When the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam provided the village of Wentworth with a huge new parish church in 1877, he made sure its predecessor would not remain in use.
The final service in the old church was evensong on Sunday July 29th 1877, prior to the consecration of the new church by the Archbishop of York two days later on Tuesday July 31st. Shortly afterwards, the old Holy Trinity parish church was stripped of its roof and some of its walls, leaving only the tower and the Wentworth Chapel containing monuments to the Earl’s distant ancestors from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The most distinguished of these is Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (1593 -1641), executed in the run-up to the English Civil War. No-one knows where his body is buried, though some in Wentworth say his grave is near the monument that his son erected in the old church.
Later members of the family were buried in a vault in the churchyard provided by the 4th Earl, but in the twentieth century the Fitzwilliams preferred more modest graves to the south of the new church.
The churchyard of the old church, however, contains some fascinating graves – the Marquis of Rockingham’s housekeeper, Miss Hannah Jennet, and endless other estate workers, Joshua Oxley (d 1803), Edward Carr (d 1859) and Job Winter (d 1873), all drowned in Elsecar Reservoir, and John Hague, “local preacher amongst the people who call themselves Methodists”.
Most poignant of all is Chow Kwang Tseay, who came to England in 1847 and was baptised John Dennis Blonde, taking his surname from the ship that brought him.
The Wentworth Chapel was restored, and the ruined parts of the old church consolidated, in 1925 by the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam. It was declared redundant in 1976 and is now vested in the Churches Conservation Trust.