Firstly happy Yorkshire Day to you all (Yorkshire Day is on the 1st August).
How we came to have our local boards, the forerunner of the council, and when ours was started is a question I am often asked, and I thought this month it would be a good idea for us to cover this subject.
I think it is safe to say that the Local Boards were formed as an indirect consequence of the appalling living conditions, and slums prevalent in the industrial cities during the Industrial Revolution, and because of one disease in particular Cholera.
This disease started in India in 1817, but did not reach our country until a ship carrying a group of soldiers docked in Sunderland in 1831. It spread like wild fire and by the time the outbreak had died down in 1833 it had killed 22,000 people.
The Cholera germ is carried in the excreta of the infected person, which as middens were emptied into the rivers, quickly found its way into the water supply and therefore infected people downstream who drank the water.
In July to September 1832 there was a vast outbreak in Sheffield, and there is evidence to prove that by the next main outbreak which started in 1848 Mexborough was hit. There is a gravestone in Mexborough Graveyard to the Harrison Family, and the first to be mentioned is "Esther beloved daughter of John and Mary who died of Cholera after an illness of 17 hrs. on Nov. 7th 1849 aged 21 yrs." This gravestone being situated in the bottom right hand corner of the graveyard, and I cannot believe that as 72,000 people in all died of this disease in this outbreak that she was the only one in this town.
After the outbreak of 1848 it was evident that something had to be done and Parliament passed the Public Health Act. There became a Central Board of Health, which had the power to set up a Local Board of Health in any area where the death rate was 23 per 1000 or higher. These had a clerk, surveyor, treasurer, and medical officer of health. They had to make sure that all new houses were built with drains and lavatories. But most important of all they had to make sure that all households were supplied with clean drinking water (germs had not been discovered at this time, and it was believed that Cholera was spread by a Miasma which is a foul smell which comes from sewage and drains, also they believed in bad water). Also if a company could supply water for 2d (1p) per week per household, they had the right to force the house owner to have the water piped into his house or houses and then charge a rate for this.
In 1854 Dr. John Snow, after an outbreak in Soho London, proved once and for all how Cholera was transmitted from one person to another (although he did not truly understand
how it happened) and in 1866 The Sanitary Act was passed which stated that every town had to have Sanitary Inspectors, and it was in that year that Mexborough got its Mexborough Board of Health. The earliest documentation we have of this board is in the Mexborough Local Board Book 1870 — 1891 the date being 9th Nov. 1870 and the committee consisted of Mr I Dickinson, G. Sutton, B. Verity, T. Barron and Mr J. Kirby as Chairman, and at one of their first meetings the fire engine had its yearly service (so we had a fire service before 1870) and it successfully shot water from the Montagu Arms to the canal, a distance of a mile, the eleven men in the fire service changing the position of the pipe from one outlet on the engine to another to check them in turn.
In 1871 a new gate was needed for the Pound Fold, and a rounded wall built at Mr Bagley's Kiln Corner (this is still there and is opposite The South Yorkshire Times Offices).
Also in that year a Highways, Building and Finance Committee was formed with Mr Lockwood, Dickinson, Sutton, Mills Simpson and Kirby. Its first job being to discuss the position of the street lamps in Mexborough, and also to see id Swinton Township could afford to continue the lamps up to Roman Terrace, as this then came in the Swinton area. Also it was agreed that a wall should be built behind the National School (this once stood at the end of Bank St., where the Salvation Army now stands) this wall can still be seen.
In 1872 a special meeting was held to officially name the streets in Mexborough and in some cases to change their names and a list was made of such changes and the names they were given. Also further enclosure of the common was to take place, this tells us that enclosures did not happen all at once here, but was a gradual process which took years to complete.
1874 saw a meeting held to discuss the deaths of two men in the canal, and it was suggested that the best way to prevent people from drowning in the canal and river Don was to build a bridge over them both (it took us nearly one hundred years to get this). This year seems to have been one in which a lot of building and planning was undertaken. Plans were passed for houses in the Hurst Gate and Schofield Street areas. A better water supply was needed for Mexborough and a Mr Brunel was employed to combat this. The Old Mexborough Market was moved to a site opposite The Montagu Arms (does anyone know where the site of the Old Mexborough Market was?) a new road was being laid and the building of the new market was discussed.
The following year "The George and Dragon Farm" on Church Street was sold by auction, and pavement put on Dolcliffe Rd., Oxford Rd., Cemetery Rd. and Market St. Also the first public toilets were built, the first being a Gents Iron Urinal which was placed at Mr Lockwoods Corner ( I have been told that this was actually near the top of Doncaster Rd.). The other public toilet was to be in the market place (but it does not say which one) and it was a four seater.
In 1877 Fire Hydrants were put in Mexborough and Mr Brunel sent a bill to Mexborough Local Board for £460 18s 1 d. (£4 90) for providing Mexborough with an adequate water supply, and a meeting was held to discuss what rate to charge.
On Sept. 2nd 1879 the foundation stone was laid to the Market Hall (now Walkers Bingo Hall opposite the Nat. West Bank) and an old boundary stone was found in the wall near to
Mexborough House (which was near to the General P.O.) also street lamps were now to be lit on Sunday nights.
Jan. 12th 1880 saw the dry stone arch called Ings Gate, which once stood near to the Toll House at the junction of Doncaster Rd. and Pastures Rd., being repaired, using pieces of stone measuring 7ft. on each side of the centre. Also that year the new shops on High St. were inspected.
In 1882 a new Fire Engine House was built on the site of the Local Board's Stable, which once stood close to the present day fish market, but behind the Fire and Police Stations built in 1895.
Feb. 1883 saw the first sewer pipe being laid in Mexborough on Park Rd., and the Chapel Walk had cobble stones put on the steps. The level of Pastures Rd. had to be lifted, and cave ash was bought from The Bull Green Glassworks, stone from Mr Carr's Quarry and Pot shirds from the Rock Pottery, were used for this. Also this year while building a wall on Harlington Lane large old footpath flags were found the measurement given being 17ft 6in.
1884 saw plans being past for cowsheds to be built on High St., 1889 saw the preparations for the opening of the Montagu Cottage Hospital (which once stood at the end of the fly over on Bank St.), and wooden block paving was put down on the road opposite, so the sound of horses hooves would not disturb the patients. A Sanitary Committee was formed with plans to extend the Sewage Works (it does not say when this was built) it had to consist of house, engine house, tanks and screening machinery.
The last date mentioned in the Local Board Book id April 20th 1891 when further alterations were needed to Pastures Rd.
In the twenty or so years since the start of the Local Board the streets of Mexborough had been paved and therefore could be cleaned easily, they were also well drained and well lit, we had a clean adequate water supply. And sewage was disposed of, in some cases by W. C. and sewage pipes to a sewage works.
As a result of the hard work put in by the people who ran our Local Boards Cholera was almost entirely eradicated by 1895.
After the last meeting at church a lady gave our society a collection of memorabilia, which covers the history of the cinema in Mexborough, and I hope by the time I write this newsletter to have sorted everything out and to be able to compile a newsletter on this subject. So until next time I am:-
Your Archivist J.R.Ashby
(First meeting of Mexborough Local Board was held in the National School)