If stones could speak plain English, leaving nothing to inference or conjecture, this quiet village of Tickhill now remote from modern lines of traffic, could tell us a long and interesting story. Its castle, its church, its three ancient hospitals, its friary, its Anglo-Saxon right of market, which exists by prescription and not by charter, all point to the old-world importance and historic interest of Tickhill. Dadesley was its Anglo-Saxon name and Domesday notices its citizens, its mill and its church. Situated near Ermyn Street the great North Road from London to York, Dadesley was a great centre of trade between the West Riding and Bawtry a port in those days, on the river Idle. After the conquest, Tickhill became the centre of Roger de Busli's domain, a very wide one for it contained more than sixty knights fees and according to Hunter " spread over no inconsiderable portion of five neighbouring counties."

St Mary's church, Tickhill.
St Mary's church, Tickhill.

But I must limit my paper to the history of the church. We have evidence then in Domesday of the existence of a pre-Norman church, built, to use a phrase of the Venerable Bede's, "according to the manner of the Romans." There is no portion of this Anglo-Saxon church left here at Tickhill, but at Laughton two miles beyond the lake at Roche Abbey, a good deal of Primitive Romanesque work is still to be seen. Its main features were " long and short work " in the door-jambs and wall-angles, short plump shafts in doorways and windows, windows set high and splayed, when glazed, both within and without; and arches running straight through the wall. Such a church must have existed at Dadesley, but unfortunately we have no remains of it left, for the Norman prelates and nobles were inspired with the newer style of their own land and were careless of retaining the ruder native work of the Anglo-Saxons.

The present church is dedicated to St. Mary, and the earliest notice I can find is this:—that it was granted by Thurstan, Archbishop of York to the Canons of St. Oswald of Nostell, and that Henry I. confirmed this grant by charter. As Thurstan was made Archbishop in 1114, and Henry I. died in 1135, we have a definite interval of twenty-one years for these two grants. But as none of the work here is purely Norman, it is clear that there was no immediate destruction of the Domesday church. As the earliest type to be found here is distinctly Transitional Norman, there can be little doubt that no rebuilding was commenced at Tickhill till Henry II.'s time. Roche Abbey you will find is built in the same style. Its charter granted as early as 1147, came from the hands of Richard de Busli, of Tickhill, and Richard Fitz Turgis, lord of Hooton, and seeing that Roche Abbey and the tower bay of Tickhill are so alike in style, it is highly probable Richard de Busli inaugurated the Transitional work in his own village church. What portions have we left of this Transitional Norman work ? Notice the following proofs and indications. Take the tower end of the church first, and confining ourselves to its lowest stage, let us notice that the fine pillars of the tower arches have the two bowtell mouldings, both plain and filleted ; also the nail head ornament is to be seen on the label mould of the arches, and in the north bay underneath the tower there is a peculiarity worth noticing; the nail-head ornament turns off diminuendo to the right. Turning into the present vestry on the south side, let us notice first the plain Norman doorway giving approach to the tower, and in the corner of the arcade do not fail to notice particularly a Norman volute capital with square abacus. Then walk to the east end of the south arcade and note that there is a corbel projecting from the east wall of this south aisle and set at the same height as the volute capital. They are indications of the existence of a very early arcade of the Transitional Norman type. Belonging to the same period is a doorway in the chancel, leading now to the Laughton chapel to the north. Strange to say, this door has been reversed at some period of reconstruction, originally it must have been an outside door and indicates the original absence of chancel aisles. This fact is also shewn by the return buttresses found outside at the east end of the present chancel and the lancet windows originally outside windows. Last of all we have the fine western entrance, which is composed of a pointed arch resting on three detached and receding pillars to the jambs with the dog-tooth ornament interspersed, the jambs themselves being decorated with both the dog-tooth and nail-head ornament. The capitals to the pillars are bell-shaped, and have the nail-head ornament on the abaci. The archway has four planes of mouldings, these being composed of the bowtell and filleted bowtell interspersed with four dog-tooth mouldings; the lower moulding also having the nail-head ornament on either side of the bowtell. Taking this west doorway, in conjunction with the lancet windows on the north side of the chancel, together with south arcade in the chancel, which is I think Early English (though about this portion I feel some uncertainty), may we not fairly conclude that the second Tickhill Church was built towards the close of the 12th century and at the end of the Transitional Norman period.

Let us consider next, what we have in this church of the Decorated period of architecture, that is to say between 1245 and 1360.

The chapel on the north side of the chancel now called the Laughton chapel, but built by the Eastfield family is undoubtedly an addition of the Decorated period. That it is an addition to the original church is shewn by the return buttresses, the chancel lancet windows, and the reverted chancel-door. But quite apart from these facts, the chapel windows themselves, two in number are fine examples of this period, the eastern one being much the later as its tracery is flamboyant, a style coeval in France with the Perpendicular in England. In this later window of the chapel, there is practically a Perpendicular moulding. It should be noticed too, that the buttresses of this chapel are somewhat different in type from the rest. They have cusped pediments and Decorated plinths.

But before leaving this Laughton chapel, let us particularly notice the corbelled arch between the chapel and the chancel. It is certainly of the Decorated period; but it is not in its original position. Mr. Gleave suggests that it may have stood originally as the arch between chancel and nave. And this is not at all unlikely for the following reasons:—

(1). The arch is not in its original position. This fact is proved by the stones of the now incomplete lancet window in the chancel.

(2). It is corbelled as a chancel arch would be.

(3). Its capitals, on either side, have been cut away to carry a rood screen apparently.

(4). This archway is exactly the width of the old stone work in the present chancel arch wall.

(5). Part of the old chancel screen is now in this lowered archway.

The approach by staircase to both the rood screen and also to the roof of the church by an exterior doorway on the south side, is shewn by a door in the north aisle, and two blocked up doorways in the staircase.

So much for the Decorated period in this fine church. It has its problems and I make no pretence to a definite solution of them.

In respect of the late Perpendicular work it is nearly all plain sailing.

There can be little doubt, I think, that William de Estfield, seneschal of Philippa of Hainault, Queen of Edward III., together with the rich merchants of this manor set about building the present church and left us a very fine example indeed of the Perpendicular period. William de Estfield is buried within the altar-rails, and a tomb on the north side ornamented with quatrefoils is said to be his. Affixed to the wall above his tomb is a brass plate bearing an inscription to his memory. His arms too appear over the chancel arch and on the western face of the tower.

All the work that I have not previously noticed is of the Perpendicular period. It is early and good, and there is so much of it left, that Hunter in his work on the Deanery of Doncaster, has been led into the mistaken statement that this church is "of one design." The nave consists of four lofty bays. The arches are supported by clustered columns, and above the two arcades which are alike, are eight clerestory windows on either side, of an unusually lofty and imposing character, I know of no other clerestory like it. The Perpendicular window over the chancel arch is especially good and marvellous in effectiveness. The chancel arch too is a very fine example. Both north and south aisles, as may be seen from both windows and buttresses, are similar in character. In the east window of the chancel alone does any modern tracery, as far as I know, appear. There the tracery, with its thin mullions and inartistic cusps, is distinctly modern. The south chancel door has the wave moulding of this period. The south nave door has angular crocketed finials and corner buttresses. The north nave door has the ogee moulding so noticeable in the nave arcading, and its buttresses are pedimented and finial crocketed. Lastly let us return to the exterior history of the tower.

Here I should like to quote a descriptive extract from the Northern Star and Yorkshire Magazine of 1817. The extract has been kindly sent to me by Miss Ella Alderson, of Tickhill House.

The tower "is separated into three divisions, the upper surmounted with an embattled parapet with finials and eight pinnacles; below these are the eight belfry windows and a border of quatrefoils. The centre division has a niche on each face, ornamented with tracery and finials. In the south is a king crowned, sitting with a cross between his knees, bearing the image of our Saviour." .... "The east has a queen crowned, sitting and embracing a child standing on her right hand, while her left bears a sceptre." .... "In the north there is a venerable bearded figure in flowing robes, with a globe in his left hand and a singular hat or hood turning upwards from his head. In the western niche is a similar figure with his hands extended and crossed over the breast, and there are two points or peaks descending from the head dress and uniting at the mouth. On one side of this niche is a full length figure in armour with a coronet on his head, his hands clasped as in prayer, and a child standing by his side; on the other side is a female figure almost obliterated; these last figures are in alto relievo. Beneath these at the top of a lofty and beautiful ramified window " (of the Perpendicular period but inserted in the E. E. wall-work) " is a shield, a cross supported by angels and on each side a series of shields suspended by bands and containing the arms of England and France, and those of the benefactors to the church with their badges and monograms."

Hunter, in his Deanery of Doncaster, also points out that the arms of Castile and Leon (quarterly, first and fourth, gules, a castle triple-towered or; second and third, argent, a lion rampant gules), appear along with those of England outside the tower. Now in 1372, Tickhill Castle was given to John of Gaunt and became an appanage of his duchy of Lancaster. In 1373, the very next year John of Gaunt assumed the title of King of Castile and Leon, and continued to assume that title till 1399. These two dates then, 1373 and 1399, give the limits of an interval of twenty-six years during which the upper part of the tower was in all probability built. Bloom in his " Heraldry of West Riding Churches, Part III, p. 62" speaks of two of these tower shields as bearing merchants' devices, and being a proof that the present church was largely the work of Tickhill merchants. The groining of the tower vault should not be disregarded. Apparently it was begun in Perpendicular times and never completed. Formerly the church had four chantries. In Dodsworth's time there was an inscription which placed the one dedicated to our Lady in the south chapel. Another to St. Helen was founded in 1348; a third to the Blessed Trinity was newly built in 1354, and there was a fourth chantry to the Holy Rood. Judging from the two piscinas, still to be seen in the south aisle of the nave, two of the chantries were there, while the remaining one would be in the Laughton chapel on the north. It is impossible now, to say which was which, but probably that to the Holy Trinity would be in the Decorated chapel to the north, i.e. in the Laughton chapel as it is now called.

The following are further items of interest:—

In the North chapel, there is a founder's tomb ; the slab has an incised cross fleury.

In the chancel on the north side of the altar is an altar tomb to William Eastfield, Seneschal of Holderness and the honour of Tickhill who died in 1386. This date reduces the twenty-six years' limit for building the tower to thirteen years perhaps.

On the south of the altar there is a carved Roche Abbey stone slab bearing an inscription to John Sandford 1429.

A good deal of ancient stained glass will be found in one of the south aisle windows.

At the west end of the north aisle is a very handsome monument of marble, said by Leland to have been brought from the Priory of St. Augustine's, Tickhill. It is to the memory of Richard FitzWilliam, Knt, who died the 2nd day of September, A.D., 1478, and Elizabeth Clarel his wife, who died the 12th day of May, A.D. 1496. It is also to the memory of Sir Thomas FitzWilliam, Knight, and Lady Neville, daughter of John, Marquess Montagu. A good deal of the inscription, which runs round the top is now illegible. There are two recumbent figures represented in the dress of the time and the husband's surtout has the arms of FitzWilliam on it. The monument is in the style of Queen Elizabeth's early days; the arabesques at once set aside an earlier date than the 16th century. The front of the monument is divided into three panels containing three shields. The centre one has six martlets or birds 3, 2, 1, for Clarel—on the right FitzWilliam impaling Clarel—on the left FitzWilliam alone. In a panel on the west end is a shield supported by winged boys with the arms of FitzWilliam, impaling Neville, Monthermer and Montagu. The east and north sides of the monument have been destroyed. There is also a large stone coffin which has a fine cross fleury sculptured on the lid. An illustration of this slab is given in Boutell's Christian Monuments.

The Rev. W. E. Bury, rector of Screveton, who is the youngest son of the late vicar of Tickhill, informs me that about fifty years ago, much of the church, including the nave arcades, was covered with whitewash. While taking this whitewash off, frescoes were discovered in the spandrels of the arcades, and were twelve in number. The only one that Mr. Bury can recall, is one that pictured "a hind let loose." This no doubt had reference to Genesis xlix, 21, where Naphtali is spoken of as "a hind let loose" ; and the frescoes had, we infer, reference to the twelve patriarchs and their blessings by Jacob, their father, as given in this forty-ninth chapter of the book of Genesis. In the course of later restoration these frescoes have disappeared ; perhaps it was not possible to preserve them.

During the present and last generation, the Misses Alderson, great aunts of the present vicar, have been generous benefactors of the church. The excellent modern stained glass now in the large west window, and in the two aisle windows to the west are due to their beneficence, besides other work, which at the moment of writing I am not able to detail.

Perhaps we ought not to leave Tickhill to-day without a brief reference being made to other religious buildings belonging to the village. They are further evidence of the wealth and importance of this quietest of villages, in mediaeval times.

Eleanor, Queen of Henry II., founded a collegiate church for four prebendaries within the Castle walls.

In the Sheffield and Rotherham district there used to be in all, twelve hospitals. In the middle ages, these were strictly religious houses. Sometimes they were hospitals for the sick, sometimes alms-houses, sometimes places of hospitality to travellers. Well, of these twelve, throughout a wide district, it is a noticeable fact that Tickhill possessed three.

One called the Maison Dieu was founded by John of Gaunt, in Hunter's time it had become an almshouse.

There was also a hospital dedicated to St. Leonard. It is represented at the present time by a building situated in the street called Northgate and now used as a parish room. It has a very interesting black and white timbered front, with Perpendicular pillars and battlemented capitals. It bears the date 1470; but the foundation dates at the latest from 1225 as according to Tanner (Notitia Monastica 684), Archbishop Walter de Grey in that year recommended it to the charity of all good people.

The third hospital was on Blyth Road, Its site is now occupied by the modern residence of Sandrock.

Another religious foundation was the Priory of Augustine Friars. This order was founded late in the 13th century at a time when Innocent IV. attempted to incorporate under one rule the smaller religious communities which had become numerous and independent.

The Market Cross dates from the end of the 18th century. It was erected by the Rev. Christopher Alderson, who was rector of Tickhill at that time, from a design made by the poet Mason, the friend and literary executor of Gray, who held the living of Ashton and was precentor of York Cathedral. He died in 1797.