NEWSLETTER - 31st OCTOBER 1995
When your society held its first meeting on that cold evening at the beginning of November 1987 in one of the rooms within Doncaster Road School, there was very little to be found in this town with literary connections to our history. Our old library held just one volume on the subject, this being an original copy of Memorials of Old Mexborough by William Glassby written in 1893. Now eight years later there are a number for you to read during the dark nights of winter which are to come, these are:-
Memorials of Old Mexborough by William Glassby (a reprint) £4.50 An Everyday Story of Mexborough Folk by J. R. Ashby £2.95
A Mexborough Scrap Book by Barrie Chambers £5
The Legacy of Our Backings by Michael Fowler £4.99
The above are all available from Mexborough Branch Library
The history of Denaby United Football Team, Obtainable from Graham's
Hairdressers, Bank Street, Mexborough £3
We Shall Remember by Giles Brearly and Graham Oliver, obtainable from Brearly
Accountants of Swinton, £6 95.
Talking of books and authors I have been asked by Barrie Chambers that if anyone has any information on an underground newspaper named "The Cut" which was sold in the public houses and clubs of Mexborough during the 1970s could you please get in contact with him.
On the 5th November 1995 your society will be visiting Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet at Sheffield which will be priced at £4.75, for details of this could you please get in contact with Mrs. Joyce Thompson.
Also this year for the first time instead of our usual Christmas Social Evening there will be a Christmas Excursion to Skipton and Grassington the arrangements of which are as follows. We are to meet on the 2nd December 1995 at the New Masons' Arms at 9 a.m. and are to first go to Skipton where we can have lunch and look around. At 2.45 p.m. we shall then leave to look around Grassington which always celebrates Christmas in a typical Victorian manner with many of the inhabitants dressing appropriately for the occasion. There will also be a market and many other items for you to see here. Your coach will leave Grassington at 5 p.m. This excursion will be priced at £5 and if you wish to attend could you please see Mrs. Joyce Thompson as soon as possible.
NOTES ON THE EARLY HISTORY OF MEXBOROUGH'S ELECTRICAL SUPPLY
At the beginning of October I received a very interesting letter from a lady who is related to the Popple Family who were well known in our town for their musical and acting abilities. In the letter sent to me she verifies something which my grandfather told me prior to his death but to this point had heard from no other source, and it refers to the electrical supply of Mexborough.
When electricity first came to Mexborough at an unknown date (a report in the Mexborough and Swinton Times states that in 1890 Mr. White of the Don Flour Mill was lighting his mill using electricity) it was supplied by a Leeds firm by the name of Yorkshire Electrical Power (Y. E. P.) and a cable was taken from Leeds to a sub-station on the outskirts of Wath-upon-Dearne along the banks of the canal. From here it again ran along the canal systems of our area until it reached the bridge at the Toll Bar Mexborough (this was to be found at the junction of Doncaster Road and Pastures Road) where it crossed the canal beneath the bridge and travelled down the banks of the canal behind the tram sheds (these are still here and are used by Kwick Fit) to a small single story stone built property close to where the old Toll Bar House once stood (now sadly long since gone) - this was known as "The Power House".
By 1900, when the electrical supply was officially inaugurated in Mexborough, a huge steam driven machine had been purchased by Mexborough Urban District Council. This was named "The Destructor" and was housed in a building now occupied by Bramall Construction Ltd. at the junction of Station Road and the by-pass. This machine was a dream to the thrifty minded Victorians and we in the environmentally aware times of today could learn from it too as all the rubbish from our town and the surrounding area was put into the furnace of the steam engine and out of the other end came electricity.
When "The Destructor" took over the generation of electricity for the workings inside the "Power House" were made redundant and the building was then used by employees of Mexborough Urban District Council as their headquarters until new premises were built for them on Market Street.
THE HOPE CLUB
Between 1730 and 1740 the total population of this country began to decrease, partly as a result of the widespread habit of drinking cheap gin. In the early 1740s when the annual output of gin reached 8,000,000 gallons burials in London were twice as many as baptisms. Public opinion began to grow against the habit and William Hogarth drew cartoons depicting the results of this habit in his "Gin Lane" caricatures contrasting them with the prosperity of "Beer Street" and in 1751 an Act of Parliament was brought out which taxed spirits heavily, controlled the number of Gin Shops, and stopped distillers from selling directly to the public.
During the industrial revolution drinking again was on the increase, conditions prevalent in the mills, factories and mines of Victorian Britain were of a disgusting nature as were most of the living
conditions and people would drink to try and dull the pain of swollen rheumatic or arthritic joints, and it was common for both men and women to drink themselves into oblivion in order to blot out all vestige of the horrible reality which was their life.
To combat this, temperance movements began to be formed and the one which became best known in our area was the Band of Hope.
Towards the end of the 19th century the movement would hold marches through our streets and we have an account of how one year at the celebration of Mexborough Feast they marched from Swinton with their banners flying and a band playing. Excursions were organised for the benefit of the members and Holmes' Mineral Waters, Mexborough would brew a herbal ale for them which was placed into bottles made specially for the purpose at the Phoenix Glassworks.
Numbers were such that it was thought necessary to build a meeting house in the town, this was completed in 1901 and was situated on Albert Road (now numbers 69 and 71). This took its name from the Band of Hope and was called Hope Cottages. Even this was not large enough and plans were made for new premises. Two houses were purchased on Helena Street to house the steward and staff and a purpose built club constructed on Milton Street - this was named the Hope Club and consisted of an entrance hall with passage to the right which led to the concert room with stage and bar, in the top left hand corner of which next to the stage was a large door which led into the room which was used for playing billiards and snooker, but if a quiet drink and a chat with friends was what you wanted then you could go into "the snug" which was opposite the bar to the right of the main doors. Here I must make the note that although when Hope Cottages was first built it was strictly temperance, but that at some time the decision was made to serve beer but I have been unable to ascertain at what point this happened.
At first, besides members of the temperance movement, it was mostly used by men who worked on the railways, as many who occupied the new houses being built in the vicinity of the club worked in this profession.
By 1956 when my family moved to live close by the Hope Club, it had become mostly a social club and an "after time watering hole" for member of the local constabulary on night shift. I well remember their "fishing trips". The parents would all collect by the huge double doors at 7.00 a.m. to await the arrival of Billies Coaches. For we children all of whom wanted to be the first to see the coaches as they wended their way up to the club, "the hills" was the place to be. These were really spoil heaps left from the numerous quarries which once dotted this area of Dolcliffe Common and from here opposite the club a good vantage point could be had and I well remember the shout that would go out from the enthusiastic children when those approaching coaches were seen. Firstly the mothers with their multitude of screaming children would descend on the coaches like a horde of screaming banshees from "the hills", while the men with rods and other fishing tackle would dump all their equipment ready to be placed in the boot at the back of the coach.
Our first stop would be at Wainfleet where the coaches carrying our menfolk would divert for them to attend their fishing match, while we like something out of an old Saint Trinians film would continue on our way to Skegness where we would spend the day, the coaches returning at tea time to pick up a load of children who had all (or did it just seem that way?) eaten too much of everything which was liable to make them ill on the return journey, the returning fishermen having joined us earlier in the afternoon with various tales to tell of the one that got away or how so and so had weighed eels in with his catch. How on earth those poor coach drivers coped with it all I'll never know. My father did quite well in these matches and I supposed if I was to look hard enough in the cupboards etc. down at the Old Farm where he lived I'm sure I would find a few of his fishing trophies from the days when we would go on those Sunday fishing trips which seem to me really not so long ago.
But such days as these are now just memories of the past as the Hope Club began to run into financial difficulties in the 1980s and was finally pulled down to make way for new housing on Friday
18th August 1995.
Of all the newsletters I have written for our society I am afraid that I have found this one of the most difficult to complete mostly because I have found information difficult to obtain and there are still quite a few questions left unanswered and I would appreciate greatly any help that can be given on this subject. Questions with which I would like help are:-
1. When did the temperance movement start in our area and where?
2. How was the money raised to build Hope Cottages, the houses on Helena Street, and the Hope Club?
3. When was beer first sold at either of the premises?
4. When was the Hope Club built? I have been told that it was roughly 1912 but I have also been told that it was later, after the 1st World War.
Information for this newsletter has been obtained from:-
Work Out Social and Economic History GCSE.
British Economic and Social History by G.P. Hill
Personal memories of myself, an ex-Mexborough Policeman, and Stella Batty who was one of the first stewards along with her husband.
J. R. Ashby