Ackworth is a village and civil parish in the metropolitan borough of Wakefield and covers High Ackworth, Low Ackworth, Ackworth Moortop and Brackenhill; it is located between Pontefract, Barnsley and Doncaster on the small River Went, which cuts through the village.
The name may have derived from the Anglo Saxon words 'Ake' or 'Aken' meaning 'oak' and 'uurt' with the word 'worth' meaning an enclosure or homestead, or the Anglo Saxon name 'Acca' which when added to the word 'worth' could mean 'Acca's worth' or 'Acca's enclosure'; the name was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Aceuurde and it is thought it became more formalised to 'Ackworth' in the 1800s.
The entry in the Domesday Book suggests that the settlement of Ackworth would have been quite small as it recorded only 14 villagers and two smallholders; however, as only the heads of families were recorded the more likely figure in terms of population at that time would have been around 30 to 40 people.
Ackworth has an historic grade 2 listed monument named the The Ackworth Plague Stone built as a memorial to one of two plagues that reached Ackworth; plague stones were described as receptacles for sterilising coins in vineagar, normally placed at or close to parish boundaries, indicating that the current location of the plague stone was the outer rim of the parish; it is situated at the junction of Sandy Gate Lane on the road into Pontefract.
The Ackworth Plague Stone was possibly built after the black death of 1349, which killed many inhabitants in and around Ackworth; the black death arrived in southern England in 1348 and by 1350 had killed a third of the english population; or it was built after another outbreak of plague in 1645, which was said to have killed 153, with the bodies been buried in a burial field crossed by the footpath from Ackworth to Hundhill.
The same burial field had probably already been used as an area of mass burial after a skirmish earlier in the year between Roundhead and Royalist forces during the English Civil War, in fact one theory states that the plague had been brought into the area by soldiers fighting in the skirmish.
Another story of how the plague came to Ackworth was retold by Henry Thompson in the book 'A History of Ackworth School in its first 100 years'; he recounts how a popular and well loved monk went to Rome and became smitten by the plague and died; the monk who came from the priory at Nostell often preached at the medieval cross in the centre of Ackworth.
After succumbing to the plague in Rome, his body was brought back home and it passed through Ackworth at which point "nothing could satisfy the ignorant but faithful love of the old hearers" and the coffin was opened to satisfy them of his death; however, the village was then stricken with plague and the stone on Castle Syke Hill became "for many months the only contact between them and the outside world".
The area around Ackworth was a hotbed for dissent against the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII; a rebellion led by Robert Aske and styled the Pilgrimage of Grace was thought to have marched through Ackworth on the way to capturing Pontefract Castle in 1536; they were eventually defeated by an army sent by Henry with the leaders hanged at Tyburn; amongst the hanged were included a Nicholas Tempest of Ackworth.
The Church of St. Cuthbert, a grade 2 listed building, is in the centre of High Ackworth; its first recorded mention was made in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it noted "There is a Church there, and priest."; however, it is believed that there has been a church in Ackworth from around the year 750; the church may have got its name from the fact that it is noted in the porch of a church in Durham as been one of the places where the body of Saint Cuthbert was taken by monks from Lindisfarne as they journeyed on a pilgrimage around the country with his body from 875 to 882.
The original church is believed to have been replaced in the 14th century with a stone church and tower; the tower still exists but the church was renovated and restored around 1852 after a fire had damaged the nave and chapel; it is thought that the roof was lifted and additional windows added at that time, all the present stained glass windows also date from this time.
The Ackworth war memorial opened in 1999
and commemorates soldiers from Ackworth who died in the first and second
world wars; in the first world war 80 soldiers were killed and in the
second world war 40 soldiers were killed.