Grid Ref : NY 554411
Kirkoswald is a picturesque once-thriving market town, where you can still see the small cobbled market place and some very fine Georgian buildings. The village derives its name from the church of St Oswald. Oswald was the King of Northumbria who, according to legend, toured the pagan North with St Aidan in the 7th Century.
St Oswald’s Church has a unique feature – a 19th Century bell tower perched on a hill top about 200 yards from the Church itself. The bell was probably used to warn villagers of the approach of Scots raiders, as well as summoning them to Church.
It is possible that there has been a bell tower here as long as the Church has been at the foot of the hill, so villagers could hear the bell. The bell was probably used to warn villagers of the approach of Scots raiders, as well as summoning them to Church.
One of Kirkoswald’s most splendid buildings is the College, its name recalling the days when St Oswald’s Church was a collegiate church. The two storied house, with its sloping-ended roof was originally built in 1450 as a Pele Tower and converted into the college for priests in the 1520’s. It had a short life ending with the Dissolution in 1547, becoming home to the Fetherstonhaugh family, who previously lived at Kirkoswald Castle. The Castle is now a ruin, and is not open to the public.
South-west of St Oswald’s Church is a large double ditched enclosure (see gallery) which was a possible precursor to Kirkoswald. Possibly it was the site of a castle burnt in 1314. The moated site, best viewed from the hill nearby with the church bell tower on, is approximately 250m x 175m, with ditches 4m wide, and 15m apart. In the centre of the enclosure is a low rectangular mound about 20m x 50m again surrounded by a ditch.
Kirkoswald is a frequent winner of the best-kept village competition, and has been a winner of ‘Cumbria in Bloom’ for a large village.