St Oswald's Church, Sowerby, Thirsk, North Yorkshire

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A tour of St Oswald's Church building


The earliest church at Sowerby, of which any part remains, appears to have been built about the year 1140, or earlier, and is therefore in the Norman style.

Today the church consists of the West Tower, Nave, South Transept, small porch attached to South Wall, Crossing with Lantern above, Chancel, Chapel (south-west corner of Chancel), North Transept, North-West Porch, detached Organ Blower Chamber and Heating Chamber.

The South Doorway and Tower

Of the earlier church the South wall of the Nave alone remains, together with the fine South doorway, possibly of 11th century date, which contains Norman ornament showing local regional characteristics.

South Doorway of St Oswald's Church

The oak door is medieval with co-eval ironwork, and bears the date 1680 made up of iron studs.

Hagioscope (squint) at St Oswald's Church

The Tower, which contains the remains of the Norman Church, was built in the 15th century with a rare feature - a hagioscope (squint) through which the altar can be seen.

Font in St Oswald's Church

The handsome Font, in the eclectic 19th century Norman style, and resting on five pillars under the Tower, was presented in 1841 by Sir Robert and Lady Frankland Russell of Thirkleby Park, whose family owned much land in the area, including that on which our Parochial Hall now stands. Near the South door and also inside the Tower are some grooves or scorings which may have been made in sharpening weapons or tools.

The Nave

Window in South wall of St Oswald's Church

Most of the stone work in the South Wall of the Nave is of medieval date. The Church contains a number of extremely beautiful stained glass windows, and in the South Wall is a window with figures of St Oswald and that other great northern saint, St Aidan.

In 1902, the North Wall was taken down and made into an Arcade and a spacious North Aisle built. The 19th century Norman door in the West Wall was originally beneath the Tower arch.

The Chancel Crossing

Exterior view of Church and Lantern at St Oswald's Church

In 1842, the Church was restored and enlarged in 19th century Norman style. In 1883, further restoration and repair included the erection of an open Lantern of woodwork surmounted by a slated spire above the Chancel Crossing.


Chancel crossing of St Oswald's Church, Sowerby

In the 1980s, re-ordering of this part of the Church took place and included a free-standing altar allowing more intimate congregational worship.

This altar can be removed for the many concert performances that take place in St Oswald's Church, taking advantage of the open space and excellent acoustics.

The Transepts

Window in memory of Sara Lambert, within St Oswald's Church    Window in memory of Hugh Dryden Buchanan, within St Oswald's Church

The South Transept has two noteworthy windows, both representing the healing of the sick: one (left) in memory of Sara Lambert who built the Lambert Memorial Hospital in memory of her husband; and the other (right) showing St Luke, the patron saint of medicine, in memory of Hugh Dryden Buchanan - "A beloved Physician".

This area of the church also contains an ancient massive chest probably dating from the 14th or 15th century.

The North Transept contains the organ, the original of which was by Albert Keates of Sheffield. It was re-conditioned in 1960. The window here commemorates the well-known Cayley family.

Window depicting St Cuthbert, St Wilfred and St Hilda within St Oswald's Church

The North Aisle also contains three lights portraying St Cuthbert, St Wilfred and St Hilda, all of whom with St Oswald and St Aidan, were leading figures of early Christianity in the north. Cuthbert became a monk at Melrose Abbey and later a Bishop at Lindisfarne; Wilfred was one of the Bishops who sought to oust the older Celtic tradition from the English Church; Hilda founded the double monastery at Whitby and hosted the famous Synod that met there in the middle of the 7th century.

The Memorial Chapel

Memorial Chapel within St Oswald's Church

This Chapel is kept aside for private prayer and houses the aumbry containing the reserved sacrament and oil for anointing the sick. The window is based on Holbein's "Light of the World".

The Sanctuary

Sanctuary within St Oswald's Church

The Altar Table is of fine antique oak, the painted and gilt Reredos above being donated in 1883 by Miss Rob of Catton in memory of her mother.

The East Window was presented in 1841 by Sir Robert and Lady Frankland Russell of Thirkleby Park. It is composed of two tall narrow lights, both containing the Red Rose of the Plantagenets of the House of Lancaster, and at the top of the left-hand light is the Shield of Edward III signifying the connection of the Frankland Russell family to the Nevilles descending from the Blood Royal.


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© The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Oswald Sowerby. Registered charity number 1135485.