NEWSLETTER - 28th March 1995
You will have noticed that as a direct result of the fire at my home in the January of this year that I was unable to undertake the task of writing a newsletter for February and therefore this month I hope to make up for it.
Early in May this year will come the celebrations for the Fiftieth Anniversary of V.E. Day (Victory over Europe Day), and for these celebrations Mexborough library have asked if we could put on an exhibition there, to be shown the week before and the week after the 8th May, is there anyone who could help with photos or artifacts? photos of course will be copied and sent straight back to you. If you can help in any way please see me after the meeting or 'phone me on the telephone No. to be found at the end of the newsletter.
At the turn of the century, and for decades after, the chimney of "The Destructor" was a landmark in Mexborough, "The Destructor" being a large steam driven engine into which most of our rubbish was placed, it was then burned in the furnace, this then powered the generators which gave us our electricity. This huge machine was to be found within the building now occupied by Bramall Construction Ltd. at the junction of Station Rd., and the By Pass.
I believed that these monsters of the steam age had disappeared for ever, until I was watching the T. V. one Thursday night at the beginning of the month and turned on B.B.C. 2 to see the Steeplejack Fred Dibnah tell how he had been contracted by the Cambridge Museum of Technology to maintain the chimney of "The Destructor", and there before me on the screen was a building and steam engine almost identical to those seen in Mexborough. So if you are holidaying this year close to Cambridge make a point of visiting the Technology Museum to see "The Destructor" and wallow in nostalgia as you listen to the men who used to work it talking of cooking bacon and eggs on their shovels in the morning , and other anecdotes, and think of the machinery similar to this which for so long gave Mexborough its electricity.
Last month Jack Thorogood informed you that a number of people in Mexborough including myself had been approached by Radio Sheffield with a view to doing interviews on different subjects covering our town. These interviews were broadcast between the 27th Feb. - 3rd March 1995, the tape I took of them is free on request but unfortunately owing to static interference it is incomplete and part of my interview and the whole of Mr. Axe's is not to be heard.
THE DISBANDMENT OF MEXBOROUGH LOCAL BOARD 1894
In July of 1993 I wrote that there were appalling living conditions prevalent in the slums of our cities during the Industrial Revolution and because of the diseases caused by these conditions the Sanitary Act was passed and it was in that year that Mexborough Board of Health was formed, its first meeting being held at the National School (this later became called St. John the Baptist's School and was situated at the top of Bank St., where the Salvation Army Citadel is to be found), this inaugural meeting being held on the evening of the 16th August 1866.
In 1894 the Local Government Act was passed and the first local elections took place, and all the Local Boards were disbanded. This of course included Mexborough's. On the day of the disbandment a public meeting was held at the Market Hall (this is now Walker's Bingo Hall at the corner of Station Rd., and Market St.,) at which a lengthy speech was given by the newly elected County Councillor
Mr. J. H. Watson who had for eighteen years sat on Mexborough Board and was therefore able to tell of the great accomplishments achieved by the board in its twenty eight years of life.
Mr. Watson started by saying that after their first few meetings at the National School they moved to the Montagu Arms Hotel where there was a sofa and wooden forms to sit on and a table for the use of the Chairman and the Clerk. the other members using their knees as desks and notes were
made in exercise books.
He then listed some of the Chairmen giving the dates when they were in office, these being
Mr. Barker in 1870, Mr. Waddington 1876, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880, Mr. Jas White took over for the rest of 1880, Mr. Watson 1881, 1882, 1886, 1887, 1888, Mr. Schofield 1883, Mr. Scorah 1884, Mr. Sutton 1885, and Mr. Tiptaft from 1889 thereafter.
There were also other prominent members which he mentioned, such as Mr. F. L Harrop who was one of the first clerks, Mr. Beevers, Mr. Bennett who was the Chairman of the Building Committee, Mr. Sutton who was Chairman of the highways Committee, Mr. Lockwood who seems to have had a number of jobs throughout the years but at that time was the clerk, Mr. Allison, Mr. Green the engineer, Mr. Hillerby who was known on the board for his wit and humour. Mr. Watson also tells us that from the formation of the board in 1866 there had been one policeman who had seen all the changes which they had made in this town and had been policeman in the town all the time. This was Constable Cade.
When the Local oards were set up, one of the things they had to provide by law was clean drinking water, and in 1875 - 1876 this country underwent a terrible drought and this resulted in the sinking of a bore hole on Shroggs Lane ( this once joined Lousy Bush Lane to Wath Rd.,) which nearly bankrupt the town, but it was necessary as Mr. Watson states that in some areas there was famine.
He also tells us that in 1870 a public meeting was held and it was decided to move the market from its position at that time (it was situated on a temp. site in Montagu Square opposite the Montagu Arms Hotel) and to erect a Market Hall, Mr. Montagu who was then Lord of the Manor of Mexborough agreed to lease 2,368 square yards of land to Mexborough for 800 years at the sum of £240 per. year, and Mr. Watson then tells us that in all, the Market and Market Hall cost us £4,000.
In 1866 when the Board was formed there were only two roads which had a hard surface in the whole of the town, these being Church St., and High St., (in those days High St., ran from roughly where the General Post Office is to the junction of Doncaster Rd., and Pastures Rd.,) one of these, High St., was a turnpike road so you had to pay to use it and the money then was supposed to go to its upkeep, thus making sure that it was kept in excellent condition. This does not seem to have been the case in our town and the turnpike fell into disrepair, so much so that in the end the Local Board purchased it and we find Mr. Watson telling us that prior to this it was common to find Pastures Rd., and Denaby Rd., (the portion of road between the Canal Bridge and and the junction with Old Denaby Lane) under several feet of water during the winter months and it was after the purchase of the turnpike that the level of both roads was lifted.
One of the reasons for the way in which diseases spread so rapidly in the early Victorian era was the disgusting way in which sewage was disposed of. In many cases it was dumped from muck carts straight into the nearest river, thus disease spread. In 1884 the River Pollution Act was passed to stop this appalling habit, and on the 27th June 1884 tenders were put out for the erection of a Sewage Works here. This was to consist of a house, engine house, tanks, and screening machinery. By 1894 sewage pipes had begun to be put down but they found that certain areas, because of their hilly aspect, gave great difficulty, such as the Wath Rd., and Whitelea areas, and drains in this part regularly got choked up and overflowed into the streets, but these problems were at last overcome unlike Sheffield and Rotherham who were still putting untreated sewage straight into the River Don until at times Mr. Watson stated that it stank.
Mr. Watson then turned his attention to transport and spoke of the trams to be found here then. Before trams were powered by electrified overhead wires they were either pulled by horse, or after this, by electrified studs between the lines, but these electrified studs proved to be dangerous
and were removed after a few years. By 1894 he tells us that the main roads through Mexborough were in a good state of repair (by the standards of those days) and that we were rapidly becoming a centre big enough to rival Doncaster or Rotherham and soon our roads would be carrying tram lines. This comment I found to be confusing and I believe he meant to say tram wires as he had already told us that we had trams on our roads in 1894 and he went on to state "the scene on a Saturday Night at Mexborough with thirty buses running in different directions in addition to trams clearly indicates that Mexborough was a centre".
Mr. Watson also spoke of the railways to be found here in 1894 saying that Mexborough was also a good railway centre and that the Sutton and Blythe Railway (if anyone has any info on this could you please get in touch) had arranged to join Mexborough just on the other side of the railway bridge
(he does not state which one). The Great Northern Railway and also the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company were also planning to have links with the town.
In 1894 barges weighing 80 tons could be seen carrying goods along our canal, but there were plans at that time to dig a ship canal through the town similar to the one at Manchester. This was to be named the Sheffield to Goole Ship Canal and Mr. Watson tells us that it was to be fully operational by 1905. Unfortunately this was not to be as the railways became more efficient at dealing with the
speedy transportation of heavy bulky freight, the popularity, and consequently the profitability, of canals began to decline and therefore plans to have a ship canal capable of carrying vessels weighing 700 tons fell through.
Mr. Watson also touched on a couple of other interesting points after this telling us that there were plans to electrically light Mexborough at this time. He also commented that he hoped it wouldn't be long before Mexborough, Swinton, Adwick-on-Dearne, Denaby, and Old Denaby were amalgamated into a district in its own right.
The meeting was then thrown open and questions asked by the general public on current matters. Mr Rouse asked if anything could be done to stop the use of bad language in the street (the world doesn't change much does it?), Mr. Stephenson meanwhile was voicing his concern over the people in the town who were living in what was referred to as temporary structures. Mark Hulse asked about the Gas Monopoly Act, and Mr. King wanted to know "if the government repealed the act if Mr. Watson was in favour of purchasing our local Gas Works for the benefit of the town". Mr. Ickford wanted to know if the people of Mexborough would be able to have allotments on which to grow their food, to which Mr. Watson replied that this was something which was being planned at the moment with areas allocated for this purpose and that the allotments of Mexborough were to be one rood (1/4 acre) in area.
Mr Watson then concluded by saying that he could not finish without mentioning ME Joel Kirby who had served Mexborough so well for so many years, his endeavours had been neither short or slight and Mr. Watson described him as being a gentleman.
Don't forget if you wish to look at the original copy of this speech which was printed in its entirety in the Mexborough and Swinton Times on the 14th Dec. 1894 please do not hesitate to ask.
Information for this newsletter was obtained from
The Mexborough and Swinton Times
The Mexborough Local Board Log. Book 1870 - 1890