The settlement of Wickersley is believed to have begun in Roman times, with a clearing in the woods on a prominent hill about six miles to the south east of the fort at Templeborough. In 870, the Danes invaded this part of Yorkshire and may have given this clearing a its name of ‘Vikars-Ley’. ‘Vikar is an old Norse word for a ‘steward’, and ‘Ley’ is a Saxon word for a clearing.
Following the Norman conquest of 1066, Richard Fitz-Sturgis, a Norman soldier knight and co-founder of Roche Abbey, held the land. He took the name Richard de Wickersley. In the reign of King Stephen, 1135-1154, the Saints Shrine of St.Alban’s Abbey, was a prominent place of pilgrimage. St.Alban is the first known British martyr; he died in 209 in the Roman city of Verulanium, now St.Alban’s. Around the year 1150 the first church was built in Wickersley. It is most probable that, after donating land for Roche Abbey, Richard de Wickersley made his pilgrimage to St.Alban’s Abbey, and dedicated his new church to the soldier saint. There is a reference in a legal document of 1419 to a ‘Lamp of St.Nicholas’ which was mounted in the tower of Wickersley church. This presumably served as a guide to travellers along the road, which was an important route from Bawtry, a significant port at the time, to Sheffield, Rotherham and North Derbyshire.
The original building was completely replaced in the fifteenth century by Roger de Wickersley, whose tomb is within the Nave of the current building. Surviving pictures indicate that the fifteenth century building had its entrance to the side of the Nave, and also had side wings for part of its length. It is believed that the wing on the north side was at one time a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The only part of the present building remaining from this period is the Tower; the only other items in the present church from this building are a collection of coffin plates, mounted on a stone tablet in the nave.
The present Nave was erected between 1833-1836 by the Rev. John Foster, replacing the fifteenth century Nave. His reason was that the building was deteriorating, and becoming dangerous, necessitating its replacement. This was however a cause of controversy in the area at the time. Permission for the development was given on with the conditions that the end of the chancel should remain; surviving plans also indicate that the nave was the same width as the part of the building with the two wings. The new building therefore had the same overall dimensions as the old one, with a very much more spacious nave, but only a short chancel. There was a very large gallery, of which no visible evidence now remains, although a wooden beam found in the wall in 2020 may have been related to this. It seems likely that the motivation for the gallery was that the building should be able to accommodate everyone in the parish. There is also believed to have been a three-decker pulpit in the church at that time.
There is an unconfirmed belief that the new Nave was built around the old church, perhaps explaining the height of the current ceiling. The spaciousness of the Nave is often commented on. The external wall of the church incorporates a number of tombstones which were presumably displaced when the new building was built.
The Tower appears to have been increased in height at some point, possibly when the new nave was built, as old beams which may once have been at the top of the tower are still present high in the bell-chamber. The present entrance to the church is now in the tower, again this arrangement dating from the rebuilding of the Nave. The upper levels of the Tower, and the roof, are accessed by a narrow spiral staircase, which is not open to the public.
The Chancel was extended in 1886 during the ministry of the Rev.Frederick Freeman, replacing the small chancel which was built during 1833-6. He also added the vestry and organ loft to the building. Evidence can be seen on the outside of the chancel of its previous length. Rev.Freeman, a high churchman, also installed the present stained glass windows. There is also evidence that he wanted to install a rood screen between the nave and chancel, but was not allowed to do so. The septum (low barrier) between the nave and chancel was the permitted alternative.
During the nineteenth century, the building had box pews. The material from these pews was used to line the lower walls of the nave when the gallery was removed, and the present pews installed. The furniture in the chancel was added in stages in the early 20th century.
The basement boiler room, entered through an external trapdoor and covered by a concrete slab, was probably added in around the beginning of the twentieth century. This is clearly not in keeping with the rest of the building.
There have been only minor changes to the interior of the nave since the 1950s. The present outer door of the church was installed in 1986, replacing a more ornate door. The reason for its replacement is not known. In the late 20th century a ramp permitting wheelchair access to the front door was added.