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Wath can trace its existence back to Norman times, having an entry in the Domesday Book as Wad. For hundreds of years it remained a quiet rural settlement astride the junction of the old Doncaster–Barnsley and Rotherham–Pontefract roads, the latter a branch of Ryknield Street. North of the town was the ford of the River Dearne by this road that gave the town its name: the origin of its name has been linked to the Latin vadum[3] and the Old Norse vath (ford or wading place).[4] The town received its Royal Charter in 1312–13. entitling it to hold a weekly Tuesday market and an annual two-day fair, but these were soon discontinued. The market was revived in 1814.[5]

Until the mid-19th century the town was home to a racecourse of regional importance, linked to the estate at nearby Wentworth; this later fell into disuse, although traces of the original track can be seen between Wath and Swinton and it is remembered in local street names.[6] There also was a pottery at Newhill, close to deposits of clay, although this was overshadowed the nearby Rockingham Pottery in Swinton.[3] Around the turn of the 19th century, the poet and newspaper editor James Montgomery, resident in Wath at that time, described it as "the Queen of villages". This rural character was to change rapidly in the 19th and 20th centuries with the development of the deep mining industry.[7]

Coal miningEdit

The town lies within the South Yorkshire Coalfield and high-quality bituminous coal was dug out of outcrops and near-surface seams in primitive bell pits for many hundreds of years. Several high-grade coal seams are close to the surface in this area of South Yorkshire, including the prolific Barnsley and Parkgate seams. The industrial revolution and consequent expansion in demand for coal led to rapid industrialisation of the area in the 19th and early 20th century.[7] The population swelled and the local infrastructure was developed for the coal industry. The over-reliance of the local economy on this single industry stored up problems for the future.

The Dearne and Dove Canal, which was opened in stages from 1798 to 1804 to access the local collieries on the southern side of the Dearne Valley, passed through the town just to the north of the High Street on a large embankment, and then turned north into the valley. This wide section was known locally as the "Bay of Biscay". The canal finally closed in 1961 after many years of disuse and poor repair.[8] Much of the canal line in the town has since been used for new roads, one called Biscay Way.[7]

By the 20th century, heavy industry was evident in the area with many large, busy collieries operating. Wath Main and Manvers Main were the two usually associated with Wath. After the Second World War, the collieries clustered around Manvers were developed into a large colliery complex, including coal preparation, coal products and coking plant, which were not only visible, but also detectable in the air for miles around.


Rail took over from the canal as a means of transporting coal out of the area, and Wath-upon-Dearne became a rail-freight centre of national importance. one of the biggest, and for its time, most modern railway marshalling yards in the UK, Wath marshalling yard, built north of the town in 1907, was one of the biggest, and for its time, most modern railway marshalling yards in the country. It was one of the eastern ends of the trans-Pennine Manchester–Sheffield–Wath electrified railway (also known as the Woodhead Line), a project which spanned the Second World War, and was in part justified by the need to transport large amounts of coal mined in the Wath area to customers in North-West England.

Wath once had three railway stations: Wath Central on Moor Road, Wath (Hull and Barnsley) and Wath North both on Station Road, in order of distance from the town centre. This most distant station was the last to close in 1968, under the Beeching Axe. The town no longer has a direct rail link, although there has been talk of opening a station on the Sheffield–Wakefield–Leeds line at Manvers, roughly a mile from the town centre.

The decline of coalEdit

The local coal industry was in the forefront of the dramatic decline of the British coal mining industry, precipitated by a change in government economic policy in the early 1980s. This had severe knock-on effects on many subsidiary local industries and caused much local hardship. The 1985 miners' strike was sparked by the impending closure of Cortonwood Colliery in Brampton Bierlow, a neighbouring village often considered part of Wath. Along with the whole of the Dearne Valley, Wath was classified as an impoverished area and received much public money, including European funds. These were put into regenerating the area from the mid-1990s onwards causing a certain amount of economic revival, and changing the character of the area to be more rural, as large areas of ex-industrial land to the north of the town, once used by collieries and marshalling yards, were turned back into scrubland and countryside, dotted with light industrial and commercial office parks. This regeneration of what was still classified as brownfield land has involved building it over with various industrial and commercial parks, and large housing developments have also been started.


Blue Murder live at Montgomery Hall, Wath-upon-Dearne, Sunday 1 November 1987 (left to right: Heather Brady, Lal Waterson, Rachel Waterson, Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy, Mike Waterson, Dave Brady, Jim Boyes)

Wath-upon-Dearne is centred on Montgomery Square, where the town's main shops, library and bus station are located. Immediately to the west is the substantial Norman All Saints Church,[9] on a small leafy green with the Town Hall, the Montgomery Hall and a campus of the Dearne Valley College. There are several busy high-street pubs in the town centre, including a branch of Wetherspoons and Wath Tap, Rotherham's first micro-pub.

Today Wath is still emerging from the hardship caused by the sudden collapse of the coal industry, although jobs and a measure of low-level affluence have returned. After a hiatus between the clearing of the former colliery land and the recent redevelopment, when the area felt rather rural, the construction of large distribution centres to the north of the town is once again bringing an industrial feel, although without the pollution issues that were connected with coal. Recently several very large distribution warehouses for the clothing chain Next have opened. A significant amount of new housing is also being built on this reclaimed land.

Wath Festival, held every May bank holiday, is the biggest folk festival of its kind in the region, with a growing reputation. Some of the big names in the folk scene have appeared in recent years. It is also a community festival with traditional dancing, street performances, workshops, children's events, and the famous throwing of bread buns from the parish church tower.

The RSPB's Old Moor nature reserve lies a mile to the north-west of the town;[10] it is a flash, where mining-induced subsidence of the land close to a river has created wetlands.


Wath Athletic F.C. served the community from the 1880s to the Second World War, playing in the Midland League and reaching the 1st Round of the FA Cup in 1926. No senior team has represented the settlement since the 1950s, and Wath remains one of the largest areas in Yorkshire without a senior football team. However, it has a Rugby Union team, which plays in the Yorkshire Division 2.


There are four primary schools in Wath-upon-Dearne, all serving ages 3–11: Our Lady and St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Wath Central Primary School, Wath C of E Primary School, and Wath Victoria Primary School.

The town has two secondary schools: Saint Pius X Catholic High School (an 11–16 school) and the much larger Wath Comprehensive School (formerly Wath Grammar School), which has a sixth form and so provides 11–18 education. Both these take students from a wider area than just the town of Wath. Wath (Park Road) Secondary Modern School closed in 1963.

A large further education college, Dearne Valley College, is based in Wath, with a main campus at Manvers and a smaller one near the town centre.

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ a b UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Wath Ward (as of 2011) (1237320697)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  2. ^ UK Twin Towns Archived 24 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Martin, W. Keble, A history of the Ancient Parish of Wath-upon-Dearne (South Yorkshire), (W. E. Farthing) 1920
  4. ^ Moorman, F. W., West Riding Place Names (Leeds: privately printed for the Thoresby Society), 1910.
  5. ^ Hey, David, Medieval South Yorkshire (Ashbourne:Landmark Publishing) 2003 ISBN 978-1-84306-080-2
  6. ^ page on Racecourse Road on the Wath/Swinton border, built on the line of the course.
  7. ^ a b c d "Wath-upon-Dearne the 'Queen of villages'".
  8. ^ Glister, Roger, The Forgotten Canals of Yorkshire: Wakefield to Swinton via Barnsley; The Barnsley and Dearne & Dove Canals (Barnsley:Wharncliffe Books) 2004 ISBN 1-903425-38-7
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ RSPB Old Moor
  11. ^ "The sick killer who lived up to his Ripper boasts". The Yorkshire Post. 18 June 2002. Retrieved 14 April 2018.

External linksEdit