the ‘Queen of villages’
By Brian Elliott
Rain, rain go away and come again another washing day.’ I felt like repeating this old childhood ditty even though I may have misquoted. I arrived at Wath on a miserable mid-August Saturday morning, pretty typical for this wettest of summers, really more like November. Anyway this small town is one of the most historic and interesting places in the Dearne Valley and I was by no means disappointed by my visit. Talking about rhymes, Wath’s most famous son, James Montgomery (1771-1854), the Scottish poet, hymn writer and newspaper editor was so fond of the place that he referred to it as the ‘Queen of villages’. Although Montgomery’s residency was quite brief his undoubted affection for Wath has been immortalised locally in a number of ways, most notably in place-names such as Montgomery Square, Montgomery Road and Montgomery Hall. The latter, used for a variety of community and cultural events he would have been proud. Attached to the outside of the Hall is a sandstone sculpture in tribute to the poet. But the Wath of Montgomery’s time was a far different place to later periods. He lived there well before the great coal mines such as Wath Main and Manvers Main were developed but would have been well aware of change.