Firstly the news, and the bad news first. In October of last year I informed you that some of your committee had been to a meeting of The
Dearne City Challenge Community Forum,to see if a grant could be aquired to enable us to print a pictorial history of Mexborough, -aft& the necessary forms were filled in and sent off. Unfortunately, it is looking more and more as though this grant is not going to be forthcoming, or not in the amounts
we need. -The good news is that we are not going to let this deter us and therefore different ways of fundraising are to take place, one of these fundraising activities will be to run excursions details, of which you will see above and to secure your seat could you please see either Steve Linstead or Marion Broadhurst.
Over the years that I have been your archivist I have spoken to many people concerned with the history of our town, and I have become increasingly surprized by what these people have told me, so much so that I had begun to write them down so they would not be forgotten in story form, lust before Christmas l allowed a teacher from Sheffield to read one of these, and after a short while I received a 'phone call from him asking if 1 had any more and when I said yes, he said " for pity's sake publish them" this gave me an idea to raise money for our pictorial history book and that is to get them together into a small book (it will not be posh or expensive so everyone can afford it) and to sell these to our members or anyone interested in the history of our town. However at the moment this is still at the planning stage and a great deal of thought and writing still has to take place before this little book can come to fruition.
As some of you will know this year Doncaster will be celebrating the eight hundredth anniversary of being granted its charter, and on 22nd. May 1994 there is to be a large Local History Nair at Doncaster Race Course, before this; starting on 16th May there is to be an exhibition at your local library and this is where you come in, I can look after this exibition on Tuesday and Thursday but is there anyone who is willing to help out on Monday and Friday? could you please come and see me after our meeting or 'phone me.
PICTURES OF OLD MEXBOROUGH by Norman Watson
In Novemeber Mr. Watson gave us an illustrated talk on the history of Mexboro' but because of an error made by The South Yorkshire Times in not giving the correct day many people missed it. The year before last at our social evening Mr. Watson gave a very similar talk which was taped and I thought this month it would be a good idea to base our newsletter on this tape for the benefit of those who missed the talk.
Mr.Watson started by saying that talks on the history of Mexborough had gone on for over one hundred years, and tat he had a press cutting dated 1884 which reported on a lecture given by a Dr. Sykes on this very subject, also Mr. Carter who once was the surveyor for Mexborough Urban Dis' Council was a keen amateur local historian and he too lectured on the subject, and afterwards this would be reported in The Mexborough and Swinton Times for the benefit of those who could not attend rather as we are doing now. sir. L. Harrop who was Mr. Watson's uncle was also a local historian and recorded both by camera and documentation history of our town , and it was after his death in 1939 that Mr. Watson inherited these things and most of the Photographs shown were from his collection.
The first item to be Been was a map drawn up by Mr. Watson showing many of the landmarks of our area such as The Ferry, The Parish Church, Mexborough Hall, The Castle, Doncaster Rd., The Pastures, the mill ( Melton Mill),
the mill race, the roads to High Melton and Cadeby, the river Dearne, Harlington Mill with the packhorse track running down towards it, Adwick Rd., which was called Pound Fold until 1872 when it was renamed by the Local Board,
Doncaster Rd., High St., and plain St., which was the Turn Pike Road and was known as this, Church St., and Market St., which was Town St., and Melton St.,
called then Mean Lane, The Pinfold, the three great fields which were used before Mexborough was enclosed between Adwick Rd., and Harlington Rd.,(called The Woodfields), Harlington Rd., and Clayfield Rd ( called The Great Clays and The Old Moor) and between Clayfield Rd and Pastures Rd., (The Low Fields), he then pointed out an old bridle path which commenced at Swinton Rd., then went via Simpsons Place on Lower Dolcliffe Rd., up the back of The Tech' Collage to Mexborough School, and then down the side of the recreation ground to Adwick Rd., which he had recently walked and was still there.
Next came a plan of Mexborough when it was a village dated 1778 before the canal was cut - . the course of the River Don was changed an.d the railway was put through. It showes Mexborough Parsonage, Glebe Hall and Church and is the oldest illustration we have showing what the centr ( as it was then) of Mexborough looked like in the eighteenth century.
Following this came one or two old maps of Mexborough, the latter being the 1903 0.5. map and Mr. Watson here pointed out where the only Mexborough Station to be actually in the Mexborough Boundary was ( the first one being in Swinton and our present one because the River Don was moved is in Old Denaby). To catch a train in those days was a real problem, you would have had to have gone down Ferry Boat Lane to the swing bridge which went over the canal at this point
and if necessary wait for the barge to go through and the bridge to be swung back, you then had to go to the Ferryman's Hut and bought a ticket to be taken across the River Don by ferryboat, walk up the packhorse track to the railway line where our station was, which was a wooden construction in those days, and then if you were lucky catch the train.
Next came a Photo' of Mexborough Ferry where the first of our settlers from North Germany set up their homes, coming down the Humber to the River Don past Thorne and Doncaster to a place which was sheltered from the North Winds by a 200-ft cliff, it faced South and therefore got plenty of sunshine, the river was full
of salmon and trout ( sturgeon could also at certain times be caught), and springs of clear water were abundant, there was also plenty of stone and wood for their houses, clay for pots, and also it did not flood even at the worst of times. But above all the river at this point was fordable thus causing packhorse tracks to culminate here, and strings of packhorses with their Jager and Bell Horse brought to Mexborough Nottingham Lace, metal goods from Birmingham and bales of woolen cloth from Leeds, they came from Old Denaby, Ravensfield, Todwick, Harthill, Chesterfield, Clowne and many other places too numerous to mention. These packhorses in strings of roughly thirty at a time finaly converged on Mexborough and to cater for them there grew up a number of blacksmiths forges one at the bottom of Quarry St., and another at the bottom of Melton St., to
name but two, the Jagers needed temporary accommodation on their journey through our town and so Inns and Public Houses grew up.
Mr. Watson then began to show a series of photographs starting with a group of cottages which once stood near to Denaby Railway Crossings known as Bone Mill Cottages once owned by Mr. Lunn of Old Denaby ( who is still alive living in a home following the death of both his wife and daughter). Following this came a photo' of The Toll Bar House which once stood at the junction of Doncaster Rd., and Pastures Rd., also on this Photo' can be seen Denaby Pit's two chimneys and pit head winding gear, as well as the tram sheds and tram tracks. Mr. Watson can remember his mother telling him it cost id to pass through the Toll Bar when one of the last Toll house keepers Mr. Cadman looked after it.
The next photo' was that of Mexborough Hall taken in 1912 by his uncle Mr. Harrop. Mexborough Hall was built in 1669 by William Horne and was situated
to the West of Melton St., and Hall Gate takes its name from it Just before it was demolished Mr. Harrop went inside and took a number of Photo's which
Mr. Watson showed, one being of a downstairs room clearly showing where the old fireplace had been bricked up and a Yorkshire Range incerted, and the second being of a bedroom with mullioned window to the left a bedstead beneath and door to the right. Mr. Watson then went on to tell how some of the Oak Panelling was removed in 1912 and placed in the church, and how when it was demolished the rest was rescued and placed with it.
The next photo' to be seen was that of Doncaster Rd., just after the turn of the century showing one of our first trams. There was in those days just one single line _of tram tracks, this caused great difficulty when you got two trams both wanting to go in opposite directions, for example one going to the Toll Bar and another to Mexborough Market, so passing places had to be built, one at the bottom of Adwick Rd., another at the bottom of Hirst Gate, and the last one in this area being at the Toll Bar. The only traffic other than that of the tram being a horse drawn dray.
This photo' was followed by another of Church St., showing the area where the new vickerage now stands, where once stood the Tithe Barn, and in Mr. Watson's childhood days the boy Scout Meetings took place and Christmas Treats were held.
He remembered in particular how one year a Magic Lanten Show was put on there but as he was too young was unable to see it and how disappointed he was. Across the road from the Tithe Barn in those days was a row of cottages over the door of which had been painted "Welcome Home Jim" ( I believe this to have been Jim Pashley) and Mr. Watson told us of the day he went to give a talk at Montagu Hospital, and one of the audience turned out to be the Jim in question.
Next followed a number of photo's showing what Mexborough Parish Church looked like before it was greatly changed by the Victorians, a North Isle, Aspe, and new porch were added, and the South Isle rebuilt and enlarged. The following photo' showed the interior before 1591, over the chancel arch which was completley different in shape to the one seen there today was painted the Royal Coat of Arms, and beneath it echoing the shape of the arch were the words " In the fullness of time God sent forth his son", also could be seen the old organ which after the alterations was sent up to the National School. The next photo' was taken in 1591 after the restoration of the church and shows all the external alterations, the new interior being shown next on a photo' taken in 1912 of the Easter Ceerbrations.
The next few photo's were of the houses which once stood close to the church gates, one of which used to be a school and another house. the school caretaker, these being demolished at the same time as the Tithe Barn when Church St., was widened in 1915. These were followed by a photo' of Manor Farm urch St., which Mr. Watson remembered being run by John, Charles, and Lottie Sutton, he remembered going with a jug to the back door to get milk and their cows being brought down Harlington Lane and Quarry St., to the farm to be milked, the only building now left which once belonged. to this farm is a barn now occupied by Warm Mex. The next photo' showed Mr.Charles Sutton with one of his horses stood in the gateway of a field.
The next was a colour photo' of Glebe Farm Church St., taken in 1965 by Mr. Walter Ashby prior to its demolition. As a farm it was run by the Lockwood Family and we first find mention of it on a Terrier dated 1764. This was followed by a photo' of the possible birthplace of Robert Glassby, it was a row of cottages built on a slopping piece of land between Church St., and Adwick Rd., Mr. Watson noted in particular the amount of Water Butts used to catch water from the roof and used to help with the household water supply, if you couldn't get water from here it would mean going to the pump or well which this area of Mexborough had in abundance, the church in particular had a good well in the middle of the Church Yard which was known never to dry up even in the hottest of summers.
The next group of photo's all seem to have b=een of Market St., starting with Pinfold Lane which once stood almost opposite the Coltron Factory, this was followed by a photo' of a small group of cottages and buildings one of which was occupied for a number of years by Dr. Rouane. This was called Prospect House and is the house in which John Reed lived who owned Rock Pottery Bank St., and who became the patron of Robert Glassby who was born in Mexborough in 1835 and became sculptor to Queen Victoria, this aforesaid gentleman kindly carved an archway for Mr. Reed which can now be seen in the grounds of "Fern Villa" Church St., rescued by Mr. P. White when these cottages were demolished in the 1960's to make way for the by -pass.
A photo' taken from Station Rd., looking downstream towards Denaby came next It is dominated by the Leach Bridge which was a swing bridge over the canal which took people onto the old Swinton Rd., from Mexborough, there are many interesting points to be seen on this photo', the old brewery yard, Guest's Boat Yard, The Don Flour Mill, .and The National School Spire which was taken down in 1922 to name but a few.
The old Arms Houses came next which once stood behind what is now the Corner Pocket; they were known locally as "Widows Walk" and were built by William Horne in 1669 for the widows of this parish. Mr. Watson went on to tell how in times past if a woman was widowed she was "on the rocks" as the only way in which she could earn money to live on was by becoming a cleaning lady, taking in laundry, or if her husband had been a miner and she still got the coal allowance she would do baking for people, and Mr. Watson's family for years bought bread and teacakes from a widow who lived in Pitt St., These Arms Houses were demolished in 1910 to widen Market Street, and were were replaced by new ones on Church St., but the cobble stoned path which went up the side of them can still be seen and comes out at the side of the old library on Bank St., The plaque which once could be seen over the door of one of these cottages can now be seen in the church yard but because of weathering is now completely illegible and stands next to the memorial to the three people killed in the flood of 1864.
Last but not least in Mr. Watson's talk came a Bill Head of Barron's Glassworks or The Phoenix Glassworks to give it its correct name, showing a layout of the works, barges bringing loads of white sand and coal are shown, as are steam locomotives with long chimneys puffing along the track to Doncaster, Hope St. which is still there) and Glasshouse Lane can be seen as well as the four great furnaces used to melt the glass to be made into the thousands of bottles produced there each year. Thomas Barron with his father started the production of glass in Mexborough in 1850 and the family ceased the production of glass when the works shown were pulled down in 1926. Mr. Watson then told of an exhibition at Cusworth Hall a few years ago, the subject being the industries of South Yorkshire and there was a display of glassware over which was the heading "The credit for the introduction of large scale glass bottle production goes to Thomas Barron of Mexborough" and Mr. Watson took Mr. Barron's granddaughter who was still alive at the time to see it, and this is where Mr. Watson called it a day and he took a well earned break.
Due to background noise I have had difficulty in understanding part of this tape, and therefore have been unable to cover it all, but please don't forget that if you wish to listen to it in its entirety it is available on request.
J. R. Ashby.