Dispute – April 17th – 700 Persons Turned Out

3 April 1885

Mexborough and Swinton Times April 17

Denaby dispute
Cast into the Streets – 700 persons turned out of doors

Denaby, or more correctly speaking that portion of Denaby which immediately adjoins the premises of the Denaby Main colliery, was astir at an early hour on Tuesday. The lessons taught the villagers a week ago, when nearly 300 persons were rendered homeless, was of too stern a character to allow forgetfulness on the part of those whose turn came next to be evicted. For nearly a week the catastrophe hung like the sword of Damocles over their heads, threatening to fall at any and every moment. That they might not be caught napping, the miners and packed their furniture ready for the emergency. Bed stands have been taken down, and carpets, bedding, pictures and every article which allowed this to be done had been securely tied in bundles ready for removal.

For the Denaby miners were in no quarrelsome mood and had given up all ideas of active resistance to the powers that be. From the cheerful resigned looks of some of the men it would almost appear that they were looking on at the demolition of other homes than their own. What tears were shed were away from the crowd, and if there was any anguish in the idea of being torn from the roof which sheltered them for years, it was securely locked within their own breasts. The dark side of the picture was kept carefully out of sight, and the bright side came out in bold relief. The greater part of the 250 policeman might safely have been spared, work going on as merrily as though the men were giving up their homes voluntary and from dawn to dusk on Tuesday not one word was uttered which could wound the feelings of the most sensitive ofthat most sensitive body – the British police.

On Friday, Saturday and Monday the inhabitants were in a state of expectation, and it is no fiction to state that dozens of families were really `hoping against hope´ for the evictions to take place at an early date. The rise and fall of Mr Chapple, the anticipated visit of Mr Pickard, the great strike of miners against the 10% reduction asked by the employers, the Sudan campaign and even the threat in conflict with Russia provoked not a tithe of the interest with which the anticipated scenes at the eviction were at first regarded. But at length, even as it is said that “familiarity breeds contempt”the hardy miners of Denaby became so familiar with the grim spectre of eviction that they paid little or no heed to this threat when he stalked among them early on Tuesday morning.

The inhabitants of Denaby were astir, but the chief actors in the dismal play were abroad much earlier. Contingents of police en route for Denaby came from all points of the compass. Every town and almost every village within a radius of 20 or 30 miles sent units to the sum of 250 blue coated gentry who marched with martial tread, into dirty dingy Denaby at 8:30 on Tuesday morning. The gathering of the clans on the eve of a raid on a large scale into their opponents country, the gathering of a flock of vultures intent on a rich meal, was as nothing to this gathering of the police to the siege and sack of Denaby. Guardians of the peace who had not met for years, assembled at this obscure mining village to renew their acquaintance and to chat about old times – the times when an event such as that of Tuesday took place only with the aid of a regiment of soldiers. We say they met to renew acquaintances and chat. They really met to keep the peace while evictions were being carried out;in reality the majority did little else than while away the time by indulging in reminiscences of the “good old days”.

As the police were observed issuing from the colliery yard, where they had been looked at by 100 pairs of eyes for the space of half an hour, a number of small boys greatly delighted at the “Bobbies drilling like soldiers” for that period.A collier shouted from the crowd which had already collected “here come the timber drawers”. A hoarse laugh greeted this sally. The limbs of the law having passed through the gates, an attempt was made to make an imposing array by a a knight of the pick nicknamed “Sugar” who marshalled a troop of miners behind the police, ordering his men to “fall in, four deep.” He relinquished his position shortly afterwards to an officer of the Salvation army, who kept his men in order until a sudden wheel to the right through the troop into confusion. 50 of the police were halted opposite Cliff view, while the remainder numbering nearly 100 were ordered to “stand at ease” on a piece of waste ground close by.

As the first contingent halted, a miner who was engaged in packing all his goods prior to their removal shouted to the police from one of the upper windows “right about turn”. This sally was greeted with uproarious laughter by the crowd. Emboldened with the success of this effort he again popped out his head, to inform the gentleman waiting below that he would “get o´er that, reight enough” and disappeared from view, probably making a last appearance as a tenant under the company. The policemen as they made their way through the crowd to this row of buildings were informed that there was no one “at home” or that the tenants were busily “engaged”. As the police went from one house to the other on their errand the crowd became much larger, but no attempt was made to prevent the law from taking its course. One of the evicted one, was evidently determined to leave nothing behind him, as he overturned a huge water butt, causing a stampede among the bystanders. In the majority of instances the police were left to their own devices in the matter of removing the furniture, and in some cases where the inmates were desirous of removing the most valuable goods themselves, they were warned against this as they were `black sheeping´.

The work was carried out under the orders of inspectors Hammond and Gill, the chief constable (Capt Russell) himself superintending the whole of the arrangements. In all over 100 families were evicted in what is termed Irish Row, Cliff View, Averley buildings and Doncaster Road. And as on the previous occasion, the furniture was piled in heaps opposite each house. The weather was very chilly, and at one time, threatening rain; But, as the day wore on, old Sol shed his observing rays on the scene. We said that the work went on in a cheerful manner, but it was the cheerfulness of resignation. Amid the thousands of persons who visited the village on Tuesday there was no laugh to be heard, and the conversation was conducted in a subdued tone. Those who seem to have the best spirit were invariably those who should have worn the saddest face, only the spectators seeming to deplore the ruining of a hundred homes.

A lane was formed by the crowd to allow the passage of the police to and fro, and the constables in many instances were subjected to a great deal of chaff, which they bore good-humouredly. One officer in particular, was evidently determined to do “just work enough” and not “too much” was told that he did not intend to break his arm over the work. In another instance our representative was told to remember that a certain person “was t´first person who black legged to carry owt out.” A poor woman just being evicted, while standing near a scanty stock of furniture, ruefully remarked that she “should think there had never been a site in England like this and that “folk might just as well live in Russia.” Others were wondering where they could get shelter for the night and stated that there was not a house to be had in “all Mexborough.”

The number of cats evicted with their owners was somewhat astonishing and “poor pussy” seemed if anything more concerned than its master in many cases. Youngsters were to be observed taking a last hug of their prized furry favourites, which will doubtless take to wildlife until the houses of Denaby are re tenanted. Some of the women expressed very decided views against going to the workhouses but one who overheard the conversations veheminently declared that people might say what they liked about “the union” but there the children were washed and fed and kept beautifully clean and what was more the “babies were well nursed.” If it were not for the furniture she said she would have gone to the workhouse long ago, and not stayed to suffer what she had done from the strike.

There was an absence of the weeping and sobbing among the women and children which was so noticeable on the last occasion and the inhabitants seem to have grown more business like and have learnt already to take their cruel lessons as a matter of course. The furniture on the whole was not so valuable as that which had been placed in the roads on the previous Wednesday. Dilapidated bedsteads, torn bed clothing, broken down chairs, and crazy couches were the rule rather than the exception, but the more scanty stock was as rigourously guarded as if it had been fit for a palatial residence. There were, of course, exceptions, which were when found regarded with feelings akin to awe by the diligence, and one of them, pointing to a chest of drawers, said there were not many of them chaps in Denaby. The work of evicting the miners went on rapidly, and bynoon the groups of furniture were becoming very numerous. Women were to be observed with the inevitable baby in arms conversing in groups on the chances of a lodging for the night. One shadowy looking female fully informed us that she had just come in from Staffordshire and wasn’t used to such proceedings which she thought were indigenous to Yorkshire. Several others were imploring the police to find them shelter, “just for the little ones,” urging that they would not take up much room; in one case a woman dressed in a garment of something material pleaded that she had only a bedstead anda box and therefore could sleep anywhere so long as there was a roof to cover.

In answer to questions from learnt that the houses facing Doncaster Road were let to the miners at 3s 6d per week and that the rent ranged from that to 5s 3d, 4d per family, being stopped in addition to the rent for schooling. We also learnt from the same source that, in what the terms the “Irish row”, inhabitants, out of pure “devilry,”had carried furniture upstairs for the express purpose of making the police carry them down again and that they seem to relish their joke amazingly. It must be stated that, when these peoplesaw the police contribute liberally to their maintenance, they carried as much as they could downstairs again.

It is well-known that whenever her house is untenanted for a few days panes of glass in the windows become broken by some mysterious process. The Denaby houses are no exception to the general rule, for the windows appeared as if a regiment of soldiers had been engaged in firing at them and that each individual soldier had sworn not to leave whole a pane of glass. No one knows anything concerning these breakages, so at present it must be presumed that the cats in their nocturnal wonderings have made raids into the house windows in order to discover the whereabouts of the larder.

When the work of eviction have been nearly concluded, arrangements were made by a party of the men to remove the furniture. Wagons drawn by scores of miners were dragged through the streets to their destination. The chapel at Clay Lane Mexborough, belonging to the Primitive Methodists, the Doncaster Road Free Church, Mount Zion school, Mr Henry Waddington’s assembly rooms, the Salvation Army barracks, Mr Meggitt’s bone mills, and other places were thrown open for the reception of the homeless families.

Subscription still continue coming freely in aid of the miners and bread and potatoes are distributed amongst the necessitous cases, which increased daily in number. The evictions were concluded by two o’clock the afternoon.