The History of the parish of Sandal Magna
West Yorkshire, England
- Prehistoric and Roman finds give an indication of occupation.
- Sandal is an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The name comes from the old English sand + halh, meaning ‘sandy nook of land’.
Medieval Descriptions of Sandal
Sandala: King’s land. Church. In Sandal, six carucates; in Walton, 8 carucates. Before 1066, held by King Edward the Confessor.
The Charge of Sandal: The whole village of Sandal maketh oath acknowledging that Lord John Count de Warrene holds the castle of Sandal and therewith, or receives of our Lord the King the whole Soke of Wakefield. There is belonging to the said castle a certain enclosed parcel of land of which he takes thirty acres of pasture for his deer, be the same more or less, which is worth 15s. per annum (or 6d. per acre), and the herbage belonging to the said inclosure, with the moat (or foss) of the said castle is yearly worth 6s. 8d. There is a garden with two granges which are yearly worth in herbage 10s. A pasture (supalis de Turneng) is worth yearly 6d. There are three rods of land in a certain croft which is yearly 12d. There are also in the field 6a. 1r. of meadow yearly worth 31s. 3d. or 5s. per acre. There is a stew or small fish pond being of no value because the fishes die in it.
- John Leland’s Account, early 16th century
Master Waterton, a man of fair lands hath a praity Manor House in Sandon Paroch. The chief Church of Sandon is appropriate to St. Stephance’s College at Westminster. At the est ende of this village is a praity Castelet on a hilling ground with a Diche aboute it. It longid to Warine Earl of Surrey: now to the King.
Sandal in medieval times would have been a small community centred on the church of St. Helen. It was dominated and protected by Sandal Castle. Fields and dense woodland surrounded the village.
The Battle of Wakefield
This was the most important event in the whole of Sandal’s story – one that changed the course of English history. The Wars of the Roses stemmed from a dispute between rival claimants for the throne. Richard, Duke of York was the principal opponent of the Lancastrian Henry VI. On 30th December 1460, in a blinding snowstorm, a battle was fought around Wakefield Green. The Yorkists, emerging from Sandal castle and finding themselves heavily outnumbered, were quickly defeated and the Duke of York killed by Lord Clifford One of his sons, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, fled the field, but was caught and killed by Clifford in the vicinity of Wakefield Bridge.
The church of Sandal Magna is of Saxon origin, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
It is dedicated to St. Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great. The festival of St. Helen is celebrated on 18th August.
No trace of the Saxon church remains. Around 1150 a new church in the shape of a Latin cross was built, under the direction of the de Warennes, Lords of the Manor of Wakefield. A private chapel (St. Nicholas’ Chantry) was founded in the north transept for the owners of Sandal Castle.
Around 1180 a narrow north aisle was built and an arcade broken through the north wall.
In the 14th century the church was almost completely rebuilt – a new chancel nearly double the length of the previous one, a higher tower, a south aisle, a chantry chapel (St. Mary’s) on the east end of the south transept and a vestry.
In the 16th century a larger chantry was built by the Waterton family, extending down to the east end of the church.
The 17th century saw the roof of the nave taken down and replaced by one of a lower pitch.
In the 18th century box pews were installed in the church, as well as galleries in the north and south aisles and at the west end.
1872 saw a major ‘restoration’ of the church. The west end was extended, a new south porch was built, and open pews were installed. Many churches underwent similar renovations in the Victorian period, to try to recreate the original medieval splendour.
In the later part of this century the east end of the church has been divided off by wooden screens, and the high altar brought forward to stand under the tower.
The Developing Parish
Sandal in the 17th & 18th centuries
The parish of Sandal in this period was a quiet place consisting of small cottages and farms, with the church and castle at its heart in Sandal Magna. There were several other villages and hamlets within the boundaries of the parish, including Walton, Chapelthorpe, Crigglestone, Agbrigg, West Bretton, Milnthorpe, Newmillerdam, Woodthorpe, Durkar, Standbridge, Pledwick and Kettlethorpe.
There were several gentry families living in the district: the Watertons of Walton, the Pilkingtons of Chevet, the Zouchs of Sandal, the Nortons of Kettlethorpe, the Beaumonts of Chapelthorpe, the Blackers of Crigglestone, all possessing elegant houses and parklands.
There were large areas of common land in the parish: Sandal Moor, Milnthorpe Green, Woodthorpe Hill, Pledwick Green, Humley Moor, Thurstonhaye, Newbiggin Hill, Boynehill Green, Crigglestone Cliff, Hall Green and Durkar Green. These commons were enclosed by the end of the 18th century.
Sandal parish was self-governing, run by the ‘vestry’ - a group of officials consisting of the vicar, churchwardens, overseer of the poor, surveyor of the highways, and parish constable.
The parish registers begin in 1651, and give details of baptisms, marriages and burials. Popular names for local children in the 17th century were Estor, Elin, Kathorin, Lidia, Margrett, Abigaill, Josuah, Nathaniell and Dariole. In the 18th century appear Tomissa, Mercy, Theodosia, Minerva, Jennett, Tobias, Munga and Orphlus. A large collection of other documents from the parish chest survive, making it one of the best collections in the Wakefield area.
In 1743 the Archbishop of York sent a questionnaire to Sandal. The vicar replied: ‘There are 360 families in the parish. 7 are of Independent persuasion, 1 of the people called Quakers, 4 are Roman Catholics.’
The old packhorse roads through Sandal ran down Manygates Lane – Chevet Lane, Milnthorpe Lane – Carr Lane and Pinfold Lane – Agbrigg Road. In 1756 an Act was passed to turnpike a road from Leeds to Sheffield via Wakefield and Barnsley (Barnsley Road). Gates were erected next to Pinfold Lane, and at Milnthorpe, strategically placed to stop people using the side roads to avoid paying the toll.
This was the era of the stage coach. Inns thrived through passing trade, as did highwaymen. One, John Nevison, was spectacularly captured asleep on a chair in the old Three Houses Inn, Sandal, in 1684.
Several charities were established in the parish in this period, to provide for the poor: Lady Bolle’s (1662), Wray’s (1683), Sprigonel’s (1607), Taylor’s (1686), Hardcastle’s (1677) and Zouch’s (1795).
Taylor’s Charity established Sandal Endowed School, which was probably housed in the church at first. A new school was built in 1747.
Victorian and Edwardian Sandal
This was the era of the Industrial Revolution. At the beginning of the 19th century, most people in England lived in the countryside and worked in agriculture; by the time of the First World War, most people lived in towns and worked in industry. The population grew from 9 million to 32 million. These changes were the most dramatic and far-reaching in our country’s history.
In the parish of Sandal, the number of inhabitants grew accordingly. The townships of Walton and Crigglestone experienced steady growth, as did Sandal Magna township until a sharp rise in the late 19th century:
Census figures -
Sandal Magna: in 1801: 765; in 1901: 6,843
Walton: in 1801: 315; in 1901: 745
Crigglestone: in 1801: 1,216; in 1901: 3,246
- The parish was still primarily agricultural until comparatively recent times, the chief crops being wheat, barley and turnips. However, industry did encroach – there were collieries and stone quarries at Crigglestone, Walton and Newmillerdam. The greatest change was in the development of the Sandal Common (Agbrigg) and Belle Vue areas. These became filled with terraced houses, churches, chapels, shops and schools. The working-class who lived in the district were employed in the nearby foundries, maltkilns, mills, brick works and railway engine sheds.
- Throughout the 19th century, many of the old gentry families continued to live in the parish. However, these were joined by the new middle-classes who had made their money in industry, such as the Green family (ironfounders and engineers) and the Fernandes family (corn millers and brewers). They built large villas, and Sandal gained a reputation as a fashionable suburb of Wakefield.
- Transport facilities were improved. Railway stations opened at Sandal and Walton. A horse-drawn omnibus operated, to be replaced by an electric tramway in 1904. The terminus was at the Castle Inn. This enabled much greater mobility for Sandal residents, although many people still walked to Wakefield.
- Sandal parish experienced two royal visits. Princess (later Queen) Victoria, took tea with her mother at Mrs Hargrave’s home at Sandal Park in 1835. In 1912, King George V and Queen Mary visited Newmillerdam.
- Sandal was a diverse community, a mixture of old established gentry and farming families and new middle and working-class families, many of these being migrants from elsewhere in Yorkshire and beyond. However, close ties existed in the parish, and the many clubs and societies were well attended. Each village and hamlet had its own traditions and customs. The ancient annual Sandal Feast was held on the second Monday in September. This easy-going way of life, which lasted well into the 20th century, is still remembered with affection by long-term residents of the parish of Sandal Magna.
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© Angela Petyt 1998-2001. All rights reserved.