Church and Chapel

History of St Margaret’s Parish Church


The first formal place of religeous worship in Swinton was the Norman chapel of ease for Wath, built in the second half of the 12th century AD.  It stood at what is today the site of the present church hall.  The small chapel was without aisles but had a small chancel, two fine arches were part of the construction.  One was round the chancel and the second surrounded the south door.  The arch around the door was ornamented with carvings of animal and human heads, decorated by roses and traditional zig zag pattern.  The last bell to be hung there was in 1802 when one was bought from Thomas Hilton of Wath on Dearne, bell makers since 1583.  It was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.  It served the village of Swinton until 1815 when it was demolished.  The expanding population of Swinton needed a bigger place of worship.  Out of the demolition rubble the two Norman arches were salvaged and moved to the new churchyard where they can still be seen today.  Note the fine moulding carved stone.

Swinton Chapel

The Chapel of Ease




St Margarets Church

The new church of St Margaret was designed by architect Mr Pritchard of york and cost some £6000 to build.  It was built from locally quarried stone.  The largest part of the costs were financed by the Earl fitzwilliam of the Wentworth estate, who then became its Patron.   The church and burial ground was consecrated on 15th June 1817.  The first incumbant was The Reverend John Lowe (junior) assisted by the Reverend William Ward.  The Lowe family were staunch church and very beneficial to the parish.  John managed to increase the endowment received by the church and founded an infants school.

Miss Harrop in her book “the Four Churches” describes the interior as;

the walls were plastered and colour-washed and the flat plaster ceiling was whitewashed, while a gallery at the end held singers and an organ.  There was no chancel, merely a bay at the east end in front of which the font was placed.  The whole church was filled with sheep-pen pews, save where a large wooden pulpit occupied one corner in front of the bay, and a reading desk, hardly smaller than the pulpit filled the other. The only decoration at the east end consisted of double panels of painted  tables on either side of the east window, which was filled with plain glass bordered in yellow.  It sometimes took a couple of men three days to clean these huge windows and mend the blind cords, etc, for the intollerable glare necessitated expensive blinds, which when old were an eyesore and very inefficacious, so that miss beckett, a strong minded ladsy parishoner was occasionally known to put up her parasol in church on a particularly sunny morning.

When the occupants of the pews seated themselves, the high backed erections seemed to swallow up all but the heads of the congregation. with a most serious effect


The year 1870 saw a good deal of Nonconformists activity in Swinton and Kilnhurst and the beginnings of a fierce controversy – lasting into the present century – over denominational education.  The Church in Swinton seems to have struck a bad patch.  The Churchwardens’ accounts showed a deficit of £14 for which the wardens themselves, Messrs. F. L. Harrop and G. Thompson, were liable with the result that no-one could be found to accept office for the ensuing year unless they could be indemnified for any deficit there might be.  A ratepayers’ meeting was held and it was decided to levy penny rate.  There seems to have been only one spoken protest.  Mr. Kemp declared his willingness to pay for his own house but he altogether declined, so he said, to pay for his cottage property.

The report goes on: “After some desultory conversation, Mr. Inman said he would, if he could get any gurantee, take office.  The vicar observed that in respect to the late misunderstandings, all he feared was the introduction of Popish doctrine”.  We are left wondering exactly what the vicar meant by that last remark.  Probably it referred to efforts made by many members of the congregation to secure improvements in the furnishing of the church and its services.  The influence of the Church Revival had reached Swinton and for many years, there was a demand for a new organ at the east end which would eventually lead to a surplice choir and for the replacement of the old box-pews by more modern seating arrangements.  An offer by members of the congregation to pay for these things had been refused by the vicar.  He seems to have feared that they were inspired or might lead to Popery!

Unfortunately a serious fire broke out in St Margaret’s on the 24th March 1897 causing much damage to the church.


The Church Pre Fire


After the Fire

Rebuilding commenced straight away.  The body of the new church was built around the tower and enlarged on the north, south and east sides.  The church was consecrated by the Archbishop of York on the 28th October 1899.  Over the years remedial work has had to be carried out like dry rot elimination, a new floor, stone replacement in the tower etc.  The organ in situ was built and installed in 1903 by Harrison and Harrison of Durham at a cost of  £637.00.  In 2006 a full rebuild took place which cost £96,000.  As much of the original parts as possible were retained.

James Dixon 1770 (Curate )
W Glossop until 1802 (Curate)
John Lowe 1802- 1815 (Curate)
John Lowe (jnr) 1815 – 1847 (Curate)
James Reece 1847- 1851 (Curate)
John Levett 1851  – 1896 (first Vicar)
W J Peacey 1896-1910
C. Steele 1910-1921
F Hutchinson 1921-1927
T.G Rogers 1927-1942
H.W.Quarrell 1942 – 1962
A.J. Blade 1963 – 1965
L.E.Harris 1966 – 1976
M.R. Jackson 1976 – 1997
N. Williamson 1997 – 2000
Chris.J.Barley 2001 –

(the longest served was the Reverend John Levett who was in office for 45 years).


Rev T G Rogers -Vicar of Swinton 1927- 1942


1942 Newspaper article (South Yorkshire Times) announcing the appointment of Reverend H J Quarrell to St Margarets’







The St Margaret’s church choir on their annual camp


Reverend Charles Steele in 1921



Reverend Charles Steele in 1913



Swinton Notes

Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times 7/1/1927

The Vicar of Swinton will take up his new duties as Principal of St. Peter’s College, Lewisham, on February 20th.

The Vicar, during his sermon last Sunday evening, asked his parishioner’s if they would like their weekly wages, after honestly earning them, dependent upon the proceeds from a bazaar.  He warned the congregation that they would not get any self-respecting priest to work on those lines.  “Fancy,” continued the Vicar, “the salary of a minister of God coming from a competition for a doll or the sale of jumpers, but it is necessary, as collections are insufficient.  It must certainly be very distressing for a curate to depend on this source for his income.”

During the last few years the Vicar has often complained of the lack of responsibility felt by Church members that the Church derives its income from the State”.  It is possible that there will not be a Vicar appointed to succeed Doctor Hutchinson, who leaves in February, for some time.  The patron of the living, Earl Fitzwilliam, is at present abroad.


The St Michaels Church – Whitelea Road, Swinton Bridge

As the population and industry around Bridge Street expanded there was a need for a church to be nearby.  The Chapel on Bridge Street was established and the Church of England needed to have a presence.  The site on Whitelea Road was donated once again by the Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth.  The foundation stone was laid on the 29th September 1900 by Admiral Douglas (a relative of the Earl who also resided at Wentworth).

The building was consecrated by the Archbishop of York on the 15th August 1901.  Strangely the building was never completely finished.  It did not get the footfall hoped and part of it stood in abeyance.  The property was demolished in the 1970’s.


St Michael’s Church


A Brief History of St John’s Church and the Methodist Community in Swinton

The first reports of Wesleyans in Swinton date from as early as 1802; at that time small numbers of worshipers would meet in private houses.  Numbers did increase and by 1815 the Earl Fitzwilliam had been approached to release some land so that a chapel could be built.  On 9th May 1815 a parcel of land called ‘Tim Croft’ was purchased by a group of trustees from Earl Fitzwilliam and Viscount Milton “for the erection of a chapel for the religious worship of the people called Methodists”.  The chapel was able to seat around 200 people however the rapidly increasing population throughout the 19th century and the popularity of Methodist worship meant that enlargement was necessary.  Considerable local fundraising took place and pledges of financial assistance were made by supporters with the means.  The restoration and extension work including a new gallery was completed by 1865 and seating was now available for 350 worshipers.


John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement

In 1869 considerable fire damage affected the building which required much repair work and further expenditure.  By the early years of the 19th century the trustees were faced with an ageing building with difficult access stairways – a real problem for the older worshipers.  It was resolved in 1907 to demolish the old building and rebuild a fine new church.  Further land was purchased for a larger site was required.  The old church closed in September 1909 and was quickly demolished for by October 21st the site was ready for a stone laying ceremony.

By June 16th 1910 the new Wesleyan Chapel was opened.  The Mexborough and Swinton Times published an extensive and detailed report of the opening day and extracts from the newspaper are reproduced here as an eye witness account.

“Thursday was a great day for The Wesleyans of Swinton.  The new Wesleyan Church, erected at a cost of £2,500 on the site of the old one, was formally opened by Mrs G. Baker of Greno House, in fine weather and before two or three hundred people.  The ceremony took place at three o’clock, and at the outset Superintendent Minister of the Circuit, the Rev. Wright -Shovelton, pointed out that they were continuing the work of their fathers.  The first Wesleyan Church was built in 1815, and was restored in 1865.  The schools at the rear of the present building was erected in 1882.  In virtue of the fact that Wesleyan Methodism had been so long established, their last church, early after its establishment was certified as a registered place of worship under the protection of the Places of Worship Act.  The Registrar General had not only renewed that certificate but had certified that the Church was for the solemnization of marriages, so that the place which was about to be opened that afternoon had all the rights and privileges of a place of worship, and for that they were thankful to God.

The people then sang the hymn, “All people that on Earth do dwell”, after which the Rev. J. W. Farraday, of Rawmarsh, led them in prayer.

Mrs George Baker then opened the doors of the Church, and declared the building open, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The gold ornamental key was presented to her by the Architect, Mr A. E. Lambert of Nottingham, who remarked that the was sure he was expressing the opinion of the Trustees in stating how grateful they were to Mrs Baker for the close and keen interest she had taken in the scheme and for the exercise of her influence for good”.

Miss B. M. Jenkinson, one of the most prominent and enthusiastic Wesleyan workers in Swinton, was the first to enter the doors.

The reporter then gave a thorough description of the building which is in the main clearly recognisable today to those who visit the church.


“The new edifice is a handsome building with Gothic decorations built entirely of stone.  The main approach to it is through two pairs of solid oak folding doors into a porch, or vestibule, which is also of solid oak, ornamented with tracery panels, which are filled in with stained glass of a neat and pleasing design.  The church itself is a spacious building, lighted with tracery windows in stone which are glazed with leaded lights, carrying out the same design and colour scheme as the vestibule.  To increase the seating accommodation of the church there are two transepts.  The rear of the church is in the formation of a triple arcade, enclosing the organ chamber, the rostrum, and the wall of the west transept.  The rostrum is especially pleasing feature, being richly decorated with tracery panels on the front portion, and has, as a background, a very fine piece of framing as a reredos; above this again is a triple lancet window, giving a soft and pleasing effect to the whole.  The whole of the rostrum reredos and handsome communion furniture is in wainscot oak, wax-polished and fumed.  The seating is made of pine and to special design.  The roof trusses and principals are of pine and are decorated with tracery panels, to correspond with the windows of the church, are the whole of the heavier timbers of the roof have been stained dark to stand out in relief from the roof boarding which is in beautifully figured pine.  The system of ventilation is the exhaust principle, with fresh air hopper inlets.  The shafts are connected to an extractor in the roof, which is encased in an ornamental fleche in the form of a tall spire.  The heating is on the low pressure system, most suitable for this type of building.  The premises at the rear are very commodious, consisting of a church parlour, vestries, and lavatories with every convenience.  The heating apparatus is erected in a specially formed chamber under the vestry, which has a fireproof floor, and is approached from the outside.  The architect is Mr A. E. Lambert, 28 Park Row, Nottingham; and the builders, Messrs’ D. Parks and Son, Grantham”.

The spire has since been removed and a more up to date heating system has been installed.  One very interesting architectural feature from the old church, which had been demolished the year before, was retained in the new building.  An oval plaque provided a link with thevery beginnings of Wesleyanism is Swinton; let the Mexborough and Swinton Times once more take up the story.


“The building presented a charming and restful scene to the congregation, which quickly thronged it.  The Church had been most tastefully decorated with plants generously supplied by Mr A. Woodward, gardener at Oakwood Grange, Rotherham.  An interesting link between the new and the old was the tablet on the west wall above the choir, which ran as follows: – “See ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon him while He is near. “  – Isaiah Ch. 55 v 6 1815.  This table was originally a part of the architecture of the replaced building.

The service was bright and interesting throughout.  It was conducted by the Rev. J.Hornabrook, of Manchester, President Elect of the Wesleyan Conference, and he was assisted by the Superintendent Minister of the Wath Circuit, the Rev. Wright Shovelton.  Other Ministers present were the Rev. J. W. Farrady (Rawmarsh), the Rev. Hudson Kay (Hoyland) and Mr B. Bailey (Mexboro’) the Officers of the Church were well represented.  It is largely to Mr George Baker to whose untiring zeal and generosity the Wesleyan largely owe their new Church.  Indeed, they frankly own that without him their latest triumph could not have been accomplished.  Apart from his munificence, he has exhibited unfailing interest in the work, and has largely superintended the erection of the Church.  He has made it his duty to see that the specifications were correctly followed and the result is most satisfactory.  Many other staunch members of the Church have also given very liberally, and the workers have thrown their whole-heart and soul into the scheme, with very pleasing and successful results.  Indeed, the Wesleyans of Swinton deserve to be congratulated”.

Our illustrious reporter then went on to give details of the first sermon preached in the new church.  The editor certainly got his money’s worth that day with plenty of copy for the newspaper.


“During the service the congregation sang hymns “Lo!  God is here, let us adore”, “Great is the Lord our God”, “Christ is the Foundation” and “We love the Place O God”.

The Rev. J Hornabrook preached at some length from the text, “Jesus said unto her touch me not, for I am not ascended to my Father; Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father and to My God and your God”.  He has been to a good many opening ceremonies on occasions similar to that afternoon, and on such occasions he believed it was customary to preach on Divine worship and Divine work.  But as he came along in the train that morning he came across some words which confirmed him in his determination to preach from that text.  There was nothing they wanted so much in the Church today as the upward look.  The life of the Church seemed to be languishing.  Would that the Church could feel the presence of the living Christ.  There was great danger lest our conception of Christ should be dim and imperfect.  The earthly life of Jesus was obscure to most of them.  “Back to Jesus” was the motto of one theological school, but the earthly life of Jesus, speaking after the manner of men, was a failure.  He accomplished very little.  He gathered a few disciples around Him, it was true and He laid the foundation of His kingdom, but still His life was a failure, ending with shame and humiliation and defeat.  He did not assert Himself until after His resurrection.  It was on the heavenly life that the attention of the Church was riveted and they would have to get back to the first principles.  They were not to think less of the Christ of two thousand years ago but more of the Christ of today”.

Finally the proceedings drew to a close and Rev Hornabrook offered congratulations and thoughts of the future.  The man from the Times continued his faithfully reportage.


“At the conclusion of his sermon he congratulated the congregation of their new church.  It was bright, which was what he expected knowing the architect.  They had entered upon a new plan regarding their churches.  They did not despise the old severe barn-like structures.  Those old village chapels had accomplished great and glorious things for God and the nation.  But they were living in different times from those of their fathers.   Their children had the aesthetic side cultivated as perhaps it was not cultivated in the early days.  Here there was everything to please the eye; everything was helpful to the spirit of devotion.  He congratulated them upon their beautiful building, and also upon the splendid efforts which they had already put forth.  He had no doubt that God’s blessing would rest upon them in their opening services and that bye and bye their desire would be fulfilled and the House be freed from debt.  A collection was taken up during the service by ladies of the Church”.

During the evening a business meeting took place in the church; the financial information reported gives us some interesting information on the local economy and business subscribers.  Let us once more follow the story through the columns of the Mexborough and Swinton Times.


“The chief feature of the evening, apart from the interesting financial statement presented by Mr Addy was a very fine address given by the Rev. J. Hornabrook.  There was again another fine congregation and the chair was occupied by Mr Anthony Sharpley of Rawmarsh, the other gentlemen on the platform, in addition to the President elect being the Rev. Wright Shovelton, the Rev. J. W. Farraday, the Rev. J. H. Kay, Mr. Bert Bailey, and Mr Addy, secretary to the building fund.

Mr Addy mentioned that the first meeting in connection with the erection of the new Chapel was held on June 11th, 1903 when there were 40 members present.  Promises were then made amounting to £531-10s and the progress since made was as follows:-

December 1903 £278
November 1905 £327-9s-3d
December 1908 £720-8s-3d
October 20th 1909 £816-0-9d
October 21st 1909 £1237 14s
June 15th 1910 £1396-10-8d

Subscription had also been received from the following:-

Mr Geo. Baker £25;  Mrs Hick, Wath, £5;  Mr Edward Baker, £5-5s;  Miss Jenkinson, £3; MrJackson, Sheffield, £2-2s;  Mr and Mrs Borrow, £2-2s;  Mr H. C. Poole, (Wath);  MrNewsum Ball, (Rotherham), Mr Ridgway (Parkgate), Mr C. W. Organ, Mr Willows (Bawtry), Mrs J. W. Hattersley, £1-1s.,  Mr Ellison, Mr W. P. Turner, Mr W. Roberts (Doncaster) £1 and the Sunday school’s final gift of £10 which brings up their total to £100 (applause)”.

The Bakers were ironmasters and owned the Baker and Bessemer steelworks at Kilnhurst; George Baker resided in the fine Greno House on Fitzwilliam Street.  Mr Organ was a coal merchant and Mrs Hattersley’s family operated the Queen’s Foundry, Swinton and a solicitor’s practice in Mexborough.  Mr Ellison was a partner in the chemical works and Mr Turner was in publishing.

In 1964 the church built a large extension to the rear known as Youth House.  In the 1990’s some first rate community facilities were created on site by creative use of the available space and selective demolition. The various rooms at the church are well used by members of St John’s and others from the local community.


St John’s Methodist Church

The Primitive Methodist Chapel’s were  built in 1869 and 1880 respectively.

The Wesleyan reform Chapel on Milton street was erected in 1873.

Wesleyan Church 1

Wesleyan Church, Swinton


Wesleyan Church 2

Wesleyan Church 3Wesleyan Church 4Wesleyan Church 5Wesleyan Church 6 Wesleyan Church stone laying ceremony, in which many distinguished clergy guests were present





Wesleyan Church 7

Wesleyan Church stone laying ceremony, in which many distinguished clergy guests were present




Unfortunately this building was demolished in the early 2000’s and apartments built on the site.  Swinton Heritage managed to retrieve the plaque in tact after receiving permission from the developer Mr Colin Parks.



Members of the Wesleyan reform in the 1920’s









A day trip awaits the members of the Ebeneezer Chapel


The Swinton Sunday School’s march in the 1920’s

primitive methodist church attendance register

sunday school service




summer school

Members of the Swinton Primitive Methodist Chapel at Great Ayton Summer School in 1928.




School Opening hours

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