Osmotherley’s situation on elevated ground with a good water supply lent itself to the establishment of human habitation from an early period. The first real documentary reference to a settlement here is its listing as “Asmundrelac” in the Domesday Book in 1055, although archaeological evidence suggests human activity in the surrounding moorland from about 8000 BC. The name means a “ clearing belonging to Asmund “, and Domesday records arable land sufficient for 2 ploughs.
The church shows evidence of Saxon and Danish influences, before the Normans made a more permanent impression. Osmotherley then became part of the County Palatine of Durham whose Bishop was henceforth Lord of the Manor. Along with the rest of the district the village suffered from repeated Scots raids during the 13th and 14th centuries which no doubt destroyed many of the earlier buildings.
Religion remained a strong influence upon the development of the village, its close proximity to Mount Grace Priory and, particularly, Lady Chapel making it both a haven for pilgrims and a sanctuary during periods of persecution. Both the Quakers and, following visits from John Wesley, the Methodists, established congregations here at an early stage.
By the 18th century the “Township” of Osmotherley had its own Constable, Poor House, Pinfold (for straying cattle) and regular markets, having been granted a Market Charter at a much earlier date. Many cottagers had a small plot of land or croft along with common grazing rights, while hand-loom weaving was often a domestic occupation.
However this traditional pattern of life changed dramatically with the effect of the Enclosure Acts at the end of the 18th century and the opening of Cote Ghyll linen mill and its associated bleaching mills. The result was a rapid doubling of the population with the influx of workers from outside the area requiring more housing, shops and trades. The linen industry dominated village life throughout the 19th century, with quarrying, jet mining and agriculture also providing local employment. However, foreign competition and other factors ultimately brought about the closure of the mills, the population dwindled and the pattern of life changed again.
More recent history saw the coming of electricity, piped water and improved sanitation to the village. Two world wars left their mark bringing some military activity, one or two stray bombs, moorland aircraft crashes and the billeting of evacuees, as well as the inevitable list of local casualties recorded on the War Memorial.
The pattern of employment changed steadily with more and more people working outside the village and another major development was the increased importance of tourism. Osmotherley had long provided access to open country and fresh air, particularly for those living on nearby Teesside. With more leisure time and improved transport facilities the present image of the village as a mecca for holidaymakers and visitors of all kinds has become firmly established.