Over the past two months as you know I have been sorting out our archives and getting them into some sort of order in our new filing cabinet. After successfully doing this, I started on the collection which Marion our Secretary brought me, and was part way through it when I found a very interesting group of photocopied documents. It is entitled "Copy of Scrapbook No.7", and to say that it is one of the most fascinating groups of documents I have come across from a Local History and Social History point of view, is an understatement. I must have spent at least a couple of nights just reading and studying them.
They start with "Extracts from Thos. Herring's Visitation May 2nd 1743" in which the clergy had to complete a questionnaire. It tells us that in that year there were 58 families living in Mexborough, all Church of England, that there was no other religious meeting house other than the Parish Church at this time and there was no school. (This contradicts other information which follows). There was a hospital founded by Mr. Home and endowed with the yearly sum of 5. (This is the old meaning of the word hospital, where old people and the infirm lived, and must be the almshouses which once stood near the old market) and a field by the name of Spittlefield Leys (now Snow's Coal Merchants, Pastures Road) was rented out, and the money went towards their upkeep. There was also a Public Service and a sermon in church every Lord's Day, the sacrament of The Lord's Supper was administered five times a year; Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Whitsuntide and the second Sunday in October and that at the latter out of one hundred and twenty persons, fifty two took communion.
The next is "Extracts from Archbishop Sharp's M.S.S.
It tells that originally Mexborough was split into two parishes and one half was given to Monk Bretton, but that in A.D. 1262 it was appropriated for the Archdeaconry of York. The town was let to Mr. Savile. (This family later became the Earls of Mexborough.) who relet it to Mr. Westby. Then lastly it makes a note that no Roman catholic lives in this parish as stipulated by law.
Next comes the parish registers of this area, and when they were first started, following orders given by Cromwell as Vicar General in 1538, as taken from Miller's, Doncaster 1804. The date given for Mexborough being 1562.
If you go to church these days, on entry you will take a pew where you want, but not so in times past, which were very class conscious indeed and where you sat in church depended upon how high up the social ladder you came. Among these documents dated 1742 is a list telling where people from Swinton were allowed to sit in our church, and who was to sit where on what number pew, for example Daniel Scholey had to sit on Pew 5, South Aisle.
In extracts from The Parish Register at Mexborough (1562-1767) I found the first mention of a coal pit in our area It refers to 1695 when William Tomson (as on document) a servant at "ye coal pits in Swinton" was buried. Also the first documentation I have found of a fatal accident in a colliery in this area - in 1765 William Ryley was killed in a coal pit, but it does not say where.
There are also copies of three Terriers. (These are documents which tell of the territory which a parish church could claim tithe taxes from). The first one dated 1633, tells of a school house in the churchyard. (Surely this must mean that Mexborough had one of the first schools in the area). At the bottom of this page
there are three notes. They tell us that The Tithe Barn which once stood on Church Street opposite the old vicarage was pulled down in 1920, the weathercock
blew off the Church in 1924 and the National School, which was at the bottom of Adwick Road, once had a belltower (I believe similar to the one on Adwick Church) which was taken down in 1922. It also tells us how Bull Green and The Bull Balke got their names. this being because by custom it was the job of the parson to keep a bull there for the use of the parish. There is also another interesting point which this terrier makes, that is that as Swinton did not have a parish of its own at this time, one year the people of this town paid their tithe taxes to Wath, and the following year to Mexborough. The people who did this were referred to as Halfers, and the people who always paid their taxes to Mexborough were referred to as Wholers, and there is a list of both.
The next Terrier is dated 1743, and tells us that the Parsonage consisted of one house, orchard, croft, two barns and a stable. There was a church, churchyard, two glebe houses (houses owned by the church) and there were two yards in the Wood Field. (This was on Adwick Road).
The last Terrier is dated 1825 and describes the parsonage house. It was built partly of stone and brick and covered in slate. It had two cellars, seven rooms downstairs, one with floorboarding and the others flagged. There were ten chambers (upstairs rooms) five with floorboarding and five plaster. The barn was 30 yds. x 6 yds. and the stable was big enough to hold four horses with a loft above. There were four cottages which formerly had been a malt kiln etc. Bell String Flats (now the Sedgefield Way area) is listed as being the only enclosed area, the others being open fields. Glebe Farm was in the possession of Joseph Lockwood, and the Schoolhouse was now in the possession of Joseph Makin. The Curate received the profits from two closes at Hemmingfield, and also at Burnt Stone in Upper Hallam at Sheffield. There were two houses with gardens from which he also took the profits, along with the profits from seven pews in the New Gallery. (This must mean that you had to pay for your pew in church) where he read prayers in the afternoon or evening during summer months. It also tells us that at one time our church had galleries inside it called The West and South Galleries completed in 1834 and the South Gallery alone was large enough to seat one hundred, and that the twenty seats on the West Gallery were free. The first to be removed was the South Gallery in 1868, then the West Gallery in 1890 when the whole church was modernised.
In extracts from the Balance Sheets of Mexborough Parish Church 1820-64 I find that in 1821 we bought a new lock for the Stocks which once stood by the main church gates. In 1823 we had to pay for a letter sent to the church by The House of Commons. In 1837 the Bass Stick was repaired. (Any idea what kind of instrument this is?) In 1856 Mr. Ainley was given one guinea for tuning the organ for one year. I wonder if this could be the same person who became Mexborough's first Sub-Postmaster?
Lastly came a list of gentry living in the area in 1673 and to my surprise I find that the Savile family are not listed as living here, only William Home, Gentleman and John Fountain of Melton, Esq., eldest son of John Fountain, Sergeant (as on document)
these being the ancestors of the Montagu family.
What follows is a group of newspaper cuttings which for the person interested in social history, such as myself, is fascinating. They cover a strike in the Black Country by women brick workers in 1913, and there is a report dated 1927 of women doing "Navvy" work in the Midlands and Glasgow, prepared by "The Industrial Fatigue Research Board". It states that some women employed in a Glasgow chemical factory worked from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., barefoot, shovelling from twenty to twenty five tons of crude Borite each day, and some of the women pushed trucks full of crystals on rails. The average output per woman doing this work was 6 tons per day.
Girls in a brick works had to carry loads of bricks, 51b. short of I cwt., and some women were expected to wheel barrows containing 4 - 4.1/2 cwt. of bricks. It then goes on to college women and states how superior in health they were compared to their sisters in industry, which does not surprise me in the least considering what they were expected to do.
There is also the sad case of two women charged with the neglect of children. The whole family which consisted of a father and two daughters, who had five children between them lived in one room, which had in it one broken chair and a piece of sack, which formed a blanket for the father. There was part of a loaf and a small amount of margarine to eat. The Magistrates found them guilty and put the children in a home. All this happened because the women lost their jobs. Thank goodness I live in the latter half of the 20th century when things like this cannot happen.
There is also a case where boys accused of repeated theft were sentenced to be flogged with a birch.
If anything, studying history has made me appreciate the age in which we now live. Yes, we do have a few concerns regarding our police force, public transport and N.H.S, but we are still a lot better off than the people living in the past. Isn't it nice to turn on a tap and get clean running water, instead of having to go to a pump and get buckets of water, which may or may not be clean? To be able to go into a bathroom and get a bath when you wish, instead of having to wait until Saturday night when the tin bath was put in front of the fire, and let us not forget Wash Day! Isn't it nice to have a machine to do it for you? Also we must not forget the thing which our children take for granted, the fact that if you are ill you can just go and see your doctor, which in times past was the preserve of only the few. Yes for me it's nice to study history and in particular the history of my own town, but no, this is one 'bird' that certainly would not have liked to have lived in those days, thank you very much.
Well I'll have to close now as I will go on forever. Don't forget if you wish to ask anything or if you wish to borrow something, do not hesitate to ask.
Your Archivist, Julie Ashby