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St Oswald, Ravenstonedale, Westmorland

(54°26′0″N, 2°25′48″W)
NY 722 043
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Westmorland
now Cumbria
medieval Carlisle
now Carlisle
medieval St Oswald
now St Oswald
  • James King
08 Oct 2016

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Feature Sets

The present church is of 18thc date, but two loose beakhead voussoirs are preserved inside the W tower. Two medieval grave covers have been found in excavations to the N of the church. One has been reburied, but the other, in two pieces, is kept inside the N porch. N of the church are ruins of a small Gilbertine priory.


Sometime during the reign of Henry II, the advowson and manor of Ravenstonedale were given to Watton Priory (Yorkshire) by Torphin, son of Robert. Watton was a Gilbertine priory of the Order of Sempringham. Sempringham priory was founded in the 1130s and the priory at Watton about 1148-50. The church at Ravenstonedale does not, however, appear to have been fully appropriated before 1336. After 1133, Ravenstonedale was part of the diocese of Carlisle, but prior to this appears to have been part of the diocese of York. In the ecclesiastical taxation of 1291-92, the church at Ravenstonedale (spelled ‘Ranenstandale’) was valued at £6.10s.6d. In 1405 there was an enquiry about the maintenance by Watson of the cell at Ravenstonedale. It was alleged that a Master and three canons had been assigned to it, but that for a long time the three canons had not been in residence. Watton Priory was dissolved in 1539, and Ravenstonedale was granted to Archbishop Holdgate of York. In 1546, he sold it to Thomas Wharton, of Wharton Hall, although evidence that Wharton ever lived in Ravenstonedale is lacking. In 1624, all privileges of sanctuary were abolished. In 1729 the Wharton estates were forfeited to the crown and Ravenstonedale was sold to Robert Lowther.


Loose Sculpture


The Ravenstonedale beakheads were apparently in the tower before excavations N of the church were carried out, but it is unclear where they were originally found. Formerly referred to as corbels, they are probably voussoirs. The fine cutting of the front and lower faces of the stone seem to indicate that these were the parts of the stone which were exposed to the viewer. The measurements help to confirm that these were voussoirs, and there are several other beakheads from arches in Cumbria. The most useful comparisons in Cumbria for the Ravenstonedale beakheads can be found in Cumberland at Caldbeck, Dacre, Crosscanonby and Glassonby, and in Westmorland at Brough.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications: or, England’s Patron Saints, 3 , London, 1899, 233.

J. Campbell, A Study of Stone Sculpture in Cumberland and Westmorland c.1092-1153 within a historical context, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2008.

J. Curwen, ‘Parishes (East Ward): St Oswald, Ravenstonedale’, The Later Records Relating to North Westmorland or the Barony of Appleby, Kendal, 1932, 214-226.

E. Frankland, ‘Explorations in Ravenstonedale’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 26, (1929), 278-92.

M. Hyde and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cumbria, New Haven and London, 2010, 585-86.

J. Nicolson and R. Burn, The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, 1, London, 1777, 517-29.

W. St John Hope, ‘The Gilbertine Priory of Watton in the East Riding of Yorkshire’, The Archaeological Journal, 58 (1901), 1-34.

Taxatio Ecclesiastica Angliae et Walliae Auctorite P. Nicholai IV. circa A.D. 1291, London, 1802.

M. Thurlby, 'Romanesque Architecture and Architectural Sculpture in the Diocese of Carlisle', British Archaeological Transactions: Carlisle and Cumbria, 27, (2004), 269-84.

W. Whellan, The History and Topography of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, Pontefract, 1860, 766-69.