St Oswald

A delightful hilltop church believed to be the location where King Oswald (604 -642) raised a large wooden cross before the Battle of Heavenfield (AD 635).

About this church

St Oswald's is at the site of the Battle of Heavenfield where, in AD 635, King (later Saint) Oswald of Northumbria raised a cross before defeating King Cadwallon ap Cadfon of Gwynedd. The cult of St Oswald spread to Europe and St Oswald's Day is 5th August. Today's oak cross in the field dates to the 1930s.  

Foundations of a Saxon church were discovered by dowsing in the 1950s, this being succeeded by a medieval church replaced in 1817 with the present building. The fragment of dog tooth ornament inside the church on the north wall may be the only visible remains of the second church, unless the font is of that date.

St Oswald's stands in a churchyard set in the middle of a field, about four hundred yards from the B6318. The field and the churchyard can be entered by gates which should be shut after passing through them. The churchyard has some excellent trees in it. The gravestones are of various periods, but the most decipherable date from the late 1800s onwards.

The church itself has a simple chancel divided at the west end into a vestry, the rest being the body of the church. On the roof there is a simple belfry arch for the single bell, rung during services. An unusual feature is the sundial on the south wall.

The interior is of limewashed stone without any plaster, with a font set near a Roman altar reused as a cross base at some (possibly medieval) date. A fragment of dog tooth ornament set in the north wall halfway up the church indicates reuse of stone from a church of possibly Norman or Early Medieval date.

A wall mounted lozenge 'hatchment' bearing the coat of arms of the Clarke family, is mounted on the north wall. This recently restored feature would have been put up at the front of the family house when a death had occurred recently. The motto 'Resurgam' (I shall arise) thus refers to the hope of resurrection as well as to the family itself.

The most unusual feature to the 21st century visitor is the gas lighting with its mantles and glass shielded burners in the roof, and the candle holders set in the walls. These and the old American harmonium show that St Oswald's has never been connected to electricity, mains gas or water supplies, and witness the modest background of this tiny church.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Glorious furnishings
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Fascinating churchyard
  • Wildlife haven
  • Social heritage stories
  • National heritage here

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Parking within 250m
  • Dog friendly
  • Muddy boot friendly

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