According to the Domesday Book, there was a Norman church at Cowthorpe on a site half a mile to the south-west of the present building.
In 1450, Bryan Roucliff, an eminent lawyer and Baron of the Exchequer under Henry VI, inherited the manor of Cowthorpe from his maternal uncle. He petitioned the Archbishop of York to allow him to build a new church, stating that the old one was in need of repair and difficult of access, being surrounded by dangerous marshland. Having gained permission, he started work in 1456 on a step bank above the River Nidd. The church is build in a simple perpendicular style. There is a large window inside the recess so formed, with great corbels on either side to support the overhanging portion of the tower. The interior walls are constructed of very rough stones, some reddish, some golden in colour.