The windows in the south aisle are by the renowned C.E. Kempe (1837-1907). Others are of various periods in time and by unknown makers, but are no less beautiful for that.
I had traveled to Hatfield to search for any surviving signs of the Smythe family remaining inside the church, even though I had read in Rev. Joseph Hunter's writings that most monumental inscriptions recorded by antiquarians during earlier times had either been lost through decay or swept away when the church was refurbished during the late 18th Century. Sadly, I found none, as I had fully expected, but nonetheless I had long wanted to see the place where that family had gathered for worship.
Based upon the birth of her first recorded Simpkinson child in 1555, some ten years prior to the birth of her son, William Brewster , Mary Smythe was born sometime in the 1530s,
Although her father, William Smythe, styled himself as of 'Stainforth and Hatfield', Mary was probably baptized in the church at Hatfield. Stainforth once had a tiny chapel but it was dissolved at the onset of the Reformation. Mary may have briefly returned to Hatfield after the death of her first husband. John Simpkinson, in 1562 and married her second, William Brewster Senior, in this church.
In the photo to the right, above the communion table, we see a part of the East window, telling the story of Jesus's life, beginning at the bottom left hand corner with his birth in Bethlehem and continuing to the top in which the Passion story is featured. In Mary's time the windows were made of hand-painted glass.
Only one small window remains in the entire church that might contain medieval glass. The rest have been replaced over the centuries, with the newest added in October 2000 to commemorate the last two thousand years of Christianity.
On August 17th, 2016, I made my first visit to the parish church of St Lawrence in Hatfield, near Doncaster, Just a short country drive northwards from Austerfield. My interest in this church building is not its architecture, beautiful as that is, instead it is because of its connection to Mary Smythe (Smith), the mother of Mayflower Pilgrim William Brewster.
Parts of the church building date back to Norman times and it was originally quite smaller. While in the care of Roche Abbey, in around 1350 the church was enlarged to its present size and 'cruciform' ground plan and with perhaps a low, squat tower.
Hatfield near Doncaster - The Brewster Connection
Despite the ravages of time, there is one item still remaining at St Lawrence's Church that William Smythe would have known. Peters Pence Chest is a massive iron- bound chest , now situated in the North aisle. This chest was used for collecting taxes, hence the hasps for locks and the slot in the top for coins. Its workmanship is Norman, so is almost as old as the church itself.
At the time of my visit the churchwardens on duty, with forty years of service to the church, had no idea of the Brewster connection. Your donations to the Pilgrim Fathers UK Origins Association helps us to undertake more Pilgrim research on your behalf and to inform local communities about the rich Pilgrim Heritage.
© Sue Allan 2016
Booking ahead is advised as limited opening hours. More can be found about the life of Mary Smythe and other Smythe, Simkinson and Brewster family members in Sue Allan's latest book- 'William Brewster - The Making of a Pilgrim'.
In about 1490, Archbishop Savage's family increased the height of the tower to the present almost 100 feet making it look more impressive than before.The Archbishop's brother had become Bailiff of the Manor of Hatfield in 1485.
Until it was drained in 1626, Hatfield Chase was a royal hunting ground and visited by King Henry VIII during his Progress of the North in 1541. In historian Reverend Joseph Hunter’s 'South Yorkshire: The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster (London, 1828-1831), vol. 1, p. 150, there is an account of a perambulation around this time of the Level of Hatfield Chase involving 25 'regarders of the chase.' Among these appears the name of wealthy merchant William Smythe - the maternal grandfather of Elder William Brewster.
Looking towards the east inside the church, at the far end of this photo the finely carved Chancel Screen can be seen which dates back to about 1495. It is something Mary Smythe would have seen during worship here. Beyond that is the wooden Communion Table which may have been enlarged from a 17th Century domestic table
William Smythe was certainly buried within this church. According to his will proved in 1560, he gave instructions to be buried in the Church of Our Lady of Hatfield suggesting that he was either buried within a chantry chapel ( within the main church and dedicated to St Mary the Virgin) or that the church has been rededicated at some time in the past, as had St Wilfrid's Church in Scrooby.
Writing in the first half of the 19th Century, Hunter quotes from the writings of Abraham de la Pryme, (1672-1704) , which recorded, among other inscriptions, the following as could be found during de la Pryme's lifetime in Hatfield Church but not Hunter's: 'Orate pro animabus Willielmi Smith et Catherinae et Agnetis uxorum ejus' , which transcribed reads,' Pray for the souls of William Smith , and Catherine and Agnes his wife' . One of these wives, possibly Agnes), may have been a Simkinson. In his will, William Smythe made a bequest to 'my brother in lawe Symkinson'.