News and Events

A tour of St. Oswald’s

The Present Church

The present church is the fourth one on this site and the earliest parts of this building date from 1250AD. Remnants of previous buildings can be seen in the existing church, most obvious is the stone head above the chancel.


There are three external doors:

The South Door with porch; this has always been the main door.

The Langdale Door, (next to the vestry), so called because it was the entrance to the Langdale Chapel of Ease which now forms the North aisle.

The Lepers Door, by the altar rail covered by the blue memorial curtain, (this is sometimes called a priest’s door’).

The Tower

The tower is built of unhewn boulders probably taken from the riverbed of the Rothay, the walls are up to 4 feet thick, and the tower is 65 feet tall.

The clock was given to mark the Diamond Jubilee for Queen Victoria in 1897. There are three ringing bells in the tower and a mechanism provides striking for the quarters and hour throughout the day and night.

At the foot of the tower is the old Parish Chest from 1563 in which were kept the registers and Wardens accounts. Nothing is kept in the chest now and all the parish records are lodged in the Kendal Record Office.

The font is probably 14th century but its origin is unknown. The Church was under the authority of the Abbey of Great St Mary, York from 1396 until 1538 and it may be that the font was provided by the monks.

The Nave

The Nave is the main area of the church where the congregation sit and gets its name from the Latin for boat, (we also get the word navy from the same root) and reminds worshippers of the Ark, God’s boat which carries all to safety.

The Nave consists of two aisles. The Tower and South aisle are from 1250AD and the North was added as a separate building in 1490AD for the people of Langdale. Originally in 1490 this area was entirely separate from the original Church, this was used as a ‘chapel of ease’ for the Brathay valley. However, the gully between the two roofs collected snow and rainwater and in 1562 John Benson of Baisbrown bequeathed money, ‘so that the Roofe be taken down and maide oop again’. So the roof was raised up in 1563 using stone from the curtain wall, (the wall down the centre of the building) where the arches were created.

This created a new third roof overarching the other two and bringing the whole church under a single roof. Almost certainly this is unique, with the tangle of timbers described by Wordsworth in The Excursion:

‘Not raised in nice proportion was the pile, But large and massy; for duration built;
With pillars crowded, and the roof upheld By naked rafters intricately crossed,
Like leafless underboughs in some thick wood, All withered by the depth of shade above’.

The floor was raised and slated in the 1840s hereafter the annual ‘rushbearing’ became a village festival rather than performing any practical function.

The Nave Windows

The windows are all post reformation. The pair on the south side are in memory of the Olivier family and are the work of Henry Holiday, a student of Burne Jones. The other two stained glass windows are also Victorian and Edwardian.

The window in the Langdale aisle portrays the story of the Presentation.

At the foot of the tower St Oswald is portrayed in the window and this was placed in memory of Christina Ascroft in 1907.

The Nave Wall Plaques & Memorials

The verses of scripture were placed in the church during Queen Anne’s reign in 1712. The original wall paintings were lime washed and the scriptures replaced them. The plaques that were by the altar which show the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed are now on the west wall above the Langdale door.

The memorial opposite the South door has the striking profile of Elizabeth Fletcher which is by her son, the artist Angus Fletcher, who was companion of Charles Dickens; the Wordsworth Trust have her original diaries.

Further down the church the Madonna & Child sculpture is a memorial to the artist Ophelia Gordon Bell. This statue is a copy of her favourite commission for a convent in Surrey. The statue in the convent has the infant Jesus gazing at the cross.

By the lectern, the plaque in memory of Sir John Richardson remembers one of the great Victorian explorers and doctors, who as Surgeon General of the Royal Navy, introduced anaesthetics.

The Chancel

The chancel is the area of the church where the ministers and musicians sit, the name has the same Latin root as Chancellor and denotes that the people who sit here have the care of worship.

The most striking feature is the ‘capacious pew’ provided by Sir Daniel Fleming in 1633, which was used by the family for nearly two centuries until Rydal Church was built in 1827.

The choir stalls opposite were remodeled in 1981 as a memorial to Canon Tait, (Rector 1945-73).

Above the stalls is the memorial stone to William Wordsworth as poet laureate, which was created by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Woolner for Westminster Abbey. However as Wordsworth gave instructions to be buried in Grasmere his memorial stone was purchased by friends from Woolner and placed in the Church in 1851.

The origin of the brass Lectern is unknown, but was probably placed here when the pews and pulpit were replaced in 1911. Next to it is the Bishop’s Chair which was also given at this time. In addition there are two older “ministers seats”in the Sanctuary dated 1677 and l703.

The Rector’s stall was made in 1990 for Keith Wood (Rector 1984-94) by a local craftsman. The church war memorial is behind the pulpit and made of local stone.

The Sanctuary

Above the altar rail the roof beams are arranged differently from the rest of the church to accommodate the Holy Rood, but this was removed in the 16th century.

The east window was given by the relatives of Sir John Richardson to mark the Coronation of George VI and originally gave clear view of the top of the fells, (trees have since grown to obscure the fells).

The memorial curtain dates from 1939, recording those who were members of the congregation at the time and it was restored in 2011.

The two tables either side of the present altar are the previous oak altar table and the communion table from the closed Methodist Church in College Street, which was placed here when the LEP was formed in 2009.

The Le Fleming/Fleming Family

The most prominent feature of the Sanctuary are the funeral plaques and memorials to the Le Fleming/Fleming families. Their distinctive symbol of a diamond shape with a cross through it is to be seen in many windows, on all these plaques and even in the wooden floor of the Sanctuary.

Sir Daniel Fleming’s memorial is on the north wall of the Sanctuary and the family’s motto is just above this, pax copia sapienta’, which means ‘peace, wealth and knowledge’. Originally the family were named Le Fleming and were given land by William the Conqueror on the West coast around Seascale. Sir Daniel Fleming dropped the French form of his surname when he moved to Rydal. The Flemings purchased the patronage of Grasmere from the Crown in 1580 before bequeathing it to Queen’s College Oxford in the nineteenth century. It was Sir Michael Le Fleming in the eighteenth century who restored the traditional surname. The present Baronet, Sir David Le Fleming is an artist and was married in Rydal Church in 2007.

Recent changes

In 2004 the Langdale Aisle was remodeled to incorporate the new bookshop at the West end and the pews on the North wall were turned to face South and into the Nave. At the same time an open area to gather was created and this is used now for serving refreshments after services or smaller meetings in the church. As part of this improvement a ramp was put in the Langdale aisle to provide permanent access to all parts of the Church for anyone in a wheelchair.

The church was completely cleaned and limewashed internally in January 2008 by Geoff Lancaster. At the same time all the church woodwork was treated, oiled and polished. In 2009 the PA and loop system were renewed. In 2010 a new energy efficient gas condensing boiler was installed and the Church’s heating system was upgraded. In 2011 the memorial curtain was restored and repaired by two members of the congregation.

In 2017 the failing external rendering of the Tower was completely renewed, restoring it to its former glory. Read the full story here

The fabric of the Church needs constant attention but it is well loved and looked after by the present members of the congregation.

With acknowledgments to Cameron Butland who compiled much of the material on this and other pages in various publications, 2013 – 2015.

Gift Aid Form

Organ Renovation Appeal
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How to Donate

Organ Renovation Appeal
To make a donation

There are 3 ways you can donate to the organ fund:

  • – the Diocese of Carlisle’s facility for online giving, with an option for Gift Aid. Please enter “Organ Fund” in the Details box.

  • Bank transfer: Sort code 01-09-75  Account 62971573
    Ref: Grasmere PCC Organ Fund
    To Gift Aid your donation, please complete this form.

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Specification of the Organ

Organ Renovation Appeal
Tromba 8 Tromba 8
Mixture 19-22-26 Clarionet 8
Fifteenth 2 Flautina 2
Principal 4 Flauto Traverso 4
Flute Harmonic 4 Lieblich Gedact 8
Hohl Flute 8 Dulciana 8
Small Open Diapason 8 Tremulant  
Large Open Diapason 8    
Bourdon 16    
Oboe 8 Octave Diapason 8
Cornopean 8 Bass Flute 8
Dulciana Mixture (2 ranks) Bourdon 16
Salicet 4 Open Diapason 16
Vox Angelica 8 Harmonic Bass 32
Viol d’Orchestre 8    
Rohr Flute 8    
Geigen Diapason 8    
Swell to Choir
Choir to Great
Swell to Great
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Choir Octave
Choir Sub Octave
Swell to Great Sub Octave
Swell to Great Octave
Swell Sub Octave
Swell Octave
4 adjustable thumb pistons to each of Great and Swell, 3 to Choir
4 adjustable toe pistons to Great and to Swell
Reversible thumb pistons for Great to Pedal and Swell to Great
Reversible toe piston for Great to Pedal

Organ Restoration Programme

Organ Renovation Appeal
Restoration Programme

Full description of proposed restoration.

  • Tubular-pneumatic mechanism removed and stored within the organ.
  • Soundboards, unit chests, bass chest and front pipe blocks electrified with modern lever electromagnets, replacing primary pneumatics.
  • Pneumatic slider machines and wind trunks removed and replaced with powerful slider solenoids and associated power supplies.
  • Keyboards and pedalboard restored and fitted with electrical contacts and springs.
  • Thumb pistons replaced and augmented with electric ones.
  • Stop-knobs fitted with long-draw electric solenoids.
  • Toe piston sweep replaced by a redesigned one with electric pistons.
  • Processor-based transmission and combination system installed.
  • Pedalboard moved to align D under D.
  • Expression pedals set back from their present position and redesigned to make them easier to operate.
  • Organ bench fitted with hinged blocks to make it height-adjustable.
  • Console woodwork restored and music desk light replaced.
  • Attend to sagging front pipe block.
  • Pipes, mechanisms and surfaces thoroughly cleaned.
  • New bellows inlet cut in cabinet.
  • Improve ladders and lighting within the organ to make access easier.
  • Unit chests and wind trunks restored and checked for soundness.
  • Indicator lights for porch and vestry be fitted to console.
  • Remove Dulciana pipes and replace with Sesquialtera 12.17.
  • Replace Harmonic Bass with Trombone.

Your support for this programme would be greatly appreciated.

Restoration – page: 12

Organ Restoration

Organ Renovation Appeal


The present church organ, built by J J Binns of Leeds in 1923, is an exceptionally fine instrument of its time. Binns was an organ builder renowned for solid workmanship and the use of the finest materials. However, almost 100 years on, the organ needs renovating.

The organ pipes, soundboards, windchests and bellows are basically sound but many other parts are worn or have been subject to short-term repairs that have now failed.

Binn’s patent tubular pneumatic action (the extensive system of tubes which connects the console to the organ’s wind supply) was considered innovative at the time of construction but this has become sluggish and makes the organ unresponsive to play. The keyboards, pedalboard, pistons and couplers would benefit by being electrified.

Some revoicing of the pipes is needed and the overall balance of the organ would be improved by the addition of a 16′ pedal reed stop and a sesquialtera rank on the choir organ.

Restoration – page: 12

History of the Organ

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History of the Organ

Early Times – The Pitch Pipe

There is no evidence of an organ or other musical instrument in Grasmere Church before 1872, however, the purchase for 7s 6d of a new pitch pipe, to be used by the clerk who led the singing, appears in the accounts of 1829. The pitch pipe is on display in a cabinet at the east end of the Langdale aisle, next to the organ.

The Old Organ

In 1872, a two manual Wilkinson organ was installed. This was an instrument of good quality with 10 stops on the Great and 6 on the Swell. In 1923 it was rehoused in Lancaster Baptist Church, a move involving a reduction in size of the Great. In 2000, the Wilkinson was moved once again, this time to All Saints Church at Boltongate, south of Wigton. The organ still plays well.

The New Organ

In March, 1923, Mr J Taylor of Helmside, Grasmere, placed an order with J J Binns of Leeds for a new organ for Grasmere Church. His donation was in memory of second daughter, Nellie Taylor, V.A.D., who was attached to the 10th Motor Ambulance Convoy, British Red Cross. She died in France on June 27th, 1918. Nellie, who had been a fine musician, was interred at Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport.

The organ was three manual with patent tubular pneumatic action. Technically and artistically, it was of a high standard: “The soundboards, tables, bearers, etc., are of straight-grained mahogany… The keys are of the best double-bleached ivory and the sharps of ebony… The solo and softer registers have a rich and delicate quality” (Westmorland Gazette, October 6th,1923). The case, of Austrian oak, was constructed by Grasmere craftsmen, Messers. T Wilson and Sons and the entire installed at the east end of the Langdale aisle, necessitating the removal of the vestry to the west end where it had been a hundred years previously.


In 1964, renovations were carried out by J W Walker & Sons of Ruislip. The Great received most attention. The original Trumpet was replaced by a Tromba, the Flautina moved to the Choir, the Medium Open Diapason softened to a Small Open Diapason and a new Fifteenth and Mixture were installed. The Choir’s original Gamba was removed to make way for the Flautina. The Swell and Pedal sections are unchanged since manufacture.

In 1994, Victor Saville overhauled the organ section by section, and in 2004, a new humidifier and bellows for the Tromba were fitted. At the same time, a two-stage ladder was installed within the organ case to improve access.

A full specification of the Organ is available.


Music has a fine and long tradition at St Oswald’s Church. Andrew Seivewright (1926-2010), former Master of the Music at Carlisle Cathedral, was organist and choirmaster here from 1994. A recording of “Organs of the Lake District” is available on the church bookstall, and includes several tracks recorded at Grasmere in August 2016 by the present Director of Music, Ian Hare.

It is proposed to renovate the organ in time for its centenary in 2023, and donations are invited.

Organ Appeal

Organ Renovation Appeal
Patron: Queen’s College, Oxford
The organ at St Oswald’s Church was donated in 1923 by the Taylor family of Helmside, Grasmere, in memory of their daughter, Nellie, who died in France during World War I.
100 years on, this fine historic organ needs restoring:
  • Pneumatic action fully electrified
  • Organ thoroughly cleaned internally
  • Keyboards and pedalboard restored
  • Leatherwork repaired
  • Organ case reinforced
  • And more
£150,000 is needed. How can you help?
Thank you

For more information please contact the Director of Music, Ian Hare MA MusB FRCO (CHM)