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The History of St Oswald's Church

This old village church in Kirk Sandall is dedicated to St Oswald, the Anglo-Saxon king of Northumbria. There is an old legend that his body rested here, after his death in battle in the year 642.

We know that there was a church and village or hamlet here in 1086 because it was written in the Doomsday Book. Some features of the church date much earlier, from Anglo-Saxon times. The hamlet consisted of a 'big house', a farm and a cluster of cottages around the church. Most of the church was built in the Norman period (11th - 12th century) and it was only altered a little until the additions were made in the Tudor period (16th century).

During that time the old village of Kirk Sandall had hardly grown because its soil was sandy and hard to farm. The village was quite poor and so the church was not enlarged or altered. Little is known about the old village whose name means "sandy place by a river with a church".

By the 1960s the old village of Kirk Sandall had virtually disappeared. Pilkington's glass factory arrived in 1922 and the local farms, cottages and village school were gradually demolished. A new village was built some distance away. Plans were also made to demolish the church and use some of its stone in a new church in the "new" village. Fortunately there was much local opposition and a lack of funds and so the old church survived.

The new village did get its new church and new church hall. This made the old church redundant. In 1980 it was taken over by The Redundant Churches Fund, now known as The Churches Conservation Trust. It cares for and maintains the church so that this priceless gem can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

In 2015 a planning application was made to build 90+ homes on the site of the Old Village. Building began in 2018 and was completed in 2021. Although there are no plans to resume using the building for regular worship St. Oswald’s Church is once again at the centre of a community.


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The Porch (1)

Enter the church by the porch which is Victorian. The door inside is Norman.

The Nave (2)

As you enter the Nave, with its North and South aisles, you are looking at an essentially Norman church. The large windows were added in the 14th century to let more light into quite a gloomy building. In Victorian times the roof was replaced and raised. You can clearly see where the earlier and lower roof was by studying the walls.

The Font (3)

To the left of the door you can see the font. This is where baptisms took place. It is a simple round Norman Font.

Piscina (4)

The Piscina in the south wall indicates there was once an alter here. The Piscina was for washing the Chalice and Patten used for Holy Communion. Nearby, see the medieval coffin slab with a cross on top. Two small Norman windows can be seen clearly at either end of the south aisle.

Thomas Brown Monument (5)

On the opposite wall there is a monument to Thomas Brown who died in 1840.

The Chancel (6)

As you cross into the Chancel you will pass through a lovely oak screen. It was first used to screen the chapel to the left from the rest of the church. The screen dates from the 16th century, though some of the figures on it are later. The Chancel itself was built in the 15th century. Here the roof, the altar and the Piscina all date from the restoration of the 1930s.

Look on the Chancel floor for the two grave slabs. They commemorate past curate Jeremiah Waterhouse who died in 1698, and also members of the Fountain family.

The Rokeby Chapel (7)

The most famous part of the church lies in the north east corner. In 1521, a once local priest called William Rokeby decided to have most of his body (but not his heart!) buried in the church. He was Rector here from 1487 - 1502. After his time at Kirk Sandall, Rokeby went on to be the Vicar of Halifax before becoming very famous. He was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland and Archbishop of Dublin in 1512.

Rokeby left money in his will to build an furnish the chapel in St Oswald's. The money provided the magnificent magnesian limestone for the building, the beautiful Perpendicular type architecture of the interior, the stained glass for the windows and his own marble tomb. The wood in the chapel comes from ireland, because William was Archbishop there. Originally, there was a lovely east window here, but it was blocked in by the monument you now see, and its precious stained glass was placed in the windows on the north side of the chapel.

William Rokeby Monument (8)

On the north wall of the chapel is the monument to William Rokeby himself. It is made of marble but is badly eroded. There is also a small brass to the Archbishop in the east wall. A monument to another William Rokeby who died in 1662 is on the opposite south wall.

Thomas Rokeby Monument (9)

The large monument on the east wall of the chapel is for the judge, Sir Thomas Rokeby, who won the favour of the Dutch King of England, William III, and who died in 1699. He wanted a "Modest Memorial" which this certainly isn't! Look for the black bird, a raven on the monument. This was a family emblem. There is a printed version of the writing on the memorial close by and a portrait of Sir Thomas.

The Rokeby's sold their Kirk Sandall estate to Sir John Martin in 1776. You can see a record of his and his family's burials on the chapel walls and floor.

Brasses (10)

While in the chapel, also look for the small but impressive floor brasses commemorating the "Virtuous Matron" Elizabeth Boucher who died in 1677 and Thomas Boucher who died in 1658.


The outside of the church is very interesting. The low tower is actually a Belfry. It holds a single bell made in 1690. This tower dates only from the 1930s, when it was built to replace an older Victorian tower which had become unsafe. Look at the west end of the church for the small Norman window and the stones arranged diagonally in a herringbone pattern. These are probably even older Anglo-Saxon fragments and were part of the earliest church on this site.

In the churchyard you will see the remains of a medieval cross near the door. Near the Rokeby chapel is the tomb of George Willey who was village schoolmaster for no less than 70 years.


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