St Oswald’s Church
Location : Grasmere
Grid Ref : SD 338073
The Church is named after St Oswald, a 7th Century Christian King of Northumberland, who is said to have preached on this site. It is the parish church of Grasmere, Rydal and Langdale, and each township has its own separate gate into the churchyard.
The 13th century nave holds several memorials, including several to the Le Fleming family of Rydal Hall, but the one most people come to see is that of William Wordsworth. The North aisle, almost as big as the nave, was added in 1490 for the residents of Langdale.
The East window is clear and gives superb views of the fells beyond. There is a statue of the Madonna and Child by Ophelia Bell, who married local artist William Heaton Cooper in this Church.
The pews are made of oak, and date from 1881. There is a glass case near the organ, containing Wordsworth’s prayer book.
The two South windows are by Henry Holiday; (above shows Jesus with Mary and Martha).
In 1850 William caught a cold on a country walk, and he died on 23 April, St George’s day, 80 years after his birth.
He and Mary who died 9 years later have a simple tombstone in the churchyard of St Oswald’s Church, now one of the most visited literary shrines in the world.
William Wordsworth planted eight of the yew trees in the churchyard, and one of them marks the grave of him and his wife Mary. Nearby are buried his sister Dorothy, his children Dora, William, Thomas and Catherine, Mary’s sister Sara Hutchinson, and other members of the family. There is also the grave of Hartley Coleridge, eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
A leaflet lists all the graves in the area, and describes the relationship of the people to William Wordsworth.
Every year on the Saturday nearest St Oswald’s Day (5 Aug), Grasmere celebrates its Rushbearing Festival. This custom dates back to the days when the earthen floor of the church was strewn with rushes for warmth and cleanliness. The floor has been flagged since 1841, but the ceremony still continues.
There are a number of helpful leaflets giving detailed information about the history of the Church, about the Rushbearing, and the Wordsworth graves.
Related links: www.grasmereandrydal.org.uk – official church website
- South Lakes Area Index
- Central Cumbria Churches
- Rushbearing Ceremonies
- William Wordsworth
- Henry Holiday