The ancient parish of Wath-upon-Dearne comprises the five townships of Wath, Brampton Bierlow, Nether Hoyland, Swinton and Wentworth. It is situated five miles from Rotherham and three miles from the magnificent Palladian mansion and estate of Wentworth Woodhouse, the home of the late Earl Fitzwilliam. As its name implies, it lies on a river, but this is not immediately apparent to a visitor.
The manor of Wath was given by the Conqueror to Roger de Busli, from whose family it passed to the Flemings and then to the Wentworths. After the death of the last Marquis of Rockingham it passed to Earl Fitzwilliam.
White’s directory of 1837 calls Wath-upon-Dearne “a fertile and extensive parish, roughly 6 miles by 4, and bounded to the south by Rawmarsh, Greasbrough, Kimberworth and Chapeltown, to the west by Tankersley, to the north by the parishes of Darfield and Adwick, and on the east by the River Don.” It contained some 11,000 acres and has a population in 1801 of around 4,000. By 1831 this had increased to just under 7,000. Earl Fitzwilliam was lord of the manors and owner of most of the land as well as estates in Northamptonshire.
Kelly’s West Riding directory for 1867 tells us that Wath had a National school for boys built in 1663 and endowed by the Rev. Thomas Wombwell, a late vicar of the parish. The building of a girl’s school was much later - in 1858 - with money raised by subscription. There were three chapels for Wesleyans, Wesleyan Regformers and the Primitive Methodists. Servant hiring statutes were held on 24th November each year. William Addy, a pioneer of shorthand, was born in the village, and had a shorthand bible published in 1687.
All Saints Church in the village of Wath had much work of Norman origin, including the base of the tower and the north arcade of the nave and chancel. The rest of the tower, which houses six bells, and its spire are 15th century, and the south aisle, arcade and some of the windows are 600 years old. The doorway in the old porch is a little older, as is the big chapel, with an aisle and some Elizabethan bench ends. One of two old chests has ironwork and chain handles, and a bell of Armada year stands under the tower. The living(worth £315 p.a. in 1831) is a discharged vicarage in the gift of the dean and chapter of Christ Church, Oxford who hold the tithes by a grant from Henry V111. One vicar, the Rev. Henry Partington held this post for 64 years during the 19th century.
Wath’s second church dedicated to St. James dates from 1902, and the other four townships each had their own churches as they grew in size, although All Saints continued as the mother church. Brampton Bierlow had Christ Church, founded in 1835. In Nether Hoyland, St. Peter’s has registers from 1741 and St. Andrews from 1916. Swinton St. Margaret’s has registers from 1800 but was apparently built on the site of an older building as it incorporates many earlier features, and at Wentworth, Holy Trinity church dates from 1654.
Close to All Saints Church is a very old and dilapidated building which was the local gaol. It had two windowless stone cells for drunks and troublemakers, and a police constable’s room above. A wood near the village is said to have evident marks of a Roman road but this has never been confirmed.
There were extensive potteries, coal and iron works, stone quarries and various factories providing work in the area. From around 1745, when the Rockingham Works was established by Brameld & Co., the area around Wath became famous as the principal seat of china and earthenware manufacture in the north of England. Rockingham and the Don Pottery produced pottery on a grand scale which is still much sought after by collectors all over the world. A kiln still stands today on the site of the Rockingham Works.
Until recently, Wath was a mining community, with Manvers Main and Wath Main collieries providing employment for thousands in the area. Now this has all gone, and the land is being developed to build new factories, shops and leisure facilities.There are still a few farms, both dairy and arable, many old inns and a weekly market. A small hospital originally built to care for fever and T.B. patients now caters very well for geriatric patients, while Rockingham College of Further Education provides courses of all kinds for all age groups.
Doncaster Archives holds copies of the following registers of Wath All Saints and Wath St James:
- Baptisms 1598-1982
- Marriages 1598-1984
- Burials 1598-1966