NEWSLETTER - 26th MARCH 1996
On Friday I received a telephone call from Helen at The Local History Dept. of Doncaster Central Library, telling me that as the lady who used to help Carol Hill to arrange the Local History Festival every two years has now retired. Carol had found it impossible to do all the arranging single handed and therefore has had to cancel the festival this year. This festival is the one at which we were to put on an
exhibition under the theme of entertainment to be found in Mexborough in past years. Although the festival is now not to take place, the items kindly donated to the society for this purpose will not go to waste, as we have been asked to put on an exhibition for the centenary of Doncaster Road Junior School, to be staged there in
April, and we therefore wish to exhibit these items there, showing what entertainment was available to children and others here at the beginning of this century.
Last week the March/April issue of Yorkshire History arrived on my door mat and is now available for you to read at your leisure. This contains within it stories of "The Micklefield Pit Disaster" by Keith Rhind, which describes what it was like to work in the pits at the close of the last century, when one quarter of the miners in this country were in Yorkshire. "The Sheffield Chartist Uprising" by Suzanne Grason, tells of a violent Chartist uprising in Paradise Square behind Sheffield Cathedral in 1840. In short, the Chartists were the first movement demanding votes for all, which is something we now all take for granted at elections. This is something which has only been achieved by the blood, sweat, and tears of the people of whom Suzanne Grason writes. "Godfrey Higgins", by Margaret Burns, comes next. If this name seems familiar to you then it should as she is one of our members and worked very hard on the dig we did a couple of years ago on The Old Parsonage (Mexborough's first Manor House, situated at the bottom of the old vicarage gardens). Margaret tells us here of a man who was an unconventional thinker, a political radical and a historian of religions who was born at Skellow Grange near Doncaster in 1773. "The Gas Adventure of Whitby" by Kenneth Golisti tell us that coal was not the only thing used to obtain gas from in Victorian times and tells of how whale oil was used in Whitby. "The Romans in Malton" by Peter Hoy using coin evidence, he examines the civilian settlement surrounding Malton Fort. Further items included, Place names, Landscape History, Book Reviews, Places to Visit, and last but not least Focus On which this month I recommend you read as it tells of THE ROYAL ARMORIES WHICH IS TO OPEN ON CLARENCE DOCKS IN LEEDS ON 30th MARCH 1996, PRICES ARE TO BE ADULTS £6:95, CHILDREN £3:95, WITH REDUCTIONS FOR STUDENTS AND O.A.P.'S It appears to be well worth a visit as in London only a tiny amount of their exhibits could be put on display.
WHEN THE TELEPHONE CAME TO MEXBOROUGH
The telephone came to Mexborough at a very early date in its development, just eleven or twelve years after its invention when there were only telephone cables connected to the main cities of this country and before many parts of London had even seen one.
On the 7th March 1890 an article was published in the Mexborough and Swinton Times entitled "The Telephone in Mexborough - Public Inauguration" which tells how on the Friday prior to that date the telephone was officially opened at Mexborough by the National Telephone Company and how a ceremony took place in honour of this at the Montagu Arms Hotel at which speeches were given. These speeches tell us many things; for example the position of the first call office (I believe this must be what we now call an exchange). This was to be found within Mr. Albert Hammerton's Stationers and Smallware Dealers which the directories tell us was at 17, High St., Mexborough. We are also told how members of the Local Board had spoken to people in Sheffield, Chesterfield, Baslow, Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, and Liverpool, and at several of these places the operator had switched them onto the theatres where they could listen to the performances taking place on stage. The speaker then thanked Mr. F. F. Bennett, who was the manager of the Sheffield District, Mr. Stott the engineer, and Mr. Chapman the agent for the Doncaster area for their fine job in setting up the telephone in this town.
Mr Bennett then stood up and made a speech telling of the things done by electricity in those years before the turn of the century. He spoke of electrical traction, electrical cars, and electrical tram cars. He said that only eleven years prior to this date people had thought the telephone to be a toy and had laughed at the idea of large cities being able to communicate with each other by this means. Now the longest distance one could communicate by the means of the telephone was from London to Lancaster, and Paris could now communicate with both Brussels and Marseilles and many other towns. In the U.S.A. the longest distance that electricity had transmitted a conversation was between New York and Chicago, a distance of 800 miles. At first they had found it very difficult to get their firm off the ground as financiers would not put their money into the business, believing it not to be a practical undertaking. They proved them to be wrong. It was their wish to connect every town in the U.K. but at the moment they were pushing to connect the most populous areas of Yorkshire and Lancashire and that in the next few months they hoped to have connected Goole and Hull. He was pleased that Mexborough had been forward thinking enough to be connected as it was both important and advantageous from a commercial point of view. Now principal firms in large cities could easily get in touch with firms to be found here.
Mr. Bennett then went on to tell of some of the experiences he had of using the telephone in those early days. He told the Local Board that besides being the manager of the company for the Sheffield area, he was also manager of the Cumberland District and one night was awakened by a telephone call from Whitehaven asking if he could telephone Workington nearby and ask if the Lifeboat could attend a ship in distress. This he did and as a result several lives were saved. On another occasion there had been a burglary in the early hours of the morning at Maryport just down the coast from where he lived. The last train had left for Workington carrying the burglars on it. The policeman on duty went to the telephone exchange and telephoned Workington Police Station, telling them what had happened. Thus they were able to arrest them as they alighted from the train. He had heard many stories of how burglars had been caught by police when the owner of the house had telephoned the police on finding his home broken into. He then finished his speech by saying that he hoped Mexborough Exchange would be a great success.
Mr. G. White who was a member of the Local Board who we find in the directories as George White A.M.I.C.E. Civil Engineer, Surveyor, Valuer, Architect and Estate Agent with offices at 60, Market Street but living in High Melton then stood up to make a speech saying that he would certainly be one of the first subscribers and had already put his name forward, and Mr. Dykes another member said likewise.
Mr. Stott the engineer of the project then told how the people of Mexborough had given him all the assistance he required and he gave special thanks to the Sanitary Dept. for their additional help.
The meeting was then thrown open for the public to ask questions of Mr. Bennett as to the operation and scope of the telephone. One point made by him on the operation of this item was that it was not necessary to shout down the telephone, something which even to this day some people do not seem to have got the hang of. Other questions and answers I'm afraid it does not cover which seems such a shame as we would have had an insight into the thoughts of the general public about this device which was to make such a vast difference to their lives. I believe to that generation it was as vast an innovation as the computer has been to ours.
If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Information obtained from:-
The Mexborough and Swinton Times 7th March 1890.
Directories of Mexborough 1899 and 1897.
It is my sad duty to once again inform you of the loss of another of our members, Mr. Ryland Jones of Denaby Main. Jean and Ryland Jones have been active members of our society for some years and I am sure that you will join with me in sending Jean our sincere condolences at her sudden sad loss.
Your Archivist J. R. Ashby
DONCASTER ROAD JUNIOR SCHOOL — CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Celebrations will run for most of the week leading up to Saturday 27th April in school, some of the activities planned will be:
A sampler - this is being made and all the children in the school will have had an opportunity to work on it.
A Vicorian school day - all children and staff to dress up in costume.
A Victorian school meal - the school meals service are to put on a special meal of stew and dumplings and suet pudding.
Playing Victorian playground games. Setting up a Victorian classroom.
Victorian PE lesson - the whole school to take part in the school hall.
Some of the events to be held on Saturday 27th April 1996 at our Centenary Fayre will be:
Hot air balloon
Dray - Whitbread brewery
Northcliffe and Mexborough Schools Brassbands
Police Rapid Response Vehicle
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Vehicle
Centenary cake (each child to be given a piece)
Tea/cake stalls Pig roast
St John's Ambulance
Bouncy Castle Face painting
Earth Centre stand Maypole dancing Victorian fairgames
Little Vixen fair organ
There may be a few more to add but this is the list to date. See you there!