St Oswald

Discover our fascinating church and its surrounding literary landscape with connections to the Brontes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; what might St. Oswald’s inspire in you?

Thornton in Lonsdale, Yorkshire

Opening times

April to September, Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.


St Oswald
New Road
Thornton in Lonsdale

St Oswald is a Grade II* listed building which was, until the 19th century, the ‘mother church’ of the surrounding area. Throughout its history it has been closely associated with local landowning families who have supported building works and been commemorated in the church and churchyard, from the medieval Mowbray family to the 17th century Redmaynes. Traces of the early church on the site survive in the form of an 11th century cross slab and 12th century grave cover, on which is inscribed a sword and a coulter and part of the Norman arcade between the nave and north aisle. The church was probably badly damaged during the Scottish raids which devastated this area of North Yorkshire following English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Rebuilding work was also hit by plague, meaning that the church which survived up to the 19th century was a mixture of Norman, 14th century Decorated Gothic and 15th century Perpendicular style in the tower.

Further alterations including internal reordering and the addition of a short steeple to the tower, were made in 1886, thanks to the generosity of Felix Slade, founder of the Slade School of Art whose wife, Eliza Foxcrofts came from nearby Halsteads. The church was partially destroyed by a fire which took hold during a blizzard on the night of 25th February 1933. It was almost entirely, but faithfully, rebuilt by the renowned architects Austin & Paley who preserved many features from the early church, from architectural elements to fragments of stained glass.

The church sits at the heart of a Yorkshire Dales hill farming community. This is a literary landscape, too. The Bronte sisters went to school in nearby Cowan Bridge, and their final coach stop from Haworth was just outside St Oswald’s opposite the Church Stile Inn (now The Marton Arms). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle married his first wife Louise Hawkes in St Oswalds in 1885, held his wedding reception in The Marton Arms (still opposite the church and well worth a visit), and lived for a time in Masongill Cottage, drawing inspiration from the name of a local vicar in his creation of the character of Sherlock Holmes!

Today you will find rest and respite in the peaceful churchyard of St Oswald and a warm welcome in the building from a faithful community currently undertaking a major restoration project of the Redmayne Chapel, thanks in part to funding from the National Churches Trust.

  • Captivating architecture

  • Enchanting atmosphere

  • Fascinating churchyard

  • Magnificent memorials

  • Social heritage stories

  • Spectacular stained glass

  • Wildlife haven

  • Accessible toilets in church

  • Café within 500m

  • Car park at church

  • Level access to the main areas

  • On street parking at church

  • Parking within 250m

  • Ramp or level access available on request

  • Space to secure your bike

  • Steps to enter the church or churchyard

  • Walkers & cyclists welcome

  • Regular Morning Prayer and Holy Communion (BCP) services.

  • Sunday Services 9.30am.

  • Concerts and events.

  • Church of England

  • Gateway Grant, £3,000, 2022

  • Our Gateway Grants fund churches developing building projects and also urgent maintenance and repair projects to help keep churches open.

Contact information

Other nearby churches

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All Saints

Burton in Lonsdale, Yorkshire

Come and visit this 19th century Paley & Austin gem and discover its connection to one of England’s best loved war poems.