St Olaf’s Church

(See also Wasdale Head village and Wasdale)

Wasdale Head Church courtesySt Olaf’s Church, located at Wasdale Head, is the third smallest church in England. This church, named after the Viking king Olaf, is Cumbria’s smallest. It sits among yew trees in Wasdale valley. This was Viking territory, and it is thought that timber from Viking ships supplied the roof beams of the church.

The age of the church is not known, but it supposedly dates from before the reformation as it is referenced from 1550 by the bishops of Chester who asked the church to contribute to St Bee’s priory. Eskdale parish records from 1597 also name the church.Wasdale Head Church courtesy Andrew Hill Geograph

Before 1892 the floor of the church was dirt, there was no seating, and the windows lacked glass. In 1892 the church was restored. The stained glass window memorializes members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club who died in World War I. The inscription reads 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength'. The roof is made from slate: Honister slate on the south side and Wasdale slate on the north side.

Wasdale Head Church courtesy Julian ThurgoodYew trees in the graveyard look down on the memorials of those who died exploring the surrounding fells. Before the churchyard was consecrated, the dead were carried by packhorse along a corpse road to Boot in Eskdale for burial. The church became part of the benefice of Nether Wasdale in 1929, and they both then joined with Gosforth church in 1977.

Essential Information
Wasdale Head village is located on a minor road from Nether Wasdale from the A595 south of Egremont. Follow the road to Santon Bridge, continue past Nether Wasdale and Wast Water until the road dead ends.

Photos courtesy of Julian Thurgood , Andrew Hill and Tony Richards

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