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St Margaret, Swinton, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°29′18″N, 1°19′12″W)
SK 452 993
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now South Yorkshire
medieval York
now Sheffield
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
7 June 2011

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Swinton is a small town north-east of Sheffield. The church is a large 19thc building surrounded by a churchyard and an open grassland, the Vicarage Field, to the north. Sculptural remains of the Romanesque chapel of St Mary Magdalene, which was formerly located on the site of the present church hall before being dismantled in 1815, were retained after the fire of 1897 and re-erected to the NE of the new church: they consist of jambs, capitals and voussoirs of the S doorway, and remains of the chancel arch. However, over the years their deterioration caused some of the carved stones to be moved in a storeroom in 1950, while uncarved stones were buried in the Vicarage Field.

Architect Edmund Isle Hubbard had produced plans for the enlargment of the E end before the fire. Some papers regarding the rebuilt chapel, the chapel yard and the new church (1817 CD.81) have been transferred to the Sheffield Diocesan Registry. Some watercolours of Swinton chapel before 1815 survive. An engraving of the doorway was published by James Storer (1817, vol. 6). The reconstructed arches appear on postcards of c.1900-1905.


The Domesday Book does not mention any church in Swinton. The village was part of the manor of Wath upon Dearne and its value decreased from £3 in 1066 to £0.8 in 1086. The earliest reference to the chapel dates back to c.1200-1220 (Clay 1965, no. 82).


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Loose Sculpture


A faculty of 1815 stated that the Romanesque chapel ‘is in a very ruinous state and is much too small for the accommodation of the Inhabitants resident within the Township’; also, there was ‘no burial ground attached to the chapel’. They petitioned to replace it, selling any stone to help for the new building, and to enclose a burial ground (Borthwick Institute York Faculty 1815/12). No plan is included in this faculty for the proposed building or of the earlier structure. Pevsner (1967, 506) reports that the W tower of the 1815-1817 church remains; a rough plan of it is in Borthwick Institute Faculty (1885/4). The Faculty papers for 1897/21 include three photos and a plan of the church sketched in Faculty 1885/4. It has a tower at the W, but the five bays and the shallow polygonal apse went destroyed by fire in March 1897. The church was shortly rebuilt again (Pevsner dates the rebuilding to 1887, seemingly an error for 1897). The old tower and S wall foundations were all that remained to reuse.


The medallion carved on a voussoir part of the S doorway recalls those large ones used in mixed orders on the doorways at Birkin and Brayton (North Yorkshire), but the detail of the outer cusped pattern is very close in workmanship to the carving in medallions on the doorway at Old Edlington (North Yorkshire). The broken central motif was probably a projecting cone, surrounded by a ring of ‘petals’ of which part remains on the left. This motif is used at Riccall, Stillingfleet and Bishop Wilton on doorways of the ‘Yorkshire School’. The voussoir with an animal mask has a long tongue hanging out (not seen in the photograph): this might recall a voussoir in the arch at Birkin, but corbel heads sometimes show this. Also a corbel of a man’s head at Old Edlington, and a voussoir at Bishop Wilton feature a similar tongue. The inscriptions on some voussoirs were referred by Jenny Alexander to the resetting of the arch made in the early 19thc.


C. T. Clay, Early Yorkshire Charters 12: Tison Fee, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series Extra 10, Leeds, 1965, no. 82.

J. Hunter, South Yorkshire. Deanery of Doncaster, 2, London, 1831, 76-77.

N. Pevsner, revised by E. Radcliffe, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire, The West Riding, Harmondsworth, 1967.

J. S. Storer, The Antiquarian Itinerary comprising specimens of Architecture, monastic, castellated and domestic, with other vestiges of Antiquity in Great Britain. Accompanied with descriptions, Vol. 6, London, 1817.