Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 04 July 1890
Local and General Notes
Conisborough as it is.
This is a sight worth seeing, with its castellated height, its venerable church, and Its red tiled cottages sparkling in the summer sun. Then if one cares for the variety which we are told “ is charming,” it can be found where the rushing waters of the Don, flecked with foam, speed downwards in their flight to the sea, or where the gloomy hill of Cadeby frowns down upon the opposite heights with the broad serpentine river flashing like a silver girdle that has been torn from the wrist of a giantess and hurled aside. The woods, laden with the perfume from myriads of sweet-scented herbs, the delicate tracery and colouring of the leafage, the spangled turf and the silent forest glades speak to the heart none the less forcefully because of the historic associations connected with the place.
I have heard people talk with rapture of the beauties of the Wye, the Severn, and the Orwell, but after they have viewed the reaches of the Don at Sprotborough, they have spared their breath in order to praise this river alone.
What old associations are brought to mind with the sweep of the journeying waters! Days when the old Sea Kings launched their frail boats on the current and passed up the Humber and its tributaries in search of prey, when like wolverines they glutted themselves with the blood of the slain ; days too when it was not thought a crime, but rather a meritorious act, for one chieftain to make a raid suddenly upon his neighbour, when might was tight, and when the followers of the Christ were almost crushed to earth beneath the bloody banner of Thor.
For the Don in ancient times was a mighty river, and the distance from one bank to the other could be told only by bandied’ of yards. The crags of Sprotborough and Warmsworth have stood like hoar sentinels fur thousands of years. Past them have glided many a serpent like craft on the look out for prey, manned by human beings as wily and crafty as “that old serpent called the devil.” The shriek of the victim, the victorious chant of the conquerer, have been borne by the wind many a time to the ears of the dwellers in the British fortress of Caer Conan, and later on when Norman and Salon fought far the mastery there have been grim doings in and around the mound which marks the grave of the butchered Hengist, if legend is to be believed.
To-day, instead of the murderous-looking Danish vessels which slunk through the foliage by eight and were jealously hidden by day, there is a fleet of coal-laden boats with white sails unfurled making their way down stream to the eternal sea. The rosy rays of the setting sun light up their whiteness and lend a golden glory to every portion of the hull which is brought into prominence. All is beautiful as yet in the direction of Doncaster. There has indeed been a weld change within the past year or two. The woods which were the pride of the Don Valley have been cut down on the Sprotborough bank, and now no longer the waters lave the tree roots, so far as this point of their course is concerned.
No more does the emerald king-fisher dart between the branches like a keen flash of light, the water hen has abandoned her plaited nest of rushes for a more secret place, where her eggs will need no longer the concealment which she loves to practice. Even the river-moths have gone to other places where they can hide the sheen of their wings effectually without lazily fluttering to trees half-a.mile inland. The agriculturist has seized the soil and is growing cereals where a year or two ago stood part of the virgin forest which once clothed the greater part of this fair county.
It is in the direction of Mexborough that lovers of Conisborough hate to turn their eyes. In the distance can be seen traces of Smoke Fiend. Year by year lhe has claimed more of the vast plain, now he is encroaching on the valley. Even opposite Conisborough’s stalwart keep the Smoke Demon belches forth his blackness as if jealous of the circumstance that for eight hundred years the futilities has stood and remained free from the grime of commerce. But a few years and the darkness of desolation will have given place to the sweetness and light of former days.
If it were not that the change may prove a god-send to many a starving family, I would waste my time in writing “ Anathema,” on the base of the chimney shaft which is built in the valley opposite Cadeby Hill. But why, after all, should Conisborough escape the fate other and even lovelier places? When a thriving town is built at the foot of the castle mound, when its streets are lighted with electricity, and when the roar of commerce is heard even at the gates of the historic birth-place of one of England’s kings, let us remember Conisborough as it is now, before it has been ravaged by the hosts of commerce.
“The old order changeth, giving place to the new.” Will the new state of things be the better? Are men braver, more generous and stronger than they were five hundred years ago? This is what I should like to know. And as I walk through the streets of Sheffield, I read this sentence, “ John Bull and Co., the largest and cheapest butchers in the world.” It is only a legend written over a shop door, but it sets me a-thinking.