Pontefract YAC: Church detectives
Pontefract YAC visited St Oswald's church in Kirk Sandall near Doncaster in September 2017. It is one of the oldest churches in Doncaster, and was mentioned in the Doomsday Book!
The church is dedicated to Saint Oswald, king of Northumbria; a local legend suggests that Oswald's body rested at Kirk Sandall after he was killed in 642 at the Battle of Maserfield, which was fought between two Anglo-Saxon kings, Oswald and Penda of Mercia in Oswestry in Shropshire.
The members and leaders were shown around by friend of the church, Gill.
Gill explained that some elements of the building fabric date to the 11th-12th centuries, with the aisles added a century or two later. This means that the oldest parts of the church are around 1,000 years old! When archaeologists use the word 'fabric' about a building, they don't mean material fabric like cotton or nylon! When archaeologists talk about building fabric, they are talking about the parts of the building such as its roof, floor, walls, windows, and doors. All of these elements are part of a building's 'fabric'.
The Rokeby Chantry
Another part of St Oswald's Church is the Rokeby Chantry which was added in the 1520s and still contains medieval stained glass. The oak screens also date to the mid-16th century.
The Chantry is named after William Rokeby. He was born in Kirk Sandall and was the Rector of St Oswald's from 1487 to 1502. He later became vicar of Halifax, before going to Ireland to become the Bishop of Meath (between 1507 and 1512). Rokeby was later made the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and Archbishop of Dublin. In 1521 and with failing health, Rokeby returned to Kirk Sandall, place of his birth. He died there on 29th November 1521. He left money in his will to build chapels in his name at St Oswald's and at Halifax Minster, both of which still survive. His body is buried in Halifax, but his heart is buried at St Oswald's.
Happily the church largely escaped Victorian 'improvements' with just the porch and some elements of the tower dating from this period, with the majority of the earlier church fabric surviving to be explored today.
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