Ousby, Cumbria – St Luke

The family of one of my Godsons live in Ousby in Cumbria and I had a drum kit for his brother (sorry neighbours). While there Clare and I walked to St Luke’s church, where they worship. It is part of the Cross Fell group of churches. Ousby is a collection of hamlets and the church (NY632344) has  lovely view – though the weather was not very good.


The original church, apparently dedicated to St Patrick, was probably C13, and a rector called Barnard is mentioned in 1214. Tradition says that the church was derelict by the end of the following century, no rectors are listed after 1376. The list starts again in 1583. In 1644 Leonard Milburne was among those who contributed provisions to the garrison of Carlisle, then besieged. He was donor of the silver chalice still in use. In 1672 he was succeeded by Thomas Robinson who was the author of several learned books: “The Natural History of Westmorland and Cumberland”, “A Natural History of this World of Matter and this World of Life”, and the “Anatomy of the Earth”. The guide says that “It was his practice after afternoon prayers to accompany the leading men and of the parish to the nearby alehouse, where each spent one  penny, and only one penny: this done he set the younger men and boys to play football, and other rural diversions.” That is where I’ve been going wrong all these years!


The church was rebuilt in the C17 and dedicated to St Luke. It was restored and largely rebuilt in 1858, paid for by the rector James Bush. I suspect the porch and the rather fun figures date to this. There was further restoration in 1896.


The guide also has an interesting passage about tithes which formed the principal revenues of every church, although Ousby also had 32 acres of glebe. Previous to the Tithe Act of 1836 tithes were for the most part paid in kind. “Tithe of corn was levied on every tenth stook of ten sheaves. In the tithing of wool the fleeces were put out in tens, the owner then selecting two out of each ten, and the tithing man one out of the remaining eight. Lambs were tithed in the same manner. In the last lot for every fleece or lamb under five the owner paid  halfpenny, at five half tithe was payable, and at six full tithe, the rector refunding a halfpenny for every fleece or lamb under ten. Tithes Milk or White book Tithes, half the value of the calf due at five, and a whole calf due at six. A tithe calf was valued at six shillings and four pence. For every new calved cow under five the owner paid three pence, and for every new calved heifer two pence halfpenny, and for a strip milk cow one penny. For a foal four pence was paid, half a pig was due at five and a whole pig at six, a farthing being paid on each side of the account, as under wool and lamb. The same applied to geese. Every inhabited house paid a hen called the Mass Hen, and every one who bred chickens paid tithe eggs due at Easter. Every tenth hive or cast of bees, half due at five and one due at six. Under five the owner paid two pence for each one, and over six the rector refunded two pence for each one under ten. Every family in the parish paid one penny, called the Sunday Penny, and every person in the parish at or over the age of sixteen years paid three half-pence.” You can understand how this led to huge resentment against the Church. “Tithes were commuted in 1843 for £315 0s 0d.”

Some nice graves too. The grass is often kept down by sheep.


Clare is on flower duty this week – I complained I couldn’t get a decent photo of the font.


Like most churches there is an interesting selection of bits of paper lying around – lots of flyers for a mission almost a decade ago. This was an interesting card, one I have never seen before. Wikipedia tells me that “The League of Nations Union (LNU) was an organization formed in October 1918 in the United Kingdom to promote international justice, collective security and a permanent peace between nations based upon the ideals of the League of Nations”. I wonder if the Bishop of Carlisle was a supporter and encouraged his parishes to join, or whether the Rector felt it necessary to persuade his lovely, rather isolated rural parish to be part of the wider world.

Ousby is a thankful village, one of the few to loose no one in WW1. In our diocese Meldon and Hunstanworth come in this category (though I didn’t mention it when I visited Meldon). Here is an article about them – website. The tapestry is quite striking (though the planes look more WW2 than WW1). The Roll of Honour is well displayed up at the east end.



The oak panelling was given “In memory of George Fisher, Rector 1906 to 1918, and of his wife. D.D.E.F.” I assume the E.F. is Ernest Fisher, their son (he paid for it), but what D.D. stands for is anyone’s guess. It was designed by J.H. Martindale, the diocesan surveyor, and the carving was done by a local craftsman George Mounsey. Another nice figure – is this one asleep?



Residing in the Chancel is this wooden effigy. Wooden ones are rare – there is one other in Cumbria (at Millom). It was said to be that of a crusader, a Templar knight, but (according to an article in the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Old Series volume VIII (1886)) the long surcoat is not a Templar’s mantle, and Knights Templar always had beards (I was a Templar in a previous life). “The person here represented is entirely clad in mail, except genouillieres or knee caps of plate or leather; his coif de mail covers his head and shoulders; he has hauberk [full length coat] and chausses [covering for the legs] of mail; under the hauberk he has a haqueton or gambeson [a quilted garment of leather or canvas]; over all, a long sleeveless surcoat, slit up the front to above the knee; his spurs are gone, but the spur straps remain; a narrow guige is over his shoulder, but the shield it should support is gone; a narrow gingulum [belt] is round his waist, and a broader sword belt hangs below, but the sword is gone except the hilt; his legs are crossed at the knee, and his feet rest upon a dog”. The figure is carved from a single piece of oak, and would once have been painted. It dates c 1200-1250, and the identification of the figure is unknown – although one piece of research suggests he is Adam Armstrong (although he has a death date of 1321). In the time of Henry III the manor was held by Julian Falcard and William Armstrong, perhaps he is one of them. A village tradition says he was an outlaw who lived in Crewgarth and was killed while hunting. Who knows! There is a similar figure in the church at Whorlton, just over the border in Yorkshire, near Barnard Castle. It is rather odd that Ousby’s figure is not mentioned on the building description posted here by Carlisle Diocese.


Finally, a harmonium! We had one at Offord chapel. When we sang “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” Don would peddle furiously for the “earthquake, wind and fire” bit, then throw out the anchor for “still small voice of calm”. Happy memories!


A village church which, for much of its history, has been derelict, still open for prayer and worship in the C21. One day Clare can invite me back to take a service – accompanied by choir, organ, harmonium and drums.


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5 Responses to Ousby, Cumbria – St Luke

  1. Will Thornton says:

    I walked passed this church 20 years ago and I was immediately drawn inside by the wonderful window ornamentation. The door was unlocked and once inside I was amazed to find the wooden carving, untethered on its base. I read the accompanying note and was pleasantly surprised to find out its great antiquity. A thing of real beauty and like the church, a national treasure. So pleased to see the knight and his trusty companion are now encased but still in their rightful home.

  2. anne stille says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post and to know that the church is still being used. I’m trying to find details of my Shepherd Family who lived at Hole Farm in the early 1800’s. My interest is particularly in my great great grandparents – Margaret nee Thomson born 1801 in Skelton and died 21 February 1850 at Hole Farm Ousby. A newspaper report states that she died falling down the well in delirium from typhus fever from which the whole family were suffering. The Coroner registered her death as suicide, so I’m wondering if she was buried “outside the pale” – as in those days suicide was a grave sin. Also her husband Thomas Shepherd born in Ousby in 1802 and died on 3 August 1840 in Ousby. He fell off his horse on the way home. Cause of death – delirium tremens. His death was registered by his friend John Cheesborough of Bradley Ousby. Their children dispersed after their parents death, and my branch emigrated to Queensland, Australia. I really would appreciate any help that you or the congregation of St Lukes could give – or at least point me in the direction of where the records might be now held. Kindest Regards, Anne Stille.

    • admin says:

      Dear Anne, I was just a visitor to the church several years ago, so I can’t help. It is possible someone in the congregatopn with an interest in family histroy will see this blog and reply, but I got the impression that the congregation was tiny. Church records tend to end up in the County Record Office – https://cumbriaarchives.org.uk/ – so that might be the best place to start. Cheers, Peter

      • Anne Stille says:

        Dear Peter,
        Thanks so much for your reply and also for the link to the archives. I will contact them. It’s been a fascinating journey tracking the various members of my Shepherd clan.
        Happy hunting with all your other church visits.
        Anne Stille.

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