LOOKING BACK: Mary Steventon’s “job” as vicar’s wife ends with the retirement of husband Ken at the end of September
LOOKING BACK: Mary Steventon’s “job” as vicar’s wife ends with the retirement of husband Ken at the end of September

“THERE’S no job description for a vicar’s wife,” says vicar’s wife Mary Steventon.
Mary’s current “job” ends on September 30 when her husband, Revd Ken Steventon, retires as vicar of St Mary’s, Staindrop, and St John the Evangelist, Ingleton, after 16 years in post.
When Mary became a curate’s wife she had no idea what the job entailed.
“I reject the caricature of making jam and arranging flowers. No vicar’s wife is like that,” she says.
“The many roles we play in the church and the community are based on our Christian faith.”
Mary, however, does make excellent marmalade. She learned flower arranging having been “bitten by the bug” organising Staindrop’s prestigious four-yearly flower festival.
Born in 1963, an only daughter with four brothers whose parents were both teachers, Mary’s early schooling was in Lancashire before winning a scholarship to the direct-grant Manchester High School for Girls.
“I felt intimidated,” she recalls, “and regarded myself as an urchin surrounded by nice young ladies”.
After gaining an honours degree in biochemistry and a PhD at Oxford, Mary had various scientific laboratory jobs before giving up paid work to be full-time carer for her severely disabled daughter Nicola, their only child, up to the age of 21.
Nicky, 24, now lives in a care home in Newcastle.
Mary was 19 and Ken 23 when they met at on a Christian holiday near Bamburgh, Northumberland.
They corresponded as friends, friendship turned to love and they married six years later.
Ken first worked as an electrician before joining the Franciscan Friars who sent him to work all round the country.
He was then called to the ministry, and after a two-year theology course at Oxford he was appointed curate at Spalding in Lincolnshire, with Mary, “always a church-goer”, at his side. Ken became a rector in the Fens before they moved to Staindrop in 2005.
“As I sat outside Raby Castle while Ken was being interviewed, a herd of deer walked past the car window,” says Mary.
“How could I not fall in love with the place?”
Rather than a draughty old house, Staindrop vicarage is a modern house beside Langley Beck.
“When the leaves are off the trees, you can see Raby Castle from here”, says Mary with a note of regret. The couple are going to live in Northumberland not far from where they first met, some compensation for leaving beautiful Teesdale.

Chris Foote-Wood

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