LANDMARK celebrations at a Grade II*-listed church in the heart of Barnsley town centre took place at the weekend to mark its anniversary.
A double celebration of the bicentenary of the current St Mary’s building, completed in 1822, and centenary of the chapel, dedicated in 1922, saw local leaders including Mayor of Barnsley Sarah Tattersall and Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis come together on Saturday.
St Mary’s has been carrying out services, marriages and funerals for far longer than the building has been in situ - with records 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.
Jane Ainsworth, from the Friends of St Mary’s, said: “The celebration was the culmination of a series of events we have hosted this year.
“As it happens, it was also the swansong for Rev Canon Stephen Race before he takes up his well-deserved new appointment as Bishop of Beverley - he will be missed greatly in Barnsley.
“It was a perfect day for assembling in St Mary’s Gate for the unveiling of the new blue plaque which the mayor generously purchased to support us.
“The autumnal trees in the churchyard looked golden and the stonework of the church glowed as it must have done when new, the stains of coal dust subdued by sunlight.”
The Friends of St Mary’s have been helped by joinery lecturers and students to develop new bespoke ashwood stands for the colours of of the 13th (First Barnsley) and 14th York and Lancaster Regiments, painstakingly restored and now displayed at the town centre church after being found damaged in 1990.
The colours - awarded in 1919 - were revealed on Saturday.
“The war memorial chapel looked magnificent with the framed Barnsley Pals colours on their stands back where they belong, the replicas and the conserved pillar with 200 names,” Jane added.
“It was satisfying for Fr Stephen and I to see, having worked on this project together since 2016.
“We are grateful for the support of Dan Jarvis MP MBE, the previous Lord-Lieutenant Andrew Coombe, former clergy and representatives of the Royal British Legion, Barnsley Family History Society and Barnsley Civic Trust plus everyone who joined us for this special joyous and memorable occasion.”
Rev Stephen said: “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.”