The Summer 2004
How can I begin to write of the summer of 2004 without mentioning the rain? This year must go down in infamy as the wettest on record. The northern Cornish seaside town of Boscastle, standing as it does at the confluence of three rivers, was almost swept away as flash floods, flowing from the surrounding Bodmin Hills, met high autumn tides coming in the opposite direction. Whereas in the east of Scotland the lives of numerous people, travelling along a new motorway, were endangered when a landslip, descending from the mountain, which the motorway skirted, turned into a landslide blocking the road and burying cars.
At 8.30a.m. on the morning of Saturday 5th June 2004 we set off from Mexborough Library on our first excursion of the year, this being to Newark and Newstead Abbey. We arrived at Newark-upon-Trent, mid morning, to a guided
tour of the castle. We were told, by the gentleman who conducted the tour, that the first fortification to stand in Newark was Roman but that the majority of the one we see today was built in 1129 and that in 1216 King John died there from a mysterious illness. During the Civil War the town was staunch Royalist, and that in 1646 it was besieged by Cromwellian Troops and following its fall Cromwell ordered that the castle be destroyed. The castle now stands a ruin and the 170ft tower faces west over the River Trent with lawns and gardens where the main hall of the castle used to be.
Our visit to the castle was followed by free time and many of us found our way to the market place, dominated by its Georgian Town Hall.
The afternoon was spent at Newstead Abbey, the home of Lord Byron, the grounds of which were resplendent with Rhododendron Bushes, and Peacocks, with tails fanned, strutted the forecourt where vintage cars, from a wedding which was taking place there, had been parked.
The weather for our excursion to Newark and Newstead couldn't have been better, but not so for our next excursion to Hadrian's Wall on 3rd. July 2004. It didn't just rain, water descended from the heavens in torrents, which could be seen coming across the valleys in our direction in steel grey sheets, and our coach began to resemble more a boat than a bus as we travelled down those moorland roads with the wash of our wake sloshing into overfull roadside dykes. But our Dunkirk Spirit prevailed and between the downpours Eric Houlder escorted us on tours of various sites.
Despite all the horrid weather which was thrown at us that day, I believe all the hard work and brilliant organisation put in by Glenys and Sandra, to arrange a good day out, paid off and everyone enjoyed themselves.
On 25th May 2004 we were given a rare treat when Mr. Graham Schofield agreed to take us on a guided tour of Kilnhurst Hall Farm, this to include both the Hall and its buildings.
The Hall is located at the end of an unmade road leading from Glasshouse Road, Kilnhurst, and was purchase by Mr. Schofield in October 1997 in a state of near dereliction, and since then extensive, sympathetic; renovations have taken place, revealing items of its full and varied past.
We were met on our visit by Mr. Schoffield, who informed us that one of the first things to be discovered was an Ice House, but unfortunately, as its existence was unknown to Mr. Schofield, its crown was extensively damaged by a mechanical digger and as it was deemed to be in a dangerous, unstable state, in the interest of safety it was demolished. It was while this was taking place that he was informed that the farm had a tunnel which leads to Trybergh Hall but as yet no proof of its existence has been found.
Mr. Schofield informed us that it is believed that this is not the original house to have occupied this site and that the original may go back to the eleventh century. The house was once owned by the de Montford family, and that Simon de Montford, Earl of Leicester, was a distant relative. Simon de Montford was
brother-in-law to Henry III and acted as regent for a while. He brought about an uprising, known as the Barons' War and was killed by Prince Edward at the Battle of Evesham in 1265.
At one side, and through the retaining wall, a stone stairway ascends to a paved, iron railed patio. From here the oak front door is reached, the latch of which is carved oak and carries carved symbols of a bygone age which prevents evil spirits from crossing the threshold. The door leads directly into the hallway, at the end of which is a dogleg wooden staircase leading to the bedrooms. To the left lies a doorway and through this you enter a room dominated by a Victorian tiled fireplace situated on its northern wall, opposite the window. But, although this was splendid, I felt that this was not the most outstanding thing about the room, this I left to the beautiful, original, eighteenth century ceiling coving, which Mr. Schofield informed us, because of its antiquity, had been terribly difficult to renovate.
From the living room, with its period features, we were taken through to the kitchen where signs of a dumb waiter and the entrance to the old vaulted cellars are just visible.
From here we retraced our steps into the hall, and then up the wooden dogleg staircase, passing an inverted coat of arms on the wall of the landing, to the bedrooms which consisted of two large rooms containing, original fireplaces on external walls, a bathroom plus a number of smaller rooms could also be found.
Through the rear entrance and to the left we were shown the site of large pig sties used for Fattening Pigs, with individual feeding troughs and chutes for Pig Swill which came from the wall at the side of the kitchen, in situ. These enabled the kitchen maid to come straight out of the kitchen and throw surplus food down the chute straight into the pig sty. One could not help think about its unhealthy proximity to the kitchen, as the stench and flies which must have emanating from the sties in summer, must have been intolerable. But at the times of construction such things were not considered. They are, of course, not in use today.
There was much loose sandstone in evidence and among it could be seen items which resembled stone cannon ball these, we were informed, were used with the aid of planks, to construct hay or corn stacks, as it was
impossible for rats to climb them and therefore get into the stack and ruin the crop.
The site of a medieval house or barn can be found, although long since demolished, in the form of a bricked up window in the interior wall of the smaller of the two barns.
Our delightful tour was concluded by a barbeque provided by our most excellent host.
There were many things which both interested and puzzled me about the group of buildings which made up Kilnhurst Hall Farm and the more I looked the more they intrigued me, and by the end of the night I was fascinated by it, so much so that I have decided to find out more about the Hall. Over the summer months therefore I have made a study of the Hall and have discovered many surprises and hope, soon to be able to tell you more.
News on Old Buildings
Dolcliffe Road School.
On Saturday 28th August 2004 I was informed, to my horror, that the school had burned down. It appears that the Emergency Services had been called to the school on the evening of 27th August, and that they fought to save the building and to bring the fire under control all night.
I at once left to look at the building and as I reached the junction of Garden Street and High Street the size of the fire was evident as the smell of acrid smoke hung in the air. I arrived shortly after the Fire Brigade left. It was with a heavy heart, and great disappointment that I looked at the roofless, charred ruins, its blackened beams pointing skyward like the skeletal remains of some once proud, long dead, prehistoric animal. This was once a beautiful building that many people were proud to attend, and the seat of learning for nearly one hundred years.
Your society and others campaigned to save the building and on 11th March we heard that our campaign had been successful and it was to be converted, by a building contractor, into apartments with adjoining houses. Let's hope it can be saved and the fantastic plans which he made to convert the school and the surrounding area, can come to fruition.
Fern Villa, 1, Church Street, Mex. & The Glassby Arch
On 21- February 2004 I received a 'phone call informing me that the new owner of 'Fern Villa', 1, Church Street, Mex. had partly demolished that fine old house. Then on 17t" March 2004 he put the Glassby Arch, which has stood on the site since 1969, on the Internet for sale to the highest bidder.
Your committee vigorously fought this and a six month preservation order was placed on
the arch by D.M.B.C. to enable English Heritage to do a study of the sculpture and consider the placing of Listed Status upon it.
The six month expiry date was reached at the beginning of September and on 6th September 2004 a planning application was received by D.M.B.C. to erect a seven bedroom, brick built house on the site. The Glassby Arch to be resited to the south east of the plot in future landscaped gardens behind garages.
It may therefore stay in Mexborough, but this will be at the discretion of the owner of the property and because of its position on the plot will go unseen by the majority of the general public.
To view plans of the development ask at the reception desk for Application No. 04/6248/P/FUL Fern Villa, Church Street, Mexborough. S64 OHG.
News From The Local History Room
Over the summer months your society and Local History Room has taken an active part in the majority of local history and community events. This culminated in one of the largest local history fairs in South Yorkshire, the Doncaster & District Local History Fair, which took place on the weekend of 18 & 19th September 2004 at Doncaster Museum. Your
society took an extremely active part in both the organising and arranging of this and exhibited a display covering the life and works of Robert Glassby, we also participated in the children's quiz, and I was able to give talks and show the film of Black Diamonds at various times throughout the weekend. Figures have revealed that it was an extremely popular weekend with thousands coming through the
doors of the museum, so popular was it that it is to be repeated next year. But we can only do this with your help and at times I discovered that I had to be in two or three places at the same time, so any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Local History Course. Taster Session. 1.00p.m. — 3.00p.m. 1st November 2004, Mexborough Branch Library, Meeting Room, John Street, Mexborough.
During the summer I have been involved in courses held at Mexborough Library where children painted banners with a local history theme. Following the great success of this event Paula, of Mexborough Community
Partnership, and I discussed the possibility of arranging local history courses and we met with a group from Adult & Community Learning to discuss the possibility of this. It has been arranged with them that a taster session will at first be conducted and if this is successful then a number of courses on the subject will begin, these to be held on Monday afternoons at Mexborough Library
Another activity which the Local History Room has taken part in has been the involvement in the production of a programme for the B.B.C. The series of programmes is to begin in
October and is to be entitled 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and is based on family history. The family of the Soprano Leslie Garrett originate from this area, and I was requested, by Wall—to—Wall Media, the makers of the
series for the B.B.C. to discover where her family would have obtained: musical instruction, music sheets, instruments and entertainment. I was able to provided them with all their needs and although I have not been informed, as yet, as to the date of broadcast I eagerly look forward to seeing the finished product.
Unveiling of Plaque in Honour of Mr. Watson.
2.00p.m. Saturday. 2nd. October 2004.
The Local History Room, Mexborough Branch Library, John Street, Mexborough.
As you will all Know our beloved president and founder Mr. Norman Watson died suddenly, following an extremely active life, at the beginning 2000. Following this a collection was taken, and using the proceeds, at the beginning of this year a brass plaque, in his honour, was commissioned and when completed placed on the door of the Local History Room. This plaque will be unveiled on Saturday by his niece, Miranda Grattan. The ceremony will be followed by a buffet in the Meeting Room and everyone is invited.