04. Mr Chambers in the Box

July 1920

1920 Mexborough & Swinton Times, July 1920

Mr Chambers in the Box

The next witness called was William Henry Chambers (managing director of the Denaby Company). In his examination in chief, he said that he had lived in Conisbrough since 1882. When Mr Smethurst said he was “acting under instructions” He meant instructions of the board of directors. Witness, as managing director, was not in favour of the privvy midden system. If, and when, they build new houses, they would not build houses as those erected in 1864 to 1888.

“We should not be permitted to do it and would have no intention to do so.”

There had a scheme for the erection of houses which were to be better than those erected in 1911. They will be built in squares and not in long rows, and will be provided with baths.

Regarding the water supply, he said that before 1905 there was a shortage, which prevented the conversion of privvy middens. Their original water supply was drawn from the Doncaster Corporation. In 1888, that body gave the notice of the raising of the price to 1/6 per thousand gallons and, on May 15, that after three months, they would not be able to supply them at any price. The companyhad then to look for a supply and they sank a well and put a pump on the Mexborough Pastures

His Lordship: When did you enlarge your reservoir?

Witness: In 1914-15

Cross examined by Mr Mortimer, witness stated he was a member of the Doncaster RDC, a member of the sanitary committee, and the chairman of the Denaby Main Parish Council.

So, asked Mr Mortimer, if it was suggested that the Rural District Council is at fault, you are one of those who are at fault? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: Has the rural council done its duty?

Witness: It has done its best.

Mr Mortimer: I n 1911, the Rural District Council medical officer presented a report to the council?

Witness: He did if you say so


Were you a member of the authority in 1911? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: Do you remember the report being presented? There was a report made after the outbreak of enteric fever in Denaby main and Dr Dunne attributed the outbreak of enteric to the presence of privvy middens in the village?

Witness: I think he did.

Mr Mortimer: Did it point out that, of the 51 cases in the Doncaster rural district, 30 came from Denaby Main and Conisbrough?

Witness: He may have pointed that out in his report.

Mr Mortimer: The report say that this unfortunate state of affairs had apparently existed for a series of years?

Witness: I don’t remember that

His Lordship: I don’t think we can put this report in evidence by reading it out to a gentleman who cannot recollect it.

Mr Mortimer (continuing the examination): in 1911, was it brought your knowledge or to the notice of the local authority?

Witness: I don’t remember.

Mr Mortimer: What has been done by the colliery since 1911 and the outbreak of the war?

Witness: They have tried to get a better water supply for water closets.

His Lordship: after that report in 1911, did you attempt to put down some boreholes?

Witness: Yes we did.

Mr Mortimer: Was Dr Dunne censored by the Rural District Council for his report and called upon to resign? – No

Mr Mortimer: Did the Doncaster Rural District Council pass a vote of censure upon Dr Dunne?

Witness: There was some talk at the time, but I cannot remember.

His Lordship: You cannot prove this by formal question. It may be very proper ground for fair comment, if it was known to the lady.

Mr Mortimer: In your view, is it not right for the electors to take an interest in the work of the local council? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: Did you, as representative of the Colliery Company, oppose the application for the formation of an urban district? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: I suppose you have a small voice in the whole of the district. How many members are there on the rural district Council? – Forty

Mr Mortimer: And how many representatives of Denaby Main and Conisbrough? -Five

Mr Mortimer: The system would be for the benefit of the district if urban powers were conferred?

Witness: I don’t think so

Mr Mortimer: Is the scavenging in Denaby Main, in your opinion, satisfactorily carried out?

Witness: As far as I know

Mr Mortimer: I suggest that as a rule, it is not.

Witness: Well, that is where we differ.

Mr Mortimer: In your opinion, is the work of the rural district Council as regards their scavenging satisfactorily done?

Witness:It is generally done at the night-time. I am not walking out at night time to see it.

No, you may lose yourself (laughter.). Are the privvy middens dark?

His Lordship: You don’t suggest they should be lamps so the light would fall into every privvy midden. (Laughter.) Unfortunately, even in Denaby, the sun does not shine at night time (laughter.)

Mr Mortimer: They collect refuse in the middle of the night

His Lordship: That is usually the custom.

Mr Mortimer (to witness): I put it to you that they collect in the day time.

Witness: Only when they are taking dry ashes away.

Mr Mortimer: It is stated that before it is put into the cart. It is deposited in the yard?

Witness: I don’t know, I have never seen it.

Mr Mortimer: You are a councillor for that district?

Witness: Yes, but I’m not the sanitary inspector.

His Lordship: Have you had any complaints about the deposits in the yards? – No

Mr Waugh (re-examining): The claim for urban powers is to take in the three parishes and make them into one, and you favour going in with Mexborough has been more beneficial to the place?

Witness: Yes that has been my view all along.

Mr Waugh: And that was the basis of your opposition to this scheme? – Yes.

Mr Waugh: Is it true to suggest the colliery company were ever in favour of privvy middens? – No

Mr Waugh: Have you been in favour of the privvy midden system? – No

Mr Waugh: And as soon as you can get rid of them you will do so? – Yes

Mr Waugh: Since 1906 has a single house being built with a privvy maiden? – No

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