History – Conisbrough & Denaby – Great Industrial Enterprise

July 1927

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 22, 1927

To celebrate its 50th year, the Mexborough and Swinton Times brought out potted histories of the Dearne Valley Towns and villages.

Conisbrough and Denaby
A Great Industrial Enterprise
Blending Of Old and New

The history of Denaby Main is largely that of the Denaby Main colliery which was sunk in 1865.

The whole of the modern village of Denaby Main sprung up in consequence of colliery operations, and, with extensional mining to Cadeby, the native village of Conisbrough has also become largely industrialised and urbanised.

50 years ago the population of Conisbrough and Denaby combined was less than 2000; today it is over 17,000, and is likely in a few years to be over 20,000.

The colliery was sunk by a company of which the late Mr J Buckingham Pope was the chairman. This company leased coal stretching continuously from Swinton to Doncaster, a distance of 7 miles, and about 7000 acres in area.

The Barnsley seam began to be worked at Denaby Made 60 years ago, and is still being worked. The Cadeby colliery was sunk in 1892 and began to turn coal two years later. These collieries today employ 5000 men and boys, and are capable of an output of over a million tons a year.

Both collieries are working the Barnsley and Parkgate seams. This

The company have built practically the whole of the village of Denaby Main, provided all the public services and a good many of the amenities required for the population. They built a large school, capable of accommodating 700 children. They also built and endowed the parish church, and give generous support to other denominations who have erected churches in the place.

They provide a cricket and football grounds, allotments, recreation ground, and cooperated with the workmen in building and maintaining a hospital.

Over 1000 houses have been erected in Denaby Main by the company, in recent times the present company built over 400 houses at Conisbrough, to provide for the increase of population due to the development of the Cadeby colliery.

This district has had a chequered career. It has seen great prosperity and great suffering. The collieries themselves are amongst the best equipped and best managed in the country. At the present time the relations between employers and the workmen are excellent, but during the past 50 years there has been from time to time, bitter disputes.

The severest conflict of this nature was the “bag dirt” dispute, which occurred at the beginning of the present century. The district has in addition shared in the more general strikes of 1893, 1912, 1919, 1920 and 1926.

Notwithstanding these deep shadows, Denaby has had its share of brightness and happiness, and has today an excellent prospect of progress and prosperity. The Denaby Main mine was originally managed by Mr Warburton, who was succeeded by Mr WH Chambers, a man of great ability and forceful personality. Mr Chambers was the architect of the fortunes of these collieries. As a mining engineer, he had few equals and probably no superior. He was at once stern and masterful, genial and sentimental, with a deep pride in the collieries and a real love for the village which sprang from them. He interested himself in every detail the development of the place, and his energies were wholly absorbed by care for the collieries and for the community roundabout.

In addition to their primary function, the colliery company undertook a number of useful enterprise after the Cadeby colliery have been sunk. They constructed a railway, the South Yorkshire Junction railway, to connect the two pits with the Hull and Barnsley railway at Wrangbrook. This line is about 12 miles in length, and cost £210,000 to construct. It was provided to convey the Cadeby Colliery outputs to Hull, from which port the great bulk of the Denaby and Cadeby coal was shipped to the continent at that time. The colliery still have an important export trade, but at that time there were by far the greatest exporters in England from the port of Hull and from the Denaby Main Colliery alone over half a million tons were raised annually, and the great bulk of this was sent overseas.

It was estimated 40 years ago that the coal leased by the company would take over 150 years to win and to raise. The Barnsley seam at Denaby is 10 feet thick, and this is by no means worked out yet, though the Parkgate seam has since been opened out.

The company also owned their own railway truck and at one time they had their own steamers, and maintained a depot on the south coast at Brixham for the bunkering of ships. They provide the gas for Denaby Main and the water supply, drawn from a borehole at the Cadeby colliery for both Denaby and Conisbrough.

Until 1920, Denaby and Conisbrough were separate civil parishes, administered by the Doncaster Rural District Council. Attempts were made from time to time by the ratepayers of Conisbrough to obtain urban powers, and the establishment of a large urban district, which would include Denaby Main. These attempts were all resolutely opposed by the old Colliery Company, who held that the rural follow administration was a most suitable for the district. However, a successful appeal was made to the Ministry of health in 1920, and an order obtained for the formation of an urban district, which would include the urban part of Conisbrough and Denaby, as well as the two collieries, and the district is now administered by an Urban District Council, which has already affected many public improvements.

In 1922 the controlling interest of the Denaby and Cadeby collieries was acquired by the London firm of France, Fenwick and company, and later these collieries were amalgamated with those of Maltby, Dinnington and Rossington, owned by \sheepbridge coal and iron company. With this change came the retirement of Mr WH Chambers, and the head of the new concern is Major John Leslie who has given every indication of a desire to combine the prosperity of the collieries with that of the population dependent upon them, and to maintain the happiest relations between the company and its workmen.

In spite of industrial dispute, the collieries have had a most fortunate career, marred, however, by one or two accidents, of which the disastrous explosions in the Cadeby Main on July 9, 1912, were altogether outstanding. In these explosions 89 lives were lost, including three Government inspectors and the managers of both the collieries who were overwhelmed with the rescue party in a second explosion. The details of this lamentable disaster were fully recorded in the “Mexborough and Swinton Times” which issued a number of special editions as well as a complete account in the ordinary issue.

On Christmas Eve 1888 the headgear of the Denaby Main Colliery were destroyed by fire, and 11 men who were down the mine at the time were rescued with difficulty. A similar but less serious accident also occurred at the same colliery some years later. There was also a destructive fire in the engine house of the Cadeby colliery a few months ago.

The village of Conisbrough has not changed during the last 50 years or so much as might have been expected from its proximity to greater rapidly developing colliery undertaking.

The greater part of the social effect of the industrialisation all the district has been absorbed hitherto by Denaby Main, and even now that the population has begun to extend to Conisbrough, it is to some extent segregated from the old village by the creation of a new village on Northcliffe, overlooking Denaby. Conisbrough shed to a considerable extent of the prosperity brought to the district by the colliery operations, but a large part of this historic all villagers remain unspoiled. Its Castle keep and its Parish Church (said to be even older than the castle) continue to be the pride of the district and the resort of visitors from far and near. The parish church has been completely restored in the last 50 years. Apart from the collieries, the only local industry at Conisbrough is quarrying and brickmaking, industries which have been greatly stimulated by the boom in the building trade since the war.