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The thrill of the ferry
It was the best fun a few coppers could buy in Mexborough for many of us - a few pennies not only took you to the greenery of Old Denaby, they also transported you on a magical journey, a real thrill in itself.
The following is an extract from the May 1993 article by our archivist Julia Ashby: the 8mm movie which forms part of the video, was taken by former St John's School headmaster Mr Peter Cook, and we are grateful for permission to use it. Mr Cook was head of the school from 1964 to 1969, and oversaw the move from the old premises on Bank Street to today's building. He died in 2009.
"By the middle of the C19th the canal had been built, the area was beginning to become industrialised and traffic over the ferry had increased to the point where a larger boat with a deeper draft was needed, so a weir was placed there to lift the level of the water. A small house was also built for the Ferryman and is to be found with house and weir on all maps thereafter.
After the First World War there was a typhoid epidemic which was thought to be caused by overcrowded, unheathy living conditions. It was the job of Mr. Simcox the Health Inspector to look at all the houses in our area and consider whether they were fit for human habitation.and if not to have them condemned. It was he who condemned the ferryman"s two roomed house. However, unlike most places which were condemned it was not demolished but turned into a workshop by the Nelson family who used it for making their brooms etc.
The ferry was actually owned by the same company as owned the canal, and each summer they would send a group of workmen to repair any damage done to the weir or ferry because of the winter floods.
In 1851 the census tells us that the ferry was run by Mr. John Beldan, but after him came a family which a lot of our older members will remember at the ferry - the Nelsons. They took over the ferry and responsibility for operating the swing bridge over the canal after the First World War, for which they were paid 10s. (50p) per week. In addition all the takings from the ferry became theirs as part of their wages.
In 1928 Mrs. Nelson died and the railway carriage she and her family lived in after the ferryman"s house was condemned was burned down. The navigation company then sent Jack Ball from Swinton to man it on a temporary basis until a permanent employee could be found and an advertisement was placed in all the local newspapers to these ends. At last the job was taken by George Ryalls and his son, a barge owner of Church Street.
After George Ryalls the ferry was always manned by an employee of The Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Company and the first of these was Herbert Martin from Swinton. It was he who removed the Manila Rope used to haul the boat across the Don and replaced it with a wire one.
When he left the job was taken by Freeman Shaw (he was nicknamed Shay), another character a lot of our older members will remember, who manned the ferry for many years, walking each morning from his home in Swinton.
But when the Second World War broke out and officials came from the government to list everyone working for the canal, companies, they.were shocked to find how many hours a week he was working, which, when
Please note: this video is retrieved from YouTube from the Heritage's channel. After playing, YouTube offer the chance to see videos it 'thinks' are relevant. Unfortunately we have no control over this content, so you are advised to exercise discretion.
Preserving the past - with your help
If you have any photographs or documents which you think may be of interest to the society, please get in touch. The archive, while invaluable as a resource for anyone with an interest in Mexborough history, is also a way of preserving the past for generations to come. Your photos, videos or documents will be treated with the utmost care and will be returned promptly after copying. As you can see from the site, we cover history from the very early days of the community right up to recent years. So if you have photos of people and places now gone which you would like to share, please get in touch. This also includes any video footage you may have, or film transfered to tape or DVD.