St Olaf's Church, Wasdale, Cumbria
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member flipflopnick
N 54° 28.024 W 003° 15.214
30U E 483565 N 6035519
Quick Description: St Olaf's Church, Wasdale is one of England's smallest churches. The earliest record of the church is 1550, though it probably predates this as the beams are said to come from a Vikings. But this wrong. Worth a visit as the valley is spectacular.
Location: North West England, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 8/13/2006 3:39:19 PM
Waymark Code: WMM0W
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Jyrki&Sari
Views: 69

Long Description:
St. Olaf's is the parish church of Wasdale Head. The church itself is of unknown age but probably dates from before the reformation. The earliest reference to the church was made about 1550, when the Bishop of Chester ordered the Parish, together with several others in the neighbourhood, to contribute towards the upkeep of St.Bee's priory, and mention is also made in Eskdale parish records in 1587.

The building itself it steeped in history with the roof beam thought to have come from a Viking long boat. The original inhabitants of Wasdale were certainly of Viking descent. The place-names, the folklore and the local dialect all have a Scandinavian origin, and it is to them that we owe the tradition and breed of Herdwick sheep that still roam the fells today. And so it is almost certain that they formed the church. It is unlikely they used beams available in the form of the old ship's timbers. This is a very common fallacy for old timbers in structures. Good timber would get used for ships. Lesser quality timber for building. Wasdale would have been heavily forested, providing plenty of timbers. All sourced from nearby resources. No workman is going to carry materials any further than needed.

The main building was restored in 1892 to look like it does today. Prior to this date, the records show the building to have an earthen floor, few or no seats, a hurdle at the doorway and no glass in the windows (hence the steeply sloping window sills you see today which would have been an attempt to keep the water at bay). Few alterations have been made recently but the south window is a memorial to the FRCC members who lost their lives in the war of 1914-1918, and some roof beams were replaced in 1936. Externally the yew trees have recently been cut back and the slates on the roof on the south side are Honister slate while the north side boasts thicker and older Wasdale slate.

The Churchyard boasts a history of its own, being consecrated in 1901. Prior to this date the dead of the parish would have been carried by pack horse over the Burnmoor Tarn pass to be buried in the graveyard at Boot. The church was named in 1977 after the Viking King Olaf who had repented and turned to Christianity late in his life.

The valley history can be found in the new church book "The Vikings, Wasdale Head & The Church". The village claims to be home of the highest mountain (Scafell Pike), deepest lake (Wastwater), smallest church and biggest liar in England. The latter claim is based on a former landlord of the Wasdale Head Inn, who proclaimed himself as such.

The south window has small leaded shapes with a stained glass image of Napes Needle and the quotation 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength'. The window is a memorial to members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who gave their lives in the first world war.

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Building Materials: Stone

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Recent Visits/Logs:
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Superted visited St Olaf's Church, Wasdale, Cumbria 5/27/2012 Superted visited it
fellsmanhiker visited St Olaf's Church, Wasdale, Cumbria 11/18/2008 fellsmanhiker visited it
Tashington visited St Olaf's Church, Wasdale, Cumbria 11/18/2008 Tashington visited it
MBFace visited St Olaf's Church, Wasdale, Cumbria 3/31/2008 MBFace visited it
Octopusann visited St Olaf's Church, Wasdale, Cumbria 8/9/2007 Octopusann visited it

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