Wentworth old church is believed to have medieval origins, with mouldings dating back to the late 13th century. Sadly it is now mostly in ruins, having been largely disused since the opening of the new church in 1877. The chancel and North Chapel remain intact, however, and are still sometimes used for services and concerts.
The remaining building now acts mainly as a home for an interesting collection of monuments to various generations of the Wentworth family – including Thomas Wentworth (1587), William Wentworth (1614), Thomas Wentworth (1641) and William Wentworth (1685) (the family may have had lots of money but they weren’t very good at thinking up original boys names!)
The church, which is now maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust, is normally open to visitors open most Sundays and Bank Holidays between May and September (weather permitting); it is also possible to arrange access at other times – please contact them for details. It’s well worth a look inside to view the monuments and to visit the Fitwilliam family vault accessed via a tunnel which runs out under the graveyard.
If you can’t make it to the church itself, the churchyard is fascinating in its own right. It has stones dating back to the seventeenth century, many with interesting stories attached.
One of the most unusual is that of Chow Kwang Tseay (baptised John Dennis Blonde), a native Chinaman who died in Wentwoth in 1850, aged 17. Quite what he was doing in Wentworth and who paid for his expensive burial is unclear. He is believed to have arrived from China on a ship (the Blonde) in about 1847.
You will also find the graves of John Hague and Sam Birks, followers of John Wesley who preached in the church in 1733. Sam’s son (also called Sam) is buried here too, he had used his plough horses to break up a mob in nearby Thorpe Hesley when they tried to ambush his father and the visiting Charles Wesley.
William Cooper who died in 1781 had the foresight to leave instructions on the back of his stone in case it was ever knocked over, which did in fact happen. The inscription reads “For goodness sake fix this Stone up again”. (Click on picture to enlarge).
Old Church Curiosities
Various artefacts from the Old Church are now to be found outside Wenwtworth, pictures of which we feature below…
An interesting aspect of the old church was it’s one-fingered clock which was believed to have been situated on the tower overlooking the fields to the West rather than the village itself.
The clock itself no longer exists, but we are indebted to Mrs. Jackie Ward (nee Garton) who now owns the original finger from the clock which is shown in the above photo; it is apparently 31 inches long and so must have been visible from quite a distance away.
Mrs. Ward has also provided us with this picture of the font which was formely in the Old Church and now appears to be used as a garden feature.
Can You Help?
One of our readers has asked if anyone can provide any information about the grave of John Loy of Skiers Hall in the Old Church graveyard. If anyone has any details about the life or Mr. Loy, or indeed about any aspect of Wentworth history, please contact us. All contributions acknowledged. Many thanks!