Chapter 6 Churches and Sunday Schools

Mr W. H. Chambers, who was managing director of the colliery company was keenly interested both in the religious and secular life of the village.

He was born in Tinsley Park, Sheffield, in 1858, son of Henry Chambers a colliery manager and began his career articled to Mr. Wardle, a mining engineer. After term at Tibshelf and Birchwood, as assistant, he became manager of Woolley Colliery. It was in 1882 after the death of Edward Pope, that he came to Denaby Main. He lived at the “Laurels” in Elm Green Lane, Conisborough, and later at the “Dale”. Every major development in Denaby Main was initiated or brought to fruition by his efforts. He moved to Clayworth Hall near Retford where he died in 1930, leaving a widow and one son, and was buried in Denaby Cemetery.

Religious worship first became part of the village life, when services were conducted by priests from Mexborough in a barn close by the Reresby Arms. The barn, was later converted into the little church of St. Chads, and in 1891 as the village grew, Denaby became a conventional parish. However; soon after with the assistance of Mr. Chambers a “school church” was built on Rossington Street, to educate children during the day, act as a church on Sundays, and an entertainment and cultural centre in the evenings. It was opened by the Archbishop of York, on Monday 23rd October 1893.

In 1900, it was the same Archbishop who opened the parish church of All Saints, the advowsen of which was held by Denaby and Cadeby Colliery Company who were patrons of the living donating rents for the funding from twenty houses in Blyth Street.

A Sunday School was held in one of the houses in Loversall Street, which was so well attended that the St Chads Mission Hall was built in Blyth Street to accommodate the increased numbers.

When the parish church was demolished in 1975, a new one was built on to the now modernised church hall opposite.

A miners´ memorial chapel started in 1987 was opened at Easter 1989 after a great deal of effort and dedication by colliery representatives, the vicar, and other interested parties.

The first Roman Catholic priest to be appointed was Father T.B. Kavanagh, in August 1894; a man ` of great determination and charm, who worked assiduously to establish the faith in Denaby. He was provided with a cottage by Mr Chambers, on a site where the Salvation Army Citadel was later built. The first services took place in a disused infants schoolroom, near the railway. Mr Andrew Montague gave land for the establishment of a permanent church, which was completed in June 1898, when Dr Gordon, Bishop of Leeds, celebrated Pontifical High Mass. The occasion was marked by a luncheon held in Rossington Street School, attended by many of the local dignitaries who had contributed to the building costs of St. Albans. The generosity of the colliery company reflected their desire for the priest to keep the large Irish community in order

The Convent of Mercy was constructed in 1927, a branch of the House of Clifford, which has its headquarters at Cantley.

The Wesleyan Methodists had a strong following in the village and once again, Mr Chambers helped with the construction of Epworth Hall in 1891. Worship ceased there in 1974. The Primitive Chapel built in 1895 had already closed by 1968. The Kilner family were enthusiastic Methodists, and helped them financially.

5d per year was the Colliery Company charge to the first Salvationists to Denaby in 1893, for the use of a then disused school room. The present Citadel is built on the site of the first cottage used by Father Kavanagh. Magic lantern shows in the schoolroom attracted many children, while older members joined the band, which toured the village regularly with their hymns and carols.

Baptists met in their chapel in 1902, which they built at the bottom end of Balby Street. It ceased to be used as a place of worship in 1920, when the company purchased the premises and converted them into the 0fficials´ Club in 1922.

Many children attended the various Sunday Schools to obtain stamps or stars on small cards which, which added up meant they were entitled to go to the free Sunday School Christmas party, a real treat in those early days, for children who experienced few such luxuries. These good attendances also led to an annual outing, sometimes a picnic into the country, even a visit to Cleethorpes or Skegness, involving a train journey. A sleepless, excited night was always the rule, before the Sunday School seaside excursion.

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