Good Friday at Conisborough

April 1880

Mexborough and Swinton Times, April 2.

Good Friday.

Business was entirely suspended in the town on Friday last and nearly everybody took advantage of the fine weather to make excursions to places of interest in the neighbourhood and to visit their friends at a greater distance.

Divine service was held at the Parish Church both morning and evening and there were good congregations. We regret to state that through illness the vicar was unable to conduct the services, and he is still confined to his home. The reverent, M.Evans, of Denaby, was the preacher on each occasion. At several of the nonconformist place of worship teas and entertainments were held, as reported elsewhere, but they were not well patronised, the young folks, as well as many of the older ones, preferring to enjoy rural scenery and the outdoor amusements.

As former occasions, Conisbrough, was a favourite resort, and the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire railway ran “specials” at convenient hours to and fro during the day. It is estimated that from Sheffield, Barnsley, Wombwell and Wath, about 2800 persons spend the holiday there, whilst from Doncaster, about 1000 arrived, and from Mexborough 800. Pedestrians and conveyanceslined Denaby road from Mexborough, Swinton, and the adjoining places, many thousands preferring the walk to the Castle.

It was quite a good day at Conisbrough. At an early hour the Castle grounds were besieged by hundreds, and train after train kept arriving at the station until this picturesque village was crowded, so to speak, by those “on pleasure bent.” Had Sol plenty services for the occasion, he would doubtless have added much to the enjoyment of the assemblage, But, as it was, the best was made without him, the lively trippers feeling little of the cold as they merrily “skipped along.”

There were the usual steam horses, swinging boats, machines to test the strength of the muscle as well as the condition of the lungs, the weight could be registered, or the likeness taken, all of which, with the exception of the latter, might be experienced “at the small charge of one penny.”

The air resoundedin moreharmoniousstrains than the German organs could make it – with sacred and dance music, which was supplied by the Doncaster Brass Band and the Conisbrough Band. “The light fantastic” appear to afford no small amount of pleasure to the beaus and belles.

It was with difficulty that a boat could be had on “Conisbrough Lake,” there being the two boats upon it, which were occupied a long time, by the same party, but a number ofboats were sent down from Doncaster, and in these a very pleasant trip might be made up the river.

Short exhortations were delivered on the Castle grounds during the day by Primitive friends, and the well-known banner on which is inscribed “blood and fire,” could be seen “floating in the breeze.” Captain Cole and a number of converts in the ranks of the Salvation Army were present, and the attention of a large crowd was riveted to the addresses which, if short, were to the point, viz, that the sinner should turn from the error of his ways. A large marquee was erected, where an excellent tea was provided by the Primitives, at the charge of one shilling and about 600 persons sat down to enjoy it.

Of course the Castle ruins were the greatest attraction, the summit of the tower being reached by many who dare venture there, and a grand and far seeing view was then obtained. These memorable ruins are supposed to be the most ancient and most perfect remains of antiquity in the kingdom. The earliest mention that has been found concerning it proves to have been a fortress of Hengist, the Saxon General, been situate at the angle of a Valley called Mexborough Ings, where Aurelius Ambrosius defeated Hengist in the year 487, forcing him to seek refuge in the Castle; and afterwards in 489, he again defeated him, took him prisoner and by the advice of Eldred, Bishop of Gloucester, beheaded him at the northern gate of the citadel. Near the entrance of the Castle is a tumulus, supposed to be the tomb of Hengist.

The Castle now belongs to the Duke of Leeds. We are unable to say when they Castle first fell into decay. The height is from 20 to 30 feet of the whole circuit of the outward wall and is surrounded by eight rounders by which it is strengthened; here and there are the foundation of the inner wall, which are still visible. The strong tower keep is almost entire, though it is more than 1,300 years since it was erected. The Castle is of an irregular but rather oval form, and measures 17 feet in circumference surrounded by a frosse still 40 feet deep, from the foot of the walls.

The entrance was on the North side by a drawbridge, the masonry which still remains, but now the frosse is entirely filled up with rubbish, forming a highway across. The key is a strong tower, strengthened by six large buttresses, running from the bottom to the top at an equal distance. This tower is at the north-east side of the Castle, from the ground to which there is an ascent of 32 steps, about 5 feet broad.

On a level with this door on which we enter through the wall, which is here 15 feet thick, and at each buttress 23 feet, it seems to have been but one apartment, and is 22 feet in diameter.

In the centre of the floor is a round hole resembling the mouth of a well. Tradition says that there was a subterranean passage out of the Castle from here.

Those who visit the top of the tower are obliged to walk round it, from one staircase door to another on a ledge, which formally supported the floor, scarcely 9 inches broad, covered with weeds and always moist and slippery. By the assistance of nails driven into the wall, It is not, however, so dangerous to walk round the edge of the first apartment, but to the second ledge, 40 feet above the floor, in the middle which is the dark dungeon, at that height is conspicuously dreadful. It is almost impracticable for grown-up people to venture there.

The mortar which has been used in the construction of the Castle consists of lime, sand, shells and charcoal

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