Chapter 2 – Early Conditions at Denaby Main
By the time the two collieries were in production there were 1,000 houses in Denaby Main, built 49 to the acre. It is said that each house cost approximately £45 to build. None of them had bathrooms, water closets or running water. The water had to be carried from one of two stand pipes either in Cliff View or behind the “Drum” in the backs. Often as many as ten people occupied each four roomed house. The earth closets and middens were emptied once a week by the night soil men, teams of men working at night with shovels and horses and carts.
This work must have been extremely unpleasant and dangerous but it continued well into the nineteen twenties, when eventually water closets were built by a firm called Coopers. Toilet paper was squares of newspaper strung on a piece of string, hanging on the toilet wall. Disease was rife and there were many reports of outbreaks of typhoid, scarlet fever, smallpox and measles. Many cases went unreported because householders had to pay for the stoving of their houses in the event of a notifiable disease. The local parish councils reimbursed the family for clothes which had to be destroyed, and for loss of wages. In 1900 a Joint Infections Diseases Hospital was opened on Drake Head Lane at Conisboro. The corrugated iron roofed building cost 2300 and was used for treatment of smallpox. Each parish council in the area contributed towards the cost. Mexboro’ paid 275. Infant mortality rate was 220 por thousand compared with the UK average of 89. Initially the colliery company had obtained water from Doncaster Corporation, but in 1866/7 this supply was withdrawn. The company seeking a local supply drove a drift into North Cliff but this did not provide a sufficient quantity. During the sinking of Cadeby Colliery an unfailing supply of good water was found. The colliery company however, later agreed that duo to the condition of the supply pipes used, this water was no longer up to standard. By December of 1897 plans were being discussed regarding the provision of a reservoir on North Cliff Lane, Conisboro. This was subsequently built at a cost of £l, 070 and the colliery houses were then supplied with good water free of charge, by moans of stand pipes. lf people preferred to have water in their houses, a charge of ld per week was made.
At the turn of the century concern was expressed regarding the sewer which served the Denaby and Now Conisboro arcs. The sewage was intended to flow down the low sewer land that lay between the road and the river. This however, was continually being blocked by silt and cinders, allegedly washed from the roads.
The roads in the village which were maintained by the colliery company were constructed of a foundation of rough shale, a layer of furnace slag and finally a surface of fins ash or shale.
Despite these conditions the housewives took great pride in their houses, scrubbing and sweeping floors both upstairs and down. Rooms were distempered or limed every year, and the women must have worked very hard to keep themselves and their families clean, especially before the days of pit head baths, when the workers came home in their dirty pit clothes, and bathed in a tin tub in front of the fire. It was rare for these men to scrub their backs, many of which were badly scarred from falls of coal, because they thought it would weaken them. Not every man had a bath every day, so it is not difficult to imagine the stats of some of the bedclothes. Often men were so physically exhausted that they fell asleep on the pegged hearth rug in front of the fire
Clothes washing was done the hard way, with peggy legs, mangle, rubbing boards and dolly tubs. On wet days the clothes had to be dried indoors, slung across the kitchen on rope lines or draped over the clothes horse in front of the f ire; filling the rooms with steam and cutting off the only source of heat to the rooms.
It must have been very miserable on wet, winter washdays when the work lasted from morning until night. Some of the women even took in washing for other people more affluent than themselves, perhaps being paid only 1/6d or 2/- for washing starching and ironing the weekly wash for a large family. Steps and window sills were scrubbed and scoured with yellow scouring stones or donkey stones. The table would be of white deal, scrubbed every day like a butchers block, and there would be little furniture inst beds, stools a few bare wooden chairs and perhaps a chest of drawers. Bedroom floors were bare wood, with perhaps a pegged rug by the side of the bed, although occasionally some floors may have been covered with oilcloth. Downstairs floors would be bare * tiles with a pegged hearth rug in front of the fireplace. Despite the women continually cleaning their houses many were infested with blackclocks and cockroaches.
The men took food to work each day in a “snap” tin, usually it was bread and lard or dripping, or even jam. Sometimes the sandwiches were wrapped in newspaper Drinking water had to be taken down the pit and was usually carried in a round can called a “Dudley”.