MEMORIALS OF OLD MEXBOROUGH
By WILLIAM J.J. GLASSBY. (Part Five),
To re-cap from January: the following opening paragraph deals with the Almshouses of Mexborough.
Upon the wall over the central doorway is the dilapidated form of a stone tablet which originally bore the arms of William Home, and a Latin inscription. The whole is so corroded by the tooth of time that scarcely any of the carving is discernable. It is interesting, however, to know the inscription which appeared on the tablet - "Deo et pauperibus per Gulielmum Horne, generosum, anno aetatis suae 54 anno 1669"; shewing (sic) that, owing to the generosity of William Home these buildings were founded in 1669, the same year in which the farm buildings were erected which we noticed off Doncaster Road. In accordance with the will of one, Calverley, dated April 25, 1721, the Almshouses were endowed with £5 yearly to be derived from the charge upon the "George and Dragon " farm, in Mexboro, now owned by Mr. Montagu.
Leaving these houses which have proved a haven of rest to so many, we proceed further to where on the right is the house of Dr. Twigg, once the home of Mr. John Reed whom we mentioned in connection with the pottery. In the grounds adjoining the house is a Gothic arch facing the roadway and richly carved with grotesque figures and heads, the whole having been designed and carried out by the late Robert Glassby in 1859.
Continuing our journey to the junction of Church Street and Pinfold Lane, standing away from the road on a rising ground is the house where the last named was born on December 18, 1835, and who after much perseverance, overcame all obstacles and forced his way into the world of Art. His death in London on August 3, 1892, was regretted by many in all classes of society; at his funeral Her Majesty being represented, and sending a magnificent wreath inscribed as "A mark of respect from Queen Victoria."
A few paces onward through Church Street brings us to a group of farm buildings on the left. We will let our minds dwell upon one of these which to many is a spot fraught with hallowed associations, as here occurred the advent of Methodism in Mexboro.
Our authority for this is an article from the "Christian Miscellany" as follows:-
"Mexborough - now a busy, thriving place, lying on the Don - was about three-quarters of a century ago of limited dimensions and very sparsely inhabited. It had a small church, and, as our story will show, some form of local government. The parish clerk, Robert Glassby, who was also its schoolmaster, held the office of constable, and evidently considered it his duty to keep the peace and prevent any approach towards disturbance. At this time Methodism had no existence in the village although it is only six miles from Rotherham. A change was, however, at hand. In the year 1804, the Rev. Robert Newton, D.D., was appointed to the Rotherham circuit. His fame as a preacher of distinguished eloquence and power had already been spread abroad, and he was the first Wesleyan preacher who visited the place. In what is now called Old Mexborough, near the church, on the opposite side of the road, stands an old farmhouse, enclosed within walls, then occupied by a Mr. Sellers. Mrs. Mary Styring, of Wickersley, near Rotherham, 'a mother lit Israel,' who felt an interest in the place, got his consent to come and preach to the people Among the hearers ear perhaps we should say the onlookers, was the important official who blended in himself the threefold office of constable, schoolmaster and parish clerk Irritated that anyone should presume to come again he would apprehend him. Dr. Newton was not likely to be deterred from his work by these threats; he announced another service in a month's time, and again made his appearance at the place and began his service in the same house. The parish clerk, also true to his word had engaged several men to render their he in taking the preacher, and had provided handcuffs for the purpose. So shell was the intention known that a man from Wath, James Thorpe, an old Methodist along with several others, came with the expectation of seeing the apprehension. As the service proceeded the men employed said to the official, 'Shall we take him?"No,' replied the constable, ire not said anything amiss against the King ore the country.' The service still progressing, again they whispered 'Shan't we take him now? "No,' again was The reply 'he has said nothing wrong,' and so the service was peaceably concluded and the congregation, dismissed."
The untoward surroundings, and grave difficulties under these pioneers of Wesley's teachings laboured,explain the cause of their success. The meetings held in the farmhouse kitchen progressed under the feeble light of the old fashioned hallow candle, the preacher aiding himself by holding A "dip" in his hand while leading, the snuffers lying bawd by for the frequent trimming of the lessening flame- truly an uphill fled, yet bearing results which compel that fraternity of to-day to applaud the self-denial and stubborn nerve of their forefathers.
The cause of Methodism continued to girow, meetings being regularly held in the farmhouse until; in 1833 such progress had beta made that a fine dispel was built; soon, however, to be superseded by a mew building which is being erected on the site of the Rock Pottery as before-mentioned.
We now turn to the next building,- the home of Mr. Varah Lockwood. The most interesting portion is certainly the interior, although the exterior still bears the traces of its past history. Here upon our right we notice the large iron ring, still firmly fixed in the wall, where once was tethered the traveller's horse; for be it known this was the village hostelry graced by the presence of Dame Varah, known far and wide as the vendor of prime home-brewed ale. Close by on our left is the time-worn horse-block, by which many a farmer has remounted his horse after having satisfied the cravings of the inner man.
Within the house we centre our attention upon the old kitchen, once used by the frequenters of the inn, and but little altered since it served as the public-room; and as we look at the large open range we feel envious of the times when, as an open house, customers could here seek a retreat from the bitter blasts of the wintry tempest, and find solace and comfort in the imbibing of hot spiced ale and other luxuries.
From the church register we gather that in 1765 Thomas Varah married Martha Darling, henceforth to be known as Dame Varah. Now the nearest doctor lived at Wath, so this good lady was singled out to perform the delicate operation of vaccinating the children, her daughter afterwards becoming her successor as vaccination officer for the district. A Dorothy Varah became the wife of the Rev. Leonard Jasper Hobson, Incumbent of Melton and Mexboro', on Oct. 10, 1803.
The regime of the Lockwood commenced in 1817, on the union of the two families by the marriage of Joseph Lockwood, of Bolton Mill, to Martha Varah. The Inn was then closed, but while Joseph Lockwood followed the avocation of a farmer and miller, his better-half carried on the business of apothecary, draper, and grocer.
Many of the items of interest in connection with this house and its successive occupants, but our time will not allow of a prolonged stay. Two venerable cottages adjoining must not be left unnoticed, and though soiled with the grimy hand of time during latter years, the thatched roof and lattice windows with diamond-shaped panes almost compel us to forget the progress which has been made around. Here to, close by, is the village smithy, or as it is more commonly known Cooper's blacksmith shop; and though one cannot say concerning it, that "Under a spreading chestnut tree, The village smithy stands," the old shop greatly adds to the charm and picturesqueness of this portion of the district which especially forms our theme.
We will now cross the road to a group of farm buildings. Here we see upon the wall over the entrance the name of a former occupier, shewing (sic) that they belonged to "William Dickinson, farmer and maltster." Advancing to the Church gates we come to the spot where formerly stood the stocks and where transgressors of the law, often to their utter chagrin, were forced to spend a few miserable hours in durance vile,- hours frequently made viler by wags who indulged in the pastime of plying the victim with sundry defunct and altogether undesirable specimens of the feline tribe, unsavoury eggs, or such sweet missiles as came to the ready hands of the tormentors. With the advance of civilisation and the improved (?) method of punishment, the stocks fell into disuse and were rentrived, no doubt to the disappointment of many of the rising generation who would gladly have availed themselves of an opportunity to enjoy a little sport at the expense of some ill-favoured mortal.
Quitting the site ingloriously associated with the faults and failings amen of the past, we will enter the gates of the churchyard, and so proceed to the task of the old Church.
Those of us who attended the last meeting were privileged to see Geoff Preece giving his talk Yorkshire Pottery. This was the first public airing of this talk, showing slides from Heather Lawrence's collection for the first time. Concentrating mainly on the Don pottery, Swinton, the talk coincides with the launch of a new book by John Griffin, The Don Pottery.
An exhibition of pottery shown in the slides is now open in Doncaster museum until May 19 together with the excellent collection of local pottery already on show. This is an exhibition not to be missed.
The society has once again been successful with it's latest grant application. 'The money comes from Doncaster Council via the West Community Forum, and will enable the society to purchase the archives and equipment from Helen Chambers, Barrie's widow. Special thanks must go to two members of West Forum Committee who promote Mexborough at every opportunity; Frank Knapton and John Fowler argued our case strongly and although not allowed to vote, carried the day for us. Also thanks to Jane Sulley, Link Worker with the West Forum, for her guidance and patience.
By the time you read this dates should have been arranged with Mexborough Library for an exhibition of some of Mr Watson's archive material, also for the opening of Barrie Chamber's archives.
The visits are proving popular, one or two almost fully booked. An extra date has been added, on 2 June member Bernard Pearson will take us on a historical walk through Conisborough, calling at the Church and Castle, lunch at the Castle Tearooms and finishing with a tour of the Earth Centre. More visits are pending please look at a copy of the summer programme.
If enough interest is shown we can arrange a weekend in London, a minimum of 30 people would be needed to make this trip possible. Various venues could be visited, Tower of London, Thames River Cruise, British Museum, The London Eye and even a show. The price would be £100 per person depending on the itinerary. Please give me a ring or contact any committee member.
On April 22 the society have been invited to a meeting of local groups from the Dearne area interested in local history. Celebrating our History - Creating our Destiny Day is to be held at the Dearne Community Theatre, Goldthorpe, 11 am - 2 pm. There will be displays and opportunities to see demonstrations of Comma Software, digital imaging, photo restoration, video editing etc. If you are interested come along and have a look, the society will be putting on a small display.
The Mexborough Gala will take place again this year on 15 July. The society will have a display, also we have booked a local re-enactment group. The Helios group recreate life in early medieval times, building an encampment, cooking food, practicing their fighting techniques and giving archery demonstrations. Last year was an excellent day, good weather, a large crowd and a good atmosphere -come along and make this year even better.
As some of you may know, John, our landlord at the Masons will be leaving shortly. Although he has no idea when this will be, may I take this opportunity to thank him for the use of his room and the welcome he and his wife have given us over the last few years. We wish them well for the future.