About UsOrmside means "the seat of Orm". He was a Viking, probably one of the Halfdans, Danes who pillaged Northumbria and eventually settled in the Dales. They arrived in this district around 915AD and possibly established a burial ground on the site of St James' Church. When the people converted to Christianity they retained the burial place and later built a church in which to worship. The "Ormside Bowl" dating from the 7th or 8th century was unearthed in the churchyard in 1823 and is now on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York. It is regarded as one of the country's most valuable and rare Anglo-Saxon artefacts. In 1898 a Viking burial of a warrior with his sword was discovered in the churchyard. The sword is now in Tullie House Museum in Carlisle. In the past Ormside was a much more important place than it now appears, it is believed that the design of the Norman church at Ormside was the work of Bishop Osmande (died 1099) one of the compilers of the Doomsday Book and a nephew of William the Conqueror. He became Bishop of Salisbury and was canonised in 1457.
The nave has a combination of 11th 12th and 14th century masonry. A North Aisle was built about the middle of the 12th century supported by a double Norman arcade which was taken down and rebuilt as part of a Victorian restoration project. The Chancel was lengthened at the same time and the Hagioscope or Leper's Squint was constructed in the north wall. In the early 17th century the chancel was widened to the south, a piscine, aumbreys and a priest's door were included in the reconstruction.
The massive, squat West Tower, built in the 13th century, clearly had a defensive function. It has small slit windows and no external door, angled buttresses were added later. Also known as the Bell Tower it is believed that this part of the building could have been a dwelling for the priest who served the church. It consists of a basement and two internal floors and houses two bells of which only one can now be used.
The Hilton Chapel to the left of the nave was built in the 17th century. A facsimile copy of an original will of the Black Prince, son of Edward III is displayed on the wall. This is believed to have been written by John de Grote at one time priest of Ormside who later became attached to the royal household
A South Porch was added to the church in the 16th or 17th century but was slightly further east. It was taken down and reconstructed in its present position in the 1880s.