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The Church of St John the Baptist Adwick upon Dearne

One of the Oldest Illustrations of St John the Baptist Parish Church, Adwick-on-Dearne

Last month we had a newsletter written by Charlie Shaw, which told of the Second World War, this month Glenys Harrison, our Treasurer, has written about her church at Adwick-on-Dearne.
The church of St John the Baptist serves the village of Adwich upon Dearne and although small in size has a big heart.. The village (at the time just a hamlet) was founded during the sixth or seventh century by Anglo-Saxon settlers. They came northwards along the old roads, like Ricknield Street, and the river valleys to settle on high ground overlooking fords across the river.
Christianity had arrived in Britain and spread north by 314; it needed reviving by the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons by Paulinus in the seventh century to really gain a foothold. The parishes of South Yorkshire were established by Theodore in the ninth century, but like many in the east were ravaged by the Danes and Norsemen, in the 200 years between 850 and 1050AD.
Adwick Parish is recorded in the Doomsday Survey of 1086. Ailric, Lord of Pontefract, was the last Saxon Overlord of this area. He was dispossessed by the Norman William I, who gave the Lordship to Ilbert (Gilbert) de Lascis (Lacy). Ailric’s son, Swein of Newhall, Wath, held much of this land from the Lacys. He or his father probably owned and built several local churches, including Adwick.
The earliest Pontefract Charters of 1090 record Swein’s gift of Silkstone Church and its lands to the Monks of St John at Pontefract. Swein’s son Ada (Adam) confirmed this and made gifts of more land together with Cawthorne Chapel. A witness to this document was Ulfus, Priest and Parson of Adwick. In 1120 Henry I re-founded the Nostel Priory of St Oswald. Large endowments were given by Swein, including the church at Adwick. This gift was confirmed by the King, Adam Fitzswein and others. In the 13th century, Walter de Grey, Archbishop of York (1215-55), appropriated Adwick Church for the “”use of the fabric” which obliged the Canons of Nostel to serve the church by a secular priest with stipend, without a vicarage, and “to bear all customary burdens”. This arrangement was again certified in 1309 by William Greenfield, Archbishop of York (1306-16), before King Edward, or his Justice. All this confirms that the small parish had its church and parsons maintained by Nostel Priory, though most of the land in the parish belonged to the Lord of the Manor. Today the village has developed to the North of the church. Since Adwick was, and to some extent still is a farming community you may expect the population to have been employed in mainly agricultural trades. There was a period when some would have been miners as that industry grew: however the population today is much more diverse, and the village acts as a dormitory for the workers in the surrounding towns and cities In 1438 the Hospital of St Nicholas at Pontefract, including Wath Tithes and advowsands was given to the Canons of Nostel Priory by Henry VI. Since then the churches of Wath and Adwick have been worked together for long periods until in 1995 Adwick was joined with the combined benefice of St Peter Barnburgh and St James High Melton. In 1548 Henry VIII, who had taken the Churches and endowments of Nostel, gave them to a new college, Christ Church built by the Cathedral at Oxford. Since that time the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church have been the Patrons of Wath and Adwick Churches.
The development of the Norman Church at was short, perhaps no more than 150 years. The additions of the bell-cote and other additions to the fabric are believed to have been completed by the end of the 12th Century. Little is known of such matters of alteration and other additions until the 19th and 20th Centuries when some changes were made.
External Features
The external appearance of the church may appear a little drab, the pebble-dash plain walls and blue slate roof appear more Victorian than a Norman Church; but Norman it is! Its floor plan may even be Anglo-Saxon.
In 1828 Joseph Hunter in his History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster, wrote
“The Church of Adwick is the purest specimen remaining in the deanery of the original village church. It has no tower, no side aisles, but simply a nave and a chancel, with a little shed in which two bells are hung. The simplicity of the structure and the narrow lancet-shaped windows show it to be the original fabric erected in the time of Swein”.
The church did not change in the six centuries before the 19th Century when the erosion of the limestone and sandstone walls meant that they had to be preserved with pebble-dash. The blue slate roof dates from 1881, the original roof of a thatch of reeds from the river Dearne was in such poor state that it had to be replaced. .Externally the windows are of simple shape and the mouldings are masked by stucco. At least the Buttresses at the chancel end of the Nave and those supporting the Bell-cote are well defined.
We can appreciate the early origins of the church when it is seen internally. Its plan, South door, windows and other features like the Porch and Bell-cote, all appear to have been completed by around the 12th Century; little else if anything done until the 19th Century “Restoration”.
The church plan is Norman following the “Celtic” pattern of a Nave and Chancel of similar length, until extended at the west end. At the same time as this extension, it is clear the roof was raised at the same time. Careful examination of the masonry in the Nave shows this. There are many interesting features in the church among them the Double Norman Bell-cote in particular is rare, especially in Yorkshire. The present bells replaced the 1777 bells in 1882.
The 18th Century Pulpit is made from OLD BLACK OAK PEWING OF 1604. The carved panels relate to the ownership of that old box pew. The arms are those of Reresby (of Thrybergh).

By Glenys Harrison

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