Headland Benefice

History of St Oswald’s Church


Information for this History has been taken from various published materials, and from local knowledge and every effort has been made to acknowledge their input. Should anyone be missed please notify the churchwardens and the situation will be rectified.

Original text (c) 1994 St Oswald’s Parochial Church Council 

Edited by David Hartley (c) 2024

Sketch of St Oswalds

A Short History

The first documentary evidence of a church at Flamborough dates from around 1150, when William Fitz Nigel made a grant of the church to Bridlington Priory. At this early date it is probable that only a nave and chancel existed. There would be some kind of belfry and the walls may have been built of stones taken from the beach as at Ulrome near Hornsea

Around 1200, a south aisle was added to the nave and chancel, to be followed fifty years later by a similar extension on the northern side. Early English arches set on octagonal piers then replaced the original walls. The four chancel piers and their arches are of the same period but the rest of the chancel dates from the restoration work carried out in 1869, at which time the north wall of the chancel, which had previously been in a straight line with that of the nave, was rebuilt nearer the centre line of the church as it now is. Before the restoration of the chancel the stonework ceased just above the arches, the clerestory being built of brick, with round headed windows.

An Early English arch survived in the west wall of the nave until it was 'restored' in 1897 when the present tower was built. This arch would seem to indicate that a tower of some kind was in existence by 1300 or shortly afterwards.

The ordination of a vicarage was made in 1310, although the controlling body remained the Priors and Canons of Bridlington Priory. This influence ceased with the dissolution of the Priory in 1537. In 1608 Andrew Marvell, father of the poet, held the Living for four years.

When the Archdeacon visited the parish in 1663 he reported witnessing... 'the steeple being down and the church being out of repair.' The parishioners found the cost of repairing the steeple too much for their slim resources and it remained where it had fallen for two hundred years.

St Oswalds 1853

Alterations and Repairs 

By 1825 the need for renovation became paramount and a series of alterations and repairs were undertaken. Box pews were installed and a new gallery created on the west side. A new wall on the northern side of the churchyard was built in 1846, while a very extensive programme of rebuilding was initiated between 1846 and 1869. Most of the exterior was rebuilt and the wooden bell turret replaced by a much larger one in stone containing three bells. 

St Oswalds 1869

The piers of the chancel arch were straightened to correct the flattening of the arch, this being rebuilt later with the buttress outside the church as an additional support. A corresponding arch on the north side was built at this time. The gallery at the west end of the nave was removed and the rood loft front erected in its place, the rood screen being left, as before, spanning the chancel arch.

The church, thus restored, and consisting of a nave with aisles and chancel with aisles, was re-opened by the Archbishop of York (Dr. Thomson) on September 28th 1869. The south porch, with its gates of open ironwork, was built in memory of Walter Strickland and Katherine his wife; and was dedicated in December 1892.

In 1895 the loft front was replaced over the chancel screen and a year later the last major task of rebuilding the tower, incorporating four bells was begun to a design of C. Hodgson the architect of the south porch. By 1898 the work was completed and the magnificent new Tower with its new peal of four bells and a handsome clock (a memorial to Mrs Cottrell-Dormer) was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Beverley on September 21st 1898.

St Oswalds 1864

Click on the links below to find out more about these subjects

Right arrowA Tour of the Church
Right arrowList of the Cantarists and Vicars
Right arrowThe Strickland Family
Right arrowThe Constable Family 
Right arrowThe Ogle Family 


The Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast Project was set up by four local authorities and the Countryside Commission to promote an increased awareness of the area and its many varied facets. As well as co-operating with the Flamborough Parochial Church Council to produce this leaflet, the project is also producing a number of other information leaflets on the natural and local history of the headland

Back buttonBack to St Oswald’s
Home buttonHome