Kirkoswald and Renwick is the
first parish history to be produced by the Cumbria County History Trust in
collaboration with Lancaster University for the Victoria County History of
Cumbria. Covering 30 square miles of agricultural land and moorland, the modern
civil parish of Kirkoswald lies between the river Eden and the Pennine heights,
on the western edge of the North Pennine Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Kirkoswald township, anciently a market and small industrial centre, lies nine
miles north east of Penrith. Until 1566 Kirkoswald Castle was the principal
seat of the powerful Barons Dacre of the North whose massive landholdings
extended over six counties. In 1523 Lord Thomas Dacre translated St Oswald’s
church, a pre-conquest foundation for which the village is named, to collegiate
status, and after the Reformation the college became a gentleman's residence,
acquired in 1611 by the Fetherstonhaugh family whose home it still is after 400
years and 11 generations of descent.
The economy, largely dependent
on agriculture, benefited for 600 years from Kirkoswald's role as a market and
business centre, with some manufacturing (textiles, paper and timber) powered
by the waters of the Raven Beck. From 1631 to about 1850 there was coal mining
on the Pennine Edge (with associated lime-burning). In the 21st century the
parish remains an unspoilt and beautiful corner of England, home to some 30
farms specialising in animal husbandry, and many retired people and commuters
to Penrith and Carlisle.