St. Oswald’s of Oswaldtwistle

The last day of 2017 and here is a lovely shot of a rather green St. Oswald’s Church in Knuzden Brook village, Oswaldtwistle. The 1870s Victorian church is located near an ancient salt-way where King Oswald of Northumbria and his army passed on their way to the nearby Roman road from Ribchester. It was the route south which eventually took them to Oswestry, Shropshire and the fateful Battle of Maserfield of 642.

Oswald fought the heathen King Penda of Mercia but was killed and dismembered. One of his arms was carried by a raven to an ash tree where miracles later occurred. The name Oswestry is thus derived from “Oswald’s Tree”. A holy well is a visitor attraction. Saint Oswald is often associated with a raven, especially in Germany.

Likewise, Oswaldtwistle means ‘Oswald’s camp’. The army camped at a spring about two miles away. It too became a holy well and a church was built adjacent following Oswald’s martyrdom. It was so prominent locally that the place was never given a name. It simply became ‘Church’ and the church became ‘Church Kirk’.

Though the medieval church was originally dedicated to St Oswald, it later became one of the very many dedications St. James in these parts. Nobody has ever asked why and when. Was it an example of the area’s well known Jacobite sympathies? Despite its medieval tower, Georgian nave and Victorian chancel and it’s grade II* listing, Blackburn Diocese recently made it redundant and it currently stands forlorn in its conservation area adjacent the Leeds and Liverpool Canal overlooking adjacent fields. It is very much on my ‘to do’ list as the Hyndburn Borough conservation officer.

St. Oswald’s Church, on the other hand, remains a lively village church. Architecturally, it is a fine example of the Pennine type of heavy masonry building with a spacious interior. The walls are of lovely snecked rubble stonework which is unusual for the 1870s. The architects planned a large western tower but the parish was too poor to build it. The parish war memorial is listed grade II and is a simple but effective Latin cross with carved ornamental ends and a croix pattée at the intersection of the arms. It is set on a tapering plinth and a two-stepped base where the names of the fallen are recorded.

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