As this will be the last newsletter of the winter
season may I take this opportunity to remind those of you who have your
newsletters sent by post that it is again the time of year to make out a cheque
to Mexborough and District Heritage Society for the sum of £3 and send it to J.
R. Ashby. Also don't forget that this service is not just available to those of
our members who live away, it is now also available to anyone who wants it, all
you have to do is ask, and for the sum of £3 your newsletter will be posted to
you, so it doesn't matter if you miss a meeting you are still kept abreast of
the news of the Society.
In January I informed you that this year we are to celebrate our 10th Anniversary with a large exhibition to be held in the meeting room of Mexborough Branch Library between the 16th & 18th October 1997. Many items have been brought forward to be put on display but we still need more, in particular glassware made by the famous Barron's Glassworks, plus items made by Peter Waddington and Thomas Barron's brother-in-law Caleb Kilner. Is there anyone who has PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM OF MEXBOROUGH, IN PARTICULAR TRACKLESSES (TROLLEY BUSES) AND THE TRACKLESS TERMINUS ON ADWICK ROAD which was demolished on 24th March 1997, the latter are needed both to put on display and to be saved for posterity in the archives.
MR.JOHN WILKINSON, SUPERVISOR OF. THE RESTORATION OF ST.JOHN THE BAPTIST'S PARISH CHURCH, MEXBOROUGH
Last month Mr. Watson and I informed you of the restoration of St. John the Baptist's Parish Church, Mexborough, and I told you of Mr. John Wilkinson who supervised the work. This month I would like to tell you something about this man.
He was born on 22nd June 1833 in Bolton-upon-Dearne and worked until middle age as a Master Builder (in 1880 he is listed in the Mexborough Trade Directories as being a Stonemason and Painter but the address of his home or business premises is not given). He constructed many of the buildings we see every time we go shopping, as several blocks of buildings on the High Street of Mexborough were built by him, the last of these being Commercial Buildings which is believed to be the white fronted shops opposite the end of Hope Street (can anyone verify this?).
In about 1875 he became one of the owners of the South Yorkshire Glass Bottle Company, Swinton, the works later to be known as Dale & Browns, and went to America in order to study and bring back more modern methods of working with glass to increase productivity.
Being a businessman he spent much of his time in London where he was a member of the Reform Club. He was also a prominent member of the Rotherham Phoenix Masonic Lodge.
He was a Trustee and Manager of the Mexborough Congregational Church Day School, and became Chairman of Mexborough Water Company, a post which he retained until his death. Also elected as a member of Mexborough Local Board he resigned this post for that of surveyor, which had become vacant. He frequently attended Mexborough Parish Church where in 1891 he supervised the restoration and subscribed greatly to the cost.
He had a passion for playing billiards and on taking up residence at Beech Villas, Station Street, Swinton, built a large billiard hall close by for his own pleasure. He became a member of Swinton Council and aspired to become County Councillor for Mexborough and Swinton. For many years he was a staunch Liberal and became president of Swinton Liberal Association but towards the end of his life gave this all up to become a Unionist (a Conservative).
He was married four times in all but surprisingly only had three children, these being girls, and in 1900 were named as Miss Wilkinson, Mrs Flockton, and Mrs. Chester, he was survived by this last partner Mrs Sophie Wilkinson.
He died of Bright's Disease (also known as Glomerulonephritis which is a disease of the kidneys) on the 6th May 1900 and was buried in Mexborough Churchyard, the vicars of Mexborough (Rev. W. H. F. Bateman) and Swinton (Rev. W. J. Peacy) plus the Curate of Swinton (Rev. J. G. Patrick) conducting the service. His coffin was carried to the grave by some of the workers of the South Yorkshire Glass Bottle Company.
Although this man must have been quite an influential business person during the latter half of the 19th century, and was quite a large property owner, I have been unable to discover a great deal about him and much of his life still remains a mystery. The Mexborough Trade Directories tell us almost nothing of his business activities whilst he lived in Mexborough. They do not even give his business address and the vast majority of the information above had to be gleaned from his obituary, which for the status of the man in question I found to be surprisingly small, unusual for this particular newspaper at this time. Don't forget if you wish to read this obituary get in contact with me at the above address.
Information obtained from:-
The Mexborough and Swinton Times 11th May 1900. Black's Medical Dictionary.
Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary.
Mexborough Trade Directories 1862 - 1899.
Your Archivist J. R. Ashby