News and Events

Grasmere Parish Magazine

Grasmere Parish Magazine is produced every two months and is distributed free to every house in Grasmere. It is published by St. Oswald’s PCC and copy comes from our valued band of regular and occasional contributors, compiled by the editors. A small number of extra copies are on sale in the Church and some shops in Grasmere.

The magazine carries small advertisements in the back pages for local trades and services.

The website has all recent editions and a growing archive of historic magazines dating back to 1895.

Please contact the editors with any queries about magazine content, advertising or distribution.

The Churchyard

It is likely there was an ancient burial ground predating the building of the Church, but all traces of this would have been covered over by subsequent burials.

Until the 1850s Grasmere Parish covered the whole of the Rothay & Brathay valleys down to what is now the Low Wood Hotel. Grasmere Churchyard had three entrances for the people from Grasmere, Ambleside and Langdale. The churchyard was closed for new burials in 1904, but only about 10% of the burials are marked; there are graves both under the floor of the Church, churchyard grass and paths.

The most famous grave is of William Wordsworth which is marked by green signs and metal railings on the east side, with the simple inscription ‘ William Wordsworth 1850, Mary Wordsworth 1859’ The neighbouring graves are to his sister, brother and children, including his daughter Dora Quillinan. There is also the grave of William Green the artist here, whose epitaph was composed by Wordsworth.

On the north side near the path to the Lych Gate are the graves of the Green family. Their tragic story is told in “The Greens of Grasmere“. The grave of George and Sarah has no stone but they are recorded on the headstone of Agnes their daughter. Nearby is the stone of Sarah Nelson who created the gingerbread shop after the school moved to Stock Lane.

Eight of the present yew trees were planted by Wordsworth. The Wordsworth Daffodil Garden was created in 2004 from a piece of land which belonged to the Church but which was unuseable for burials.

St. Oswald

St. Oswald, west window

Oswald was born around 601 AD, the second son of the pagan king Aethelfrith of Northumbria. After their father’s death his elder brother Eanfrith fled north, while Oswald, his younger brother Oswy and sister Ebba were looked after by the community at Iona. Oswald grew into manhood taught by the community, he could read and write, he was a brave soldier and most of all a Christian prince. He fought in Ireland, and returned after his brother Eanfrith was killed trying to reclaim his father’s throne. Oswald rallied the disparate forces of his brother and father to fight the welsh prince Cadwalla and Penda, the king of Mercia, who had formed an alliance and extended their power northwards.

In 632 the small force of warriors led by Oswald assembled a few miles from Hexham, at a place now known as Heavenfield. Cadwalla and Penda had a much greater force, possibly three times the size, more experienced and battle hardened. Oswald spent the night in prayer before the battle and placed a large wooden cross in front of his camp. During his prayers he had a vision of Columcille (St. Columba) telling him that if he fought in the shadow of the cross he had put up, he would be victorious. Assembling his force at the first light of dawn, he prayed and then led his army down the hill, overwhelming Cadwalla and Penda, leaving Cadwalla dead and Penda fleeing for his life. His victory re-united the two separate provinces Bernicia and Deira of his father’s old kingdom of Northumbria.

Oswald quickly became the most powerful king of the Angles and Saxons. He made alliances with neighbouring kingdoms and became overload of a vast area, stretching from Lothian, Dumfries and Galloway, all the way through modern Cumbria and Lancashire to Cheshire, and then on the other side of the Pennines down to modern Lincolnshire. He was also in alliance with Wessex, marrying Cyneburch, daughter of the king Cyneglis. It was at this time the Pope gave him the title Bretwalda, which means ‘Lord of Britain’.

In 632 the new king invited Iona to establish a community in Northumbria, and after a failed first attempt St Aidan founded the community at Lindisfarne. Bede and other sources describe how the two would travel together around the kingdom and proclaim the faith, Oswald often acting as translator for the Gaelic speaking Aidan. As Oswald’s power and influence grew so did the distance travelled.

The faith spread quickly, and the pattern of conversion was simple. The story is told of Oswald coming to the valley which later Norse settlers called Grasmere, and finding the local people worshipping an oak tree set among their ancestor’s graves, he cut down the tree to make an altar. He told the people about Jesus and ordered a simple church be constructed on the site. It is said the people received the new faith with joy.

No one knows the site of this event. In the seventh century the tiny population lived in or near what is now the Hollins on the Keswick road; however no archaeological remains of a Saxon church have been found there. Ancient peoples did not bury their dead next to where they lived, and often had burial grounds near water, lakes and rivers. As the present church is next to the river where the marshes would have led down to the lake, it is entirely possible it is built on the site of the pagan oak tree.

Oswald was well known for his acts of kindness and generosity, the most famous story being of his gift to the poor one Easter Day, when king Oswald had sat down to dinner at his castle in Bamburgh with Bishop Aidan, and a silver dish was placed on the table before him full of rich foods. They raised their hands to ask a blessing, when there came in an officer whose duty it was to help the needy, telling him that a great multitude of poor people from every district was asking alms of the king. He at once ordered the food which had been set in front of him to be carried to the poor, the dish to be broken up, and the pieces divided amongst them.

The bishop, who was sitting by, was delighted with this pious act, grasped him by the right hand, and said, “May this hand never decay”. His blessing and his prayer were fulfilled when Oswald was killed in battle, his hand and arm were cut off from the rest of his body, and were preserved in a silver shrine in St Peter’s Chapel in Bamburgh castle. (The chapel was in ruins by the 18th century, the shrine long since lost, and the site was covered by extensive rebuilding in the Victorian era.)

He was also known as ‘Oswald the open handed’ on account of his unusual manner of praying, seated with his arms outstretched and the palms of his hands turned upwards.

War though was always a consideration for Oswald. In 642 Oswald was not so fortunate and as he pursued Penda again, this time back into Mercia, he was fatally wounded in battle. As he lay dying he prayed for the souls of those who had died that day. The place became the site of many miracles and a shrine was established there with a small chapel, known as Oswald’s Oratory – today we call it Oswestry. Oswald was proclaimed a saint of the church shortly afterwards and the powerful kingdom of Northumbria remained a fervently Christian powerhouse under his successors Oswy and Oswin. The great community of Lindisfarne inspired generations of Christian leaders, and Oswald rightly deserves his place as the model Christian king for the centuries that followed.

With acknowledgments to Cameron Butland who compiled much of this material in various publications, 2013 – 2015.

Parish Safeguarding Handbook

The Parish of St. Oswald, Grasmere

Parish Safeguarding Policy


The following policy was agreed at a Parochial Church Council (PCC) meeting held on 27.5.18.

In accordance with the Church of England Safeguarding Policy our church is committed to:

  • Promoting a safer environment and culture.
  • Safely recruiting and supporting all those with any responsibility related to children, young people and vulnerable adults within the church.
  • Responding promptly to every safeguarding concern or allegation.
  • Caring pastorally for victims/survivors of abuse and other affected persons.
  • Caring pastorally for those who are the subject of concerns or allegations of abuse and other affected persons.
  • Responding to those that may pose a present risk to others.

The Parish will:

  • Create a safe and caring place for all.
  • Have a named Parish Safeguarding Officer to work with the incumbent and the PCC to implement policy and procedures.
  • Safely recruit, train and support all those with any responsibility for children, young people and adults to have the confidence and skills to recognise and respond to abuse.
  • Ensure that there is appropriate insurance cover for all activities involving children and adults undertaken in the name of the parish.
  • Display in church premises and on the Parish website the details of who to contact if there are safeguarding concerns or support needs.
  • Listen to and take seriously all those who disclose abuse.
  • Take steps to protect children and adults when a safeguarding concern of any kind arises, following House of Bishops guidance, including notifying the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser and statutory agencies immediately.
  • Offer support to victims/survivors of abuse regardless of the type of abuse, when or where it occurred.
  • Care for and monitor any member of the church community who may pose a risk to children and adults whilst maintaining appropriate confidentiality and the safety of all parties.
  • Ensure that health and safety policy, procedures and risk assessments are in place and that these are reviewed annually.
  • Review the implementation of the Safeguarding Policy, Procedures and Practices at least annually.

Each person who works within this church community will agree to abide by this policy and the guidelines established by this church.

This church appoints Sonia Rickman as the Parish Safeguarding Officer.

Priest-in-charge: Rev. David Wilmot

Churchwardens: Sonia Rickman, Helen Bunfield

Date: 27.5.18 revised 30.6.19

Who we are…

Following the latest coronavirus restrictions, the Church is now closed until further notice.

A very warm “Welcome” to St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere.

We are in the heart of the Lake District, now a World Heritage Site. St Oswald’s is a mediaeval church on a site dating back to the earliest days of Christianity in northern Britain. Locals and visitors ‘belong’ here, in the quiet of a weekday visit and the sung Eucharistic worship on Sundays and festivals.

There is a strong and welcoming congregation who enjoy meeting the many visitors who share worship on Sundays at 11am. Additional services are held during major festivals and occasional songs of praise, choral evensongs with visiting choirs.

St Oswald’s has a wonderful organ and a church choir, leading worship at the principal Sunday service and occasional Choral Evensongs.

In Grasmere, a formal Covenant signed on Advent Sunday 1999 created Churches Together in Grasmere. The four denominations share closely in worship, study and pastoral care. 

On 1 September 2008 St Oswald’s became an Anglican and Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership.  All our services are open to everyone and our pattern reflects the shared use of the building.  All services are united and we share in each other’s worship. 

We would describe our style as sympathetic to traditional worship, with the Eucharist central to our life. We are keen to develop different forms of worship for all ages and, like many other rural communities, the local population come for big services such as Christmas and Rush Bearing.

The Rush Bearing festival held in July each year attracts the community and visitors alike. Its origins are lost in the mist of many centuries but it involves a procession, act of worship, tea with gingerbread and the church carpeted with rushes. Though it involves lots of preparation, this age long festival keeps the rural tradition of church and community giving thanks to God very much alive.

The Village School is C of E Voluntary aided and is consistently rated highly by Ofsted. The children visit and use the church throughout the year. To help support the school there is a strong network of volunteers from the community.

In summary we feel we are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, with a peaceful church to visit and to say a prayer.

We look forward to welcoming you. Join us!

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