Ecclesfield Church Part One

Despite the fact that there is no mention of a church in the village at the time of Domesday, the name Ecclesfield (Eccles is the old British word for Church: Therefore the village is the church in the field) is indicative of some religious building pre-dating the Norman Conquest. The ancient parish boundaries probably date from Saxon times.

The early history of the church is shrouded in the mists of time. Popularly the date of founding is given as 1111, but no written records survive to support this date. None of the fabric of the current building is from this time, but there certainly was a church here in the reign of Henry I (1100 – 1135), when the monks of St. Wandrille obtained possession of it.

The appointment of Vicars in the early days seems to have been a haphazard affair. In a deed of 1245, the Abbot of St. Wandrille, in Normandy, granted the "perpetual vicarage of Ecclesfield" to Jeremiah, who was the abbey’s clerk in the village. Yet by 1310 no Vicar, or any other person having cure of the souls of the parishioners had been appointed. This situation was rectified when Archbishop Greenfield decreed that the Abbot of St. Wandrille should present a perpetual Vicar in both the Church of Ecclesfield and the Chapelry of Bradfield and that the Monastery should build a house for the said Vicar within one year. The living was also to include all the small tithes within the said parish.

The first of these Vicars was Dom. Robertus de Bosco, a monk from St. Wandrille’s Abbey who was instituted on 16th April 1311. By 1342 the value of the tithes from the parish was £43, 5s, 2d as well as 30 acres of meadowland valued at 60 shillings per annum.

In 1386 Richard II gave the Church and all the other possessions of the Priory to the Carthusian Monks of Coventry, who appointed Vicars to look after the spiritual welfare of the villagers until the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. At the end of the 15th century, Thomas Clarke was Vicar of Ecclesfield and it was during his incumbency that the present building was erected, incorporating parts of earlier churches. The parishioners would have contributed the larger part of the monies required and would have also supplied materials and labour, while St. Anne’s in Coventry would have been honour bound to repair the chancel and they also gave the east window.

Additions to the fabric and especially to the wealth of stained glass continued to be made up to the middle of the 17th century. In 1620 Dodsworth visited Ecclesfield and remarked "This church is called (and that deservedly) by the vulgar the Mynster of the Moores, being the fairest church for stone, wood, glase, and neat keeping, that I ever came in of country church".

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