wpcc10422e.jpg St Mary’s Church 

The Parish of South Darley


How it all began

The parish of South Darley, or Wensley and Snitterton as it then was,  part of the parish of St Helens, Darley Dale. There was a Methodist church in Wensley

On February 18th 1838, the Rector the reverend Benjamin Lawrence died and left £1000.00 towards a chapel of ease in the district, but the work had to be started within two years. A further £1400.00 was raised and the foundation stone was laid on February 17th 1840. It was consecrated on June 19th 1845.

The Original Church

wp987f0f28_0f.jpg This was said to be a miniature copy of the church at Troyes in Normandy. This has never been clearly identified, as there are many churches, including the cathedral, at Troyes.

The original nave and tower are the same, but the sanctuary only extended 7 feet behind the chancel arch. There was also a gallery. The doorway can still be seen in the ringing chamber of the tower.

There were seats for 226, and the central isle was 9 feet wide with a stove in the middle.

An order in council of August 8th 1845 created the Chapelry curacy. The reverend William Alfred John Sandilands, BD, was the first incumbent.

The Architect

This was Joseph Mitchell of Sheffield.


He practiced from 1840- 1862. St Mary's is his first church.

Other Churches with Mitchell as architect included

A: Brimington Chesterfield - retaining the tower of 1796-1846/7

B: Christchurch, Gleadless Road Heeley. 1846-48. Then Extended in June 1890 and 1897.

C: Sheffield, St Jude’s Moorfields. 1849 -52.

Before the tower was roofed it collapsed into the completed nave. Workmen had been worried by the 'give' in the piers and abutments, but Mitchell considered the 'yield' not out of the ordinary with such a heavy super structure. Fortunately it collapsed on Sunday afternoon, when no workmen were in.

D: St Peters Preston 1852-53. Tower spire and chancel.

E: Kegworth, Leicestershire. 1860. Extensive restoration.

F: Hathern, Loughborough. 1861-2. Extensive restoration and rebuilding was made.  

Two other churches have since been demolished.  

Further changes to St Mary’s

wp2cedbbfc_0f.jpg 1863/4: Removal of the gallery.

1880/82: Vestry built.

1885/6: The east wall was taken down, and 18 feet added, to give the present chancel.

The tiles are Minton and Hollins.

A vault was built under it - the present parish room - with new heating ducts.

The stove was moved.

Longer benches were bought to replace the seats. The total cost was £510.00

Joseph Mitchell had died, but his son Mitchell-Withers was the Architect. He had been left a fortune on condition he took on the name withers. These alterations were to add 40 sittings and comfort and convenience. After the extension furniture was added:

Choir Stalls: given by Mr. Sleigh.

Carved oak reredos: given by Mr. John Potter

Carved oak eagle lectern.

The front had an oak cover

The Pulpit was oak - On the south side.

There were choir robes for 12 men and 12 boys. wp50039f08_0f.jpg

In 1889 the churchyard was extended to almost its present size.

In 1901/2 the pulpit of Stancliffe stone on the North side replaced that on the south side.

W Rushworth & Sons of Liverpool installed the organ at a cost of £210.00. It was reconditioned in 1935 and again in 1989 to the memory of Peter Cotman.

The litany desk was replaced.

In 1923 Electric lighting was installed.  

The Windows

The East window was Designed by Burne-Jones and installed by William Morris & Co. It is to the memory of Joseph Taylor who built Wensley Reading Room. He died in 1892. By 1909 three other windows were installed. One of them was installed to the memory of Mr. Booth a former vicar on the north side near the pulpit. Two on the South side near the lectern. It would be helpful to know what the name is of Mr. George Robert Halls mother. She died in 1888 but was not buried at St Mary’s. (See second window on right).

The war memorial window by Abbott & Co. (Lancaster) Ltd With Oker Hill on was dedicated in 1950.

The Window in memory of Mrs. Heathcote-Potter was dedicated in 1956.

The Sanctuary

In 1938 four local men removed a step and paved the area with Stancliff stone. A local craftsman Mr. Bowler made a new altar. The curtains were all renewed, the four hand made Riddell posts, the four 'Nurenberg angels', the crucifix and candlesticks of hand beaten copper, silver plated, and wood candlesticks were all bought. Two altar vases were given by Mrs. Ward and Miss A Ward. New sanctuary rails were installed in 1964.

The Eight Bells - carillon wp2d0d8773_0f.jpg

This was installed by J Taylor’s of Loughborough in 1945.

The Clock

This was installed in 1950

Kitchen and W.C. - 1971

Bookcase in memory of Charles Bloore - 1972.

The Churchyard was again extended in 1982.

In 1883 the population was 557. Not that different from today. Easter communicants were around 80.  

By Margaret Wood, © www.wensleydale.org.uk