ROTHERHAM: The History of Rotherham Church
The church of
ROTHERHAM* is a considerable town both in population and importance, and a full notice of its history would be too long for a publication whose object is ecclesiological rather than historical. Something, however, we shall throw together on this subject, using the materials of Hunter, in his " Deanery of Doncaster."
* Rotherham is in the west Riding of Yorkshire, in the Deanery of Doncaster, in the Archdeaconry of York, and in the diocese and province of York. It is approached by the North Midland Railway, and is only a mile from the Masborough station.
Rotherham is situated near the junction of the Rother and the Don. The remains of a Roman encampment a little higher up the Don, with the occurrence now and then of Roman coins and pottery, indicate that this was a military station of the empire : yet Hunter advises the good people of Rotherham to be content with a Saxon antiquity. And indeed there is no sufficient evidence what exact site of the town was occupied by the Romans.
In the time of the Confessor, Rotherham had been held by Acun, as a manor of five carucates. It was then valued at £4 : but by the time of the Conqueror's survey, the value had fallen to thirty shillings. The new lord had one carucate in demesne, and eight villains and three borderers, who had two carucates and a half. There was also a mill, which yielded a rent of ten shillings ; and this, with the church, was Rotherham at the end of the eleventh century.
The manor was given by the Conqueror to the Earl of Morton, who had already, before the date of Doomsday, sub-infeuded Nigel Fossard ; and by him and his heirs it was still farther subdivided among numerous feudatories. In the reign of Henry III., John de Vesci, the heir of Eustace Fitz John, who held of William Fossard, gave all that he possessed at Rotherham to the monks of Rufford. From a recital of his charter in the "inspeximus" of Henry III., we collect that he gave, as follows :-
- "Eight oxgangs of land in Rotherham. This must have been the carucate which in the time of Doomsday was in demesne.
- "Totem dominium meum totius manerii mei de Roderham, cum omnibus pertinentiis, et advocationem mediatatis ecclesiæ ejusdem manerii de Roderham.
- "The homage and service of Thomas de Furnival and his heirs for lands and tenements which William de Vesci my father gave to William de Furnival, uncle to the said Thomas, in Rotherham
- "The homage of the heirs of William de Cantilupe for lands and tenements given by William de Vesci. All rights in the lands and tenements of Hugh Frassel, of Rotherham, formerly rector of the Church of Peniston, which he holds of my fee in Rotherham.
- "The homage of William Lovel, son of William Lovel, for the tenement which he holds of me in Rotherham.
- "The mill of the said town.
- "The homage and service of the heirs of John de Lexington, which he owes me for land formerly Ralph Tilli's.
- "The homage and service of other free tenants, customs, services, rents, cattle, and sequel of villains, wards, reliefs, escheats, lands, tenements, meadows, pastures, woods, waters, pools, fisheries, mills, bakehouses, suits of mill and bakehouse, suits and profits of courts.
- "The lordship and half the market and fair of Rotherham.
- "All other things named or unnamed pertaining to the said manor of Rotherham, saving the homage of John Dayvil for the tenement which Thomas Dayvil holds in Anstan, and the homage of Nicholas de Lyvet for the fees which he bolds of me in Hooton, near the abbey of Roche.
- "All which is given in pure and perpetual alms; Anthony Beak, Archdeacon of Durham, Walter de Camhou, Roger de Shirland, and others being witnesses."
There had been contests between the Vescis and the Tillis, touching their respective possessions in Rotherham, which were happily ended by the passing of the rights of the Tillis also, whatever they might be, about the same time into the hand of the same monastery. The possessions of Ralph Tilli fell to the king by escheat, who enfeoffed John de Lexington with his lands in Rotherham and all their appurtenances, and the aforesaid John, enfeoffed the abbey of Rufford of the same as freely as Ralph Tilli had held them.
About the same time that the monks of Rufford obtained the lay fee of Rotherham, the foreign house of Clairvaux became seized of half the Church. This possession they doubtless owed to the good offices of Stephen, brother of the before-mentioned John de Lexington, who was abbot of the monastery of Clairvaux. The Pope granted to the abbey the privilege of appropriating the benefice ; and it was accordingly served by a vicar, to whom about a quarter of the value of the living was awarded for a stipend, and the rest was carried out of the kingdom. However, as it would be difficult and tedious to collect rents and profits from such a distance, the brethren of Clairvaux granted them to the monks of Rufford, for a fixed rent of £20. When the foreign houses were dispossessed of their rights in England, this rent became payable to the crown, and in 7 Edward IV., it was settled on the canons of Windsor.
In 1297, the valor of Pope Nicholas gives the state of the ecclesiastical revenues of Rotherham thus :-
|£. s. d.|
|Pars abbatis de Clervall||16 13 4|
|Vicar ejnsdem partis||5 0 0|
|Pars Rogeri cum vicar' ejusdem partis||21 13 4|
|Pens. prioris de Lewes||1 6 8|
Hence it appears that, although the house of Rufford had the advowson of the second mediety, it was not yet appropriated. This unhappy change, however, in the affairs of the Church of Rotherham, took place in 1349. Thenceforward until the dissolution, the monks of Rufford received the profits of the benefice, paying a vicar, for whom they were to provide a house, and a stipend of twenty-five marks : the vicar was to find bread, wine, lights, books, vestments, and other ornaments, and to pay procurations and synodals. The repairs of the church remained of course in the abbey.
In the next century, and while the church of Rotherham must have been still suffering from the robbery involved in its appropriation, its condition was greatly improved by the munificence of a native of the town, whose name is among the most honourable of the benefactors of his church and people. Thomas Scott, afterwards called de Rotherham, was born August 24, 1423. He had passed his childhood without instruction and discipline : but while he was yet a youth he was indebted to the superior instruction of a master in grammar, who came to the place of his nativity, for the learning which elevated him afterwards to the highest offices in the Church and in the state. Twice afterwards, on occasions of great solemnity, he refers to the benefit which he and others received from his master, as a gracious boon from The Author of every good gift. In the statutes of his college he says, " Ubi etiam cum aliis, in puberem aetatem agentes sine literis stetimus, stetissimusque sic indocti illiterati et rudes ad annos plurimos, nisi quod, gratia DEI, vir in grammatic doctus supervenit, a quo, ut a fonte primo, instructi, DEO volente, et, ut credimus, Ducatum praestante, pervenimus ad statum, in quo nunc sumus, perven-eruntque pluses alii ad magna :" and in his last will he speaks of the coming of the learned grammarian as happening "Nescio quo fato, sed credo gratia DEI"
From Rotherham, where a little learning seemed to have come to a few, and to those few as it were by a particular providence, Thomas Scott went to King's college, Cambridge, and found himself in an university which had been long (by the goodness of the same God) the acknowledged seat of all sound learning. He was made one of the royal chaplains at the accession of Edward IV., and his promotions, both in the Church and in the state, crowded thick upon one another. He was secretary to the king, and keeper of the privy seal, and at last (1474) Lord High Chancellor : while in the Church he was successively Bishop of Rochester (1467), Bishop of Lincoln (1471), and Archbishop of York (1480). From his civil offices he fell at the death of Edward. Amid the distractions of the state, and the various claims of contending traitors, it was difficult to know which was the right, and still more difficult to divine which might be the successful cause : and Rotherham was committed for a while to the Tower, for giving up the great seal to the Queen Dowager, who had fled to the sanctuary of Westminster.
But before his disgrace with the king, he had begun a course of wise and pious beneficence which insured him a better. name than a mere statesman can achieve.
On the feast of St. Gregory the great, in 1482, he laid the foundation of an edifice, which in the next year, by his metro-political authority he erected into the college of Jesus, for a proctor and two fellows, to which were afterwards added by himself a third fellow, and six choristers : " ut ubi," to use his own words "offendi DEUM in decem praeceptis suis, isti decem orarent pro me." The office of these bedesmen of the good archbishop was not, however, limited to prayer for the founder of their college. The provost was to preach the word of God in the parishes of Rotherham, Laxton, and Resterfield, and in other places in the diocese of York ; one of the fellows was to teach grammar, poetry, and rhetoric ; another music, especially plain and broken song ; the third writing and arithmetic,-and all freely. On all festival days they were to attend the quire of the church of Rotherham in their surplices; at other times to celebrate the divine offices in their own chapel. And they were yearly (on the 9th of April) to celebrate in the parish church the exequies of the founder's father and mother, and of King Edward IV ; and after his own death, they were to celebrate its anniversary with the collect "Deus indulgentiarum," and to serve thirteen poor persons.
Beside all this he provided lodgings within the college for ten chantry priests in the parish church, five of whom were there residing when the foundation was dissolved. In short the college of Jesus was at once a school of sound learning, a nursery of religious discipline and offices, and a retreat of hospitality to christian poor and to brethren in the Church.
The college of Jesus is entirely destroyed : not so the nave of the parish church of Rotherham, which still remains a monument of the good taste, as well as of the munificence of the illustrious archbishop. Nor was the decent celebration of the divine offices in the church neglected, as the following catalogue of several articles of church furniture given by the archbishop will show.
- "A large chalice with a patten upon which was inscribed the words, `Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini,' of the weight of 31¾oz.
- "A smaller gilt cup with a patten on which was the image of the Trinity. About the ciphum of the cup, inscribed, `Calicem salutis accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo.' Weight, 23¾oz.
- " A small cup, with the image of the Crucifixion on the foot. Weight lloz. "A gilt pax-bread, with the image of the Trinity. Weight, lloz. "A gilt pax-bread, with the image of Christ suffering. Weight, 5oz. "A gilt pax-bread, with a beryl in the midst. Weight, 9¼oz.
- "A pax-bread, with a bone of St. Firmin. Weight, ll¼oz.
- " A gilt cross, standing on a great beryl. Weight, 53oz.
- "A pair of crewets gilt, the words ` Jhesus Christus' inscribed upon them. Weight, 7½oz.
- " Another pair of gilt crewets. Weight, 7½oz. A pixie. Weight, 8¾oz. "Two silver basons, partly gilt, having on the bottom foxes' heads. Weight, 211b.
- "Six taceae, with a cover for them, and a sun engraved on the bottom of each. Weight, 30oz.
- "Twelve silver spoons, slipped in the stalky. Weight, 14oz.
- "A suit of vestments of cloth of gold, for a subdeacon, deacon, and priest, with a cape.
- "Another suit for the same, of red velvet embroidered in gold, with the words ` Vivat Rex,' with a cape of which the orfray was green.
- "Another suit for the same, of red purple velvet, embroidered with flowers of gold, with a cape of the same.
- "A vestment of red velvet wrought with flowers of gold, having upon the orfray upon the back, an angel bearing in his hand this scripture, ' Sanctus.'
- "A vestment of blod (query, blood coloured silk?) covered with flowers.
- " Another vestment of red silk wrought with lions.
- "Another vestment wrought with gold upon velvet, broidered with pearls, having on the back the image of St. Catherine.
- "A vestment of red bawdkyn, wrought with trees and lions.
- " A Cope of cloth of gold, grounded green, with orfries, rich and sumptuously wrought.
- "A corporax case of white and red, wrought with gold.
- "Six altar cloths of red silk.
- "Six curtyns of red silk.
- "Two altar cloths of linnen, consecrated.
- "Three cloths to lay over the altar, consecrated.
- "A mitre of cloth of gold, having two silver knobs enamelled, for the use of the barn bishop.
- "A carpet for the chapel, in length 1i yd.
- "A beautiful missal, secundum usum Ebor,' richly illuminated, beginning on the second leaf Omnis Judaea:
- "Another beautiful missal, of great value, written and illuminated as the foregoing, beginning on the second leaf Post Diac,' but secundum usum Sarum.
- "A large antiphonarium, new and beautiful, secundum usum Ebor.' In the second leaf, ` Sta pectoris.'
- "Another antiphonarium of the same kind. On the second leaf; Ad custodiam.'
- "A new and beautiful graduale, secundum usum Ebor.' On the second leaf, `In to confido.'
- "Another new and beautiful graduale, secundum usum Ebor.' On the second leaf; ` Non erubescam.'
- "A portiforium, `secundum usum Ebor.' On the second leaf, `Deus qui: "
It is a noble testimony to such men as Archbishop Rotherham, that one has not room in an ordinary work to specify all their acts of benificence : we shall add summarily that he was a great benefactor to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and that he left his successors a very rich mitre, to supply the place of that which had been taken from Archbishop Nevil by Edward IV, and the jewels in it added to those in the crown.
We return to the general history of Rotherham.
In king Henry's valor the gross profits of the rectory are stated at £67. 13s. 4d., out of which the following payments were to be made :-
|£. s. d.|
|The Vicar's stipend,||16 13 4|
|Pension to the Dean and Canons of Windsor,||20 0 0|
|Pension to the Prior of Lewes,||1 13 4|
|Pension to the Archbishop,||1 6 8|
|Pension to the Dean and Chapter,||0 13 4|
|Synodals,||0 7 8|
|Procurations,||0 5 8|
|A salary to the Cantarist of Laxion of the grant|
of John de Lexington,
|3 6 8|
|Total||£44 6 8|
|Leaving a clear profit to Rufford of||£23 6 8|
Rufford was granted at the spoliation of the church by Henry VIII to the Earl of Shrewsbury, and with it passed the impropriation of Rotherham, which has descended to the present owner, Lord Howard of Effingham.
Among the architectural remains at Rotherham must be noticed the chapel on the bridge. It is far inferior to that in a similar position at Wakefield, but unhappily has shared a similar sacrilegious perversion from its original use, having been converted into a jail. Its architectural features* do not very loudly call for restoration ; but its sacred character demands its restitution to Almighty God.
* It is thus described in "Buckler's Remarks on wayside Chapels:"-
"The chapel at Rotherham approaches nearly in dimensions to that of Wakefield. Their interior admeasurements are respectively 32 ft. by 14 ft., and 40 ft. by 16 ft. 8 in. The design of the chapel at Rotherham is plain: there have been two windows on each side, one at the east end, and one high up, and of small size, at the west end over the entrance. The pediments and side parapets are embattled, and terminated with numerous crocketted pinnacles. The mullions and tracery of all the windows have been destroyed; and whatever ornamental features may have graced the interior, there is nothing of the kind now visible."
Hunter gives the following catalogue of the Rectors and Vicars of Rotherham.
|7Kal.Jan.1229 Robert de Lexington.||Sir William de Vesci and Jeffery Sauresmar.|
|1269 John de Selston.||Lady Agnes de Vesci; but in the next year a|
jury was summoned to try by whatright she
presented, who found that she had no right
but what her Son John de Vesci might give her.
|4 id. Jan. 1288||Roger de Blythe.||Collated by the Archbishop, on a lapse.|
|2 Kal July 1333||Walter de Wetwang.||The Abbot and Convent of Rufford.|
|3 id. Dec. 1337||Richard de Natelby.||He had the King's protection during|
his attendance on him in France,
dated 12 June, 1338.
|1 Mar. 1344||Richard de Castro.||The Abbot and Convent.|
|16 Kal. Jul. 1296||Eustace de Rotherham.||The Abbots & Brethren of Rufford.|
|3 Non. Jan.1310||William de Skyres.||the same|
|8 id. Maij. 1311||Laurence de Atwick.||the same|
|William de Liseter.||the same|
|24 Oct. 1349||Regner de Rotherham.||the same|
|Reginald de Clapham.||the same|
|17 Dec. 1355||John, Son of Simon de Fletburgh.||the same|
|17 Jan. 1392||Thomas, Son of William de Touton.||the same|
|14 Feb. 1394||John Sclater.||the same|
|John Greenfield.||the same|
|14 Nov. 1430||William Morton.||the same|
|15 Nov. 1441||Thomas Gilberthorp.||the same|
|2 Sep. 1444||William Fox.||the same|
|22 Oct. 1451||William Kellen.||the same|
|Ult. Feb. 1467||Roger Sherwynd.||the same|
|1478||John Greenwood.||the same|
|16 May 1494||John Kirkall.||the same|
|18 Dec. 1507||John Lillie.||the same|
|17 March 1513||Richard Hoton, S. T. B.||the same|
|17 July 1539||Simon or John Clerkson, S. T. B.||The Earls of Shrewsbury.|
|13 Oct. 1554||Nicholas Bramhall.||the same|
|20 Dec. 1567||Thomas Corker.||the same|
|11 Nov. 1577||Robert Blackwood.||the same|
|1587||Thomas Jopson.||the same|
|23 Oct. 1593||Thomas Jopson.||the same|
|10 July 1621||John Newton.||The Earls of Rotherham.|
|29 Oct. 1628||William Dickinson.||the same|
|17 April 1639||John Shaw.||the same|
|Luke Clayton.||the same|
|7 April 1663||James Rigby.||Lord Howard of Norfolk.|
|13 March 1666||Ellis Farneworth, A.M.||the same|
|11 March 1670||Francis Bovil.||the same|
|15 Aug. 1681||Henry Moorhouse.||Wm. Smithson, gent., pro hoc vice.|
|1690||John Bovile.||Sir Henry, Sir George,|
and Charles Mawson.
|26 Oct. 1697||Christopher Adam.||George Lord Howard.|
|16 June 1701||John Mandevile.||the same|
|21 July 1704||Samuel Ferrand.||the same|
|29 Jan. 1733||Joseph Eccles.||The Earl of Effingham.|
|1 Oct. 1734||John Lloyd.||the same|
|died 12 June 1794||William Harrison.||the same|
|Thomas Bayliffe.||the same|
|1826||Thomas Blackly.||the same|
|1842||Richard Mosley.||the same|
The troubled times of the seventeenth century give some interest to two of the names in the above list. Luke Clayton was in possession of the church at the time of the act of uniformity, and incurring the penalties of the act he suffered imprisonment for a while. He returned afterwards, and preached for some years in the chapel of Guisborough, without molestation.
But his predecessor, John Shaw, had a yet more varied fortune. He left Christ College, Cambridge, a zealous puritan, and displaying his principles to the satisfaction of his party, he was sent into Devonshire as a lecturer. He was afterwards, as Archbishop Nevill tells us, called, as lecturer of All Saints, Pavement, to head the puritan faction against him in York. He was then made chaplain to Philip Earl of Pembroke, a bad man who gave him protection in a bad cause. He was afterwards preferred to the vicarage of Rotherham.
The rest of his life was one of political cabals ; and his chief office was not to teach his flock the truths of Christianity, but to stimulate the party to which he adhered in their wicked course. He was chaplain to the Lords Commissioners at the treaty of Ripon in 1640, and afterwards to Lord Holland, when he disbanded the army at Doncaster. When the royal army approached he fled to Hull, but being of too turbulent a spirit for a town under garrison discipline he was sent back by Sir John Hotham. When Rotherham was taken by the Earl of Newcastle he concealed himself in the tower of the church, and thence fled to Manchester. After several flights, he was once again a chaplain to puritan commissioners : and he acted as secretary to the "ministers" who sat in the chapter house at York, to judge and eject ignorant and scandalous ministers. He afterwards did good service to his cause by burning the books which contained the proceedings of this righteous conclave. He preached in the minster on Sept. 20, 1644, at the taking of the solemn league and covenant. After this he was lecturer at Hull, and in Richard's protectorate preached before him at Whitehall; yet on the return of the king he was named one of the royal chaplains ! His talents were not, however, long in requisition in the king's household, and he returned to Rotherham, where for a while he carried on the offices of that church, after their fashion, in conjunction with Luke Clayton. But he was ejected under the provisions of the Act of Uniformity. He was buried in Rotherham church, beneath the following wonderful illustration of the Proverb " He lies like an epitaph."
E COL CHRISTI CANTABRIDGIÆ ORIUNDUS
QUONDAM HUMUS ECCLESTÆ VICARIUS;
OR INSIGNEM ERUDITIONEM, PIETATEM, ET Ro]rov ev Xoyee
INTER PRÆCIPUOS THEOLOGOS
AC TAM BARNABAS QUAM BOANERGES RITE HABITUS.
IN MANSIONES COELESTES TRANSLATUS
ANNO ÆTATIS 65 APRILIS 19, 1672
The vicarage of Rotherham is valued at £ 16 18s. 6d. in the king's books, and at £170 in the late parliamentary returns.
The church is the only object of attraction as you approach the town, but it is of so great beauty that it gives interest even to the murky atmosphere of Rotherham, with the tall black cones of the Masborough forges for a foreground. Truly we may say, " How amiable are thy tabernacles 0 Lord of hosts !" when they can relieve and adorn such a scene as this.
This gorgeous edifice consists of a nave and nave aisles, with an elegant south porch, north and south transepts, and chancel. The spire rises from a lantern tower, at the intersection of the cross. Rickman has thus noticed it in his Styles of Architecture.
"This is one of the finest perpendicular churches in the north; its execution is very excellent, and the design in every part very rich; it is also in very good preservation; it is a large cross church, with a central tower and spire, these are fully enriched with panels, canopies, and crockets. The whole of the buttresses are panelled, and with crocketted canopy set-offs; almost every door and window is richly canopied, and there is an appropriately enriched south porch. The windows are all good perpendicular, with the exception of two or three poor (perhaps renewed) ones in the chancel. The interior is very lofty and spacious, the piers and arches with very good mouldings, and the original roof of the nave, a flat wood one, remaining; it is one of the best compositions of the kind, plain, but rich from its good proportion and excellent ornaments. There are some tolerable perpendicular monuments, and some peculiarly good screen work. On the whole this church deserves the most attentive examination, both as to its composition and most of its details.
On the more minute examination which Rickman recommends, we propose to enter.
The south porch is as exquisite in design and execution as any portion of this beautiful church, and fully prepares one for the splendid interior of the nave. It is furnished with pairs of buttresses, rising above the battlements in crocketted and canopied pinnacles. There is also a very remarkable arrangement in the buttresses, by which they are made to present each of them two faces of decoration instead of one. They leave the porch, of course, as they are in pairs, at right angles; but the outer plane is bevelled off on either side, and each face thus formed is made to receive as much enrichment as would have been given to the single face of an ordinary buttress. The outer doorway is surmounted by an ogeed and crocketted hood, once terminated by a finial, which to correspond with the bold crockets must have been very rich; but it is now displaced by a sun dial ! In the head of the ogee is a shield, surmounted by the Blessed Virgin crowned and supported by two angels, and charged with the instruments of the Passion. In the east and west wall are the traces of windows, now, as is almost universally the case in porches, blocked up. They were of two lights, and had ogeed hood-mouldings, which were continued round the whole of the porch.
The stone seats within the porch still remain. The hood-moulding to the interior of the outer door is furnished with corbels representing two bishops' heads. The inner door is within a very richly ogeed and crocketed arch.
The south aisle is pierced with three windows (the porch occupying one bay) of fine proportions : they are of four lights, and are divided once beneath the head, by a transom, embattled above, and trefoiled (the trefoil being very much depressed) below. The greater lights are cinquefoiled in the head ; the lesser ones are collected within two subsidiary arches, and a quatrefoil occupies the apex of the window. The hood-mouldings are very richly crocketed, and terminate in an ogee. The corbels. are very remarkable, both in subject and execution. They are of half figures, in the following order :
- A female with her finger on her lip.
- A man with a sword, and blowing a horn.
- A mailed head and bust, with a battle axe.
- A soldier with spear and shield.
- A female head.
- A man with a hawk on his right wrist.
The clerestory of the nave, north and south, is composed of eight windows, of three lights, obtusely pointed, and separated only by the intervening buttresses, into which the weather mouldings die. There is also a moulding running above the windows, interrupted by the buttresses, which are furnished with gurgoils where the moulding thus terminates in them. The pinnacles which arise from the buttresses are all crocketed. This form of clerestory, in which the whole range of windows being so slightly separated has almost the effect of one long window, is peculiar to the architecture of this age, and is one of its greatest beauties. Lightness and richness of effect are combined in it to the utmost.
The transepts do not demand minute description. The great north and south windows are of six lights respectively, of very inferior character to everything hitherto described. The east and west windows are of three lights, and of good proportions.
There is a richly moulded door in the south-west corner of the south transept, just outside of which stands an old font, of far better workmanship though much dilapidated, than that which still remains in the Church.
The chancel is of three bays, with aisles extending to the end of the second bay. The clerestory windows are of late insertion, and of wretched character. The great east window though large and splendid from its size, has little pretensions to elegance of tracery ; it is of the most meagre perpendicular, of seven lights, once transomed beneath, and four times in the head; the heads of all the countless lights into which it is thus cut up, being trefoiled.
There is a small and unmeaning crypt beneath the last bay of the chancel. It seems merely to be a basement story, rendered necessary by the fall of the ground to the east.
The north aisle is far less elaborate in its decorations than the south aisle. It has four windows, each of four lights, the second from the west being curtailed in its proportions by the door, to which the inequality of the ground renders an ascent of eight steps necessary. The hood mouldings throughout are ogeed and foliated. The corbels are chiefly of grotesque half figures. The battlements are ornamented with shields in quaterfoils, but they are without bearings. The buttresses are of four stages, and like all the rest throughout the church, run up into pinnacles above the battlements.
The great west front is soon described, though of West front extreme beauty, and of gorgeous effect. Over a richly, Nave and panelled door way (this door is now blocked up) is a aisles. splendid window of seven lights, surmounted by a very bold crocketed and ogeed hood-moulding, running up into a gable cross. The aisle windows are of four lights. The buttresses are of four stages, panelled and canopied throughout, with crocketed pinnacles.
The basement moulding is very bold and good, and is continued throughout the north side of the Church. To accomodate the ground this moulding rises abruptly at turning the south-west corner.
The tower is approached by stairs in the north east tower pier. It is best seen from the roof of the nave. Each side is flanked, and divided in the centre, by buttresses, which are richly panelled, and run up through the battlements, and terminate in crocketed pinnacles. Between the buttresses are windows of four lights of the same admirable perpendicular character with those in the nave and nave aisles. The spire is octagonal, crocketed, rising without piercings to the top. It has four pinnacles also crocketed at the base, forming a rich cluster with the pinnacles of the tower.
The bells are an admirable peal of ten, lately recast. The roofs throughout are covered with lead, they are all of low pitch.
Entering at the south porch we are at once struck by the bold and lofty proportions of the noble nave, which not even the north and south galleries can wholly deprive of its beauty. The nave is of four bays. The piers are of a very singular section, being, in general contour, of an elongated lozenge shape, the longer section running north and south. Something of the same section appears in Ensham Church, Oxfordshire,* but there the longer section is east and west. The effect is, that in Ensham Church, thickness is gained to the piers by longitudinal extension : in Rotherham lightness is gained by latitudinal compression. In each of course the diameter one way is the same as the thickness of the walls; but in Ensham Church one diameter is greater, in Rotherham Church one diameter is less than the thickness of the walls. Ensham gains in solidity, Rotherham in lightness of effect.
* See "A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities of the Neighbourhood of Oxford Part II, Deanery of Woodstock."
The capitals are of very slight projection, adorned with foliage, in low relief, and masks, with an embattled moulding above. Viewing these capitals alone, they seem poor, and wanting in boldness of relief and proportion ; and it has been surmised that they were wrought by some injudicious restorers out of the bolder capitals of Archbishop Rotherham's work : but there is no ground for such a fancy. It is only that the ideal of the piers (i. e. the greatest possible compression and lightness) is carried up through the capitals, and thus viewed, nothing can be more harmonious than the whole design.
The font stands just within the porch door; a place which has lost its propriety and symbolical meaning by the blocking up that entrance. It is a good substantial octagonal font, but without ornament. It is lined with lead, and is surmounted with a canopy of late work, which has apparently been higher than it now is.
The arches are of great height and width. The mouldings of the piers, with the exception of the outer one, which is continued in a straight line through the clerestory, are continued through the arches. The apex also of the arch is continued upwards, so that the mouldings of the piers are not entirely lost, until they merge in the roof.
The nave arch is wide and lofty. Two corbels, one on either side, probably supported the screen.*
* One of the family of Clarel, of Aldwark, bequeathed to the church a cloth of arras, of the passion of our Lord, and his stained cloth of the battle between Lord Scales and the Bastard. The Bastard of Burgundy is meant, who fought with Antony Wedvile, Lord Scales, near Smithfield, King Edward the IV. being present."-Hunter.
During late repairs, a large fresco painting was discovered over the nave arch,* representing our Blessed Lord, surrounded by the twelve Apostles and other saints, in act of adoration. The painting was much injured in the process of cleansing off the whitewash, but if the drawing which was published at the time was at all a faithful representation, it deserved, and might easily have received sufficient restoration. Other figures, and several scrolls inscribed with texts of scripture, were also found in this part of the church.
* Perhaps it may be worth while to direct the attention of those who may be engaged in the restoration of churches to this particular position as one likely to contain fresco paintings. At Trinity Church, Coventry, a splendid fresco of the last judgment was discovered, also over the nave arch; and in this instance is well preserved. It will perhaps in future be as much the general rule to respect such circumstances of ancient ecclesiastical decorations, as it has been hitherto to destroy them.
The tower piers are of great solidity, and the roof above them is finished with elegant fan tracery. This part of the tower was once a lantern, and the windows still remain, with the original decorated tracery ; but the four arms of the church are now more lofty than when the tower was designed, and the windows now look into the church below the roof.
The north and south transepts do not invite attention, but rather from the greater beauty of the nave, than from their own defects.
There are three steps into the chancel across the chancel arch. The windows and clerestory are sufficiently described already. To the north of the east window is one niche, to the south there are two niches, formerly occupied by images of saints. The piscina is a three-cusped recess, from which the basin has been cut away. The sedilia are of three equal seats, the divisions between which are open half way up. There is a hagioscope at the back looking to the south aisle : it is a mere loop hole, piercing the wall diagonally. There is a square aumbrie in the north wall.
The piers in the chancel are octagonal, with embattled capitals: the arches are more acutely pointed than those of the nave, and seem to indicate an earlier date, but they are in all respects of less elaborate design and execution.
The chapel of the Virgin Mary on the south side of the chancel must have been most beautiful when in its original state. It was lighted by three windows, probably of fine stained glass. The walls were ornamented with fresco-work, and the roof richly coloured with blue and gold. There are still traces remaining of monograms and other ecclesiastical devices in this roof. They are most choice and varied. There is one very curious, the five wounds of our Lord and Saviour, the heart in the centre, surrounded with the two hands and two feet. One with "A.M.," for Alma Mater, with many others referring to the Blessed Virgin. Many have not been decyphered; in fact, this roof would amply repay some time spent in its study.
The chapel of St. Anne in the north chancel aisle is less remarkable ; there are, however, some tolerably good open seats in it, with carved ends, ornamented, most of them, with heraldic shields. The following arms occur.-A bend, between three unicorns' heads. The same, impaling a saltire between four leopards' heads. On one is the monogram I.H.S. There are also some open benches with carved ends in the south aisle, and two misereres, no way remarkable, in the chancel.
There is a good deal of excellent screen-work, formerly, doubtless, the rood-screen, but now well enough applied as parcloses to separate the chancel aisles from the transepts.
There are some brasses in the chancel, and a few monuments in the church which might claim some notice, if more important matters left space for it.
The whole fabric of the church is generally attributed to Archbishop Rotherham, but this must be by persons who have not carefully examined the details of the several parts, or who have failed to see the indications of an earlier date in some places, and in some of a later date. The original Saxon church has, in all likelihood, utterly perished, nor does there occur at present any well marked trace of a date more ancient than the decorated of the fourteenth century. To this age we must attribute the lower part of the tower, and probably the whole of the chancel and transept arches. The clerestory in each has been added, and windows have been inserted of all dates, from that of Archbishop Rotherham to a very recent and very barbarous age. The nave is the result of one splendid and well directed effort, and in the best style of the best age of perpendicular work,-the close of the fifteenth century, before it merged into the more elaborate but less beautiful Tudor. The upper part of the tower which surmounts the old lantern, and the spire, are of the same date, and doubtless form a part of the Archbishop's design. Of insertions the east window is the most important, it is of poor, but not debased perpendicular.
The alterations which have lately been going on in this church, have been an outward repairing of the walls of the chancel, by placing stone in the place of perished stone or " compo" with which the repairs have been formerly made. In the inside, the removing three galleries in the north and south transepts and in the west end of the chancel : the removal of these has been a vast improvement. In the latter gallery over the arch towards the chancel, the organ was recently placed ; and when taken down it was a point of great difficulty to decide where it should stand. It is now put up in the north transept the best and most convenient situation for it. The transepts and the space under the tower are occupied with open benches, of a good ancient pattern, with carved poppy heads; and screens are put up at the west end of the Virgin Mary's chapel and St Anne's chapel, and one across the south transept. The roof of the nave has been cleansed and polished, and the whole of the whitewash which was on the walls of the church, has been scraped off. The pulpit and reading desk have been lowered to a less conspicuous height, and at the same time to one in which their uses will not be interrupted.
These repairs have certainly been on the whole judicious; and rather than notice with too critical, precision the mistakes that have been made in them, which would be an ungracious task, we will remind those who are interested in this noble fabric, that much still remains to be done. The chancel requires altar furniture, in some degree proportioned to the beauty of the Church: the old frescoes of the nave should be restored; and for harmony as well as splendour of effect, the windows should be filled with stained glass : the great west entrance should be thrown open, and the font furnished with a canopy; and the pulpit, desk, and pews should be lowered, and wood substituted for iron in the rails and desks.* These changes are not to be looked for as the result of one effort; but the people of Rotherham are rich enough, and we would hope pious enough, to work towards such an end as we have described, and if so they will not be long in reaching it.
* Why is a good brass Ecclesiastical Eagle, set aside for a heathen figure of the Bird of Jove, supporting the reading desk?
The author of this description, is greatly indebted to a paper on Rotherham Church, read before the Yorkshire Architectural Society, by the Hon. and Rev. W. Howard, Rector of Whiston.
|Length of Nave,||105 0|
|Width of Nave,||90 0|
|Width of North Aisle,||15 74|
|Width of South Aisle,||15 7½|
|Square of Lantern,||16 2|
|Length of Chancel,||42 0|
|Total length of the whole Church,||147 0|
|Length of North Transept,||35 2|
|Length of South Transept,||35 2|
|Total length of Transept with Lantern,||100 5|
|Width of Chancel,||23 0|
|Total width of Chancel with Aisles,||67 6|
|Section of Nave piers, (north and south)||3 3|
|Section of Nave piers, (east and west),||2 0|
|Span of the Arches between Nave and Aisle||15 2 to 16 2|
|Span of the Arches between Nave and Aisle,|
are as follows, from the West-end,
|16 2; 15 2; 15 3; 15 8|
|Span of Tower Arches,||16 2|
Colin Hinson © 2019
The Churches of Yorkshire
by W H Hatton, 1880