Wath parish church lies in a tree-filled churchyard, near the centre of the village, which itself was built around a ford of the River Dearne. It is next to a former manor house, said to be on the site of the medieval Fleming manor, a building that is now the Town Hall. The church has a long nave, with a W tower surmounted by a spire. The tower has lower rubble stages, with early openings to a belfry; the highest stage is Perpendicular.
The vill is in Domesday Book but no church is mentioned. The rectory, divided into three parts, in the patronage of the Fleming family (two parts) and the Thornhill family (one part), was consolidated c.1234 (Thompson and Clay 1943, 105-6). Holmes (1902, 497, 498) states that most of the churches built in this area c.1100 were endowed in moieties (Campsall, Wath, Tankersley, Penistone and Darfield). This could have been due to custom, or several owners sharing a manor. A manor normally came to one hand in the next 100 years, although this was not the case at Darfield. Some rights in Wath appear to have come to St Nicholas, Pontefract. In 1438 the advowson of this Pontefract hospital was given to Nostell Priory, who thereafter presented to Wath (Thompson and Clay 1943, 106-8).
All walls of the tower had a pair of belfry windows flush with the main wall, though three pairs are now blocked flush with the general wall surface. On the E face, the bottom of the windows coincides with the ridge of the former nave roof. The pair of windows on the W are only partially blocked, and a tapering, plain, capital and perhaps a relic of a shaft can be seen, also in line with the face of the wall. On the N and S faces of the tower, the window openings are largely concealed by clock faces; only the lower parts can be seen in the stonework. See Comments.
These run between the stages of the tower. They vary in profile and are worn: plain, with chamfer above, or plain and square.
There are five corbels remaining on the formerly exterior N wall of the chancel, now seen from the Lady Chapel. There are four men’s heads and, at the W end of the row, one animal. All are re-carved and/or worn; the sides and top of the corbels have been trimmed away.
This has bases, pillars and perhaps capitals of 12thc types, but the arch has a wide chamfer and is sharply pointed. The chamfered and pointed arch does not match the square impost. The plinth is square and chamfered, and then plain and square. The base has a flattish torus with a shallow step, and the upper torus half-round in profile. The responds are wide and heavy half round columns. The capitals are shallow in proportion, with a hollow chamfer and a slight keel on the diagonal at the corners; the upright is plain. The necking is plain and rounded. The impost has a slight hollow chamfer, the upright is relatively narrow with a quirk near the bottom. These are different profiles from the arcades.
Arcade of two bays in N wall of chancel, opening into Lady chapel. There is a square plinth, and a chamfered and plain plinth; bases have a double torus. The column of the central pier is round; there is a plain necking; capitals of the pier and the two responds are scallop types with two or three cones to each face and a tall plain upright above the shields. Between almost every cone is a dart which folds inwards; occasionally the relief is reversed and the dart projects, termed a wedge. Imposts have a slightly hollow chamfer, and an upright with a half-round moulding near the bottom, separated above and below by a quirk. The plan of the capitals is not square, but the corners are re-entrant (Pevsner calls these ‘cross-shaped abaci’). In the arch there are two orders plain and square. There is no label.
This is an arcade of three bays which is identical to the chancel N arcade except for the bases which have a different upper moulding. There is one large torus and above that, at the base of the pillar, not another convex torus but a vertical band. The capitals and imposts are identical to those in the chancel N arcade; as are the two plain and square orders used in the arches. The condition of the capitals is so good that the setting out lines and compass points of the scallops can be seen on most of them; it is interesting that the ‘semicircles’ of the scallops do not extend up to the line of their common diameter.
R. Holmes, The Chartulary of St John of Pontefract 2. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 30, Leeds 1902, 497, 498.
J. Hunter, South Yorkshire, Deanery of Doncaster, Nichols, London, 1828, I, 72.
G. Lawton, Collectio rerum ecclesiasticarum de diocesi Eboracensi; or, collections relative to churches and chapels within the Diocese of York. To which are added collections relative to churches and chapels within the diocese of Ripon., New edition, London, 1842, 239.
W. K. Martin, History of the Ancient Parish of Wath-upon-Dearne, Wath, 1920.(not seen, material derived from Hunter with additions, and quoted by Thompson and Clay 1943).
N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire, The West Riding, Harmondsworth, 1967, 537.
P. F. Ryder, Saxon Churches in South Yorkshire, South Yorkshire County Council Archaeology Monograph no.2. Sheffield, 1982, 100.
A. H. Thompson and C. T. Clay, Fasti Parochiales II part II. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 107, Leeds, 1943, 105-6.