Historically there is evidence that there has been a church in Wortley, dedicated to St Leonard, since at least 1268 and probably even earlier though little if anything exists of that building and many records have been lost.
However, an examination of the church as it is today indicates that much of the building dates from the 18th century. The Tower contains a peal of eight bells and a clock both dating from 1893 as does the pulpit. The church houses many important artefacts and memorials, mainly relating to its long connection with the Wharncliffe Estate.
Many of our records have unfortunately been lost, and much research has been necessary to recover a small part of our history. Much more is still required before the whole story can he pieced together. It is for instance, a matter of conjecture how the dedication to St Leonard arose. How did the name of a monk living in France in the reign of Clovis (465-51]) come to be given in the 1200s to a small church in the West Riding of Yorkshire‟? The date of the first building of a church in Wortley is another point of some uncertainty. The first definite date is 1318, for in that year a Nicholas de Wortley gave William Calthorne, who was described as “Chaplain, the farm of Northorpe‟ and received 47s.6d a year, in return for which William was to hold a divine service in” my chapel of Wortley”. In 1268 an earlier Nicholas de Wortley was in dispute with “Henry, Parson of Wortley “ about right of common pasture, while according to an undated deed which has been ascribed to the reign of Henry lll (1216-1272), Alan Alemote was to give £2 yearly to the Chapel of St. Leonard‟s of Wortley. It can he assumed therefore that pa there was a church in Wortley at least as early as 1268 and probably even earlier.
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Kitchen and Toilets
The Vicar‟ Vestry has been transferred to the east end of the church beside the organ. The old Vicar‟s Vestry was re-roofed, plastered out and converted into toilets, whilst the Choir Vestry was fitted out with sink and kitchen units. This work was carried out in 1991-92. The southwest window was sadly in need of repair and was restored in 1996.
There are three hatchments in the Chancel that are rather difficult to see since they are high up on the wall. Hatchments are the arms of a deceased person displayed in a black lozenge shaped frame. In the case of married people the husband‟s arms are impaled with those of his wife, the husband‟s being on the left as you face the hatchment, the wife‟s on the right. A black background indicates whether it is the husband or the wife who has died. Near the south-eastern door are arms of the 1st .Earl of Whamcliffe (died 1899) and of his wife Susan Charlotte Lascelles (1827). On the same wall are the arms of James, the 1st Baron Wharncliffè (died 1845) and of his wife Elizabeth Caroline Mary Crichton (1856). Over one of the arches near the door mentioned is the arms of James Archibald pa Stuart Wortlev - Mackenzie (1818). and his wife Margaret Cunynghame (1808).
The use of “Chapel” and “Chaplain” is a point of some interest. Places of worship were often built in the outlying districts of large parishes in order that those living far removed from the parish Church might still have the benefit of services. The subordi- nate position of those places of worship was shown by the designation “Chapel” and as they were built for the ease or comfort of the local inhabitants, they were called “Chapels-of-Ease”. In cases where a Chapel-of-Ease has a resident clergyman he was called a Chaplain. And was regarded as being at- tached to the parish church. He was appointed by and could be removed by the incumbent.
Such was certainly the case in Wortley between 1600 and 1746 when the Rector of Tankersley ap- pointed the Curates of Wortley. It is natural to as- sume from the use of „Chapel‟ and „Chaplain‟ in the 1200s already mentioned, that Wortley was not origi- nally a parish in it‟s own right, and that even in those early days it was part of the parish of Tankersley.
In 1746 Wortley became a Perpetual Curacy and could then be regarded as being a separate parish. Although the Rector of Tankersley still continued to appoint the incumbent of Wortley. In 1815 Mr. J A S Wortley took over the right of presentation to the living, which is now in the gifts of the Earl‟s of Wharncliffe.
Between 1318 and 1600 very little so far is known about the church, though in the will of Nicholas de Wortley in 1485 there is a bequest of 20 shillings for „ fábricae Ecc/es: de Wortley “- to the building of the Church of Wortley — which can be assumed to mean a grant to the “Repair Fund” of the church.
It is when an attempt is made to find out what changes and alterations have been made to, and in the church over the centuries that the loss of earlier records is most deeply felt. In the circumstances the only information available is what can be de- ducted from an examination of the structure of the church as it is now, together with the references to, and description of the church in outside books and documents. These are neither as com- plete nor as detailed as could be desired.
As far as the first method is concerned there are two points of some importance. An examination of the wall of the tower above the ceiling has shown that the height of the nave, and presumably of the chancel as well, has been increased by about 8 feet. while the width has been increased by of Whamcliffe. and his wife Maud Lillian Elfrida Mary Wentworth Fitzwilliam (1898-1979) erected on the north side of the church.