Religion has played an important part in local people's lives for centuries. The oldest religious building in this locality, Wales Church, was built in the Norman style almost a thousand years ago. From its growth and different architectural styles we can trace patterns of worship since that time. The oldest part of the church is on the north side, Lady's Chapel, and make sure you look up at its elaborate vaults and wooden buttresses. The Church has many historical features, secrets and objects of interest, and is well worth a lengthy visit. The carving around the door in the southern porch is an astounding and almost unique example of its type.
See the Church Website: www.stjohnschurchwales-kivetonpark.org and pick up from the church a detailed guide to the church which was created by Oz Wright, Reverend Gary Schofield, working with Rotherham Churches Tourism Initiative.
St. John's Church is at the centre of Wales Village but as the local population grew and the nature of this area changed other places of worship were created. These were sometimes improvised; we know there were Methodist congregations held at Field House and even at the Colliery Offices. Local Catholics met for some time upstairs at the Lord Conyers, even as late as the middle years of the twentieth century. Many permanent places of worship were built, several of which remain.
Special mention should be made of the Primitive Methodist Chapel, which once stood at the centre of the village, where the Co-op is now. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance the chapel had, a centre of not just local people's religious lives but social and cultural experiences. An astonishing number of witnesses have recounted episodes that took place in and around the chapel. With its dark and distinctive gothic façade, the chapel was demolished in the 1980s. By that time it had already fallen into disrepair - one of our younger witnesses remembers getting in and exploring the chapel in those years, its condition much removed from when it held not just large congregations but social evenings, theatre performances and much more. Just imagine each Christmas at the turn of the century, when Mr. Hart played Handel's Messiah, a village favourite, the notes floating out over a perhaps snow-laden Wales Road.
A fascinating history of Wales Methodist Church can be purchased from the History Society and, we hope, on-line in the future - with all proceeds going to the church. This distinctive stone building opposite Wales Juniors and Infants was built in the late nineteenth century and from the photographic evidence we have, there is considerable evidence of those local families who were regular attendees.
Much is often said about the decline in the size of religious congregations but it should be noted that in this area there remains a great deal of support. Local people still come together in great numbers, to worship, to celebrate, to remember, to pay their respects and on many other occasions. Amongst a significant proportion of both older and younger generations, this remains a centre of the local community.