Last month I informed you that a Mexborough
Pacific Steam Loco which had spent much of its working life at The Plant
(Mexborough Loco' Sheds) was being lovingly restored to steam condition. At our
last meeting a collection was held to raise money for its restoration and we
were successful in raising the sum of £20 which, with private donations, in all
came to £50. This will be forwarded to the Grand Central Railway at Loughbrough
in order to help with the restoration.
In 1913 an Act was passed through Parliament to allow tracklesses (trolley buses) to run on the roads of our district, and at once work began on the construction of all the new items needed which would become associated with this particular mode of public transport, which would be so much a part of everyday life for years to come. One of the things to be constructed was a new terminus on Adwick Road and one of the buildings to be erected there was a brick built shelter for the benefit of the passengers (now used as a bus shelter known as The Clock), and years later it still stands proud protecting us from the worst that the British weather can throw at us, but not for much longer as the Transport Executive have deemed fit to pull it down and replace it with a glass one. For months your Society has fought to save this bus shelter saying that they would be destroying a part of our heritage and with a little financial help it could be put into pristine condition. We also stated that the glass bus shelters were far inferior to the brick ones in every way, but to no avail and a few weeks ago we received a letter to say that the decision had been made to demolish it on week commencing the 24th March 1997. Besides the fact that they are destroying a part of our industrial past, they could also be destroying a part of the country's industrial past as I believe this to be the last purpose built trackless stop. It seems so silly to me that a good building such as that should be demolished in favour of something which is so much inferior for the purpose it is intended to do which is to protect us from the weather while we are waiting for a bus.
At the end of last month our copy of Yorkshire History Quarterly arrived which contained stories which included "John Paul Jones and the Battle of Flamborough Head" by Diane Davis; "Mediaeval Grave Slabs from the Yorkshire Wolds, Market Weighton District and Northern Holdness" by John R. Earnshaw. F.S.A; "Edward Elgar in the Yorkshire Dales" by W.R. Mitchell; "Boatbuilding at Thorne Waterside" by Laurie Thorp; "A Moorland Chapel (Saltergate Wesleyan Chapel)" by Ruth Strong; "Clifford Village and Flax Mill Workers in a Rural West Yorkshire Village in the Nineteenth Century" by Isabel Stones; "Princes of Whales: Thomas & John Shackels of Hull" by John Goodchild; "Scandal at Sandal" by Barbara Green; Doncaster as a Railway Centre" by Philip L. Scowcroft; and lastly, "Kit Brown and the Hand of God" written by Mike Watson, .
On the last week in February 1997 Barrie Chambers launched his new book entitled "A Champion's Diary". This book covers important events in the life of William "Iron" Hague from his birth on the 6th November, 1885, at Woodruff Row, Mexborough to his death on the 18th August 1951. It tells of his start as a bare knuckle fighter in the boxing booths, his fight in 1909 with Gunner Moir to become Boxing Heavyweight Champion of England, how he fought Bombardier Billy Wells in the first contest for the Lonsdale Heavyweight Belt, his entry into the Grenadier Guards during the 1st World War and how he was gassed, effectively putting an end to his fighting career. Then finally it tells of his life after the 1st World War as a referee/boxing adviser to Bruce Woodcock, and how in his latter years he worked as a barman for his wife's family at The Montagu Arms. This book can now be
obtained from Newstyme, High St., Mexborough,.price £5.
An item to note is that on the 17th February 1997 the plaque placed on the wall of what is now Walker Bingo in honour of Sapper Hackett VC was removed and is to be placed on the War Memorial within Castle Hill Gardens, Doncaster Road, Mexborough.
THE RESTORATION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST'S PARISH
During the 19th Century many of the churches in this country underwent vast alterations and some of us thought ill of the Victorians for doing this, but after reading an article in the Mexborough and Swinton Times and after consulting with Mr. N. Watson, one of our eminent local historians, it seems that in the case of Mexborough Parish Church there was a dire need for its restoration and I now believe we have greatly misjudged the Victorians.
The restoration of Mexborough Parish Church, supervised by Mr. John Wilkinson in 1891, seems to have had a dual purpose. Because of the vast increase in population to this area, brought about by the opening of the pits, our little church which was designed to hold less than 300 found it could not cope with its growing congregation and by 1890 it was decided that something had to be done as the church was losing ground to the non-conformists who had built large new chapels, some of which were capable of holding 3,000 people. Swinton Parish Church was also having the same problem but they got around it by demolishing the old church and building a new one, whereas here the decision was made to keep our lovely old church and try to increase the accommodation
On the 11th May 1900 the obituary for Mr. John Wilkinson who supervised the restoration of St. John the Baptist's Parish Church, Mexborough, appeared in the Mexborough and Swinton Times and following this can be seen an article which tells of the building work needed to restore the church.
It appears from the afore mentioned article that our church was in a bad state of repair. John Clarkson contributed to this in 1851 by stealing the lead from the church roof, which cost the church in all the sum of £5 10s 4d (E5 52), a considerable amount for those days, and this was just to bring the man to justice and not for the replacement of the lead. In fact I have been unable to find any reference to the lead being replaced.
The article then goes on to state that in the Spring of 1891 a meeting was held in the church attended by the Rev Henry Ellershaw who was Vicar of Mexborough, Mr. E. Waddington who was one of the Churchwardens, and Mr. John Wilkinson who was the builder contracted to supervise the renovation of the church.
The wall which divided the congregation from the ruinous North Aisle was crumbling and needed to be removed entirely. The North Aisle which was built in
1260 was by 1891 in ruins and it was Mr. Wilkinson who was the first to suggest that it should be rebuilt, and offered £25 towards the rebuilding, an amount which was matched by Mr. Waddington, thus giving much needed accommodation for the congregation.
The Southern part of our church facing Old Denaby which had no protection from the severe winter elements seems to have been the worst affected. The South Aisle Wall was in such a rotten and dilapidated state that a stained glass window earlier purchased for the church by Mr. Wilkinson could not be installed. This wall was also supporting a side gallery (balcony) occupied by the congregation and it was only a matter time before a serious accident took place. In addition, the whole of the roof over the South Aisle had to be removed. So it was decided to remove the wall, roof and gallery and to rebuild this whole portion of the church and this, along with the new porch, again gave more much needed accommodation.
Following the meeting at the church, a further meeting was held that night in the National School (where The Salvation Army Citadel, Bank Street, is now situated). It was led by Rev Ellershaw and attended by ten people, mostly churchwardens. This meeting was to discuss the church's defects in construction, its sad state of dilapidation and decay and the need to re-roof the whole of the South Aisle,.plus all the suggestions made by Mr. Wilkinson as to the restoration. After hearing of the building's defects and the solutions, put forward by Mr. Wilkinson, from the Rev. Ellershaw they seem to have been highly delighted as they backed his ideas by donating money towards the restoration.
Many weeks of work then began - new seating, choir stalls, pulpit, eagle lectern, and organ (donated by Mr. Montagu) were installed, whereas some items had to be removed.
Our parish church once had galleries (balconies) constructed in 1820. In many churches an orchestra was to be found in the gallery, but I have been unable to ascertain as to whether we did, although certainly from early in the 19th century I have found reference to a bass stick which seemed always to be in need of repair, and an organ. In 1868 the side galleries were removed and the organ brought downstairs, then in the restoration of 1891 the final gallery was removed when the dividing wall between the Nave (main area of church) and North Aisle (now the Lady Chapel) was removed it revealed Norman Pillars dated 10801100, a small doorway dated 1260-1280, two windows dated 1400-1450, and a 13th century mural, and without the conservation techniques available to us in the latter half of the 20th century I presume that all had to be removed because of the crumbling state of the wall ,with the exception of the Norman pillars.
The shape of the main archway was changed from a crescent to a peaked Gothic, and lettering which once stood at its leading edge was removed. This read "When The Fullness Of The Time Was Come God Sent Forth His Son" and below this written on wood across the arch was "The Lord Our Righteousness". Another change to the arch was the removal of a black escutcheon, this being a black diamond shaped shield, and I have discovered that a black one depicts the death of the bearer of the coat-of-arms seen on it. This particular escutcheon carried the Royal Coat of Arms and was situated at the apex of the arch. I believe this to have been purchased to commemorate the death of King George III. as Mexborough was an agricultural area at this time and the king was instrumental in teaching the virtues of improved farming methods during the Agricultural Revolution. I have also found rerence to a Royal Coat of Arms being obtained by the church on the 5th June 1820 the year in which the king died. With reference to King George it was discovered whilst doing research prior to the filming of "The Madness of King George" that the king's urine was blue, this being an indication that he was in fact suffering from Porphyria a physical illness which affects the nervous system and therefore was not mad, as previously believed.
Then, last but not least, the wall behind the altar was changed. It had once been flat but was now made into an Apse (a concaved area) to give more space to this area of the church. An interesting point about the Apse is that in 1914 stained glass windows were added, these being a gift from a Mr. Shields in honour of his
parents who were local people. The gentleman in question was the illustrator of the Billy Bunter books and the windows are therefore known locally as the Billy Bunter Windows.
After studying the article from the Mexborough and Swinton Times on repairs needed to Mexborough Parish Church and after learning of the problems involved with the need to expand the church from Mr. N. Watson, I now believe that without the intervention of the Victorians we would not have the church we have today. They restored our church very well, expanding it to cope with the ever increasing congregation but successfully retaining many of its original historical features, and if it hadn't have been for their expertise we would not have the lovely old church we see today.
Items used in the compilation of this newsletter were:-
The Common Place Book (to be found within Doncaster Archives it is similar to a Log Book and is kept up to date by the vicar of the time).
Notes taken from the Church Records.
Article from the Mexborough and Swinton Times.
Notes from a letter by Mr. N. Watson.
J. R. Ashby