Dear Member,
In September of 1993 Barrie Chambers found and copied for us an article which he found whilst studying back copies of the Mexborough and Swinton Times. It was written by an old gentleman in November 1894 and tells what Mexborough was like some forty years before, and many things he mentions can be found on the 1854 map of Mexborough. To find out where these places were has taken a great deal of research, but there are still some which have escaped me, such as where the "Cross Keys" and the "Cluster of Nuts" public houses were, and also the residence of a gentleman by the name of J. Hewitt.
He starts his article by telling us that there was behind what is now Squire's Bakery on Doncaster Road, a stone building in which was the Public Oven, where people could cook food previously prepared at home, therefore taking away the necessity of lighting fires where there was no point such as in hot weather. It also meant that the poor who could not afford to buy fuel for their fires could cook themselves at least one hot meal a day. He then goes on to tell us that the Overseer of the Public Oven was a man by the name of George Lockwood.
Thomas Speight came next, who lived in a house close to the church gates, it was a large (by the standards of those days) square built house and had in former times been the church school prior to the building of the National School (this was situated at the top of Bank Street, where the Salvation Army Citadel now stands). It was pulled down when Church Street, was widened in about 1915.
Mexborough House is next mentioned. This was situated behind the General Post Office and was lived in by Samuel Barker, owner of the Don Iron Works on
Cliff Street, but he tells us that at one time Mr. Barker bought the Don Pottery and its branch which stood on the site of the Don Iron Works prior to its construction. By 1895 Mexborough House was being used by Mexborough Urban District Council as we now have letters written at the time to Rev. Bateman at the Vicarage from a Mr. Palliser who was possibly the Health Inspector.
In the 1850s on Church Street, there was Scarborough's Boatyard and Warehouse, this being at the side of the row of old cottages which still stand there, and until Ben Bailey built his house close by, there could be seen the orchard, stables and carriage house owned by Mr. Barker.
The Salem Chapel was owned by a branch of the Methodists, and became the Gospel Union Hall, this being situated at the bottom of West Street.
He then goes on to talk about the glassworks. This must mean the Phoenix Glassworks once owned by Thomas Barron and situated close to the rear of the indoor market and extending from here to the canal. The Leach (a piece of land between the station and the River Don) was far larger than it is now, and he tells us how beer was brought across the canal by use of pulleys, from the public house on the Leach for the benefit of employees working in the heat of the works. In 1894 the public house which stood on the Leach, which at that time included the land on which Mexbro' Loco Plant was built, was still there but pulled down after this when the Loco Plant was extended.
Next came a place with the fascinating name of California Gardens. How it got this unusual name I cannot say and as yet all I have managed to find out about it is its location which was where the car park to the indoor market now stands.
Close to the "Bulls Head" public house on High Street, was a much older inn referred to in documents which speak of the Turnpike Road as the "Crown Inn", and close to this point stood a gate which could have been a Toll Gate, which he tells us was held open by the boys of the town when the traffic was heavy along the road, such as Race Week when he tells us caravans with race horses in them were let through, along with horse drawn buses and coaches.
In those days, at the opposite side of Garden Street to the Chapel Walk Steps was a school called the British School with William Wadsworth as the master. By 1894 this had become the Salvation Army Citadel and by 1909 was our first cinema known as the "Cosy Cinema".
On the corner where the Nat' West Bank now stands was, in the 1850s, a garden kept by Joseph Beevers. There was also a house here lived in by James Wilson. Where the market once stood and the Market Hall (now Walker's Bingo) at the end of Market Street, there was a group of old cottages, and running by them a narrow lane going in the direction of the canal, here there stood a "slip house" where clay was prepared for the potteries which were in Mexborough at this time.
He speaks of the old Alms Houses which once stood behind the old library and tells us that in the middle of the 19th century Thos. Hetherington, Sally Smith, Thomas Beat, and Sarah Edwards lived there.
Bank Street was his next port of call, where he tells us Charles Bullock lived and that this man once fired the kilns at the Rock Pottery which once stood on Bank Street, close to the Methodists Chapel.
The writer then tells us that where Guest's Boatyard once stood close to Bramall Construction Ltd. at the junction of Station Road, and the by-pass there were two privately run schools, one of which was mixed and educated girls who had to drop a curtsy to their teacher as they passed to go outside. The boatyard was owned by Robert Butler, and Robert Glassby the sculptor once stood on a barge by the name of the "Rose in June" as it was being launched.
On Market Street, next to Stenton's Terrace, there was a group of cottages where in 1894 Dr. Twigg had his surgery and house, but in the 1850s the surgery was the home of Robert Tyas of whom I had read many times in the Local Board Log Book and who played a vital part in the running of the town. Dr. Twigg's house in those days was lived in by Mr. John Reed and his sister, he being the owner of the aforementioned Rock Pottery. He is said to have been a very kind man and a sympathetic employer, and it was he who became sponsor to Robert Glassby and paid for him to go to art college. He was rewarded by Robert Glassby sculpting an archway for him as an entrance to his garden, and this can still be seen on Church Street, at the end of the drive to Fern Villa.
In June comes Mexborough Feast, but in those days it didn't consist of just a fair but a circus and shows too, the latter being staged on a piece of sloping land to one side of the Royal Electric Theatre.
The Old Farm, Market Street, where my mother lives was lived in by Reuben Brookes in 1894, but earlier occupied by John Shaw who was a farmer who owned some barges, and Mr. King lived in the two roomed bungalow which once stood at the end of the garden, where in the middle of the 19th century John Fern carried on the business of a butcher.
The writer then goes on to tell us that opposite "Warmex" on Church Street, there was a row of old houses called Windsor Castle Row, where Robert Glassby was born and where he once lived in the White House with his maternal grandfather Thomas Gill the stone mason, and close by was a maltster, as there was at Manor Farm across the road. Close to the larger of the church gates was a pair of stocks into which wrong doers were put.
Across from the church are a few new bungalows by the name of Church Mews, and it was here that once stood a small farm by the name of Rose Cottage Farm. Here lived John Pitt Makin who among other things started the Olive Branch Colliery, the shaft of which has recently been located behind the V.G. shop at the top of Hirstgate, it was also he that Pitt Street and Makin Street, off Doncaster Road, were named after.
In 1894 Walter Brooks lived in Fern Villa on Church Street, but in the 1850s it was a public house by the name of "Strawberry Island", kept by Thomas Poulson, and his friend John Simpson kept the "Red Lion". The running of the other (public houses seems to have been quite straightforward in comparison with the "George
and Dragon", in those days a large farm as well as a public house, and he states that it was kept by Martha Tyas, Robert Truelove, George Jenkinson, and John Blackburn.
Close to the row of old cottages on Church Street, there was a Sail Wharf, and here was yet another ale house by the name of the Keel Inn where in 1894 William Day and Joseph Ford lived, and at the corner of Church Street, opposite Fern Villa was a farm in the 1850s by the name of Castle Hills Farm, this being owned by John Shaw who lived at the Old Farm but was run by John Bulay.
At the extreme northern edge of Dolcliffe Common, close to where Mexborough School is now on Maple Road, there still stands the old Pinder's Cottage where the man lived who looked after the common before it was enclosed in 1864, and where we are told by our old gentleman that in 1894 Alfred Barber lived, but before enclosure it was occupied by Joseph Long.
Here our writer finishes his account of what Mexborough was like in those days, long before the effects of the industrial revolution really hit the town and the pits were sunk, but what a real shame that he never thought to tell us his name by signing the article he wrote, but we will be forever grateful to him for giving us an insight into the Mexborough of a bygone time.
Your Archivist J. R. Ashby.