St Cuthbert, Ackworth, Yorkshire, West Riding

Feature Sets (2)

Description

Ackworth is a village situated about 2 miles S of Ponteftact in the Wakefield district of West Yorkshire. The church of St Cuthbert stands at the top of a rise at the junction between High and Low Ackworth.  It has an exceptionally large churchyard, with many yew trees.  The present structure is mostly C19th with a Perp. W tower and S porch. Pevsner (1967, 70), describes this as being ‘of 1855’, restored after a fire in 1852. The only Romanesque sculpture present is a font which may originally have been of C12th date, but has been re-tooled and re-shaped. 

History

In Domesday Book, Ackworth had a church and a priest.  By 1086 it was part of the Lacy fee. Hugh de Laval gave the church to Nostell priory around 1119-1129, a gift confirmed by Henry I. (Farrer 1916, nos.1428, 1431,1488). 

Features

Furnishings

Fonts

Font under tower

At the base of the W tower is the bowl of a font, possibly of the C11th or C12th. It is carved from even-grained grey sandstone. Found in a garden where it had been used as a bird bath (Saywell et al., n.d., 2). It is rectangular in plan. The sides are approximately vertical and the lower corners roughly chamfered as if to fit an octagonal base or stem. The bowl now rests on an upturned quatrefoil base, which sits in turn on an octagonal base. There is no lead lining, but a drain and stopper are fitted in the bowl.

There are break marks on the rim in the centre of the longer sides. The rim is smooth and its angle has a narrow chamfer, clearest on the E and N faces. On the E and N sides, the upper parts are smooth with occasional random marks. On the W and S sides, the upper part has an incised line parallel to the top, apparently made by joining isolated punched holes. Most of this surface has been heavily re-tooled with a wide chisel, and indeed there are patches of different toolings throughout. The inside of the basin has a rough floor, and the sides show yet other toolmarks. 

Dimensions
depth of bowl 0.26m
dimensions of basin estimated approx. 0.6m by 0.53m
h. of bowl 0.44 m
thickness of walls approx. 0.11m
w. of rectangle E-W 0.7 to 0.75m
w. of rectangle N-S 0.825m

Comments/Opinions

The fabric of the font, its rectangular shape, and the apparent definition of panels on the W and S faces recall the fonts at Skelmanthorpe and Cawthorne. The rough tooling on the flat floor of the basin resembles that on the font at Cawthorne. It is unlikely that any sculptural design was ever finished on this font.  The fine diagonal lines on the W face, between the incised line and the rim, are probably early tooling. The crude chamfers on the lower corners are likely to be a C13th alteration. The smooth E and N faces, along with the chamfer most obvious on those sides, may have been a later attempt to neaten up the font. The broad heavy chiselling on the W and S sides looks like modern work to regularise an uneven surface.

A faculty was granted in Jan 1758 to rebuild and enlarge the church (Lawton 1842, 103), and a further faculty in 1779 to build a gallery. In Baines’s Directory (1822), the church was described as ‘a small but neat edifice.’ The church leaflet records that the remains of a Norman chapel were discovered during the 1852 rebuilding; no trace of this is visible now. 

Ackworth was included in a list of places where the body of St Cuthbert rested. The effigy of St Cuthbert over the S porch is by tradition given a sheaf of corn for his crozier at harvest and at Christmas to feed the birds (church guide).  Some corn was certainly there in March 2004, and two sheaves in the porch

A post-medieval font is currently in use at the church, situated near the S door. It is octagonal and bears a Latin inscription: ‘Baptisterium bello Phanaticorum dirutum, de nuovo erectum, Tho. Bradley D.D. rectore: H.A.; T.C. Gardianis 1663’, showing that it was re-erected by Thomas Bradley, a chaplain to Charles I. Expelled from his living in 1646, he was subsequently restored by Charles II. 

Bibliography

  • E. Baines, History, Directory and Gazetteer of the County of York I: the West Riding (Leeds, 1822).

  • L. Goldman (ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 60 vols (Oxford, 2004).

  • W. Farrer, Early Yorkshire Charters III (Edinburgh, 1916).

  • J. E. Morris, The West Riding of Yorkshire (London, 1904), 2nd edn. (London, 1923).

  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire: West Riding. (Harmondsworth, 1959),  2nd. ed., revised E. Radcliffe (1967).

  •  J. Raine, 'The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches', Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 2 (1873), pp. 180-92.

  • P. F. Ryder, Medieval Churches of West Yorkshire (Wakefield, 1993).

  • J. L. Saywell, W. A. Green and M. W. Ackworth, A Short history of the Parish Church of S. Cuthbert, Ackworth and the chapel-of-ease All Saints (Featherstone, undated).

Location

Site Location
Ackworth
National Grid Reference
SE 440 180 
Boundaries
now: West Yorkshire
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Yorkshire, West Riding
Diocese
now: West Yorkshire and the Dales
formerly: Wakefield
medieval: York
Dedication
now: St Cuthbert
medieval: St Cuthbert
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Barbara English, Rita Wood 
Visit Date
22 Apr 2010