Denaby Main Colliery Tour – Background – Strikes and the Battle of Denaby Main

June 1905

Mexborough and Swinton Times June 24, 1905

Denaby Main Colliery

Some Recent Developments
Modernised Mechanism
A Revolution Underground
An Unsuspected Outcome of a Calamitous Strike
New Works and Further Proposals

Local newspapers, as well as those published in far distant centres, have from time to time printed much that concerned the Denaby Main Colliery, which is probably, by reason of a variety of circumstances which need not at present be discussed, the most widely celebrated coalmine throughout all England.

No local or other newspaper, however, has hitherto been privileged to fully describe the colliery, which in its time has been the centre of so much agitation because of such monumental litigation as is associated in the public mind with the name of Denaby Main, nor, so far, as I’m aware, as any journalist, local or otherwise, been permitted to view the colliery inside and out, as it were, for the purpose of writing such an article, before myself, and although I have known the colliery for nearly 12 years, and for more than half that time of live neighbour to it, that privilege was not extended to me until Friday last.

Denaby is famous in the colliery world for reasons apart from the circumstances hinted at. During its existence more coal has been drawn from the pit than any other in England, and for many, many years, it was the recognised as the colliery with the largest average output in the country. It was known as a pit which never stood idle except during the period of labour disputes, and which owing to the enormous acreage of its underground leaseholds, contained more coal than many half a dozen important collieries put together.

Denaby has been equally renowned for the quality of its coal as well as its quantity, and has perhaps enjoyed the highest reputation for steam coal in the district crowded with steam coal producing collieries. In every way it is a famous colliery, and although during the past year or two formidable rivals have sprang up around it to threaten its supremacy as the largest and most prolific colliery of the country, Denaby Main is today anything but a back number, and for modern equipment can hold its own against any of its newer rivals. During the last year or two extensive developments have taken place, a completely new system of underground haulage has been installed, and the colliery, both above and below the surface, is as fully up-to-date as the most recently constructed pit in South Yorkshire.

A revolution in the mechanical equipment of the colliery had been accomplished in a matter of three years, and this transformation from antique to modern methods of working is one of the unsuspected results of the calamitous strike which caused a stoppage of the colliery from June 29, 1902, until April 1903. While the pit was set down the time was not wasted, and when work was resumed at the conclusion of the struggle, Denaby Main was in many respects a new colliery.

Events of 1893

This reminds me that it was under the auspices of the big strike of 1893 I first made the acquaintance of Denaby Main Colliery. It was on Friday, 8 September 1893, that half a company of the Dublin Fusiliers, which had been quartered at Wath, since the riot there on the previous Wednesday, drew through Mexborough in wagonette, followed by a carriage containing the reverent R.J.Partington, vicar of Wath, and JP for the West Riding. It was rumoured that the mob which sacked Wath Main were marching on Denaby Main, and as fast as my legs could carry me I went to the front. The premises of the Denaby Main Colliery were garrisoned and provisioned as for a siege. 50 or 60 police held the enquiry office, and the Dublin Fusiliers had take possession of the fitting shops and stables as their office, a very young lieutenant of the “haw-haw” type, being at that time engaging climbing ladders and flights of stairs in order to spy out the land and make his dispositions to resist the anticipated attack.

It was believed first that the riotous mob were concealed by the cover of Denaby Wood, and then that the umbrageous shade of Melton Park disguised their movement, but if they ever advancied so close to the colliery as that they would receive warning from their scouts that the redcoats held the fort, and decided not to face the Lee-Metford rifles and the bayonets of the future heroes of Talana Hill.

The battle of Denaby Main, fought on the day that “Prisoner” successfully battled for the Doncaster Cup, was a smokeless, bloodless and strifeless victory. The rioters did not show up, The soldier spent the afternoon listlessly wondering about the colliery yard and griming their tunics, the policeman slumbering the greater part of the day away, and the venerable and Reverent Justice of the Peace kept the Riot Act in his pocket, and presently ordered his carriage to be taken back to Wath. Denaby was undoubtedly marked down for destruction that day, but the foresight of the management deterred the mob, who were not of the stuff of which heroes are made.