“From Rotherham we turned north west to Wentworth, on purpose to see the old seat of Tankersley and the park, where I saw the largest red deer that, I believe, are in this part of Europe: One of the hinds, I think, was larger than my horse, and he was not a very small pad of fourteen hands and half high. This was anciently the dwelling of the great Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, beheaded in King Charles the First’s time, by a law, ex post facto, voted afterward not to be drawn into a precedent. The body lies interred in Wentworth Church.”
Daniel Defoe, A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain, 1727
As you head north on the M1 from Sheffield to Wakefield you pass the Park, now a golf course, visited by Defoe in the 1720s. There had been 280 deer in the park in 1653 but by the late 1800s the Park had long been split up and the remaining deer were removed to Wentworth.
The mounds on the golf course are spoil from shallow pits dug to get at a layer of ironstone. Sparse, rabbit-nibbled grasses, yarrow, birdsfoot trefoil and other wildflowers cover each circular mound of shale but in the central depression, where the old shaft has caved in, thorn and elder bushes take root.
Over one thousand Churchill Tanks were assembled here during World War II in a factory which stood on a site 500 yards west of the M1.
‘Many were slain and some taken prisoners’ when the Royalists won a victory over the Roundheads in the Battle of Tankersley Moor, 1643. Sir Francis Wortley, a Royalist who led a troop of some 900 men in the battle, had cannon balls made at his forge a nearby Wortley. Cannon balls and a bullet found on the battlefield are preserved in Tankersley Church, which stands on the hill overlooking the motorway.