18th Century Onwards

The 18th and 19th Centuries

 

In 1823 William Ryder arrived as Vicar, and the church was given a new lease of life. New roofs were put on the nave and chancel; new oak pews were installed and it was decided to follow the practice of other churches by blocking off the chancel from the nave and using it only for communion services and funerals. The arch was boarded up, the screens covered with curtains and a singing loft installed in front of the organ. Prior to this music had been provided by woodwinds and strings, with the musicians and choir seated in a gallery at the west end of church. Now the choir were near the organ, making the musicians redundant.

 

Heavy galleries were installed all the way around the church to increase the seating from about 300 to 1100 to accommodate the growing population. This involved raising the outer walls of the nave aisles by four to six feet thus hiding the lower part of the clerestory from the outside. The rough walling of the new part is in marked contrast to the smoothness of the old. The west door was built up to allow that end to be filled with pews. In its place, a small door was opened on the north side, directly opposite the southern porch. This was later filled in when another door was opened in the north wall near the vicarage. Evidence of both can still be seen today. William Ryder resigned in 1825 when the work was completed.

 

In 1839 Alfred Gatty became Vicar. He was not enamoured with what he saw and determined to return the church to its former dignity. In 1858 Gatty followed the example of Sheffield and Rotherham by reopening the chancel and removing the singing gallery. The other galleries were taken down in 1879 and the nave was re-seated with oak benches instead of pews. Marks where the galleries were fitted can still be seen today on the walls of the aisles

and on the arches of the crossing.

 

Into the 21st Century

 

Since World War II further extensive work has been carried out to the fabric of the church. The bells have been re-tuned and the wood in the tower replaced by steel girders. The chancel was given a new roof in 1958 and the medieval bosses in the chapels restored to their former glory.

 

In 1969 the beams of the roof in the nave were found to have been eaten away and the walls had leaned outwards nine inches on either side. A new roof was needed to prevent the whole structure from collapsing.

 

A major re-ordering of the nave took place in the mid 1980's. A new altar and lectern were provided and pews were removed from the back of the church, creating a space for social activities. Extra rooms were built in at the north eastern corner to provide a choir vestry and meeting room in 1989.

 

The year 2003 saw the creation of kitchen facilities and a toilet at the South western corner of the church. New lighting and sound systems have been installed and a replacement boiler for the central heating system.

 

In 2018 major refurbishment of the nave and aisle roofs was undertaken and the roof insulation upgraded. Much of the expense involved was covered by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Feofees [1]

 

Following many years of looking for a way to provide Level Access for both able and disabled persons, a solution was reached in 2019 that was acceptable to all interested heritage bodies. Work commenced in 2020 just as Covid-19 hit the world, completion of the works being delayed until late spring of 2021. Funding came from a wide range of sources including public donations and the Feofees. Part of the works involved the relocation of the font into a side chapel off the south aisle thus forming a baptistry which was dedicated on Palm Sunday 2021

 

Going forward the church is looking to improve the internal spaces it can offer to support the local community in their activities alongside the church’s use

 

Note [1] Feofees - The term is used today to mean a trustee (trust) invested with a freehold estate held in possession for a purpose, typically a charitable one. In the village of Ecclesfield, South Yorkshire, the feoffees contribute to looking after the fabric of the church, Church of St Mary, Ecclesfield and also make other donations for the benefit of the local population but in the past they used to have responsibility for law and order, punishment of the guilty and upkeep of the roads.