Churchyard Tour

Welcome to Darfield Churchyard, where you can see interesting gravestones, find out about interesting people and also see a large variety of trees and plants. There are many Spring flowers – in February come the snowdrops, followed by the daffodils and crocus in March, the celandine and then the bluebells in April. The trees include Horse Chestnut, Sycamore, Beech, Weeping Ash, Common Lime, Walnut, Holly, Yew, Lombardy Poplar and Plane.

Here are some of the graves as indicated on the above map:

  1. Canon Sorby was rector of Darfield for 43 years. During his time at Darfield he was responsible for a lot of restoration of the church building. He was also responsible for ‘The Darfield Judgement’, when in 1906 he challenged the Education Authority and won. The House of Lords decreed that any child who attended church on Ascension Day (which is always on a Thursday) could have the day off school to do so. For many years, until around the 1970’s, children of the Church School in Darfield attended the church service in the morning and then had the rest of the day off.
  2. Robert Milthorpe’s grave stone tells the sad and unusual story of his death. His employer seems to have been trying to make it very clear that the accident was Robert’s fault and not that of the employer.
  3. The two oldest known gravestones in the churchyard date from November and December 1699 and are in memory of Robert Day and Grace, the wife of Richard Birks.
  4. William Allerton was killed in a railway accident in 1870 at Ardsley station (where the McDonalds restaurant now stands). A train of fully loaded runaway wagons smashed into a passenger train which had just arrived at the station. Fourteen people were killed and many more were severely injured.
  5. Not a headstone but a medieval cross – or at least part of one! The top part has disappeared. This cross would have played an important role in religious festivals in the middle ages between 1100 and 1500.
  6. The memorial to ten men killed in the Houghton Main Colliery cage disaster of 30th December 1886. The cage, which normally reached the bottom of the shaft in three minutes, fell the distance in just 12 seconds and hit the bottom of the shaft at a speed of 210 mph, killing all ten men on board. These included three families where father and son were killed.
  7. Not all people mentioned on the grave stones are actually buried in the grave. For example Walter Jobling was killed in action in the World War 1, May 1918 and was buried at Dickiebusch in Belgium. His grave could not be found after the war ended so he is remembered on the memorial at Tyne Cot near Ypres, but his family wanted a memory of him in the village where he had been born and lived. Another gravestone has mention of William Willetts who died in Beaufort West, South Africa, in January 1911. He is remembered on the grave of his wife and parents who all died in Darfield.
  8. Some people died elsewhere but then their body was brought back to Darfield for burial. Emily Wraith was a young lady who was working at Harvard College in America when she died (after an operation for appendicitis). Her employer was the millionaire Vanderbilt family and it was probably they who paid for her body to be brought back to the place of her birth.
  9. There are five War Graves Commission graves in the churchyard, four of which are the usual simple white headstone. These men died from wounds received in World War 1 or 2. This headstone is for Private Leonard Hardcastle who died in 1919 from wounds received in France. He had a military funeral which included a firing of rifles.
  10. Ebenezer Elliott was buried in 1849, aged 68 years. He was remembered as the ‘Corn Law Rhymer’ as he wrote poems about the plight of the poor people of England when the ‘Corn Laws’ made the price of bread too much for the ordinary man. Railings surround his grave. During World War 2 every bit of ironwork from the village and the churchyard was taken to melt down for the ‘war effort’, but they left the railings around Ebenezer’s grave. He was buried beneath a Hawthorne tree, as was his wish.
  11. The Taylor family was one of the families who lived at Middlewood Hall in Darfield. The head of this family was called ‘The Lord of the Manor’.
  12. In 1857 189 men and boys lost their lives in the Lundhill Colliery explosion. Most of these are buried near this monument. 90 women were widowed and 220 children lost their father. The event was so famous that people came from all over the country to see the site of the explosion. Although Lundhill is near Wombwell, it was in the parish of Darfield in 1857.
  13. Henry Cross was a drover from Lincolnshire where he drove sheep and cattle from Lincolnshire to Yorkshire. He was taken ill whilst passing through the village and died here in 1787, aged 41.