Notes on the History of St. John the Baptist,
Parish Church, Mexborough
In January I informed you that after the death of our President, Norman Watson, that his archives had been inherited by your society and that they were being placed in the Local History Room for the benefit of everyone. Within these archives was a small booklet containing notes made by his uncle Leonard Harrop in c1890, on the history of the parish of Mexborough and its church. Although Leonard Harrop was not privy to the privileged archaeological and archival information open to the local historian of today I believe, like me, you will find them fascinating reading. Please find the second of the articles from the booklet below:
Edited Notes on Mexborough Parish Church
By Leonard Harrop c1890
The enquiries as to the history of Mexborough Church will soon ascertain that it was built immediately after the Norman Invasion; and
that the hidden portions of the original building (now exposed after so long) bear the mark of the founder of the church. For in the North Wall have been concealed three cylindrical pillars which formulary divided the North Aisle from the body of the church.
These are of the skimpy character distinctive of the English architecture of the eleventh century and have the solid capital that can be seen in several churches of this neighbourhood, generally as a pillar of division. Wherever they occur they indicate that the church is of the date 1080 or thereabouts. The known history, which generally in each case bear out the assumption.
It is a common mistake that this part of England was Christianised at the coming of Norman Christianity. This is evidenced by the erection of churches, which then existed only in the centres of civilisation and government of the country. There was no parochial system, through certain manors had churches and their number was probably increasing. It is true that there had been an early Christianity in the seventh and eighth centuries, but all traces of it had been swept away by the wave of Danish and Teutonic Paganism which subsequently dominated the district for many generations; and the former of which left traces on the face of the land in every place which it occupied.
These were of a civil character, in the shape of divisions of land into long half acres, many of which remain to this day. It is clear that the men who carved out these half acres on a uniform plan, Angles or Danes, were no wandering pirates but immigrants under a settled form of government, who entered with an intention to occupy and cultivate the land. This is evident from the way in which they portioned out "lands" on which to make a permanent residence. They were not Christians; but were not the wandering barbarians they are supposed to be, for they came to settle.
When the Norman wave superimposed manners and customs upon the descendants of those settled, the need arose for churches in the places unprovided with them and those at Adwick, Mexborough, Wath, Darfield, Silkstone, Tankersley, Campsal, etc. were the outcome.
The Churches then built and endowed were of a peculiar constitution that was not perpetuated and this system received immediate modification. The owners of two or three manors found themselves compelled to combine to erect the church so each endowed its own priest, the result was that there were two or three co-ordinate persons to one building and the church was said to be held in mendieties. This system of mendieties is an evidence of the earnest endeavours made by the Norman Sub-Lords to evangelise their people. But these results were to some extent not altogether successful, and the medieties
were wherever possible combined into one land. At Adwick there had been no need for a mendiety, for Swein, was the owner of all.
At Mexborough, three or four manors were in the hands of two owners who united to build the church, but founded two mendieties which fell into the hands of two separate
ecclesiastical establishments until after nearly two hundred years a high influence procured a consolidation which at Mexborough was early found to be so necessary to the success of the religious exertions of the parson
The state had no hand in either the erection of our churches or in the endowment of the livings attached although it protected what was given.
At the time of the Domesday the three manors of Mexborough were (with Swinton in the fee of Rodger de Busley) ungranted out and with no church. It is not clear in what way or when they came into the hands of Swein and his descendants, and during the whole of the reign of Rufus, this district was in a state of fusion —.and that the tenants of the fee was removed from place to place. We find one of the mendieties of Mexborough Church to have been very early in the hands of Fitz-Aibric, as its founder or perhaps the successor to the founder, who divested himself of it, in favour of the Hospital of Saint Nicolas of Pontefract.
But although King Henry I confirmed this gift the grant was superseded and Swein made a subsequent donation of it to Nostell.
Archbishop Thurstan confirmed this latter gift about 1130 and the second donation became valid, however the first fell through.
The second lord, who was joint founder, retained the advowson of the second moiety, and continued to appoint a parson to it. But, his lordship together with the accompanying advowson, fell in the next generation to the same great yeomen family as held the first; and after the death of Adam Fitz Swein, it descended to Adam de Montbegon, who had married Matilda, the younger of Adam's daughters. Montbegon then presented his moniety of the advowson together with the whole of the manor of Mexborough to the Priory of Monk Breton and the two mendieties of the church came to belong to the two religious houses of Nostell and Breton. Each continued to absorb its share of the proceeds; each continued to present, so until 1247 there were two parsons of Mexborough Church with concurrent powers. Then the organising powers of Archbishop Gray came into play in
that year inconsequence of a further arrangement by which all the parsonage in which Nostell had a share was consolidated, and an agreement was made among the parties concerned whereby the method of its exercise was altogether modified. The churches in the parsonage of the canons at that time were Tickhill, South Kerkby, Rothwell, Bolton (Percy), Weaverthorpe and this mediety Mexborough and on the ides of December
1247 an ordination was announced whereby the first three remained with Nostell; Mexborough was allotted to the Archdeaconry of York.
Bolton and Weaverthorpe going to the Archbishop.
The ultimate result of this arrangement was that at the Dissolution, the livings that had been allotted to Nostell went into lay parsonage but Mexborough remains in the Archdeacon and Bolton in the Archbishop.
The Archdeacon in 1263 became the parson of Mexborough and such he continued to be appointing a perpetual curate to the charge. No vicarage was ever ordained in it (and thus there is no list of vicars for this parish) but the correct ecclesiastical title of the incumbent became the 'Perpetual Curate'. After the consolidation of the two moieties there was only one incumbent, and at that time the superfluous half of the building was pulled down. The ancient pillars that had separated the north aisle from the nave, being built up into a sold wall that contained a small door and two windows.
The character of the windows has been changed, but their date and with it that of their destruction of the now again revealed pillars, can be ascertained by an examination of the finials, which are of the latter half of the thirteenth century. The windows were renewed in the Early Decorated Period -probably about a century and a half later. The present north wall of the church, thus show that there were three stages of building viz.
The pillars 1080 —1100 The finials and doorway 1260 —1280 The windows 1400 — 1450.
Of these the first and the doorway had been hidden in the thickness of the wall, the former for some twenty generations, and the latter for about three fourths of the time. Now that the 1260 wall and doorway have been cleared, the pillars remain with the arches, which they formerly supported, in very nearly the condition in which they were previous to the destruction of the ancient aisle. It is
interesting to see the thirteenth century mural decoration of the old arches, which has been hidden for about six centuries, once more exposed to the light of day.
I should not anticipate that there is much possibility of ascertaining what were the dimensions of the ancient aisle for the burials of six hundred years must have cleared away every trace of foundation work which would have been brought to the surface piecemeal and stone by stone.
The North Aisle was in existence in 1743 - In the church records there is a list of seats on the north aisle claimed by Swinton people in that year.
The Coat of Arms of Mexborough to be seen on the High Street of Mexborough Again.
Your new Research Manager, Julia Ashby, has provided Mexborough Community Partnership with a copy of the Mexborough Coat of Arms in order that it should be emblazoned on the new street furniture that will soon be seen on the High Street of Mexborough and its surroundings.
The new furniture consists of benches, litterbins and additional. flowerbeds. The benches are to be a mix of Hard Wood and metal, with armrests at intervals along its length and the Mexborough Coat of Arms placed on the sides. They are so designed that the metal armrests, besides giving comfort, will prevent damage done to the benches by Skateboarding. This particular type of bench has been tried in vandal struck Glasgow with great success. The litterbins and flowerbeds are to be constructed wholly of metal and all are to be painted black and adorned with the Mexborough Coat of Arms.
With the addition of the new street furniture and flowerbeds Mexborough High Street should look beautiful and our coat of arms, which for too many years has been unseen, visible once again for all to see.
Work commenced with the installation of littler bins to the Windhill Area of Mexborough on 19th March 2004.
News of Old Buildings
This month has been a roller coaster of emotions.
On 21st. February I received a phone call to inform me that the new owner of Fern Villa, 1, Church Street, Mex. was, as the caller spoke, in the process of demolishing that fine old house.
At the beginning of March it came to the attention of some committee members that, although it had neither been advertised in the local newspapers or plans placed in Mexborough Library, that the Royal Electric Theatre was to be demolished and the site used for housing. We are to campaign against this.
On 11th March we discovered that another of our campaigns, to save Dolcliffe Road School, had been successful and it was to be converted by a building contractor into apartments with an adjoining house.
Then on 17th March came the worse news of all when the Glassby Arch, appeared on the Internet for sale to the highest bidder over $4,000. This meant that when sold it could have gone anywhere in the world.
Your committee vigorously fought this and it is hoped that they have obtained a 'stay of execution', for a few months, in order to organise an Action Plan in order to save, permanently, the Glassby Arch for the people of Mexborough.
A new book has been launched by Ken Wyatt. It is entitled 'A Yorkshire Undertaking' and has been brought out to coincide with the 130th anniversary of the establishment of well-known firm of undertakers, Butterfields. The price of the book is £5.99 and can be obtained from Mexborough Branch Library.