Saint Oswald

Oswald was born in 604 AD In the kingdom of Deira. The two kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira had become united by the marriage of Oswald’s father Æthelfrith of Bernicia to his mother Acha of Deira. In 616 AD Oswald’s father was killed by Raedwald of East Anglia. The kingdoms once again had separate rulers and Oswald fled to Scotland in exile.

Oswald returned in 634 AD at the head of a small army and defeated King Cadwallon (who was ruling over Bernicia at the time), at the Battle of Heavenfield. Oswald reunited Northumbria and ruled as its king for eight years. Despite being the most powerful ruler in Britain at the time, he died on the 5th of August 642 AD at the Battle of Maserfield near present-day Oswestry (Oswald’s tree). He had been fighting the pagan Mercians of King Penda and it was recorded that he died praying for the souls of his soldiers that were dying around him. Later he was revered as a saint, as was common in the Middle Ages.

Oswald was instrumental in promoting the spread of Christianity in Northumbria. It is said that he was elevated to sainthood not because he achieved martyrdom by his death in battle but by extreme acts of generosity towards the poor during his life.

Oswald’s remains became scattered and were widely associated with miracles both in Britain and continental Europe. There are at least five claims to his head. Reginald of Durham recounts a miracle, saying that Oswald’s right arm was taken by a raven to an ash tree, which gave the tree ageless vigor. When the bird dropped the arm onto the ground, a spring emerged from the ground. Both the tree and the spring were, according to Reginald, subsequently associated with healing miracles.

In 909 AD, following a combined West Saxon and Mercian raid led by Æthelflæd, (the daughter of Alfred the Great), St Oswald’s relics were translated to a new minister in Gloucester, which was renamed St Oswald’s Priory in his honour.

His feast day is the 5th of August, the day on which he died.

St Oswald

Building History

The building of St Oswald’s was originally called Petersfield House. While the exact age of building is unknown, its documented history extends to the mid-19th century.

James Wheatley and his wife Charlotte (née Gates) ran a school from the premises soon after getting married locally in 1839. Their lives were not without challenges, with James reportedly spending time in jail and not paying rent as necessary. The Title Deeds were purportedly destroyed in a fire within Petersfield House, shortly before James was admitted to Sussex County Lunatic Asylum. Miraculously this fire was contained to the rear of the building, signs of which can be seen today. James died in care on the 3rd May 1878. His wife Charlotte who had acted as head mistress died less than one year after him. The estate passed in its entirety to his only living child, who was also called James Wheatly (Jr). Thus, ending the use of Petersfield House as a school.

It is unclear whether James Wheatly (Jr) resided in the property himself. Records reveal that he entered a 7-year lease agreement with an Isabella D Meiklam in 1905, with the property being leased to a Miss Emily Challen before that. James Wheatly (Jr) passed on the 23rd Feb 1906. He left the property to Midhurst Church School, who placed the property up for auction at the Angel. It was sold for £450 to John Mudge Furneaux, a solicitor for Midhurst Council. It appears that John chose not to sell the property until the protected lease period had expired, as this is exactly what he did in 1912 for a sum of £600.

The new owner of Petersfield House was John Charles Holland (born 1866), a registered dentist who completed his training in 1894 at the University of Edinburgh. Mortgage records show in 1911 he was practising out of York House, just across the road. His grandson tells us the move to Petersfield House was to accommodate his family and the practise within one building. Holland and his wife Kate Elizabeth (née Hayward), renamed their new home “St Oswald’s” after St Oswald’s Church in Owestry, Shropshire, where the pair had married on the 20th August 1895. Their fifth (and final) child was born here in February 1915.

In 1931, John Holland suffered a stroke and decided to retire, he sold the property to Charles Pearce Crodacott Sargent for £1000. Little is known of Charles Sargent, except that he sold St Oswald’s to John Gilbert Richards (known as Gil) in 1959. On an unknown date Gil sold the practice goodwill while retaining ownership of the property. Mark Thomas Coppen purchased the practice goodwill from a dentist called Rex Pitt in 1982, before purchasing the property from Gil in 1987.

Mark since expanded the dental practice so that it fills all 3 floors, providing 4 modern surgeries and 2 waiting rooms to our patients.

In 2020 Mark went into partnership with his son, Edward Coppen. The practice has expanded further thanks to the conversion of an out-house into a modern dental hygiene suite. St Oswald’s is now very fortunate to be a 5-surgery dental practice with an ideal centre of town location.