METHLEY: The History of Methel Church
The church of
THE parish of Methley is thus surveyed in Domesday:-
M~ In Medelai. Osulf & Cnut h~br viii car. t~re ad g~ld' ubi poss' e' e' v Caruce. Ibi h~t Ilbert' vii vill. 7 v bord' cu' v car. Silva past' i Leug. lg 7. i lat. Ibi Ecc lia 7 pb~r. T. R. E. val LX sol. m°. XL sol.
Hence we learn that Osulf and Cnut were the two Saxon proprietors of Methley, and that they were expelled to make way for the great Norman lord, Ilbert de Lacy, who made it one of the dependencies of his new fee of Pontefract : and in his family the patronage of the church remained until the beginning of the fourteenth century. In the meantime, the hospital of St. Nicholas, of Pontefract, had become seized of the manor, which was exchanged by Thomas Tolston, the master, for the advowsons of Gosberkirk, in Lincolnshire, and Wathe, in Yorkshire, in the eleventh year of Henry IV., (1409.) The license granted for this purpose issued under the seal of the Dutchy of Lancaster, in which the patronage of Methley had been for half a century, and in which it still remains. The manor, however, passed into the hands of the Watertons, who probably erected the manor-house, and whose name continually occurs in connection with the present church.
Before the end of the fifteenth century the manor became the property of Sir Thomas Dymoke, and from his family passed, after a long interval, into a branch of the ancient family of the Saviles,* which has been since ennobled in the person of John Savile, Esq., who was created Baron Pollington, of Longford, in 1753, and Viscount Pollington, and Earl of Mexborough, in 1766. These titles, and the manor of Methley, still remain in the direct lineal descendant of the first earl.
* Other branches of this family have possessed patents of nobility : viz. the Saviles, Dukes of Sussex, which title became extinct in 1672, and the Saviles, Marquisses of Halifax, until 1700.
The church of Methley is a living in charge, valued in the King's books at £25. 8s. 6d., and returned in the lists of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners at £908.
Whitaker (to whom we must refer as the authority for many of the particulars above stated,) furnishes the following catalogue of the Rectors of Methley, extracted from Torre's Archdeaconry of York, p. 781.
|Temp. Instit.||Rectores Eccle.||Patroni.||Vacat.|
|8 Kal. Apr. 1281||Dns. Will. de Radeclyffe, Pbr.||Dna.Alica de Lascy||p'mort.|
|4 Id. Oct. 1309||Dns. Tho. de Doncaster, Pbr.||eadem.|
|2 Kal. Jan. 1338||Dns. Robt. de Lynworth, Cl.||Dna.Philipa Regina|
|27 Mar. 1358||Dns. Robt. de Walton, Cap.||Dns. Henr. Dux. Lanc.||p'resig.|
|3 Junij, 1367||Dns. Joh. de Ledes, Pbr.||Dna. Blanchia Ducsa Lanc.|
(Iohe Duce in remotis agente)
|12 Junij, 1379||Dns. Will. de Hayton, Pbr.||Dns. Johe's Rex Castel,& Dux Lanc.||p'resig.|
|6 Febr. 1396||Dns. Nic. Daubeny, Cap.||idem||p'resig.|
|5 Aug. 1400||Mr. Will. Turbacke, Subd.||H. 4. Rex ut Dua Lanc.|
|26 Decbr. 1407||Dns. John CoIne, (f. Nici Colne, Cl.)||idem Rex.|
|1421||Mr. Robt. Hemyng||H. 5.||p'resig.|
|22 Junii, 1451||Mr. Will. Lytster||H. 6. Rex ut Dux Lanc.||p'mort.|
|17 Novbr. 1452||Mr. Tho. Pash, Pbr.||idem Rex.||p'resig.|
|15 Julij, 1459||Mr. Joh. Lancaster, L.B. Pbr.||idem Rex.||p'resig.|
|4 Junii, 1485||Dus. Thu. Brownies, Cap.||Assignatus Rex 3. Regis. Sub. sigill. duc.||p'mort.|
|28 Jan. 1497||Mr. Tho. Medofeld. M.A.||H. 7. Rex ut Dux Lanc.||p'resig.|
|10 Novbr. 1501||Mr. Edw. Basset, Pbr.||idem Rex.||p'mort.|
|10 Aug. 1552||Dns. Anth. Askham, Cl. in Med. Dr.||Assignati H. 8. Regis ut Duels Lanc.||p'resig.|
|11 Julii, 1567||Dns. Otho Hunt, Cl. M.A.||Dua. Eliz. Regina||p'mort.|
|5 Julij, 1591||Tym. Bryght, Cl. Med. Dr.||eadem.||p'mort.|
|28 Oct. 1615||Tho. Home, Cl.||Anno Reg. Jac. I.||p'resig.|
|25 Junii, 1618||Hugo Ramsden, Cl. M.A.||Anno Reg. Jac. I.||p'cession.|
|22 Nov. 1628||Dan. Ambrose, Cl. S.T.B.||C.I.Rexut Dux Lanc|
|Anth. Elcocke Cl.||p'mort.|
|1 Novbr. 1676||Toby Conyers, Cl. M.A.||C. 2. Rex.||p'mort.|
|6 Oct. 1687||Gilbt. Alkynson, Cl. M.A.||Jac. 2nd Rex.|
|1709||Geo. Goodwin, AM..||Anna Regina.||p'mort.|
|1750-51||Joh. Scott, A.M., Col. Trin. Cant. Soc.||Geo. 2.||p'mort.|
|1780||Joh. Briggs, A.M., Cestriae Canonicus|
Cancellarius, Coll. Trin. Cant. Ob. Soc.
|1804||Hon. A. H. Cathcart, AM., Preb. Langtoft|
Ec. Ebor. Vic. Rasemtone, Com. Bucks,
Ball. Coll. Ox.
To these may now be added Hon. Philip Yorke Savile, M.A., Son of the present Earl of Mexborough, who was presented to the Rectory on the demise of the Hon. A. H. Cathcart, in the latter part of the year 1841.
is dedicated to Oswald, saint and king; one who well deserves the reverence of the church and people of England, and especially of the inhabitants of that northern part of the kingdom in which Methley is situated : since he was greatly instrumental in restoring the light of true Christian religion to the kingdom of Northumbria, when it had been almost extinguished by the ravages of the Mercians and Britons, under Penda and Caedwalla ; and since his is one of those venerated names to which we refer as proving that sanctity of character, and the true title of saint, do not depend on a blind submission to the dictates and customs of Rome.
King Edwin, under whom first among the Saxon princes the Christian religion had been preached in Northumbria, fell (A.D. 633) in the defence of his kingdom, against the unjust and barbarous aggressions of the two chiefs before mentioned ; and the two portions of his kingdom, Deira and Bernicia, fell to the lot of Osric and Eanfrid respectively, who soon perished miserably :- a sad reward for their apostacy, for both had professed the true faith, and both, on ascending the throne, had relapsed into paganism. The year within which these sad events happened was called " The unlucky year." A happier era succeeded, when Oswald, Eanfrid's brother, ascended the throne of Northumbria. Caedwalla was defeated and slain : an earnest of the blessing which might be expected on the reign of a prince who did not hesitate to command his army to fall on their knees, before the battle began, to implore the help of the Almighty, in their just cause.
The kingdom thus secured, Oswald procured from Iona the presence of Aidan, one of the most illustrious names in the Saxon history. Aidan was consecrated Bishop, and fixed his see at Lindisfarn, or Holy Island ; his diocese, however, being the same that had been governed by Paulinus, as bishop of York. Oswald and Aidan being both of them of Scottish education, and Christians of the Church in Scotland, differed from some of the customs brought into Kent by Augustine, and into Northumbria by Paulinus, especially those relating to the time of keeping Easter. They both died before the discussion of these matters was embittered by the violence of Wilfrid, afterwards Bishop of York. We need not hesitate to admit that the Roman custom (which was afterwards adopted and is still retained by the Church of England) is the best : but the usurpation of Rome, (to the success of which Wilfrid greatly conduced), and the use of the argument that no church can be catholic which follows other customs than those of Rome in things indifferent, (which was the substance of Wilfrid's reasoning in this case), were worth contending against, and were contended against, for many centuries in this kingdom : and when it became necessary to do this, the names of Oswald and Aidan, together with Finan, Aidan's successor in his see, and in the same customs, and of St. Columba, the founder of Iona, whence Aidan and Finan came, were very important; showing from the fruit which their faith bore, as well as from their acknowledged reputation as saints in the catholic church, that it was a new assumption to brand those as heretics or schismatics, who might differ something from Rome in such matters.
Whether it was a sense of the debt which the Church in England owed to St. Oswald, on this account in particular, which actuated the persons who dedicated this Church to him it were vain to enquire : it seems, however, that before the conquest there was a Church in Methley, though not a vestige remains of that structure, or of any other which occupied its place until some centuries after. The greater, and perhaps the most ancient, part of the present Church is of the fourteenth century.
The present Church consists of a Tower and Spire, Nave, Chancel, South Aisle, North and South Porch, the Waterton Chapel at the East End of the South Aisle, and a Vestry.
The Tower is supported by buttresses of seven stages set on diagonally, and running up through the corbel table into crocketed pinnacles. From this tower springs an octangular spire, of no great elevation, terminated by a foliated finial. The ancient and only ecclesiastical form of vane is continued,* and the good people of Methley are reminded by the cock on the top of their steeple, that they ought to watch as well as pray. The great projection of the buttresses, and still more clearly the tracery of the windows, determine the date of this part of the church to the early part of the fifteenth century, so that it is more modern than the Nave and Aisle. The great West Window is of three lights, and elegantly filled with tracery ; the four upper windows are of two lights, and no-way remarkable.
The Belfry contains three Bells, lately cast by Harrison of Barton-upon-Humber.
The North side of the Nave, of which whatever character remains indicates that it is to be referred to the Decorated Style of Gothic,† has nothing to arrest or at least to reward attention, but the North Porch, over the outer door of which appears a large spur, carved in the stone. Near to this, and shunning comparison with it, is the private entrance to a gallery appropriated to the noble owners of Methley Park. As is usual with modern appendages of this kind, the doorway is designed and executed without the slightest attention to the proprieties of architecture, or to the character of the surrounding part of the edifice. The same may be said of the Vestry, which is a mere excrescence on the north wall of the Chancel.
*Perhaps an exception may be allowed on account of some local or peculiar circumstance, as, for instance, the saint to whom a church is dedicated. Thus, a church dedicated to St. Sebastian might have an arrow for a vane, or one to St. Michael or St. George, a dragon.
† The Decorated Style of Gothic Architecture prevailed from about twenty years before to nearly the close of the fourteenth century. The author of the " Glossary of Architecture," observes, "it was first introduced in the reign of Edward I., some of the earliest examples being the celebrated crosses erected to the memory of Queen Eleanor, who died in 1290; but it was chiefly in the reign of his successors, Edward IL and III., that this style was in general use : and as considerable changes were made almost immediately after the death of Edward III., it has been not inappropriately called the Edwardian style."
"It has been called Decorated from there being a greater redundancy of chaste ornament in this than in any other style, though not so multiplicated as the Florid or Perpendicular style: and with propriety it is considered as the most beautiful style of English ecclesiastical architecture."-(Bloxam.)
"It may be useful to remark, as beginners are apt to be misled by the name into expecting to find more ornament in this style than any other, that small country churches of this style are frequently remarkably plain and devoid of ornament."-(Glossary of Architecture.)
The Chancel retains externally the original high pitched roof, and the gable is surmounted by a cross.
The Waterton Chapel which terminates the South Aisle, and extends eastwards as far as the Chancel, is embattled, (as are also the Nave and Aisles,) and is supported by buttresses which had once terminating pinnacles. Those at the East end were enriched with canopied niches, but the figures, if there ever were any have disappeared. The arms of Waterton appear on the East wall. The gable of this chapel is also ornamented by a cross. The dripstones are terminated with roses.
The South Aisle is supported by four buttresses of two stages : and the South Porch is still covered with the original heavy slate or rather stone of the country; and within, the stone seats on either side remain in their original condition. There are no remains or traces of a holy water stoup. The ribs of the roof spring from shields, of which the bearings are defaced.
The arches of windows and doorways, &c., of this style are generally equilateral, seldom lancet. The tracery of the windows, which now become larger, is of two kinds, geometrical, (as in the Chapter House, York Minster). In circles, quatrefoils, &c. ; or flowing, (as in the West Window of the Nave, York Minster). In wavy lines, where the mullions run into each other. The piers (as in St. Peter's, Oxford,) are not, like the Early English, composed of a cluster of shafts detached from each other, but closely united, A common pier of this kind is formed of four shafts thus united, with bands. A multangular pier is very common in small churches. These piers are now set diamondwise. The bases of these piers consist mostly of the reversed ogee, but other mouldings are often added, and the ogee made in faces : the plinth is no longer square but follows the form of the pillar, whether round, octagon, or diamond shaped. The capitals are either bell-shaped, clustered, or octagonal, to correspond with the shape of the piers. The doorways have in many respects a strong resemblance to those of the Early English. Large ones have sometimes a double opening, divided by a clustered shaft, (as in the entrance to the Chapter-House, York Cathedral.) These are surmounted with triangular or ogee canopies, enriched with crockets and finials. (As in the West Door, York Minster.) The dripstones of this style are not, as in the earlier and later styles, returned horizontally, or carried round buttresses, but are terminated by corbel heads. (As in the Choir Aisle of York Minster.) The buttresses are worked in stages, (as in the Nave of Gloucester Cathedral,) and each stage finished with a triangular head, crocketed and finialed. (As in the Nave of Beverley Minster.) The face of each stage is also enriched with a niche or niches, worked in the same ornamental manner. (As in the West Front of York Minster.) The parapets are often plain embattled, (as in the Nave, North side, York Minster,) but sometimes open or pierced, and filled with a richly foliated nebule moulding. (As in the Magdalen Church, Oxford.) To the open-work bands of the former, or Early English style, succeeds the flowered moulding; and to the toothed ornament, succeeds a flower of four leaves in a deep moulding, with considerable intervals between. The peculiar ornament called a flower-ball is also much used in the mouldings of this style. There is a prevalence of pyramidal rather than vertical or horizontal lines; consequently we find an abundance of richly crocketed and finialed canopies.
Over the outer door of the south porch is a figure of King Oswald, the Patron Saint of the Church; which Whitaker says is " far more ancient than any part of the present edifice, and probably contemporary with the foundation of the Church and Parish." This however cannot well be, for a reference to the accompanying wood' cut will show that it is surmounted with a kind of rudely ogeed cusped and crocketed canopy, in low relief, terminating in a foliated finial. These characters are inconsistent with a date anterior to the present erection, and are quite conclusive against the Saxon, or even Norman origin of the statue in question.
Perhaps, moreover, it is not too great commendation of the design of the figure, to say that it indicates a date long after the Norman era.
Entering through the Tower, the first object which demands attention is (as it ought to be) the full-sized, deep, stone, octangular Font, on a pedestal and one step, and lined with lead, but without any remarkable character. It is surmounted by a canopy of heavy tabernacle work, which, with the Font itself, is painted stone colour.*
The Nave is separated from the South Aisle by three arches, springing from octangular piers, and is lighted by two tiers of windows on the North side, and on the South by a clerestory. The windows in the latter as well as the upper northern lights are utterly deprived of all architectural character, and are converted into wretched square windows with one mullion, and without tracery within, or dripstone, or any ornamental mouldings without. The Chancel Arch springs from a corbel on either side, representing a male and female head. The Roof was once a sufficiently enriched open oak roof, as may still be seen by ascending above the flat ceiling ; of which nothing need be said, but that it is wholly inappropriate to the character of this and every other Church. The ceiling of the Chancel is almost equally bad, though the height is partially saved by its being coved instead of flat.
* It is astonishing how often painting is applied so injudiciously, that it would be impossible that the material imitated should be really employed. Thus in the above example the canopy not only is not but could not be of stone. Sometimes one sees a roof so painted that if the construction were really such as it is intended to appear, it must fall on the beads of the people below. This is of course an extreme case, and more uncomfortable in its effects than most others, but it is one that really occurs, and well exemplifies this particular kind of bungling.
The East window of the Chancel is of three lights, the mullions continuing with a sweep through the head of the window, and intersecting each other, but without any ornamental tracery. The character of this window, and of those which still remain uninjured in the Nave and the South Aisle, determine their date to be about 1320 ; about which time the whole of the Church perhaps was erected, except the Tower, which is later, and the Waterton Chapel which has a posterior history of its own. There are considerable remains of the original stained glass in this window.
There have been two North windows in the Chancel, but the vestry has displaced one, and the other is reduced to the same wretched condition with the clerestorial windows of the Nave.
A huge expensive altar screen of wood, ornamented with Corinthian pillars, enshrining the ten commandments with their gilt frame, and flanked by large pictures of Moses and Aaron,. half hides the East window. At the centre of the top is a dove descending, and over all something between a star, a cross, and a monstrance.
There are no traces visible of a piscina or sedilia, but these must have been removed, if there were ever any, to make room for
The Waterton Chapel,
which is the most interesting feature in the whole edifice. (The destructive effect of the galleries in the interior view of the church, has suggested the propriety of substituting for it a view of this very interesting chapel.)
This Chapel was erected by the executors of Sir Robert Waterton, who died in the year 1424, in pursuance of provisions in his will, which are cited by Whitaker, and of which the substance is as follows :-
In the name of God, Amen. I, Robert Waterton, senior, bequeath my soul to God, &c., and my body to be buried in the parish church of Methley : And to the fabric of the said church of Methley, and for the erection of a new chapel on the South side of the said church, of the length of the chancel, I bequeath two hundred pounds.
He also provided for the support of three chaplains, to celebrate Divine Service for ever in the said chapel, for the good of the souls of himself and of Cecily his wife, and of King Richard the second, and King Henry the fourth.
Pursuant to the provisions of this will the present chapel was erected. It is an extension of the South aisle, from which it is separated by a screen of six compartments of perpendicular tracery, surmounted with a crest of the Tudor flower.* It is lighted by three windows, (one to the East, the other two to the South,) all, in the original plan, exactly alike, of four lights, and of the greatly depressed arch of the Tudor style : but one of the South windows has been partially blocked up to receive a monument of the first Lord Mexborough, and the upper tracery of the remaining portion of the same window is destroyed.
* The back of this screen is inscribed thus :- Johnes Waterton. Willa Skargill Thomas Wombwell. And between the several Christian and surnames are the following moats. Barry of six, ermine and gules, three crescents sable; over all a bend argent, for Waterton : Ermine, a saltier gules, for Skargill : and gules, between six unicorns heads argent, a bend of the second, for Wombwell.
The following ornaments appear on the spandrils of the door of this screen.
Under an enriched canopy formed in the wall between the chancel and the chapel, is the tomb of the founder, Sir Robert Waterton, and of Cecily his wife. It is thus described by Whitaker :-
" On a highly elevated altar tomb, are the cumbent figures of a knight and his lady, their hands elevated as in prayer, his head reposing on an helmet, crested with a plume of feathers : his feet on a lion : a large embroidered wreath surrounds his head, a collar of SS. is on his breast, and a rich belt, adorned with jewels begirds his waist. The lady's head rests on two cushions, supported by angels. Her hair is collected in a net, and very rich head-dress. A collar of SS. or other ornament resembling it, is also on her neck. Her feet rest on two lapdogs, with bells. Both have a profusion of rings, represented as they were really worn at that time, very massy. He has one on the upper joint of the long and middle finger of the right hand, and another on the long finger of the left. She has one on the upper joint of the middle and little finger of the right hand, and on the middle finger of the left. On each side of the tomb are five niches, with arches and finials. In the central niche to the south is a figure apparently meant for God the Father, with a crucifix in his lap.* Westward from this are the Arms of Waterton, barry of six, gules and ermine, three crescents sable. Eastward the same empaling Fleming, each supported by an angel kneeling. On the North side the central coat is gone.† Eastward Waterton empaling Fleming as before. Westward Waterton single, both supported like the others by angels kneeling, in the niche more westward still, an old man kneeling and holding a book and sword. The figures in the other niches are gone."
* There can be no doubt that this is the meaning of the figure. This was the usual way of representing the Father supporting the Lord Jesus on the cross.
† Or more probably this, like the central compartment on the south side, contained some religious emblem.
Opposite to the tomb of Sir Robert Waterton, and beneath one of the South windows, is the tomb of Lionel Lord Welles, and Cecily his Wife, who was daughter, and after the death of her brother Sir Robert Waterton, junior, the sole heir of the founder of the Chapel. This monument is of the same general character with the former, but of fairer workmanship, as was to be expected from its later date, for Lord Welles fell at the field of Towton,* where a bloody victory was gained over the house of Lancaster, in 1461. This tomb is appropriated to Lord Welles and his wife, on the evidence of the armorial bearings, on the tabard of the cumbent knight, and on the six shields, supported by as many angels, on the side of the tomb. The tabard is painted, or, a lion rampant, queue furche sable, the paternal coat for Welles, which appears empaled with Waterton (which last coat also occurs alone) on the other escutcheons before mentioned. This whole monument, though of alabaster, was adorned with gilding and colours, which have of course nearly disappeared.
* To this bloody field Drayton thus alludes in his Polyolbion:-
" Small Cock a sullen brook, coumes to her succour then,
Whose banks received the blood of many thousand men
On sad Palm Sunday slain, that Towton Field we call,
Whose channel gaite was choked with those that there did fall;
The Wharf discoloured was with blood that there was shed,
The bloodiest field betwixt the White Rose and Red."
We have seen that the Methley Estates passed from the Watertons through the Dymokes to the Saviles ; and this chapel passing with them, became the cemetery of the latter family. The first tomb which bears their name and arms, is between the two last mentioned, and commemorates Sir John Savile, Baron of the Exchequer, who died in 1606, and Sir Henry the first baronet of the family, and the wife of Sir Henry, for such we must suppose the lady to be who lies at his left side. To the right is the Baron himself, in his judge's robes. At the base of the monument are two little figures of swathed infants, the children doubtless of Sir Henry and his lady, who died young. The arms on this tomb are Savile, Argent, on a bend sable, three owls proper, variously empaled and quartered with Golcar, Rishworth, Elland, Rochdale, Tankersley, Thornhill, and Copley.
This tomb is an excellent example of the transition from the grace and beauty of the gothic monument, (between two fair examples of which it stands,) to the more assuming, but far less truly beautiful sepulchral designs of the next century, with which it is surrounded. The general design of Sir John Savile's tomb accords with the ancient manner. The figures are cumbent, the hands are in the attitude of prayer, and the costume is that of the age and person : but the slab is supported by Ionic pillars, and a long inscription occupies the place which was wont to contain some religious emblems. The shafts of the Ionic pillars, and the slab of the tomb are of touch, all the rest is of alabaster, painted. There is, of course, no harmony with the building in which it is erected ; and the whole effect is repulsive and heavy. Yet it is a handsome monument of the kind, and so far as expense is concerned, a worthy memorial of those whose honours it records.
The next monument in order of time, is of the age and style of the greatest pretension, and of the most barbarous and unecclesiastical taste. It is that of Charles Savile, Esq., (who died in 1741). The deceased is represented in a Roman habit; and his widow leans upon a pillar near him in an attitude of grief. This monument occupies what ought to be the arch between the Waterton Chapel and the Chancel, but which is blocked up to receive it : thus sacrificing the beauty and structure of the Church to its cumbrous dimensions, and inapposite style. Had it been wholly different in design, and occupied the space within the arch, in the same way that the monument of the founder of the Chapel does, it would have been more beautiful itself, and have given additional splendour to the whole chapel.
The monument of the son of the last commemorated person, and the first Earl of Mexborough, is a splendid monument of its kind ; its faults being those of theage, and common to all of the same date, its splendour and beauty its own: but it has half blocked up the window against which it is erected, so as to spoil the Chapel even more than the one last mentioned. The Earl is represented in a reclining attitude, but in the act of speaking, without the barbarism of Roman habiliments,* in his proper dress, and adorned with the insignia of the Bath. His coronet is by his side. On the two sides of the tomb are his patents of nobility. The inscription is as follows :
" To the memory of the Right Honourable John Savile, Earl of Mexborough, of Lifford, in the county of Donegall, Viscount Pollington, of Ferns, and Baron Pollington, of Longford, in the Kingdom of Ireland, Knight of the most honourable Order of the Bath, and L.L.D. His Lordship was the only son of Charles and Aletheia Savile. He married Sarah, daughter of Francis Blake Delaval, of Seaton Delaval, in the county of Northumberland, by whom he had issue John, Henry, and Charles. This monument is erected by his afflicted widow, Sarah, Countess of Mexborough. Ob. 27th Feb., 1778, aetatis 58. Requiescat in pace."
* A funereal urn however appears behind him, a curious memorial of the heathen custom of burning bodies, displaced among Christians by the rite of burial consecrated by the grave of our blessed Lord.
The rest of the monuments in this Chapel, though rich in the interest which hangs around the last home, and the pious memorials of the noble, add nothing to the purely ecclesiastical features of the Church.
In the Belfry are deposited two ancient monuments, far anterior to any of those now described. They are evidently there only to be out of the way, and have been obliged to exchange their recumbent for an erect position. They are mentioned here, because if they were restored to the Church, and to their proper position, they would afford, together with the various examples already described,* an admirable series of monuments, descending from a remote period to the present day, and well exemplifying the gradual progress from the low recumbent figure, to the canopied and decorated altar tombs of the fifteenth century, with the decline of Christian taste in sepulchral devices during the reign of Charles the First, to the close of the last century. They might, perhaps, most conveniently be placed in the Waterton Chapel, but not so appropriately as in the Chancel, or the South Aisle immediately adjoining; because they would interfere with the historical series which the Chapel presents ; and because they are, in fact, much older than that structure.
* A brass in the Chancel, commemorating a Rector of the Church, and dated 1421, may be mentioned as an example of another style of monumental device, though in nothing else remarkable.
Before we leave the Waterton Chapel, we may mention that the roof is pannelled and painted : and that there are suspended on the walls several old swords and weapons of offence and defence, memorials of the civil wars.
Of the South Aisle, nothing need be said but that there has been a piscina in the usual place, which proves that there was once an altar there ; and that the upper part of the tracery of two of the three windows has been removed, so as wholly to alter their character.
Of the pewing of the Church there is no record remaining, unless it be alluded to in an inscription on a rudely triangular shaped board, still attached to the wall of the South aisle, which runs thus:-
SIT M' SEDES IN CAELO.
AVCTATE ARCHIPI: 1624.
PER ME ROGERV HOLLINGS.
Which may perhaps be thus paraphrased:-
" I Roger Hollings placed the seats in this Church, under a faculty of the Archbishop in 1624. May God, the Righteous Judge, award to me a seat in Heaven."
The character of the pewing well enough answers to this date.
The singing gallery, in which an organ has lately been built, was erected two years after the date thus assigned to the pews, as appears from the following inscription upon it. JOHN HOLLAND WAS MY NAME, WHO GAVE SIX POUNDS TO THIS SAME, 1626. RICHARD DICKONSON AND ROBERT FETHER, CHIRCH WARDENS. Of the character of this and of the rest of the galleries in this Church, we shall only say, that like all other galleries they are a great dissight, and call loudly for removal, if possible with due regard to the accommodation of the parishioners. The present sittings are it is believed inadequate, even with the galleries. So much the more necessary may it be therefore to make such alterations as may involve their removal.
Nothing can be more simple than the plans which present themselves for this purpose the moment one enters the Church ; and which would both increase the beauty of the edifice, and sufficiently enlarge the accommodation. The South aisle asks for its counterpart on the North side of the Nave; extending, perhaps, as the Waterton Chapel does on the South, as far as the end of the Chancel. This would involve the removal of the North wall, which is, both within and without, the most dissightly part of the whole structure. The North porch, however, would be re-erected in its proper place. The clerestory windows, and the open roof would of course be restored ; as well as the tracery of the South windows. Whether it would be possible to throw open the arch which is blocked up by the monument of Charles Savile, Esq., is more doubtful ; though question there can be none that it ought to be done if possible. The removal of the altar screen would open the East window through its whole length, and greatly improve the Chancel: and the West window of the tower would be thrown into the general effect of the Church, by the removal of the West gallery and the wall which has blocked up the tower arch ; or, if the organ gallery must remain, it might be thrown much farther back, and the organ be placed within the tower, the West window still appearing beyond it. These arrangements, with the substitution of open seats for pews, would add very greatly to the available church room, and restore this once elegant Church to much of its original beauty. So extensive alterations would of course involve proportionate expense, but the liberality of the people of Methley is seldom we believe appealed to in vain, where real good is to be effected ; and the zeal of the present admirable Rector, with his ecclesiastical taste to stimulate and direct his energies, excites a hope that ere long something of the kind may be effected.
Colin Hinson © 2019
The Churches of Yorkshire
by W H Hatton, 1880