Our trip out to Wetwang happily coincided with a glorious, sunny day mid-November. Carpets of golden leaves lay deep beneath the trees, yet many retained their foliage beyond bonfire night this year.
Wetwang is a village about seven miles west of Driffield. The route from Scarborough via Sledmere is delightful in itself, and we looked forward to seeing more of Wetwang.
This windswept village on the Wolds is in the vicinity of graves and entrenchments of the Ancient Britons. The Vikings are said to have lived here, giving it the unusual name. One would imagine that the name indicated wet land, but apart from a man-made pond, there’s hardly any ground holding rain water on these chalk Wolds! The pond you’ll see is said to be over 1,000 years old!
The long, wide street has many red-roofed properties. For centuries it retained its Main Street, as its one-street character. More recent housing development has altered the shape of the village, but pleasantly so.
The Malton to Driffield railway of the 1850s has gone, but as you enter Wetwang from Sledmere, you’ll notice that the name, Station Hill remains. The original street, ie Main Street, is now part of the busy A166.
Anyone hoping to visit the ‘Quality Hand-Crafted Pine and Oak Furniture’ centre, established many years ago by Peter Heap, will be disappointed to learn that it closed about six months ago. Each piece of craftsmanship bore a registered rabbit trademark. We were just in time to see the final clear-out.
You can’t miss the village pond near The Black Swan. On our previous visit several years ago, there was a stately black swan on the pond. This time, mallards were feeding. At the other end of the village is the Victoria Inn/Restaurant, and Harper’s Fish and Chips between the two.
A most attractive and interesting feature of Main Street is the church of St Nicholas. It’s of Norman origin but has since had additions and alterations. The church is near the pond, and reached by a lovely lychgate of oak and stone. Just beyond, to your left is a black rail bearing a beautifully crafted poppy in wrought iron, with the words, ‘Lest We Forget’. Around the war memorial close by, to the Memory of Men in Wetwang who fell in the Great War 1914-18 and in the 1939-45 war, were many poppies. These were hand-made poppies with personal, touching messages written on each by local school children.
Around the church you’ll see many old yew trees, with mature beech shedding a deep carpet of golden brown leaves over the graveyard. You should also find the socket of an old cross. Apparently other similar crosses have been found on these Wolds.
The church itself is unusual in having a long nave and chancel without a dividing arch. The chancel was newly built in 14th century style. It has a barrel roof of richly panelled oak. There are two old piscinas. One was carved in 1890, and a place where hands were washed. There’s half a Norman-scalloped capital serving as a shelf in the chapel.
A large 14th century chapel opens from the north wall of the narrow aisle. A big blocked arch in the south wall of the nave once led to a chapel too.
The sturdy west tower has a 13th century base and a later medieval top.
A roughly shaped Norman font with slender arches is near the doorway. As you leave by this south doorway, pause to admire the exterior of this 13th century entrance. You’ll see it has capitals with faces and dragons amongst foliage.
Close to the graveyard path, seek the grave of Seth Tinsley.
He spent a lifetime meeting medical needs in the Wetwang area. Travelling thousands of miles on horseback or in a trap, he never retired. It’s said he only sent bills to those who could afford to pay. He died in 1924, and on his gravestone are the words, “The Beloved Physician.”
John Perrin Brown was a later village doctor for 24 years until the 1960s.
Turning off Main Street, wander along Southfield Road to admire a modern development of bungalows and houses overlooking fields. You’ll observe a medical centre, and nearby school and Wetwang Council.
Returning to Main Street you’ll see a garage to the left, and St Paul’s Methodist Church.
Parking: in a lay-by on Main Street.
Refreshment: The Black Swan and The Victoria Inn/Restaurant. Fish and Chips etc all along the Main Street.