In Wentworth, there is a sign at the back of the car park on Main Street has the legend that Wentworth was the Rural Community Council’s Best Kept Village in South Yorkshire in 1997.
The intervening twelve years have not appeared to diminish that claim.
Wentworth is a beautifully kept village which has retained all its charm despite becoming ever more popular with visitors. Residents’ cottages live side by side with attractions such as the Wentworth Tearooms, the 13th Century Old Church and the heterogeneous Garden Centre.
Wentworth can trace its existence and origins, although a little murkily, back to at least 1066 when lands around there were given to allies and friends of Duke William, the Conqueror. The name Wentworth comes from a family who lived and owned lands in the area in the late 11th Century. It’s not known how they came to acquire it, but around 1300 one of their number married a Woodhouse, a family which lived outside the village, hence the name of the great house, variously known as ‘England’s biggest end-terrace house,’ or ‘England’s biggest semi,’ Wentworth Woodhouse.
Around the time that the Wentworths and the Woodhouses were eyeing each other for potential marital or business partners, a church was built. The remains of this are now known as the Old Church. The earliest mention of it is in 1235, although there could have been a chapel on the site possibly up to a century before. It is now mostly in ruins, but the original tower, south wall and porch have been cared for and the Lady Chapel refurbished by the Church Conservation Trust. Inside here there are several tombs and interesting monuments of the Wentworth family, plus a tunnel runs out under the graveyard to the Fitzwilliam vault.
The graveyard itself is a fascinating place. It has graves going back to the 17th Century, many with interesting stories to tell. One very unusual one is that of Chow Kwang Tseay who was baptised John Dennis Blonde. He was a native Chinese who came to England on a ship called the Blonde in 1847, attended the old Barrow School, and died three years later aged 17. There is no record of why he came to this country or how he ended up in Wentworth. A more humorous grave is that of William Cooper, an obviously forward-thinking man, who had inscribed on the back of his gravestone, “For goodness’ sake fix this stone up agane”!
The ‘new’ church, Holy Trinity, was built between 1872 and 1877. It was constructed at the behest of the 6th Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam and the graveyard at the back contains a number of the Fitzwilliam family. The church is a huge solid chunk of Victoriana, designed by James Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral, with its gargoyles and 200 foot steeple. It is large for a village church with seating for 500, and was used every week by the Fitzwilliams and their servants. It is at the head of a lovely tree-lined driveway, however, the family did not use this, but had a road specially constructed from the great house, down through the gardens directly to the side door of the church.
The gardens through which the family came are now Wentworth Garden Centre. This is set in 16 acres of the former Kitchen, Italian and Japanese gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse set out in the late 18th Century. In those days the gardens grew mainly fruit and vegetables and the high North and South facing brick walls were ‘hot’ walls. They contained heated flues, protecting what was being grown from wind and frost, and providing warmth for the greenhouses erected against them. This meant that exotic fruit such as grapes, peaches and apricots, and rare flowers like camelias, could be produced.
The Garden Centre nowadays caters for gardeners of all enthusiasms. But it has grown over the past 25 years into a wider leisure experience. There are craft shops dealing in leather goods, chocolate, gemstones and dream catchers. A paved seating area is where you can enjoy a snack or coffee, or go into the main building for a meal after browsing through the various areas with anything from lamps to bone china, greeting cards to tables and chairs. A new pet and aquatic centre has been built next to the children’s play area and there is the Bear Pit and the reconstituted maze to visit.
The Earls Fitzwilliam left a lasting influence on the wider village. Opposite the car park is a big 19th Century house which was the Mechanics Institute. It is now the Village Hall, but when it was built by the 5th Earl it had a library and a recreation room and provided for estate workers who wanted to continue their education and looked to better themselves. It is still supported by the Fitzwilliam family trust and is managed by a committee on behalf of the Wentworth Village Community Association. Activities going on there include coffee mornings, craft fairs, dancing classes and WI meetings, some of which are advertised on the notice board with the Wentworth crest on it across the road.
In the past the Wentworths were very active in politics. Thomas Wentworth, the 1st Earl of Strafford, a title created by Charles I in 1640, was Lord President of the Council of the North, virtually ruling England from the Trent to the Tweed. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong side to align himself with during the Civil War. He was tried for treason by Parliament and they forced through a guilty verdict. Thomas was executed on Tower Hill and, as the King’s Minister, should have been buried there. However, documents confirm that his body was taken away and eventually buried in the Old Church in Wentworth.
One hundred years later, the Earls of Strafford through family dislocations had become the Marquis’ of Rockingham. The second Marquis was twice prime > minister under George III and did much to support the claim for independence of the American Colonies, as well as starting the industrial development of the Wentworth estate. It is for him that the Rockingham Arms is named; this has been an inn or pub for nearly 200 years. It has a large garden and a barn; next to it is the bowling green while behind it is the village cricket ground. In the 1970s Earl Fitzwilliam (another change of name) decreed that all pubs in the village had to be shut on Sundays. The Rockingham’s front door was closed, but the back door always seemed to be left unlocked!
Across the road from the Rockingham is the old Toll Bar House. This was where people had to pay to use the toll road, or turnpike, through Wentworth if they were on horseback or had a cart or carriage. The toll gate would not be opened until payment had been made. When the turnpikes were made unlawful in 1869 a procession came out from Rotherham and ceremonially burnt this, and other, toll gates.
The other puiblic house in Wentworth is the George and Dragon. This is much the elder pub having its origins in the late 16th or early 17th Century, and is one of the oldest buildings in Wentworth. It was originally a house and part of a farm and the buildings down the side were used to store grain. The large space at the front, now the car park, was possibly utilised by travelling salesmen to show their wares on market days.
Two other establishments exist on Main Street dispensing food and drink. The Wentworth Tearooms has been a butchers, a newsagent and a grocers. It is now a delightful cafe, also selling fancy goods, with a garden in which to enjoy a coffee and a snack if the sun is shining. Across the road is Le Bistro, a popular restaurant, which provides a delectable menu during the day or in the evening. This building has gone through a number of metamorphoses too, having been the village blacksmith, a cafe, and a garage complete with petrol pumps.
Further along Main Street is the wonderfully titled Paradise Square. Who would not want to live in a place so named? It is a beautifully-kept square, once a farmyard, with neat attractive gardens in front of the cottages which were the farm buildings. At the top is a ‘ginger bread’ house and preserved in the middle is the old parish pump.
Down from this square and opposite the George and Dragon is one centre of Wentworth activity, the village shop. Established in the early part of the 19th Century by the Poles family, who lived at Ferndean across the road, as a miniature department store, it became part of the Barnsley British Co-operative Society 100 years later. In the 1970s the BBCS pulled out of Wentworth and the shop reverted into private hands, selling virtually anything the villagers could want. The coffee and freshly made sandwiches I can recommend from first-hand experience.
The other centre of village life, as in most villages, although they are fast disappearing, is the post office. The influence of the residents of the ‘big house’ made it possible for a post office to be opened in Wentworth in 1845, just five years after the introduction of the Penny Post. The horse post would come from Rotherham and there were deliveries and collections twice a day, seven days a week, except on Church Drive, which was not allowed
The post office used to be what is now part of the Rockingham Arms. In 1914 it crossed the road to a new building. Above the door the name of Wentworth is carved into the stone work, but there are holes in the stone. This dates from the Second World War when the sign was covered over in case the Germans invaded, so they would not know where they were.
Wentworth has plenty of history and plenty for the visitor to see and experience. It is an unspoilt village, but not an unchanged one. Rather than allow buildings to decay until demolition is inevitable, Wentworth has been pro-active, looking to give these a new lease of life, turning institutes into village halls, garages into bistros, estate properties into craft shops, butchers into vintners, and farmyards into Paradise!
Incoming search terms:
You must be logged in to post a comment.
- Barnsley (3)
- Barnsley Town Centre (1)
- Barnsley's Villages (29)
- Barugh Green (1)
- Cawthorne Village (2)
- Cudworth Village (1)
- Darfield Village (1)
- Darton (1)
- Dodworth Village (1)
- Elsecar Village (1)
- Grimethorpe Village (1)
- Gunthwaite Village (1)
- Hoyland Village (1)
- Hoylandswaine Village (1)
- Inbirchworth Village (1)
- Lundwood (1)
- Mapplewell Village (2)
- Monk Bretton Village (1)
- Penistone Village (3)
- Royston Village (1)
- Silkstone Common Village (1)
- Silkstone Village (1)
- Thurgoland (1)
- Thurlstone Village (1)
- Wentwort (1)
- Wentworth Village (2)
- Wombwell Village (1)
- Worsbrough Mill (1)
- Wortley Village (1)