CumbriaGREATORMSIDEStJames(martindawesCC-BY-SA2.0)1 MartinDawes

St James

Built on a man made mound, dating back to pre Christian times, St James defensive position overlooks the river Eden and the cluster of buildings that make up Ormside Hall.

Great Ormside, Cumbria

Opening times

The church is open at all times. Special arrangements can be made for tours.


Great Ormside
CA16 6EJ

This small robust church, with substantial 13th century tower displays many features of historical and architectural interest from the Roman, Saxon and Viking periods. 

Ormside means ‘the seat of Orm (a Viking)’. The Ormside Bowl, dating from the 7th or 8th century, was unearthed in the churchyard in 1823 and is now on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York. It is regarded as one of the country's most valuable and rare Anglo Saxon artefacts. In 1898 a Viking burial of a warrior with his sword (which is now in Tullie House museum in Carlisle) was discovered in the churchyard. In the past Ormside was a much more important place than it now appears, it is believed that the design of the Norman church at Ormside was the work of Bishop Osmande (later bishop of Salisbury, died 1099) one of the compilers of the Domesday Book and William the Conqueror’s nephew.

In 1689 a hoard of brass, pewter,brazen mortar, a case of brazen weights, candlesticks, flagons, several pewter plates and small lead for boiling meat was found in the churchyard. In February 1889 a sword broken in two, part of a shield some iron and a small knife were found. They were pronounced Danish and are now in the Tullie House Museum.

The nave has a combination of 11th to 14th century masonry. A North Aisle was built in the 12th century supported by a double Norman arcade which was taken down and rebuilt as part of a Victorian restoration project. The chancel was lengthened at the same time and the Leper Squint was constructed in the north wall. In the early 17th century the chancel was widened to the south, a piscine, aumbreys (recesses) and a priest's door were included in the reconstruction.

The massive west tower, built in the 13th century, clearly had a defensive function. It has small slit windows and no external door. Also known as the bell tower it is believed that this part of the building could have been a dwelling for the priest who served the church. It consists of a basement and two internal floors and houses three bells of which only one is in use.

It is believed that the priest of Ormside, John de Grote, who later became attached to the royal household, wrote the will of the Black Prince, son of Edward III in 1376. A copy is displayed on the wall in the Hilton Chapel.

Many ancient carved stones some bearing Latin inscriptions, which stood near the church were ruthlessly broken into pieces . The mutilated Roman altar stone was walled into the present porch. Others can be found aroun the church, some of the inscriptions might refer to St Osmund. He was nephew of William the Conqueror and was made Chancellor of the realm around 1070 and chief commissioner for drawing up the Doomsday Book. It is said that he designed and help build St James. He became Bishop of Old Sarum, now Salisbury Cathedral.

  • Wildlife haven

  • Social heritage stories

  • National heritage here

  • Glorious furnishings

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Famous connections

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Captivating architecture

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Space to secure your bike

  • Parking within 250m

  • On street parking at church

  • Level access to the main areas

  • Dog friendly

  • Accessible toilets nearby

  • Church of England

Contact information

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