In the middle of the nineteenth century, like many of our ancestors, my great great grandfather, being a skilled Pit Sinker, was poached by agents employed by Denaby Main Colliery, from the pit where he worked in Warwickshire, to come to help sink the new colliery. He was to be among the best paid miners in the country, and transport and accommodation was to be provided free of charge.
My great great grandfather, plus his young wife and family arrived by train, carrying all they possessed in the world, and were escorted to their free accommodation. This consisted of a tent, pitched with rows of others on Sparrow Barracks, which was situated at the junction of Clayfield and Doncaster Road, and must have resembled old photographs most of us have seen of the Klondike Gold Rush.
Over the next few years many pits were to open in the area increasing the population of Mexborough ten fold. This put a severe strain on housing, sewage disposal, and the water supply. Smallpox was rife and it wasn't long after their arrival in Mexborough that my great great grandfather's small son, then aged five years, died of the disease.
In the early 1990's I attended Doncaster College and studied Social History, and thought I understood the deprivations under which our ancestors lived. But nothing prepared me for the shock I received when I read one of the first reports written by a Dr Thorne for the Local Government Board on Mexborough and I make no apologies for copying this in full as I feel, like me, you will be shocked by the conditions in which our ancestors were expected to live.

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