Oswald was a warrior king and one of the people's favourite saints before William of Normandy invaded in 1066. He was born about the year 605 AD at a time when the warring tribes in the English nation were still moving from the pagan to Christian belief. His father was the king of Northumbria and was slain in battle fighting an army led by Edwin, Oswald's uncle, when Oswald was about 12.
Oswald spent 17 years of exile among the Scots, where he was converted to Christianity on the island of Iona by Bishop Paulinus in 627. When Oswald regained his throne in 633 AD he reigned as the second Christian king of Northumbria. He was eventually slain in battle by the Mercian king Penda in 642.
Oswald quickly became regarded as a great Christian warrior and a man of extraordinary power and strength and it is not surprising that very many churches were dedicated to him.
Many other places were also named after him, such as Oswestry, Osbaldeston, Oswaldtwistle, Kirkoswald and Birdoswald, although it is likely that they were named as a tribute rather than a memorial. It is not just in the north that churches were dedicated to Oswald; there were tributes and memorials given to him in places such as Sussex and Gloucestershire and his relics are displayed in churches all over Europe.
When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, the name Oswald faded; one reason may have been that his name was strongly associated with a native English royal family whose titles, land and power were taken by William. However the relics, churches and place-names survived and by the time of the Reformation about 60 churches remained dedicated to him, but as this is nowhere near the number of churches dedicated to other saints he is regarded only as a minor saint.
Oswald, like Christ, was impaled on a tree. His death was seen as barbaric and the treatment of his remains was horrifying and in the minds of Christians would be linked to the humiliation of Christ, who was crucified less than 700 years earlier. Saint Oswald's Feast Day is August 5th although in Warton it is celebrated on the Sunday nearest to 1st August, traditionally with a rush-bearing festival.