Inland Dredgers – Local Crew Clearing Don at Conisbrough (picture)

January 1950

South Yorkshire Times January 28, 1950

Inland Dredgers

Local Crew Clearing Don at Conisbrough

Some details of the work of a dredger-man on our inland were unfolded to a ” South Yorkshire Times ” reporter this week, on the waterways scene of dredging operations on the River Don in this area, at Conisbrough were unfolded to a ” South Yorkshire Times ” reporter recently, on the Lock, The steam dredger, which has been working in Mexborough, Swinton and Kilnhurst for some months, after work in Conisbrough has moved to Sprotborough.

Dredger “No. 4” at work near Conisbrough Weir with its local crew. The dredger has been working in Mexborough, Swinton and Kilnhurst for some months.

South Yorkshire Times January 28, 1950

Crew Of Three.

There is a “crew” of three, although occasionally extra hands are brought on the job. In addition to the dredger there are two flat-bottomed “sludge fiats” in attendance, which carry all the silt and sand raised from the river bed.

Working in relays, the flats tie alongside the dredger, and a moving chain of buckets empties the black slime into them through a chute. The supply boats, something like landing barges, can take up to 23 tons of the silt at a time, and with seven or eight trips, an average of 150 to 200 tons are cleared from the river every day. The material from Conisbrough, comprising mostly leaves and soil, is taken on to Sprotborough where it is spread on the bank.

The work of dredging is described as ‘routine maintenance’ and is merely directed at maintaining a sufficient depth for river traffic. The ideal depth for the South Yorkshire’ area is seven to eight feet, although work was going on at 11 feet on Monday, with the dredger being slowly moved about over the river bed by slackening and tightening alternate chains.

The silt itself however unpleasant it may look in its sludgy state fresh from the river is, when dry, quite rich. A great amount has been spread onto the banks of the Don at Mexborough, and the foundations of some of the gardens along Church Street are made of river mud

The men who man the dredger, and the sludge flats, come from the Mexborough, Conisbrough, and Kilnhurst areas.

Chargeman (or foreman) is Mr. Sam Martin, of 81 Harthill Road, Conisbrough, and he has been working in dredgers for over 20 years.

His engineer, Clement Hewitt, from Walker Street, Swinton, is another long-service hand, who has been tending engines and boilers, and filling in odd moments driving wharf cranes, for 18 years, since he was 20. The 25-years-old marine engine and boiler below the decks of the dredger are two of the main concerns in his life, and he claims he can work any dredger made.

Other member of the team is lyric Dennigan, of the Floodlock, Kilnhurst, and an occasional hand is a Mexborough Man, Jimmy Hoy.

As he prepared to take out the small boat, to collect a half-submerged rubber tyre, Mr. Martin mentioned one more job he would have to do before moving on to Sprotborough. Two large trees are leaning out from the bank precariously, and seem on the point of falling, anti the dredger will have to pull them out before it moves on.