30th MAY 1995.
On Thursday 23rd March 1989 the man who had strung our streets with "Fairy Lights" to celebrate Victory Day, who had been one of our A.R.P. Wardens, and served Mexborough for nearly fifty years as our "Electric Man", died. His name was William Blount and he was my grandfather. As we undertook the sad duty of removing his possessions from his council home on Morton Road, where he had lived for over twenty five years following his second marriage, one of the things we found was a small yellow booklet complete with map telling what Mexborough was like in the days immediately after the war. This month, as a follow up to our last newsletter, I would like to tell you about it.
MEXBOROUGH AT THE END OF THE WAR
The war was over and Victory Day with its street parties and dances was now but a memory. The blackout curtains had been taken down, except in the children's bedrooms, our illuminating buttons put away, and people had begun the long arduous task of rebuilding our war torn country, with Clement Attlee at the helm as Prime Minister.
Plans for a better future were made by our Urban District Council and this consisted of:- Clerk and Solicitor S.G. Lightfoot, Medical Officer of Health
Dr. T. Lindsay M.B. Ch.B., Surveyor and Water Engineer J. Chambers A.I.A.A., Chief Financial Officer H.R. Platt, Electrical Engineer and Manager E.A. Andrews A.M.I.E.E., Sanitary Inspector H. Brearley C.R.S.I. M.S.I.A., Housing Manager
T. Flather F.I.H., Librarian F. Fordham, Rating and Valuation Officer R.B. Davison, Cemetery Superintendent T. Newell. The offices of the Mexborough Urban District Council were at that time to be found in The Market Hall and The National Provincial Bank Chambers Tel No 2291/2 and meetings held by them on the 3rd Wednesday in every month in the Council Chambers situated inside our Old Market Hall (now Walker's Bingo Hall).
We had witnessed the devastating effects of the German bombs, Doodle Bugs, and V2 rockets on the industrial cities of our country, and watched as they flew overhead to bomb our neighbours in Sheffield. We realised how lucky we had been to get away with a single incendiary bomb dropped in Denaby Pit Yard Now all those people made homeless by the bombing needed rehousing. Mexborough U. D. C. was making plans to build four or five hundred new houses on fields which had been formally used by the tenants of Highwoods Farm.
It was on 13th April 1946 that the South Yorkshire Times tells us of a new Power Station in Mexborough built between the River Don (the water of which was used) and the canal (used to transport the coal). The electricity supply in Mexborough was inaugurated in 1900, although some private individuals had electricity prior to this date. So by the end of the 2nd World .War. all our streets were well lit and we could provide electricity for domestic, business, or industrial use as cheaply as anywhere in the country. If you wished to make any enquiries about it you could go to "our spacious new showrooms" at the bottom of Adwick Road, (this is now Posies Flower Shop) or to M.U.D.C. Electricity Dept. Offices, Station Road, Mexboro' (now Brameld Construction Ltd., at the junction of Station Road, and the By Pass), and all our new houses were to have it fitted as standard, unlike some new homes of the time.
All the new people coming to our area needed to be rehoused with basic amenities such as schools for their children. Here they seem to have been well served for at this time we had. no less than seven junior and infant schools. This included the then newly opened Park Road School (1932) which incorporated a nursery. We also had Dolcliffe Road, and Adwick Road, schools for the older children as well as our Secondary School (Grammar School) under the headship of H.L. Watkinson M.A. By this time too Mexborough could boast a Technical College, opened in June 1939 and called the Schofield Technical College after Alderman Schofield. It was situated at the junction of Park Road and Cemetery Road, and was demolished in 1994 to make way for housing, but at the time our booklet was written it provided further education and commercial training for the older students as well as being a meeting place for several cultural societies.
By now we had a newly formed N.H.S. and Mexborough was served by an excellent hospital, Montagu Hospital. We also had in the local vicinity two others, Wath Wood and Fullerton (Denaby), with a Conisbrough, Doncaster and Mexborough Joint Isolation Hospital which provided accommodation for patients with infectious diseases. This was situated at Conisbrough and was known as Crookhill Road Hospital.
A large percentage of the male population, including those coming to our area to live in the new houses, would have been employed in the collieries or one of their numerous dependant works or factories. Separate from these, and one of our main employers, was a printing firm by the name of the South Yorkshire Times Printing Company which also published the South Yorkshire Times. This then had five editions and was based in High Street. Some of our smaller firms consisted of a Scissor Factory, Cardboard Box Factory, Bacon Factory, a Brick Yard, and an Umbrella Factory. The Power Station was also a source of employment.
To get to work we needed public transport and this was supplied by the Mexborough and Swinton Trackless Service, who operated their `tracklesses' (trolley buses) between Conisbrough, Rotherham, and Manvers Pit. From the rear of the old Market Place (behind the present fish market) buses could be caught to Doncaster or Barnsley, and from West Street, to High Green which linked up to a Sheffield service. To the south of our town could be found the L.N.E. railway by which a journey to the steelworks of Sheffield took just 30 mins. and to the Railway Works of Doncaster 20 mins.
It appears that at this time there were plans to widen Mexborough by demolishing the shops to its southern side. Also to link the main Doncaster—Sheffield road and eliminate
necessity for vehicles to use Denaby Railway Crossings and pedestrians the ferry, a bridge or tunnel was to be built at the bottom of Ferry Boat Lane.
This surely would have meant the upgrading of all the roads and lanes around the villages of Old Denaby and Hooton Roberts and would have been a vast financial undertaking, off set it is said by the increase in industry it would bring to Mexborough.
The most important outdoor sports venue was, as it is now, the Athletic Ground on Hampden Road. Mexborough's football team had been a famous name and had won the Midland Football League and provided many a soccer star. By the end of the war we were no longer in the league, but the grounds were still used by the Sheffield Association and other clubs, such as the Montagu Hospital Sports Committee, which promoted a very popular football competition, the final of which always took place on Good Friday. Another group which met there was the Mexborough Schools Football League.
Mexborough Cricket Club, which met at the Athletic Club, also played in the Yorkshire Cricket Council as well as the South Yorkshire League and the Athletic Club was chosen by The Yorkshire County Cricket Club to be the venue for one of the Yorkshire Second Team's matches. This was in July 1946 and was between Yorkshire and Cheshire, the match lasting two days.
Mexborough has always been rich in boxing talent producing such names as Iron Hague who became our Heavy Weight Champion and Harry Crossley who became our Cruiser Weight Champion. At the time this booklet was written Ellis Ashurst had just completed six years service with the R.A.F. as a parachute and P.T. instructor and had opened a shop on Bank Street. He too had been a boxer and had been a contender for the Fly Weight Boxing Title. A number of years after the war my father became an enthusiastic fisherman winning many prizes and I got to know this little happy curly haired man very well as I also went to school with his daughter Judith. On many occasions I met Keith Barron (now an actor) as he came to see Terry, Mr. Ashurst's son, at their home. Mr. Ashhurst looked after the children and his sick wife himself and worked his children very hard academically, as he wanted a better life for them than he had had. Our booklet then goes on to tell us that at that time Mexborough Sports Club had many promising boxers making a name for themselves all over the country.
Earlier in this newsletter I referred to the Schofield Technical College, known affectionately to the people of Mexborough as the 'Tech' and told you of the societies which met there. In the rear of this book there is a list of just a few of the societies and clubs to be found here in those days and I thought it may be interesting for us to see them and compare them with the present day. They consisted of :- The Sporting Club, Don Valley Motor Cycle and Light Car Club (with
weekly runs and road trials), Clarion Cycling Club, Tennis Clubs, and Model Aero Club, the Arts Society. Engineering Society, Allotment Society, Green Room Club Amateur Dramatic), South Yorkshire Musical Comedy Society, Canine Society (holding regular shows), Young People's Fellowship, L.N.E.R. Sports Club, Rotary Club, an Annual Horticultural Show, Naval and Army Cadets, A.T.C., G.T.C. (can anyone give me any info' about these?), Youth Council, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides, Corporation Guild, Citizen's Advice Bureau, Miners' Hostel, Town Nursing Association, Aid to China Committee, then last but not least, believe it or believe it not, a branch of the United Nations. Where are they all now I ask myself and in what state the survivors?
Our booklet then goes on to tell us of the abundance of entertainment to be found then, which I informed you about in one of our past newsletters. Mexborough was at one time a popular centre for Ice Hockey and now that the war was over the sport was being taken up once more.
Lastly the booklet tells of four of our local businesses then to be found on High Street and Main Street, starting with Clayton's the Grocers which was started in 1878. It goes on to tell of Ellis Ashurst, Bruce Smith who had been our optician for thirty years and had just retired and sold the business to Arthur Lord F.S.M.C. who had run the optical service of the Co-operative Society in Mexborough for fifteen years prior to this. It then tells the history of a firm by the name S. Thornton, Joiners and Undertakers, who had their works on Doncaster Road. It tells of how the firm was started in approximately 1875 by Thomas Huntingdon in a workshop in Milton Street, making cart wheels. Shaw's blacksmith's shop at the junction of Milton Street and Church Street built coal carts. It makes me wonder if it was this man who was the Wheelwright for them. He also did building and joinery work. The business was then passed on to his sons who built a new workshop on Doncaster Road in 1910 and Mr. Thornton their nephew took over the business in 1943 after their death.
I found this little booklet to be very illuminating about life in Mexborough towards the end of the 1940s. Yes, we did still have rationing and things were hard, but people had a vision and a hope in their hearts for a better future. The war proved to be a turning point in the life of our country, never to be returned to.
J. R. Ashby
The GTC was the Girls' Training Corps, and one of their officers was Molly Cranidge.
The Guides did not meet at the Schofield Technical College, but at The Old Scout Hut, Dolcliffe Road, the Free Christian Chapel, College Road, St George's Church, Main |Street, the Parish Hall, Church Street (where the new vicarage is built), and St Aiden's Hall (at the top of Auckland Road).