LANDMARK celebrations at a Grade II*-listed church in the heart of Barnsley will begin in the new year - the building’s 200th in its current form.
St Mary’s Church has been carrying out services, marriages and funerals for far longer than the building, erected in 1822, has been in situ - with record of a church on the land going back as far as 1180.
One of the oldest churches in the borough, the foundations of St Mary’s are thought to date from the eighth century.
The tower, which was erected in around 1380, was kept during the building of the current church in 1822 - keeping a link to its past.
But it’s the present that members of the Friends of Barnsley St Mary’s group are more concerned with, as they plan a catalogue of events to engage people to discover the church’s rich history.
Rev Canon Stephen Race, rector of St Mary’s since 2014, said: “The new building was consecrated on October 22, 1822 and this date will provide the main focus for our service of Thanksgiving in 2022.
“The same date was used for the dedication of the war memorial chapel in 1922 and we will also commemorate its centenary and the return of the now framed Barnsley Pals Colours.
“The more I learn about this beautiful church, the more I appreciate the love that has been poured into her over the centuries by local people.
“She has touched so many lives with baptisms, weddings, funerals and other special services. Lots of people - clergy and congregation - have left their mark on our memorials, stained glass windows and monumental inscriptions.”
The memorial chapel Rev Stephen refers to is the church’s former lady chapel, now dedicated to remembering the war dead, which features a distinctive memorial to 200 Barnsley soldiers who fell during the First World War.
That memorial - a hexagonal red and white-painted timber pillar which stretches up to the ceiling - was renovated and rededicated last September.
Bringing the water-damaged pillar back to its full glory was one part St Mary’s has played in providing a lasting monument to the borough’s war history - with its hosting of the restored Barnsley Pals colours another.
The colours of the 13th (First Barnsley) and 14th York and Lancaster Regiments were found in a cupboard in 1990, slowly turning to dust after being awarded in 1919.
Historian Jane Ainsworth, volunteer co-ordinator of the Barnsley Pals Colours Project, rediscovered them in 2013 while researching war memorials for her project to create a local roll of honour.
Jane said: “My involvement with St Mary’s Church began with the Barnsley Pals Colours Project but I was inspired to undertake much more research into this magnificent building and her contents.
“Her 840-year history on our doorstep deserves greater exposure and for the stories of individuals involved to be uncovered.”