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St Cuthbert, Ackworth, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°39′23″N, 1°20′8″W)
SE 440 180
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
22 Apr 2010

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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.


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).





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.


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).