Denaby Main 1899 – Certainly Not the Worst Village in England!

Mexborough & Swinton Times – November 24th 1899 Two weeks after the article in the Christian Budget an indignant ‘J.F.’ wrote in to the Mexborough & Denaby Times to provide a different picture of Denaby Main

“The worst village in England “

To the editor

Sir – what a horrible indictment? What a blood – curdling article following this title! Four fifths of the children, even toddlers, go oftener to the pawnshop and the book maker than to church: nine women out of 10 are fierce and persistent gamblers: one half of the couples live together unmarried : truly a horrible indictment: but is all this true?

To those who know Denaby Main well and intimately only one answer is possible.

The article reprinted in the Mexborough and Swinton times from the “Christian Budget” has created a sensation of great indignation at the manifest unfairness displayed, as well as the gross exaggeration of the facts. That there is wickedness in the village no one will deny; but is Denaby main unique in that respect? Surely there is some element of good in and amongst this large number of miners and if this precious “Special Commissioner” had taken the trouble he would have found ample evidence forthcoming of great goodbeing doneamongst this ” rather rough set of immigrants from everywhere “

” Very little literature is sold in the place “. Did this omniscient “Special Commissioner” here any thing of the Denaby main Institute? He would be rather surprised if he had been around it, and examined its splendid library. It is not an ornamental collection of books, for it is well used by those wicked miners, their wives, sons and daughters.

These thriftless people have also a full “Penny Bank” which has been in existence some years, and is well patronised. Again, the majority of the men are so thrifty, and have so much foresight as to be members of Friendly Societies. Strong branches of Foresters, Odd Fellows and Druids exist and prosper at Denaby Main, and in addition juvenile branches of these societies are in a highly satisfactory condition. Surely this is evidence of the best thrift provision for wives and children in times of sickness and death. In addition can be mentioned the numbers of sick and dividend societies. Very probably thewriter would be surprised to meet the Denaby collier accompanied by wife and family at the seaside in summer, and actually residing there for a period. Not a few are fairly familiar with the principle scenes and parts of the metropolis. Men who can make such provision in friendly societies and for the annual summer outing cannot spend so much money in betting and beer.

Neither do these miners neglect their physical development. In connection with the collieries there is a good and well-managed football club, which fought its way into the third round of the English cup ties. A successful cricket club is also well patronised by the members of the mining community. There is also recreation ground for the children, whose connection is so much bewailed by the compiler of the article. Can he in any district that he knows find a better sample of childrenĀ“s physique? Did he notice the sturdy, clean limbed, strong boned, muscular lads and lasses as they left the splendid school building that would be an ornament and a credit to any place? Such bairns are not brought up on bread and dripping and in the midst of filth. If he so anxious about these youngsters, let him watch them for a time at their games, in the summer at their aquatics pastime, taking headers into the river that would startle him, and then conscientiously let him write whether such development can be made in homes where food is poor and other necessaries scarce.

Besides this provision is made for the older youths – those who are just beginning their life of toil in the pits. Both technical classes and an evening continuation school are at work and both are appreciated. He might have learnt that young men, residents in this dreadful place, who earn their bread in the mines, have won County Council scholarships, and actually qualified themselves for the important positions of Colliery managers and under managers. Is this intellectual progress consistent the statement that the place is given over to gambling and wickedness?

Notice how many of these miners wear medals on their watch chains! Look at them? They are ambulance medals, and many more are qualified. Surely when an ambulance class of 70 assembled from lectures and practice, there is some good in the men! And the work is done thoroughly, as many a poor fellow nobles was been rendered first a nice fellow workmen.

” Love of the beautiful seems almost entirely absent.” The Denaby Main Orchestral Society is one of the best in the district, and its concerts are highly appreciated by these benighted people.It isknown the music is of the highest class, and is that not “beautiful?” Dozens of miners possess musical instruments of their own, upon which many of them, as well as their children, are no mean performers. If a person wasted shillings and half crowns in betting, he will not buy a piano, not be able to make his sons proficient violinists.

As to matrimonial arrangements a glance at the announcements in the local papers will give the lie to the statement made by the “Commissioner. There may be some who dispense with the legal tie, but is such a thing unknown in that district which is contrasted with Denaby – the East End of London? The proportion of such in Denaby is no greater than most other places.

” Where are the churches ?” Alive and doing a great work. As evidence, a new Protestant church is being built, a Roman Catholic Church has been built, Wesleyan Methodist and Primitive Methodist chapels are in existence, and a branch of the Salvation Army is at work. Everyone is well attended by – yes, these fearfully wicked Denaby people. Some of these actually take time from their betting and beer, and teach in the Sunday school, and a good many of them have to go, because hundreds of children attend, and not in rags and dirt. Oh dear no! They look, and are, as well dress and well-behaved as any other similar bodies of children.

In this community there is a great deal that is good, and the picking out the vices of the minority, and charging them upon the all body is not only a wild exaggeration but a stupendous injustice. Wickedness there is and wickedness there will be in every aggregation of human beings as long as man’s nature is what it is, and as long as certain phases of our social systems last, but even in those assemblies of people there will be, there is, an amount of good, that only requires looking for to be very easily perceived even by a person who spends only a few hours in doing it. Is Denaby Main the worst village in England?


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