PENRITH HERALD, Saturday, January 10, 1874 / KIRKBY STEPHEN CHURCH RE-DEDICATION
(With special thanks to Barb Baker)
The noble old Church of Kirkby Stephen - Cathedral-like in its proportions, design, and arrangments - was on Tuesday last (the Feast of the Epiphany) solemnly rededicated to the service of God.
Few parish churches in the North afford worthier evidence of the ideas our ancestors had of the sort of temple which it became them to rear for the worship of their Master and Redeemer; but a succeeding generation, barren in taste, and we would almost imagine in reverence, defaced the original plan by all manner of squalid patch-work; and the undertaking which has now been completed had for its object little more than the restoration of the design of the first builders. This has been done in a way which attests emphatically the devotion and liberality of the parishioners. Between £5,000 and £6,000 has been spent upon it; but even this, without the archaeological knowledge and enthusiasm of the Vicar, DR. SIMPSON, would have failed to produce the effect which hundreds admired on Tuesday last.
The chancel was re-built about five and twenty, or thirty years since by the exertions of the REV. H. KING, the late vicar, but the body of the church was still in a most ruinous and dilapidated condition. It was also disfigured not only by large square pews, with narrow and uncomfortable benches around them, but with two unsightly galleries, one across the nave, supported on the capitals of the pillars, the other across the north transept. Two of the bays, out of the seven of which the nave arcade consists, had been cut off by a wall built across the nave and north and south aisles, and thus the noble proportions of the building had been utterly destroyed.
The roof, owing to the decay of the timber, was in an unsafe condition, and the north transept, separated from the body of the church by a partition of lath and plaster, was roofless; and the clerestory, built at a bad time and of bad material, with not two windows alike, was in a ruinous condition, as was the wall of the north aisle, which had long threatened to fall.
The alterations, so much needed, effected by the restoration, are a new north wall of substantial masonry, a new north transept, built out of old material, a new north transept arch to correspond with that on the south, and an additional bay added to the arcade on the north side of the nave, a new south transept with a window of elaborate design and excellent masonry, filled with stained glass by CLAYTON and BELL, at the cost of MRS. KING, to the memory of her husband, the REV. HENRY KING, the late vicar of the parish; a new porch of good design and solid masonry, a new clerestory higher than the old one, and pierced with windows of the perpendicular period. The wall of the south aisle, which, with the exception of the tower and a portion of Early English work at the west end of the north aisle, is the only work remaining outside the Church, has been under-pinned in a strong and substantial manner, and the windows renewed; and new mullions have been placed in the windows of the tower.
With the exception of the south aisle, the whole of the Church has been re-roofed and covered with lead, the wood-work being of a substantial character. The seats are of oak, the ends carved with the linen pattern, &c., and the benches are of good width and convenient for sitting. The floor is tiled, the steps to the chancel as well as the threshholds of the doors being of Shap granite.
We understand the cost of the restorations has been between £5000 and £6000, the greater part of which has been subscribed, though there still remains (as is the case in most works of this extensive character, where there is much work that cannot be foreseen), a deficiency of a few hundred pounds. We understand the money collected on Tuesday (including £100 received that morning from LORD BECTIVE, £50 by MR. JOHN WHITWELL, and some smaller sums sent by post, amounted to £330, and about £170 more had been promised or sent within the last few days
The pulpit, which is the gift of the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland, is a noble, beautiful structure; the material is Shap granite, syenite marble, and other kinds of stone, beautifully decorated with various symbols sculptured in alabaster.
Upon the whole, the restoration has been made with admirable taste and discrimination, and will for ages redound to the honour of the present generation of parishioners and of their respected Vicar.
The Church, which had been chastely and massively decorated with devices and festoons of evergreen, was opened on Tuesday morning, at half-past eight, for holy communion. At a quarter to twelve, morning service was held. There was a very large congregation. The REV. J. CHAPELHOW, curate, read the first portion of the prayers: the REV. J. M. MASON read the first lesson; and the Vicar, the REV. CANON SIMPSON, D.D., read the latter prayers. The choral service was warm and hearty, the hymns sung being the 164th and 64th of ' Hymns Ancient and Modern '
THE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE preached from St. Matthew, ii, part of verse 11, "When they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts - gold, and frankincense, and myrrh." He first spoke of the day on which they had met together for this solemn purpose - the Feast of the Epiphany, which, in its most general aspect, might be described as the Feast of the Preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Jews looked for a Messiah who would restore the national splendour of King David's reign; but it was the purpose of God to send a Messiah who would extend to the whole world the privileges which the Jews hoped to keep to themselves. This being so, and the Gospel of St. Matthew being as was stated, originally written in Hebrew, and therefore primarily intended for people of Hebrew blood, we could understand why this story of the wise Men from the East was inserted in it, rather than in any of the other Gospels; for it proved that the Gospel of Christ was intended for the whole world, and not for the Jews only; it proved that even in the childhood of the Saviour, it had pleased God to bring from afar, country men to worship Him, and that the first fruits of the Church were not of the Chosen Nation, but Gentiles. He did not intend to pursue that line of thought further; rather, he wished to connect the subject with the re-dedication - after the expenditure of much money, much time, and much thought - of this beautiful church to the worship of Him to whose service it was first dedicated many centuries ago.
With exceeding simplicity of language and illustration, the Bishop narrated the story of the Wise Men; and drew several lessons from it. They not merely worshipped the infant Christ; they were not content with mere lip service; they opened their treasures, and took out the most precious things they contained. And not only were these gifts the most precious they possessed, but they were offered freely, without the hope or expectation of any return; and here the Bishop was led to remark that while it is a proper and a right thing that men should come to Christ in order to obtain the blessings He alone could bestow - for Christ had entreated them so to come - still, we had much to learn from the conduct of these few men who came on a long journey, who had no boon to ask, who simply desired to worship Him and to make an offering to Him of their best; he feared that sometimes a blessing might be missed because we thought too much of what Christ could do for us, and too little of the privilege of simply worshipping Him and presenting to Him our choicest gifts. This led him to speak of the gifts which it became us to present to Christ
Gold was gold now as it was in the period spoken of in the text, and men loved it now as they had loved it in all ages. It could always be offered to Christ, and could be well used in His service. There were churches to be built and restored; there were infirmaries to be built and restored and supported; there were poor people in almost every neighbourhood who needed support in bad times; and there were plenty of other ways in which money might be used for Christ. He had met with much liberality in this diocese, and therefore he did not know that he had any right to complain; still, when he contrasted the wealth of the diocese now with what it was when this church was built, and when he considered on the other hand, the amount of that wealth which was offered to Christ, then he confessed he sometimes felt despondent and sad. But there was something better than gold which almost every one could offer. Many gave their money, but said, "Don't expect me to work." Now, he did expect people to work. Money was dirt compared with time and trouble and Christian zeal; and his opinion was that no one was worthy of being Christ's disciple who did not do some work for Christ's sake. Christ was said to have "bought us"; but it was not with gold; it was by His agony and bloody sweat, by His cross and passion. And he who would be like Christ must exert himself in some way for those for whom Christ died. There were plenty of ways in which a man might do this; and let him who was in difficulty go to the clergyman of his parish and say, "Sir, give me something to do; I am willing to devote something of my time to the service of Christ."
There was also the offering which every Christian was bound by all that the Christian holds dear to make to his Lord - the offering of his soul and body, which offered, every other service would be easy and delightful.
The Bishop with great force dilated upon this part of his theme; and concluded by congratulating the parishioners of Kirkby Stephen upon the offering which they had made to Christ in the form of this beautifully renovated and improved Church. Their liberality was commendable; but something remained to be done; he believed about £500 was still required in order that their obligations might be entirely fulfilled, and he asked for a liberal contribution.
The collections for the day amounted to £173.
Luncheon was served in the King's Arms Hotel at two o'clock in the afternoon. The VICAR, the REV. CANON SIMPSON D.D., presided; there were also present the LORD BISHOP and MRS. GOODWIN, MRS. CHAMLEY of Warcop, MR. WHITWELL, M.P., MR. MASON (High Sheriff of Westmorland), MRS. THOMPSON of Stobars, MRS. KING, the MISSES KING, MRS. WYBERGH, MR. PRESTON of Warcop Hall, DR. TAYLOR of Penrith, the REV. W. LYDE, the REV. H. C. BAKER, the REV. J. BRUNSKILL, the REV. C. M. PRESTON, the REV. J. CHAPELHOW, the REV. J. SISSON, the REV. J. RIDLEY, the REV. JOS. BOWSTEAD of Soulby, the REV. MR. CHESTERS of South Shields, the REV. T. HOLME, the REV. J. M. MASON, the REV. R. C. HESLOP, MRS. HESLOP, MISS FAULKNER, the REV. J. DOBSON, DR. LELAND, MRS. LELAND, MR. W. WALDY of Eden Place, MISS WALDY, MISS THOMPSON, MR. M. MORLAND of Winton, MRS. RIDLEY, MRS. HOLME, MR. H. P. MASON, MISS MARY MASON, MASTER JOHN MASON, MR. and MRS. JOHN NANSON, of Appleby, &c.
"Church and Queen" was the first toast honoured; and following it, "The Royal Family."
The VICAR then proposed the health of the BISHOP. They were grateful to his lordship for his services on this occasion; and they also held him in respect and esteem for the admirable way in which he had discharged his episcopal duties since he came amongst us. (Applause). He (DR. SIMPSON) had served under four Bishops in this diocese; and each one of them he had numbered amongst his friends, - not perhaps during the whole of their episcopates, because when BISHOP VILLIERS came to Carlisle he (the doctor) had the misfortune to be in his bad books, not on account of anything he had done, but on account of what other people had said ... (laughter) ... but he was glad to say that before BISHOP VILLIERS left the diocese, their friendship was as close as perhaps ever subsisted between a Bishop and a clergyman (Applause). With respect to the present Bishop, ever since he came to the diocese, he had pursued his way steadily and firmly; and there was no individual, if he be a just and honest man, but would admit that great progress had been made in the diocese, especially in Church matters. (Applause). It was not merely in respect to the building and repairing of churches; he spoke more especially of his influence in intensifying and deepening the vitality of spiritual life amongst us; and he hoped his lordship might long be spared to preside over the diocese. (Applause) He knew that one of the Bishop's capacity might be called on to occupy a higher sphere; but however we might be deprived of his services, he was sure it would be a long time ere we looked on his like again. (Applause.)
The BISHOP, in reply, congratulated them heartily on what they had done in restoring their noble church. In this diocese, churches such as they possessed were very rare. The greater part of them were necessarily on a small scale, and some of them, he was sorry to say, were on a very neglected scake also, (Hear, hear, and laughter.) But of the few churches which we have, this of Kirkby Stephen stands forth conspicuously; and those who saw it to-day must have been astonished that the Church in this country should ever have been in such a condition that it was possible to so mulet this grand building of its fair proportions and fill it with omnibus pews and so forth - (laughter and applause) - as entirely to destroy the beauty which the architect originally conceived when it was designed. (Hear, hear.)
He dare say there was something more to be done; but he did not doubt that DR. SIMPSON would keep steadily to his work until he had accomplished it, or at all events until he got as much money out of them as he thought he could get. (Laughter.) But he trusted that this restoration of the church was only a symbol of what was going on throughout the parish. He felt much the importance both of building new churches and of restoring old ones. He had a strong feeling of the dignity and beauty which ought to belong to anything dedicated to God, and especially of a house that is built for the worship of His name. (Hear, hear.) But at the same time he felt - and every one must feel - that the mere wood and stone and glass which combine to constitute a church are as nothing compared with the spirit of religion which the church symbolises; and that if they had only the external fabric, without the in-dwelling spirit, then they had only a very small part and a very inconsiderable part of that which they ought to have. (Hear, hear.)
Proceeding to propose the health of the VICAR, he said he knew they all regarded DR. SIMPSON as a great man; but he was even a greater man than they thought he was; for he (the Bishop) had had the pleasure and satisfaction that very morning of instituting him to nothing less than an Honorary Canonry in Carlisle Cathedral ! (Much laughter.) The Bishop playfully dilated upon the matter, remarking that when DR. SIMPSON, as required, made declaration that he had entered into no corrupt contract to obtain the Canonry, he quite believed him - (laughter - the doctor not being so foolish as to give a shilling for that which did not bring back a shilling in return; still he was sure DR. SIMPSON would esteem it an honour to belong to so venerable an establishment. (Hear, hear.)
The VICAR responded. He said the Bishop might not be aware, before he conferred this Canonry upon him, that he was already an Alderman and an ex-Mayor of Appleby - (laughter) - and if his lordship knew what that meant, he would readily understand that he was a very great man before he received this last honour (More laughter.). The VICAR then in very feeling terms spoke of his freshened sense of responsibility in regard to his parish and he hoped God would help him to do his work much better than he had ever been able to do it. He reminded them that they had not built the Church; that had been done by their ancesors, who had devoted great means and zeal to the work when they were much poorer than the people of Kirkby Stephen are now. He proposed the health of the Subscribers to the Restoration Fund. (Applause.) As regards money, the work had been very easily done; perhaps no parish in England could have done it easier. Unfortunately for him he was a very bad beggar (laughter and cries of "Oh !") - but at the small vestry meeting where the thing was first discussed, they had £1,400 or £1,500 promised, and within a fortnight the subscriptions reached somewhere about £4,000. (Applause.) They had not asked anybody for money from that time until this year came in, when, finding that the expense had been greater than they intended, he and MR. MASON started on a pilgrimage of begging amongst their neighbours who had been passed over before, and in the course of one evening, they got £160. (Applause.) The collection this morning realized £153, including £50 from MR. WHITWELL. (Applause) To these he must add £100 sent this morning by LORD BECTIVE and £5 by a kind lady; and he believed MR. MASON had got £7 or £8 this morning also. He had had most cheering letters from LORD and LADY LONSDALE and others; in fact, the sympathy shown by friends at a distance was a peculiar feature of the work. He should like to connect this toast with the name of a very dear friend who put down his name and that of his sisters for £1,000 - (applause) - he referred to the late MR. MATTHEW THOMPSON, but him they had lost; and next to him they were most indebted to MR. MASON, who had put down his name and those of his family for very large sums indeed. (Applause.)
"Health and continued liberality to the subscribers, coupled with the name of THOMAS MASON, Esq., High Sheriff of Westmorland, and Beadle of Kirkby Stephen Church ! " (Applause and laughter.)
MR. MASON replied in a lively speech, in the course of which he gave an amusing account of his proceedings as a beggar, with his success in which he professed himself well content. They had only met with a single refusal; and that was from a man who offered them something if they "wad let t'wark alane !" (Laughter.) He believed that, of the handsome total raised, three-fourths of it had been given by the parishioners. (Applause.)
The VICAR then proposed "The Donors of Special Gifts" - a numerous and munificent body, amongst whom he named MISS THOMPSON, who presented them with a clock with chimes which cost over £300, certainly a magnificent gift - (applause); - MRS. KING, who presented the beautiful memorial window; MISS JACKSON; MISS MASON, who gave the handsome Communion Service; MISS GOODWIN, who had presented them with a communion cloth of exquisite taste and workmanship; their young friends, the THOMPSONS, who had given them the service books; the Freemasons of Cumberland and Westmorland, who presented that noble pulpit, which all must have admired; and many others. He coupled with the toast the name of MR. WHITWELL, as a Freemason. (Applause.)
MR. WHITWELL, M.P., said the pulpit was given as a tribute of respect and esteem by a great number of those who were associated with their Vicar in works which they considered good works, and which they thought might be properly and suitably represented by a pulpit from which the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be preached. (Hear, hear.)
The LORD BISHOP preached again in the evening.