May's meeting was a visit to Conisbrough St Peter's Church and
the Castle, culminating in various refreshments and drinks in the Visitors'
Cafe. A most enjoyable evening was experienced, though a little action packed!
NEWSLETTER - 29th June 1993
Firstly, again I find that I must apologise for the fact that the photocopier used to print our newsletters broke down and we were unable to print last month's issue on time.
As I am taking exams within the next few days I was going to do a very short newsletter this month, because, as you can imagine, time is very limited for me at the moment due to revision, but one of our new committee members, Jeff Morris came to the rescue to tell us about what was found when a firm called "Pladrest • Heating" decided to build on at the back of their existing building, and as it was where Holmes Soft Drinks, part of Barron's Glass Works , Don Iron Works and Mexborough Pottery used to stand. Jeff and others have had some interesting finds which we hope to have on display at our next exhibition which is to be at Conisbrough Castle on the 11th and 12th September.
Before I pass you over to Jeff there are a couple of things which I think are worth mentioning which have come in this month. Firstly a find by Barrie Chambers in Sheffield Archives.
Prior to the railway being laid between Mexborough and Doncaster in 1849 people coming from Manchester, Leeds and York to Doncaster had to alight at the nearest. station to Doncaster which was Swinton (on Whitelea Road) and then to walk down to Swinton Bridge (then known as Scholey's Bridge) at the bottom of Mexborough Bypass and there catch the Aquabus to Doncaster.
But after the railway to Doncaster came, it was thought that passenger transport along the canal stopped. However this has been proved to be incorrect with the discovery of a document in Sheffield Archives. It seems that barges with a duel purpose filled the gap left by the departure of the Aquabus.
Mr. Jesse Bisby of Mexborough owned a barge called "The Five Sisters" whose master was Edward Bisby and which was registered at Sheffield to carry General Merchandise. It was also registered as a "Fly Boat" (this being a non-stop boat which usually carried passengers) travelling between Sheffield and Hull. The barge had cabins, one fore and the other aft, and when used as a "Fly Boat" it was allowed to carry just seven persons in all, but otherwise eleven.
The date written on this document is February 1879. It goes on to state that the boat was sold in 1888 to Edwin Bisby of Thorne and it was lost in a storm in 1893, but it does not state where.
This now opens up a few questions, particularly for the family historian. We know that many people came to this area to work in the pits, many of them walking for days. Some were brought here by train specially hired by the pit companies for the purpose of bringing in skilled labour. But this document proves that some of the unskilled labourers coming to this area to find work would have come on barges, possibly occupying the aft cabin as it was the larger of the two cabins. In effect the barge would be carrying crew, cargo and passengers as well. This certainly could be the way one of my ancestors arrived here from Bottom Boat, which is a small town on the Aire and Calder Canal near to Lofthouse Colliery.
Next, the first boat built here since the end of the First World War was launched at the "Top Sail Wharf" (behind Stenton's Terrace on Market Street) on 30th May 1993, it being a metal Narrow Boat almost completely built single handed by her owner Mr. K. Haseldine of Stenton's Terrace. The launch, which was by crane, was followed by a meal with Champagne.
There is just one other little thing and that is that if you are the same as me and still measure in feet and inches (until my father's death two years ago we were still measuring in inches, nails, hands and spans), there are a couple of things which Jeff mentions, these being 1.8 m which Jeff speaks of as being the water table, which converts to 5 ft 11 in. and the small green bottle found while excavating is 7.1/2 in high.
I will now pass you over to Jeff. Your Archivist,
JULIA ASHBY (Tel. 581903).
INTERIM SUMMARY OF THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVALUATION AND WATCHING -BRIEF AT THE REAR OF UNIT 4, CLIFF STREET, MEXBOROUGH - MAY 1993.
The Society recently carried out an archaeological evaluation on the site of the Mexborough Old Pottery and later Don Ironworks. The work, which was carried out with the co-operation of the owner, "Pladrest Heating", concentrated upon two main areas, a soakaway adjacent to a pre-1850 building and the trench opened by the mechanical excavator to expose a sewer pipe. All archaeological work was restricted to a depth of approximately 1.8 m due to the level of the water table, although the machine cut trench exceeded this depth in places.
Excavation of the area adjoining the building suggested that the building may have once formed part of the Mexborough Old Pottery and was subsequently converted to form part of the ironworks. Small finds recovered from this area included a complete glass bottle approximately 190 mm. high, with the legend 'W 83' embossed on the base. The bottle was found in association with the substantial remains of a large pancheon bowl and an assemblage of nineteenth century pottery sherds.
The trench opened by the mechanical excavator was split into two separate lengths by a manhole chamber. In the first area no planned features remained, having either been removed when the pipe was originally laid or subsequently re-excavated. Inspection of the nearby spoil heap revealed the remains of still bonded brick and stone structural elements that had apparently been removed from this area. Detailed examination of the section also showed the existence of a bonded brick and stone structure which had been subjected to a tremendous amount of heat. This has been tentatively identified as the remains of either a drying room or a square plan kiln used for the biscuit firing of pottery. Finds from this area included biscuit fired and finished nineteenth century pottery sherds.
Area 2 had three planned features, the stone foundations of what appears to be part of the Ironworks, the base of one of the main supporting columns and a setting for a rectangular wooden post. The post was apparently cleanly sawn off at ground level. If the post is contemporary with the building, it would appear to have been outside and its purpose currently remains undetermined. It is hoped that a more detailed study of the material found associated with the post will help to determine it's date and function. Finds from this area included nineteenth century pottery, a number of iron objects and two pieces of leather.
Given the amount of material recovered and the possibility that further evidence of nineteenth century industry remains to be discovered, a provision has been made with the owner to monitor the archaeological potential of the site as the development of the new factory unit proceeds.
The Society recently carried out its first archaeological evaluation in the Mexborough area. In view of the relative success of this venture it was felt that an attempt should be made to organise further excavations. However, for these to be a success it is essential that we can call upon the time and labour of a small group of people, who will form the excavation team.
It is proposed to commence the next excavation around the time of the August Bank Holiday (if access can be arranged to a suitable site). You do not have to dig! There will be plenty of other activities going on around the site that are of equal importance to the success of the excavation.
If you can offer an entire weekend or just a couple of hours we need to know. Everyone reading this has expressed an interest in the history and heritage of Mexborough and its surrounding area but why just read about it when you can discover it for yourself?
If you are interested please contact Jeff Morris on 868602 (answerphone) or write to 2 Ash Grove, Conisbrough. DNI2 2HH for further details, stating your availability.
Jeff Morris, A.M. Inst. C.E.S., P.I.F.A.