THE ORIGINS OF MEXBOROUGH
The name Mexborough was a corruption of Meoc who was a Saxon chieftain and borough is a fortification or castle (in this case it was the castle which once stood on Castle Hills), so in short it means Meoc's Castle.
Because of its Saxon connotations it is believed that the origins of Mexborough go back to Saxon times, but after research I am beginning to think that a settlement here must go back much further. At this juncture I must stress that at the moment this is just supposition and that there is no definite proof of what I am about to suggest.
Whilst doing research into the origins of Mexborough Feast (Fair) and as to why it was celebrated in the middle of summer and not when most towns had their fairs, it came to my notice that feasts celebrated at Midsummer went back thousands of years to a time when the sun god Taranis was worshipped, and certainly pre-dated Christianity. The earliest signs of Christianity we have is part of a Saxon cross found in the church. This suggests that there was probably a settlement in Mexborough before the Saxons came here. (Christianity was well established in Britain by 300 AD, well before the Saxons came to this country)
Another reason for thinking that our town is much older than we at first thought was something that came to light when doing research into the history of our roads not long ago. The Doncaster Region in Roman Times, a Doncaster Museum publication tells us that there were Iron Age settlements in the Doncaster area before the Romans came here, and that Packman Lane which goes through the town was here when they came. To me, it stands to reason that as Packman Lane crosses the River Don, travellers would have needed somewhere to stay to await the subsidence of floodwater perhaps, or just to rest after their long journey. There was plenty of good clean drinking water on this side of the River Don and good grazing for animals the fact that it did not flood, even at the worst of times seems to me that there must have been a settlement of types here when the Romans came, which later grew in size.
In November of last year Mr Watson, our President, gave an illustrated talk on the history of the town in which he showed a photograph of Mexborough Ferry and told us that this was where he thought our first settlers had come ashore and taken up residence. He then went on to state that it was sheltered from the north wind by a 200 foot cliff. It faced south and therefore got plenty of sunshine. The river was full of fish and springs of clear water were abundant. There was also plenty of wood and stone for the construction of homes, clay to make into pots, and good grazing and arable land.
To conclude, I think that the site on which the town was built was too good a site to have simply been discovered by the Saxons after the departure of the Romans. I believe that the Saxons took over an existing, much older settlement, possibly of Iron Age origins.
Place Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire
A Calendar of Country Customs by Ralph Whitelock
The Doncaster Region in Roman Times by Doncaster Museum Publications
A LOCAL HERO OF THE D-DAY INVASION
Fifty years ago saw the largest invasion force yet seen in the annals of
warfare to date. Churchill had declared after Dunkirk "We will be back" and were, in thousands.
At 12.30 am on the morning of the 6th June 1944, now known to all as D-Day, British and US paratroopers were dropped over Normandy to attack strategically important points close to the coast. A former miner at Denaby Pit, Cpl Thomas Waters, was one of them, attached to the Signals Section of the Sixth Airborne Division.
By 1 am that morning the two bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne (now known as Pegasus and Ranville) had been taken by Major Howard and his commandos. Cpl Waters was blowing a Morse Code signal on his whistle which told the paratroopers who had just been dropped in the area that the bridges had been taken.
A communications line then had to be laid as quickly as possible to headquarters, and it was when Cpl Waters and his party got to the bridge over the Caen Canal at Benouville (possibly Pegasus Bridge) that they came under heavy sniper fire.
The first man to try and get the communications lines over the bridge was shot and wounded, so Cpl Waters volunteered to bring him back to safety. He then picked up the reel of wire and ran with it over the bridge, throwing grenades as he went. Thanks to his great courage, the first line of communications was established on D-Day, which he kept open for the whole of those first vital 24 hours, going out again under fire to repair it a number of times when it was cut. For this he received the Military Medal, the citation of which read 'for conspicuous gallantry, coolness under enemy fire and devotion to duty'.
Before D Day, Cpl Waters had been a regular soldier serving in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry from 1935 to 1943, before transferring to the Royal Signals Corp, and then the 6th Airborne Division.
It seems ironic that he was not wounded on D-Day, as many of his comrades were, but at home, whilst teaching in 1945, a bomb used in a demonstration went off and he lost an eye and had to have a metal plate put in his head as well as having shrapnel wounds.
He returned home to Conisbrough where he became known affectionately as 'The Whistling Postman', but died sadly in 1955, at only 40 years old, after a road accident in which his previous injuries contributed to his death.
A poem pinned to an internal wall of the Cafe Gondree which was the first house in France to be liberated reads:
And when God asks the question Who are you, my man?
I will proudly answer
I am a veteran.
Information for the above article was obtained from:
The South Yorkshire Times, 18th January 1991 Daily Mirror, Monday, 6th June, 1994
Daily Star, Monday, 6th June, 1994.
DEARNE VALLEY OPERA - based on the book by Frank Vernon 'The Earth Trembled', the story of the Barburgh Pit tragedy. In the open air at Hickleton Colliery on 21st July £2.50/£4.50, 22nd and 23rd July £51E7.50/£10.50. Tickets from Allied Travel, Mexborough.
Your Archivist, J R Ashby