St Oswald's Church, Grasmere

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St Oswald's Church, Grasmere
St Oswalds' Church, Grasmere.jpg
St Oswald's Church, Grasmere, from the south.[1]
St Oswald's Church, Grasmere is located in Cumbria
St Oswald's Church, Grasmere
St Oswald's Church, Grasmere
Location in Cumbria
Coordinates: 54°27′27″N 3°01′25″W / 54.4575°N 3.0237°W / 54.4575; -3.0237
OS grid referenceNY 337 074
LocationGrasmere, Cumbria
WebsiteSt Oswald's Church, Grasmere
StatusParish church
DedicationSaint Oswald
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationGrade I
Designated21 January 1967
Architectural typeChurch
MaterialsRoughcast stone, slate roofs
ArchdeaconryWestmorland and Furness
Organist(s)Ian Hare

St Oswald's Church is in the village of Grasmere, in the Lake District, Cumbria, England. It is an active Anglican parish church in the deanery of Windermere, the archdeaconry of Westmorland and Furness, and the diocese of Carlisle.[2] The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.[3] It is notable for its associations with the poet, William Wordsworth and his family, and for its annual ceremony of rushbearing.[4]


The first church in Grasmere was founded by Oswald of Northumbria, King of Northumbria, in 642. The present church stands on or near the same site, and is dedicated to him.[4] It dates from the 14th century,[3] and was doubled in size by the addition of a parallel nave to the north of the original nave between 1490 and 1500.[5] The roof was rebuilt in about 1562, which involved adding a second tier of arches to the arcade. The windows and doors were restored in 1840 by George Webster.[5]


St Oswald's is constructed in roughcast stone with slate roofs. Its plan consists of a double nave, with a south porch and a southeast tower. The tower is battered (its walls incline inwards as the tower rises), it has lancet windows, and plain corner pinnacles.[3][5]

Interior showing the two tiers of arches and the remarkable roof beams

Inside the church, the arcade has five arches rising from ground level, and four arches above. The arcade does not reach the ridge of the roof, but ends in the upper tie beams of the open timber roof. In the church is a poor box dated 1648, and a balustered altar rail of 1725. The pulpit is in Arts and Craft style, and carved with fruits and flowers. The font is medieval, and consists of an octagonal bowl on a stepped base. The stained glass includes a window on the north side of the church from about 1926 by Shrigley and Hunt, and two windows on the south side from the 1890s by Henry Holiday. There is medieval glass in windows on the south side of the chancel.


William Wordsworth lived in Grasmere from 1799,[6] and was buried at St Oswald's. The monuments in the church include one to Wordsworth by Thomas Woolner, with an epitaph by John Keble. There is also a wall tablet in the chancel in Doric style to the antiquary Daniel Fleming who died in 1701.[5]

The church has a sculpture of the Madonna and child by Ophelia Gordon Bell, who lived and worked in Grasmere.[7]

Wordsworth graves[edit]

Wordsworth graves

In the southeast corner of the churchyard is a group of twelve graves surrounded by railings. These are the graves of members of the Wordsworth and Quillinan families, and are listed at Grade II*.[8]


In the 1870s the church acquired an organ by Wilkinson of Kendal. The instrument was moved to Lancaster after the present organ by Binns of Leeds, was installed in 1923 as a memorial to nurse Nellie Taylor.[9][10] It is proposed to renovate the organ for its centenary.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The cement rendering on the tower has been replaced with lime rendering since the photo was taken. The restoration project won the John Betjeman Award of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 2019.
  2. ^ St Oswald, Grasmere, Church of England, retrieved 22 July 2012
  3. ^ a b c Historic England, "Church of St Oswald, Grasmere (1245157)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 22 July 2012
  4. ^ a b "Grasmere". Grasmere and Rydal Churches. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Hyde, Matthew; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2010) [1967], Cumbria, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp. 374–375, ISBN 978-0-300-12663-1
  6. ^ "Dove Cottage". Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  7. ^ "Biography of Ophelia Gordon Bell". Heaton Cooper Studio. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  8. ^ Historic England, "Wordsworth group of graves in churchyard of Church of St Oswald, Grasmere (1272008)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 22 July 2012
  9. ^ Cumberland, Boltongate, All Saints, British Institute of Organ Studies, retrieved 27 July 2019
  10. ^ "Nurse Nellie Taylor". War Memorials Register.
  11. ^ "History of the organ". Retrieved 2019-07-27.

External links[edit]