Kirkoswald – St Oswald’s Church
St Oswald’s Church in Kirkoswald has a unique feature – a 19th Century bell tower perched on a hill top about 200 yards from the Church itself. 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.
Parts of the Church date from the 12th Century, with the chancel being built in 1523, when the ‘College’ was founded.
Within the Porch are massive wooden beams still surving from when it was built in 1523. The nave is narrow, with two arcades of arches seperating it from the wider aisles. Some arches are Norman, the others dating from the 13th Century. The West window is Tudor, and has part of an old cross head bedded into the window sill. The chancel is approached up sandstone steps, and under an unusually high and narrow arch. Here the windows have beautiful, brighly coloured stained glass.
The East window depicts St Oswald with sceptre and cross, St Cuthbert, the Crucified Christ, and the four Evangelists. This and all the other stained glass windows, which show shields and coats of arms, are by John Scott of Carlisle.
There are various memorials to the Fetherstonhaugh Family, who live at the ‘College’, which was originally built in 1450 as a Pele Tower. In 1523 by Thomas de Dacre and his wife Isabel de Greystoke converted it into a college for training priests, but it had a short life ending with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1547.
Within the graveyard are many ancient grave covers with interesting carvings, including a Saxon ribbed one. On the West side of the Church is St Oswald’s Well, whose source is unknown but which runs out under the nave.
There is a metal drinking cup on a chain, and the water is cool, clear and pure.
The grave of Sir Timothy Fetherstonhaugh is surrounded by a yew hedge topiaried into battlements.
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