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Henry Moore - an early influence for the great artist

St Oswald's is packed full of beautiful works of sculpture and some astonishing memorials. In the chancel some remarkable sculpture has survived rebuilding and restorations. Eight massive corbels, carved as grotesque heads of humans and animals, support the roof. Two others carved in a more precise and refined style support the chancel arch. All are believed to date from the mid-fourteenth century, and to have had an influence on sculpture of the twentieth century. Henry Moore, born in Castleford, recalled how on visits to his aunt, who lived in Methley, he admired and sketched these heads. It's safe to say they served as an early inspiration for his own work.

Notable Tombs

The church is best known for its tombs which date from every period of its history.
In the North wall of the nave is an effigy of an unidentified layman and in the South aisle another niche houses the figure of an unknown priest. They were placed in their current position in 1901 but their slabs originally fitted together. It is believed that they were both responsible for building part of the church in the fourteenth century.

In the Waterton Chantry Chapel lie two tomb chests with the magnificent alabaster effigies of Lord and Lady Welles and Sir Robert and Lady Cecily Waterton. Sir Robert endowed the building of a chantry chapel in 1425, but the effects of the War of the Roses meant hard times for the Lancastrian Waterton family and the chapel was not completed until 1484. Lord Welles had been killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461 and his tomb was later modified to fit into the new chapel. All the figures are believed to have been carved at a workshop, probably in York, which also produced effigies for Harewood Church. In 1987-8 they were removed for restoration, thanks to grants from the Henry Moore Foundation and the Earl of Mexborough.  

Lord Welles & Lady

Lord Welles & Lady

The massive seventeenth century tomb now beside the South door was originally also in the Waterton Chapel and was relocated in the mid-twentieth century. (Date?) It commemorates Sir John Savile, his son Sir Henry Savile and Henry’s second wife Elizabeth Wentworth. It dates from the reign of King James I and is attributed to one of two court sculptors of the period, Maximilian Colt or William Wright. The Savile heraldic crest of an owl is seen on the side of the tomb and was later adopted as the crest of the city of Leeds when a Savile was elected as its MP.

Later generations of the Savile family are also commemorated in the Chantry Chapel. Charles Savile (?-1741) is shown in the guise of a Roman soldier and his widow Alithea (?- 1759) is seen to be mourning him in statues by Flemish immigrant Peter Scheemakers(1691-1784).

John Savile, First Earl of Mexborough (?- 1778) is portrayed in his peer’s robes and a metal scroll on the side of his tomb reproduces the text in which he was ennobled. The monument is signed and dated 1780 by Joseph Wilton, a founder member of the Royal Academy.

The Waterton Chapel also contains memorials to nineteenth century member of the Savile family and several funerary helmets and gauntlets are on display. A banner, possibly used to raise a local defence force during the Napoleonic wars, and a collection of mining tools and equipment are preserved there.
Please come and visit us on one of our open days to discover more of our fascinating history, or contact Revd Sarah Hancox at 01977 515686  hancoxsa@gmail.com to arrange a guided visit.