodged to build more terraces this time in what is now known as Church Street.
These new houses brought more families and in 1863 a new school had to be built to accommodate the children as the old school was not big enough. Of course these families need somewhere to buy food and clothes and in 1864 three small terrace cottages were turned into the co-operative store. At some point a market hall was built between the South Terrace and the co-operative store but I don’t know when.
In 1865 it was decided that peoples spiritual needs were required to be looked after and the first Methodist Chapel was built (now called Chapel House) but by 1885 they had outgrown this and a new larger Chapel was built.
In the meantime C of E people had to go to Orton to worship a distance of 2 ½ miles. A meeting was held in the Cross Keys and it was decided that a church needed to be built in Tebay. Shareholders of the railway companies were asked to donate as were local people, and the North Eastern Railway donated the land. A competition was held and the design submitted by Mr. C. J. Ferguson was chosen and in 1878 the foundation stone was laid by Lady Mabel Howard. On being handed the trowel by Mr J. Cropper she declared that the Church should be called St. James’. It was to be built on a slight hill at the foot of which ran the railway lines and within sight of the river Lune. The outside was to be of stone and the inside of LMR bricks. The font and pulpit were carved from single pieces of Shap Pink Granite, seats in the form of railway waiting room benches and the font cover in the style of an engine wheel. St. James Church was completed and opened in 1880 at a cost of £2755. 8s. 6½d.
Of course with all these people they needed something to do and somewhere to go in their spare time. A conservative club was built at the top of Mount Pleasant using public subscription and was opened by the Earl of Lowther in 1889. Several clubs and organisations were formed (A matter for another day) and although they used the market hall for meeting another place was required. In 1899 the then vicar of Tebay Rev Palin purchased from Sedbergh school their old chapel for the cost of £75. It was transported to Tebay by rail and was erected to become the Victorian Institute. For many years it was the place to go for dances, whist drives meeting etc. before eventually, after the railways closed, to be come 2 residences.
In 1898 Mr Mathew Croft bought a piece of land next to Dyke and gained permission to build a hotel on it. This was to become the Junction Hotel and it eventually opened in 1900 and was the largest building in Tebay at 64 ft wide.
Of course he was not the only person who realised that Tebay needed places for travellers to stay and in 1856 Mr E Hayton a local builder had built a Temperance Hotel on Mount Pleasant (it closed in 1859) maybe he was a bit premature with his building as Tebay did not become a junction until 1861 but as anyone knows who has lived there Tebay can be very wet and extremely windy and who wants to walk that far with luggage.
With all of these people now living in what was once a scattering of houses, the police decided to close the police station at Orton and built a new one at Tebay as they felt that was where they were most needed. So in 1906 Tebay had a new police station and house. Of course these were not the only buildings erected. There were more houses to hold the growing number of workers, another school for the growing number of children and many shops were opened (Yet another story).
So, Tebay had grown out of the coming of the railway but when the railways started closing it was also to see its decline with people moving on and shops closing. It next big event was the M.6 coming through the Lune Gorge but again another story for another day.
So we had the birth of a village and decline of a community but nearly all of the buildings standing today are a testament to it birth and, although we have no shops, the community is still here.”
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