St Peter

Barnburgh is a pleasant village overlooking the Dearne Valley, with views of Wombwell, Barnsley. Wentworth, Mexborough and High Melton. It stands in a very favourable position and is situated on Magnesium Limestone. There are four roads to enter the village, and it is the light coloured stone tower of its parish church of St Peter that catches the eye.

Barnburgh, with its adjoining hamlet of Harlington is an ancient parish and has a rich and colourful history, much of it associated with the church.
The church is built of a mixture of sandstone and magnesium limestone. Nothing remains of the original church of Barnburgh, so states Joseph Hunter in his “South Yorkshire”. The present building is of Norman origin, as indeed many churches in the area are, built around 1150, and was possibly one of the first Norman churches in the district to boast a tower. It had only three stages originally; it was much smaller than the present tower. Most Norman churches were built without a tower. It is unfortunate that the stone used in the construction of the church, is very soft, and was particularly vulnerable to the corrosive effect of smoke from the surrounding industries and mines.

The four-stage tower is surmounted by a peculiar little spire, the tower carries a pinnacle at each corner below which are rainwater spouts. There are louvered windows on each of the four sides giving light to the bell chamber, which hoses three ancient bells. On the West face of the tower, about halfway up and above the rounded arch of the window of the ringing chamber is a small shield bearing the three Cresacre lions. To the left and right of the arch is a date, which despite the erosion appears to be 1659. On the North side opposite the main entrance, there is a built up door, known as the ‘Devils Door’. When in existence the door would be opened during baptism services and similar services to let the devil out. Such superstitions could not be tolerated at the Reformation, so the door was blocked up.

The Porch is of the Decorated style, with a ribbed and slabbed roof; the presence of stone benches reminds us of the time when the porch was a very important place, used for many purposes. The floor of the porch has a stone, which has a deep red stain, said to be the blood of Sir Percival Cresacre (of the cat and man legend). The porch was built in 1330, but is not necessarily the date of the floor stones.

The Churchyard was enclosed about 1410 with, it would appear, financial assistance from Ackworth Church. When looking across at the priest’s door there is a large stone object lying in the angle formed by the South Aisle wall and the Cresacre Chapel. This is a stone coffin minus the lid; it would appear to be of 12th or 13th century in origin and no doubt dug up from the churchyard. Stone coffins were in use in Norman times and for a little while afterwards, but used only by wealthy barons.

The baptistry is one of the most important places in the church after the Holy Table. For at least 850 years adults and babies have been brought to the font for baptism, the font itself is probably mediaeval dating from about 1330, although some authorities describe it as Norman, dating from the latter half of the 12th century.

The tower which is separated from the nave by a wooden screen, in the base of the tower, which is of the late Norman era, can be seen the remains of a deeply splayed window, now blocked up in order to strengthen the tower when it was raised. There is also different coloured stone, which was used in the construction, some with a reddish tinge. The base of the tower is now used as a vestry. The tower houses three bells in a modern steel frame installed in 1993. The last refit was in the 1830’s. The frame has a space for a further two bells, the bells date from 1490,1662 and 1628.

Update:-These have now been filled. Barnburgh was fortunate to be one of the churches chosen to receive Ringing in the Millennium funding, and this was used to add a treble and tenor to the "minor" key ring of three. The Trust donated the tenor bell (second-hand) and the treble came from a redundant church in Doncaster (Christ Church).
Update Courtesy of

The Cresacre Chapel, was a Chantry Chapel of the Cresacre family, who were Lords of Barnburgh from the 13th to the 16th century. Placed in the centre is the tomb of Sir Percival Cresacre who died in 1477, beside him is his wife Alice who died in 1450. The tomb is richly carved, although there is evidence of restoration, there is no doubt that it is representative of 15th century craftsmanship.

To gain access to the Chancel you have to pass through the ‘Southwell’ arch. Until Southwell was made a Cathedral in 1884, the Chapter of Southwell were the patrons of Barnburgh Church.

The Bella Aqua Chapel is dedicated to the Bella Aqua family (or Bellews as they were later called), they jointly owned Barnburgh with the Cresacre family. The Chapel is enclosed by an ancient oak screen on the North and West sides, and in the south wall will be found a Pisina (once used prior to the reformation to wash vessels at Mass).

Visit St Peter Church website

Doncaster and District Family History Society has published :

  • Baptisms: 1561-1919
  • Burials: 1558-1900
  • Monumental Inscriptions: 1912-2006
  • 1871 Census available on CD

The following records of Barnburgh St Peter are available at Doncaster Archives:

  • Baptisms: 1557-1962
  • Marriages: 1559-1983
  • Burials: 1558-1981