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St Oswald, Farnham, Yorkshire, West Riding

(54°2′21″N, 1°28′17″W)
SE 347 605
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now North Yorkshire
formerly York
now Ripon and Leeds
formerly St Oswald
now St Oswald
  • Rita Wood
30 May 2000

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Farnham, Yorkshire, is a village 2 miles N of Knaresborough. The church is large for a village, built in a fine sandstone which is grey for the tower but goldish in the remainder. There is a nave with aisles, porch, tower included within the nave, and a rarity, a late twelfth-century chancel. Church restored by G. G. Scott, 1854 (Pevsner (1967), 195-6; Leach and Pevsner )2009), 248; see also Lunn (1870), 35ff, with plan p.41). Sculptured items include the shafted capitals of the nine chancel windows inside and several interesting external features.


DB says ‘King Edward had this manor in demesne. Now it is under the King’s hand and is waste.’ (VCH vol ii, 199); also in Farnham, Gospatric had 3 carucates of land. There was a priest there, and a church (VCH vol. ii, 283).

The manor of Farnham was included in King Henry I’s lordship of Knaresborough, and at the time of Stephen was given or confirmed to Swain, the supposed descendant of Gospatric (VCH vol. ii, 184). Raine discovered the dedication (1873).


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

String courses
Corbel tables, corbels


Interior Features

Interior Decoration

String courses

In its effect, the chancel is surprisingly intact, but in detail its S doorway, the interior shafts, sill and string course are all renewed; the N doorway is blocked, and later windows have been inserted W of the doorways. The twelfth-century chancel arch has gone (the new one, 1854). The N aisle is said to be c.1200; fabric of the Norman W wall is said to remain. Inspection and photography of those parts was restricted because there was work going on not only outside on the apex of the E gable, but also in the W part of the nave inside and out.

String course, exterior Compare Ripon cathedral, the small length of string course on the pilaster at the height of (similar) corbels. There is also a similarity with arch mouldings on the transept doorways at Ripon.

Capital N2. This plain hollow chamfer may be compared to capitals at Ripon cathedral, in the crossing NW pier, and another, in the S bay of the N transept there.

Waterleaf capitals. The closest at Ripon are in the Library (exterior wall of S choir aisle, second level).

Corbels, in being all the same as if chopped from an extruded moulding, these are comparable to those used Ripon and Selby Abbey in the 1170s. See especially Ripon, YW60(22). The bulging, rounded profile is not found exactly, but is similar to those used at Ripon, not only in some corbels, but in the pendants in the S choir aisle and N transept.

Sir Stephen Glynne (writing after a visit in 1863, after the restoration by Scott) described the chancel as ‘a very fine specimen of good Norman… partially reconstructed.’ Butler illustrates Lunn's exterior view of the church, and a sketch of the interior of the chancel (Butler 2007, 175).

Even Pevsner gives the ‘Norman’ chancel the rare accolade of ‘beautiful’.

According to Lunn 1870, 35, ‘the dedication of this church is unknown: it is described in the Liber Regis as a Vicarage or Curacy, belonging to the Priory “de Bello Valle,” in Lincolnshire…’ Apart from the difficulty of identifying this priory, the Cistercian appearance of the chancel at Farnham could be due just as much to the proximity of Ripon cathedral and Fountains Abbey.


L. A. S. Butler (ed)., 'The Yorkshire Church Notes of Sir Stephen Glynne (1825-1874)', Yorkshire Archaeological Society Records Series, 159 (Woodbridge 2007).

P. Leach and N. Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding:Leeds, Bradford and the North (Yale, 2009).

J. R. Lunn, The Ecclesiology of the Rural Deanery of Knaresborough (York, 1870(.

N. Pevsner, Yorkshire: West Riding. The Buildings of England (Harmondsworth, 1959), 2nd. ed. revised E. Radcliffe (1967).

Victoria County History of Yorkshire, vol. II, 2nd edn. (London, 1974).