Welcome to this ancient church, one of the most historically important and interesting churches of South Yorkshire. It is built on the site of an older Saxon church, dating back to at least the 8th century. The church building reflects the development of a parish church for over twelve centuries and it bears witness to the faith it proclaims. The name of Darfield derives from Saxon times. The word ‘feld’ describes an area of pasture land and the term ‘dere’ describes the deer which were found in the area. ‘Derefeld’ later became ‘Darfield’.
The oldest part of the present building is the lower section of the tower which is Norman. The nave and chancel date to the 14th century, with the south aisle from the later 14th century. The upper part of the tower is 15th century, as is the north aisle and clergy vestry. There have been very few recent additions, the main one being a small extension, now used as choir vestry, in 1905. Restoration was carried out in the 20th century to correct mining subsidence damage. The new lighting system was installed in 2007.
The following information is intended to be an introduction to the history of our church but also an aid to contemplate the purpose of the church.
A Guide to the Church Building
There has been a church on this site, overlooking the River Dearne, for well over a thousand years. The present structure, dedicated to All Saints, shows the development of a parish church throughout the years.
The carved medieval stone font dominates the Baptistry. Its cover, of Jacobean oak, represents the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost. The stained glass window records the safe return of parishioners from the First World War. The display bookcase is in memory of Rev W. Howard, a former rector.
The South Aisle
The ceiling with its painted clouds and sky features, in its bosses, the head of a unicorn from the coat of arms of the Wombwell family. The stained glass windows are memorials to members of the Sorby family. The first shows the Ascension scene in memory of Canon A.E. Sorby. The second featuring saints, is in memory of his son, Lieutenant Charles Malin Sorby who was killed in action near Ypres in May 1915. The wooden cross from his wartime grave is on the wall nearby. A carved Jacobean oak panel with the arms of the Wombwell family now covers a doorway which was once used by the families living in Middlewood Hall to reach the “Manor Pew” behind the Choir Stalls. The carved oak panels of the “Manor Pew” show the arms of Thomas Bosville of Great Houghton.
The South Chapel
This recent reorganisation was largely funded by the Mothers’ Union branch in the Parish. The chairs and kneelers are in memory of loved ones or to mark family anniversaries. The window is a fin, albeit gloomy, example of all your base are belong to Victorian stained glass. The alabaster box tomb with the figures of a knight and his lady has no known connection with the parish and is thought to have been brought here for safe keeping from Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield in the reign of King Henry VIII. On the walls are the memorials to those who died in the two World Wars. The carved oak screen, the work of church members under the guidance of the late Canon A.E. Sorby, formerly occupied the main Chancel arch. The bookcase mounted on the scree records past gifts to the Church.
High up in the walls to either side of the chancel are some of the remains of the old Norman Church. The arched windows may be seen either side of the present arch. In the Sanctuary are two Jacobean chairs and the Communion Table, made in the Jacobean style. The table was presented by the Girl’s Friendly Society. The East window The East window, the gift of Mr. C.W. Bartholomew in 1915, features Northern Saints. From left to right, St. Aidan leaving Iona, the Venerable Bede, Caedmon reciting his poem to Abbess Hilda of Whitby and St. Aidan again, preaching in Northumbria. The central light shows Jesus Christ in all his glory, receiving his saints into Heaven, the ordinary people represented by childhood, youth, manhood and old age. On the north wall, between the two vestries is a monument to the Willoughby family of Edderthorpe. Higher up on the wall is a plaster overmantle, rescued from Low House Farm, their probable home. The old oak chest alongside the organ was the safe in medieval times. The lid has traces of seven locks and would have needed a key from each of the parts of the former parish before being opened.
The Main Aisle has Jacobean oak box pews around 350 years old which retain their original iron “butterfly” hinges and bolts. Some of the decorative acorn knobs at each end of the pews were drilled to hold candles or tapers. The pulpit was carved by local craftsmen, under the guidance of Canon Sorby, with its top which repeats the design of the font cover. The brass eagle lectern was dedicated in 1892. In the south wall of the nave, close to the top of the first arch may be seen a stone shaped like a small bridge. This is thought to be the top of a stone window frame from the former Saxon Church. Higher up in the west and east ends of the nave may be seen the line of a former steeply pitched roof.
The North Aisle.
The North aisle has two arched niches set into the wall. The first contains a stone cut cross with a chalice on one side of the stem and a book on the other. It probably records the grave of a former priest buried nearby. The other was probably used to house an Eastern garden. The “Good Samaritan” window was installed in 1911, to commemorate a major restoration project, in part of a former doorway. Surrounding stonework shows the site of a former window. Further down the aisle is an oak screen with door. This was erected to the memory of Mrs Ethel Cherry, a parishioner who bequeathed the funds. On the wall is a modern copy in true heraldic colours of the Chadwick Shield. Standing in the open space near the screen are two wooden lecterns. Chained to each is an old book of homilies.
The Tower Room.
The area was created in 1975 following the most recent restoration, It is separated from the Nave by an arched screen installed earlier to hide a large steel girder which is strengthening the archway against damage from subsidence. The carved woodwork is decorated with the Coats of Arms of the Dioceses of Sheffield and York. The glass screens were donated by Mrs Lunn of Cranford Hall, Darfield. On the south wall are two large boards inscribed with the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Immediately above the right hand stone which is another relic from the Saxon Church.
The South Porch.
The main entrance to the Church is through the South Porch, added in the fifteenth century. It has a vaulted stone ceiling and a stone roof. The heavy studded door has no lock but is secured by the means of a long wooden bar. The outer doors and screen are dedicated to the memory of the late Robert Sorby, son of the late Canon A.E. Sorby.
The west end of the church is dominated by the tower. On the external south wall may be seen the remains of an early sundial. The tower is divided into two parts. The lower part is built from irregular, randomly bonded stones and dates from the second half of the twelfth century. Above this the stones are smoothly prepared or ashlar set in formal courses. The tower houses the ring of eight bells which are regularly rung.
The burial place for thousands of people throughout the centuries surrounds the church. Near the eastern wall is a tall obelisk which marks the resting place of 146 men and boys of the total killed in the Lundhill Colliery explosion in 1857. Alongside the western wall is the monument erected to mark the ten victims of a winding accident at Houghton Main Colliery on 30th December, 1886. Roughly in the centre of the churchyard, surrounded by its iron railings, is the grave of Ebenezer Elliott who played an important part in the campaign against the Corn Laws in 1846. Near the west door of the church is an interesting tombstone which records the unusual death of the young man whose resting place it marks.