Whiston Parish Church
St Mary Magdalene, Whiston; Rotherham

Church History: Part 1 - 1200 - 1300


The history of Whiston Parish Church begins circa 1188. Documented evidence from this year shows that a chapel on the current site had not only being built, but belonged to the Church at Ecclesfield, Sheffield; which in turn was shown to be a possession of the Benedictine Abbey of St Wandrille, at Fontenelle in Normandy, France.

In the early days of the church, Whiston was a larger parish that it is today, but it served a much smaller population (because Whiston was an entirely rural village rather than an enclosed suburb of Rotherham). This meant that the original building that was constructed during the Norman era was of a more modest size when compared to the larger structure we worship in now. As a consequence, as you make your way through the entrance porch (a Victorian-era addition as we shall see later) and enter into the main building by its south-west corner, you are actually standing in the oldest part of the Church - please see the diagram, below. High up on the western wall, between the tower and the southern aisle, there is a window which dates from this period. Moreover, if you look closely, you will notice that the walls in this part of the church are not plastered and whitewashed like they are in the other - more modern - areas. This wall and this corner date from around 1180 and are not only the oldest parts of the church, but are thought to be amongst the oldest structures in Whiston. At this point, the entire original building occupied an area that is roughly the same size as the current southern aisle and southern nave in today's church.

Next, Whiston is believed to have acquired Parish status in 1236 and the Revd Robert de Doncaster (spelt 'Danecastre') was installed as the first Rector. Finally, in circa 1250, the Church's distinctive tower was constructed and the present, south doorway was installed - replacing an earlier (Norman) west doorway as the main entrance to the building.

With the basic Church structure established, it appears that there was little development or alterations to the building for at least the next 200 years. We therefore end our look at the early church's history and, in part two, move on to examine the period from 1400 - 1600 AD.

Church Diagram