Village of the Week: Oswaldkirk was the entire village sold off in 1933 - now it has excellent community spirit

It is sometimes an indication of life in a village when you can hardly ever buy a house there.

Generally it means it is a small village, people don’t want to leave and it is a sought after place to live.

Oswaldkirk ticks the boxes for that.

The village is north of York and around four miles away from the market town of Helmsley which are also sought after areas.

The village of Oswaldkirk near HelmsleyThe village of Oswaldkirk near Helmsley
The village of Oswaldkirk near Helmsley
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While it may not be the most obvious tourist or visitor destination if you like, it certainly has that ‘aspirational’ lifestyle vibe going on.

Sandy brown stone cottages, traditional orange roof-tops, cosy lamplit windows and chimney tops puffing away with stoves and fires taking the edge that still lingers on the mornings and evenings bridging the gap between winter and spring.

Bigger villas, detached bespoke built bungalows also make up the property types.

There is only one on the market at the moment. It is the old school house packed with character features such as sloping ceilings fire places and views for miles.

Oswaldkirk is a village of traditional and quaint properties.Oswaldkirk is a village of traditional and quaint properties.
Oswaldkirk is a village of traditional and quaint properties.
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There is a parish church with links to the Saxon period (466 to 1066), a village hall and a haunted pub.

A good staple for any country village.

Oswaldkirk is one of the smaller villages we feature with around 230 residents at the last official count.

But despite the above qualities – it is absolutely the community spirit that makes Oswaldkirk the place that it is.

The historic Malt Shovel Inn, Oswaldkirk.The historic Malt Shovel Inn, Oswaldkirk.
The historic Malt Shovel Inn, Oswaldkirk.

A quick look at this week’s diary for the village hall lists activities pretty much every day. Film night, stretchers, OWLS (ladies group), yoga, art, line dancing, bowls to name a few.

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One of the most charming things I have ever seen is the Oswaldkirk Village Information Booklet.

Think along the lines of an information folder you might get when you check into a hotel or a holiday cottage, but this is for people arriving newly to the village and also for the “established Oswaldkirkian” looking up something.

It reads: “We hope that this booklet will provide information of some benefit or importance as you go about your business in this, sometimes not so quiet, corner of ‘God‘s Own County’.”

Oswaldkirk. The impressive Oswaldkirk Hall.Picture Bruce Rollinson.Oswaldkirk. The impressive Oswaldkirk Hall.Picture Bruce Rollinson.
Oswaldkirk. The impressive Oswaldkirk Hall.Picture Bruce Rollinson.

It was originally created in the early 2000s as a paper booklet and has since been updated for the benefit of “those recently embraced into the bosom of our small community”.

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Even just observing and writing about Oswaldkirk as I am, I was totally heart-warmed by the gesture.

It goes on to say: “If all else fails and you can’t find what you’re looking for just ask around! We may only number 230 or so persons but we’re generally a friendly bunch. Furthermore villagers are happy to help their neighbours - elderly, vulnerable or otherwise - with little jobs or problems. Whether it’s changing a light bulb, unblocking a drain, arranging a lift to an appointment or suggesting a reliable tradesperson, it’s almost certain someone will be able to assist.”

If that isn’t the epitome of village life right there, then what is?

In it you will find details of the local neighbourhood watch, the local PCSO, a syndicate for bulk buying heating oil for a better deal, the church and its associated groups, bin day and the lady who delivers milk, yoghurt, cream, fruit juice, newspapers and magazines every day except Sundays.

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Oswaldkirk also hosts annual events like a bonfire and cricket match.

Oswaldkirk.  The Parish Church of Saint Oswald.Picture Bruce Rollinson.Oswaldkirk.  The Parish Church of Saint Oswald.Picture Bruce Rollinson.
Oswaldkirk. The Parish Church of Saint Oswald.Picture Bruce Rollinson.

It is hardly a surprise to learn that in 2008, the village reached the North of England Finals in the Calor village of the year competition, and was placed first in the "people" category.

There are other snippets in there too about the surroundings of Oswaldkirk.

It features on the Ebor Way, a 70-mile long-distance footpath from Helmsley to Ilkley in West Yorkshire, via the York. It takes its name from Eboracum, the Roman name for York.

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Oswaldkirk Hall features on the Historic England register. A fine country home, it was built around 1690, and is a yellow house with several features of historical interest that are secured behind a gravel driveway and iron gates.

A selling advert in 1933 for the Oswaldkirk Estate said it was “almost the whole of the village of Oswaldkirk”. When it went up for sale in 2013 it was on for £4m and said to have been “built to impress” much like something as a pre-cursor to Downton Abbey.

A reception hall and ornate staircase leads to three reception rooms featuring original panelling, two bedroom suites and six more bedrooms. On the estate there are two more cottages, outbuildings, an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court as well as formal gardens, kitchen garden, farmland and woodland.

Also steeped in history is The Malt Shovel pub which for the time being is closed down.

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But, in 2007, the then landlady had an after hours encounter,.

The Malt Shovel is said to be haunted by the ghost of a boy who died more than a century ago, aged only five.

Thomas Bamber's body was kept for weeks in his bedroom at the pub for weeks before his mother eventually allowed it to be buried, so the story goes.

Within weeks of moving in, the then landlady said she had encountered the spirit within the 16th century building.

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She was walking down the stairs when she felt a "presence" just behind her, and briefly saw a light, like a torch, shining before it suddenly disappeared.

"There was definitely something there”, she is reported to have said.

Oswaldkirk recently made Yorkshire Post news when the village hall and its trustees made the unusual step of agreeing to a deal where the local play area will be moved so that a home-owner can buy the current one and make it part of his new five-bedroom property.

William Brannon, director of a renewable energy company, and Alice have agreed to fund new play equipment and offered an additional £20,000 for the site after approval of previous plans to demolish a house called Rimbaley and its replace it.

The move divided the village with 47 people voting in favour and 42 voting against.

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