The Great Flood of 2007

Taken from Mexborough Railway Station looking towards Swinton and Kilnhurst.

 

This summer brought: the deaths of the famous opera singer Pavarotti and the brave charity fund raiser and cancer sufferer Jane Tomlinson; the 60th Wedding Anniversary of our dear Queen and the commemoration of the partitioning of the India Nation; the centenary of the Scouting Movement; the unveiling of a statue to Nelson Mandela; and the 15th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland Paris.

 

One of Disney’s songs begins ‘Drip, Drip, Drop Little April Showers’ but this summer was less a ‘Drip, Drip Drop’ and more a deluge, as torrential rain descended in grey sheets from the sky, and floods broke all records.  It seems to be decreed that the Pastures shall flood annually, but on this occasion the Pastures, Canal and the Rivers Dearne and Don were as one forming a huge lake.  To the east another lake extending from Adwick-on-Dearne to Conisbrough.  While to the west an expanse of water could be seen from Kilnhurst to Old Denaby.  This almost made Mexborough into an island.

 

It all began the week before, when one month’s rain fell in one day causing flooding.  The land, which was saturated from the previous week, could absorb no more, so when the deluge of rain came on that day at the end of June there was nowhere for the water to go.  The resulting flood become known as the Great Flood or to some Black Monday, and was unprecedented in the history of this country and put the whole of South Yorkshire in the international news and history books for all the wrong reasons.

 

It was on the morning of Monday 25th June 2007 that I was taken to Park Gate.  On our outward journey we were able to

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accomplish this without to much hardship, but on our return many roads had turned into rivers.  At the Gate Inn, Swinton, a fountain shot into the air, a pond was now situated at the junction of Fitzwilliam Street and Church Street.  Rowmes Lane, where the stream was once situated which formed the boundaries of Mexborough and Swinton, was flooded from the LNER Club to the South Yorkshire Hotel Roundabout.  During the day the rain worsened into a torrent until Sheffield City Centre, with water pouring from the seven hills it was built on, resembled the Grand Canyon where white water rafting could be accomplished with ease.  Workers at Forgemaster, and the staff of the Chamber of Commerce at Albion House, had to be rescued by helicopter.  Whereas in Rotherham, where the River Don burst its banks, Retail World was under feet of water.

 

The River Don was not the only river to burst its banks as the Dearne did likewise and a hole, ten feet deep, complete with ruptured gas main, appeared close to the bridge on Harlington Road, Adwick-on-Dearne.  As the day continued the water began to back up Church Street, and then the shocking news that Ulley Reservoir, containing half a million tonnes of water was threatening to breach its dam walls, which would sending an eight feet high wave down the Don Valley.  Because of this, in the interests of safety, the emergency services had no alternative but to evacuate all the residents of Pastures Road, Don View, Church Street and Ferry Boat Lane, all of which were taken to the Day Centre, Harlington Road, Mex.

 

The following day the damage began to be measured.  The whole of Swinton Meadows Industrial Estate, which contains Morphy Richards, was discovered to be under several feet of water.  Morphy Richards, who have been on this site since just after the 2nd W.W., had no choice but to move out of the building to alternative premises at Manvers.

 

At Conisbrough water rushing through the Mill Peace Pond had taken everything in its wake with bricks and stones from demolished walls strewn over the road.  Residents of the Pastures Lodge were stranded and Jeff Schofield, in his tractor and trailer, had to rescue them.  Whereas the mothers and children of Sure Start, Wath Road, Mexborough, had to be quickly evacuated, to the new Mexborough Community Partnership, Resource Centre, as speedily rising water flooded the ground floor flats.

 

Like Mexborough, Old Denaby was almost an island, as water extended three quarters the way up Ferry Boat Lane, and past Ivy House Farm.

 

Public Transport was badly disrupted.  Rotherham Central Railway Station was closed as the flooding had caused electrical damage and it was necessary to repair the tracks.  It was believed that trains would not run on the Sheffield/Kiveton Park line for roughly twelve weeks.  As the railway track which passed through Conisbrough, Mexborough and Swinton was flooded both the line and all the stations were closed.  Greys Bridge was flooded and fears were raised as to the new Bambury Bridge as a huge crack began to appear.  Doncaster Road, Denaby Main and Low Road Conisbrough were both flooded as was Rowmes Lane, Swinton, thus preventing buses from using these main roads.

 

Reports began to come in that to repair the damage done by the flood would cost approximately £2 billion.  Then ten days after the flood, South Yorkshire had a royal visitor, in the shape of Prince Charles, who brought with him a vast entourage of T.V. Reporters, press and other members of the media.  This coverage brought the plight of the flood victims to the attention of the world and money began to flow in.

 

Charities were set up to help the victims of the flood and bring and buys, jumbles sales, and teas were held to raise money.  Dawn Environmental arranged a ‘Loot in Your Loft’ jumble sale at the Ivanhoe Centre, Conisbrough.  Shipcroft Sheltered Housing Scheme, Wombwell held a bingo and coffee morning raising £135, whereas St. Thomas Church, Kilnhurst hosted a coffee morning in aid of Kilnhurst Primary School’s flood appeal.  The BBC programme, Look North, released a DVD, depicting films of the phenomena which had appeared on the news, all the proceeds of which went to aid the victims.  Your society has been lucky enough to

 

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obtain a copy of this so if you wish to view it please get in contact with Julia.

 

Yorkshire Forward put £1m into a small business recovery scheme providing each business with £2,500 to help with immediate needs.  While local councils, Business Link, Chamber of Commerce, and others came forward with assistance.

 

Weeks later, in certain parts, the water had still not subsided, and the disused hotel of the Earth Centre was utilised as housing.  It was also discussed as to whether a refugee camp, to accommodate the homeless, should be placed there, using caravans, but it was decided to obtain fields close to the worst hit areas, such as Toll Bar, Doncaster, and to place the caravans there.

 

Great concern was voiced and campaigners began to call for a public inquiry as to the cause of the flood and how the water could have rose and taken a hold of areas at such great speed.  Many our local M.P.s lobbied the Sec. of State for the Environment for financial support.

 

Months after the freak phenomenon many people are still living in temporary accommodation in the caravan parks.  Some shops at Retail World and Meadowhall are still not open and many works are still not back on their feet and it may take many more months to bring normality back to the area.

 

Information Obtained From:

Dearne Valley Weekender 22/06/07, 29/06/07, 06/07/07, 13/07/07, 27/07/07, 03/08/07

South Yorkshire Times 28/06/07

Rotherham Advertiser 06/07/07

Rotherham Recorder 04/07/07

 


  Could Mexborough Have Been a Port?

An engraving of Mexborough dated 1778 depicting a vessel under sale.  In the bottom right corner can clearly be seen disgorged cargo.

 


At the beginning of the 21st Century, as we are, we think of a port as being a town or city, on the coast or inlet of a large river, where ships can dock to disgorge their cargo.

 

But Michael Jecks, the eminent novelist, historian and author of research material, informs us that it has not always been so.  In mediaeval times a port was simply any settlement where periodically, merchants could congregate to trade their wares.  He also informs us that a port held feasts and fairs and that the latter were not a place of entertainment but one of trade.

 

He goes on to tell us that to live in a port brought great privilege to some of the inhabitants of the town or village as it gave, to some of them, the status of Freeman.  The inhabitants were also: allowed to purchase materials to repair their homes; rent out rooms; provide board and lodgings; and sell food and drink, to visitors, at times when there was a market, fair or feast, without paying the toll which was obligatory to all others.

 

In bygone times Mexborough had four crossings over the River Don.  These, being the only crossing in the locality, brought ancient trade routes to converge on the town, all of which brought many merchants with their strings of pack ponies.  Also Mexborough was located, at the junction of the Rivers Dearne and Don, both of which were used, in bygone days, to transport goods.  It seems natural therefore that Mexborough should develop into a centre for trade.

 

This came to pass and Mexborough began to hold: a weekly market; plus both an annual feast and fair. The Parish Church of Mexborough’s is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and so the Feast was held on the nearest Sunday to St. John the Baptist’s Day, or Midsummer Day, as some may call it, with the fair on the day after.  The Mexborough & Swinton Time of 1882 informs us that the feast and fair were recorded as far back as the eleventh century and tells us how it commemorates the rebuilding and rededication of our church.  The Feast began with a church service and choral festival followed by: ‘stomach work, the latter of which had wontedly queer results ere midnight’.  The article goes on to inform us that on the following day, Monday, trading would commence early, at the fair, by the ringing of a hand bell and closed at dusk by the ringing of the same bell.

 

As we have just discovered our feast, fair and market go back to at least the eleventh century.  In the Archives of Mexborough and District Heritage Society we hold a document which states that in 1599 Anne Blount, Widow, and Francis Trappes Bynard were granted Mexborough by Queen Elizabeth I complete with ‘bondsmen, bondswomen, villeins, estrovers and tolls from the fair and market’.  Thus proving that in that year Mexborough still held its feast, fair and market.

 

As you can see evidence proves that Mexborough held a weekly market; and also an annual feast and fair; and was a centre for trade, where merchants could congregate to sell their wares.  These are all the categories which Michael Jecks states a settlement needed to become a port.  So could Mexborough have been a port?


 

News From The Local History Room

 

Photographs of the Great Flood

This summer we saw the worst flooding in this country for over one hundred years and therefore it became a historical phenomenon, hence the reason why I have made it the main subject of this month’s newsletter.  Because of this historical event a file has been created, containing: newspaper cuttings; illustrations of events and photographs as a recording of the floods for posterity.  This file will be placed in the Local History Room at Mexborough Library for the benefit of anyone who, in the future, wishes to study it.  But it is not complete as some sections are not covered such as: Bambury or Grey’s Bridge; or the Main St., and Wath Road areas.  Would anyone, be kind enough to donate any photographs of the flooding, for inclusion in this file, for which, I feel sure, historians of the future, will be eternally grateful.

 

Arthur Dunston (Archie)

It is my sad duty to inform you of the death, on 16th September 2007, of Arthur Dunston, better known affectionately as ‘Archie’.  He has been an enthusiastic member of our society since its inception and in our early days forming part of the committee.  Arthur, until his recent illness, never missed either a talk or an excursion and I feel he will missed by everyone.

 

 

Copyright.  This newsletter may not be reproduced, in part or in its entirety, without the permission of J.R. Ashby.