1. Early Days

1911

In outlining the history of a concern of the magnitude of that controlled by the Denaby and Cadeby collieries Ltd within the limits of a short article, one is bound to generalise and present, but an imperfect skeleton impression. A good sized volume could easily be written about this great and remarkable enterprise, with special chapters on the stormy career, it´s enormous output,it´s gigantic mechanism, its elaborate and highly scientific arrangements for producing and marketing perfect coal, and the general vastness of its scheme of operations. One chapter alone could be efficiently employed in presenting a table statistics relating to the number of men employed, the yearly output of call, the number of men, lamps, ponies, officials, wagons, acres, houses, deaths of shafts, and so on, as such a list would be both interesting and astonishing. The Denaby and Cadeby Company are indeed captains of industry, and on a heroic scale

Sunk in 1866

But my simple duty is to give the reader – always, of course, perfectly familiar with the names of the collieries – a rough survey of two of the most famous coal pits in the world.

The vast pile of machinery which has arisen in the parishes of Denaby, Cadeby, and Conisborough, and which is so completely altered the character and complexion of the countryside had a comparatively humble beginning. The original Denaby Company established in 1866, the Denaby Main Colliery upon what would be regarded as an insignificant scale, though 45 years ago the pit was considered one of the largest in England and coal was reached in 1867. Land was purchased and released, and coal was bought or leased from Mr Montague of Melton Park, and Mr Fullerton of Thrybergh Park, principally. The company, which was not local in composition, was formed by Mr Richard Pope, brother of the present chairman of the company, Mr Edward Pope, and other gentlemen; and the enterprise flourished and prospered at once. The Barnsley seam, 10 feet thick, was hit at 450 yards. The earlier operations enjoyed the personal supervision of the directors of the company.

Mr Chambers takes Charge.

Later a manager named Mr Warburton was engaged, and in 1882 he retired, giving place to the present managing director of the company Mr W.H.Chambers, of Dale House, Conisborough. Under his control, the pits have undergone remarkable vissitudes, though they have ever developed and accumulated size and up-to-dateness, and during his connection with the Company, Mr Chambers has become one of the most prominent figures in the colliery world, as well as one of the leading authorities on all matters relating to mining engineering.

Mr Chambers came to Denaby in 1882.He hadpreviously been engaged for some time at Charles Dooley´s Babbington Collieries, at Tibshelf and Birchwood, and at Woolley, where he had his first managership.

He was trained as mining engineer at the Tinsley collieries, where his father had been engaged as manager for many years.He left there to take articles with the manager of Newton Chambers Thorncliffe colliery, Mr Wardell, brother of the late inspector of mines. Denaby was his second managership, and it was a very important appointment, even 30 years ago. Mr Robertson retired, and went to live at Wakefield. About this time, the company was reconstructed, Mr Richard Pope, the Founder had died, and Mr J.Buckingham Pope, the present chairman, who is now probably the only millionaire – barrister in existence, was put at the head of affairs, with Mr Edward Pope, as managing director.

The Early Output

The concern was converted into a private limited company. Early in Mr Chambers regime there was a disastrous pit head fire one cold Christmas time, to which further reference will be made.

In the month of November 1882, coal was turned out of the pit at the rate of 7500 tons a week, which was reckoned capital at that stage of local coalmining history, and will compare favourably with a cheque weight sheet in a good many of the Barnsley school of pits in these advanced days.

When coal sinking operations commenced at Denaby all was pastoral peace, and there were no large settlement of houses in the neighbouring villages of Mexborough and Conisbrough. So the company at once set to work to form the nucleus of what is now the largest Company – owned colliery village in England; or, I should imagine, in the world. A few hundred houses were put up at first, but these have been multiplied three or four times over since, while the population has also doubled and trebled in both Mexborough and Conisborough.

Huge Mass of Coal.

Some idea of the size of the company scale of operations may be gathered from these two simple statements. A fence two square mile in extent drawn round the two collieries would not include all the enterprises, industrial and social, which the company either owns, or controls, or affects.

The area of coal which it works stretches from Swinton station to the new bridge at Doncaster, a distance of 8 miles, and from the boundary of Brodsworth to Scawsby. And this huge mass of vegetation can be duplicated in our estimate, for at a depth of 700 yards, lies the Parkgate seam – almost 5 feet in thickness – which is being worked as well.

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