Recreational Provisions for Children in Conisborough & Denaby

January 1938

Mexborough and Swinton Times January 14, 1938

Recreational Provisions for Children
in Conisborough & Denaby

The present move towards improving the physique of the nation has again brought into prominence the question of playing fields.

In some quarters it is felt that the King George V. Memorial Fund might be used in other directions than the provision of playing fields, and with the object of ascertaining what facilities are already  available, and what farther facilities of this type are needed in South Yorkshire we propose topublish a series of articles, of which we print here the fiist, giving the results of inquiries, made in a number of the principal towns in the area served by this newspaper.

This review will be conducted entirely impartially and will be of interest both to those who criticise, and those who feel satisfied with the existing state of affairs

No. 1. Conisborough And Denaby.           .

I confess that when I started on my survey of Conisborough and Denaby, my mood was anything but impartial. It is still not impartial, but for different reasons.

Although I have lived In Conisborough most of my Site I have always had the impreision- that Conlaborough and Denaby wen overcrowded places with tortuous streets, dangerous corners anda few public grounds In awkward positions.

I had never done more than walk through the Council Housing Estate. I had not stood on the North Cliffs. Conanby I knew my nickname only, and that nickname suggested teeming squalor: The Low Road was merely a very dull way of going to the station. Denaby, as seen from the Mexborough Road, was a muddle of dirty red-crick houses and railway sidings under, usually, a veil of smoke.

I had no idea (and this shows how little one men notice of what does not directly concern them) that the council had aquired and thrown open the North Cliffs for instance and that a railed-in. playing ground with proper apparatus and an attendant had been established there. I had never seen the tennis courts on the Edlington Miner’s Welfare ground up the Old Road; nor the children’s playground in the same vicinity, easy of access from Conanby, the Housing Estate, and the block of, building between Garden Lane and North Cliff Road. I did not know that the the majority of Conisborough and Denaby children, always excepting those from the river side of the Low Road, can reach a playground without crossing a busy road.

This mention a busy road brings me to the first consideration in providing spaces for children to play in. Before sunlight, fresh air, swings and seesawed comes safety. Now I have seen the swarm of children on the roads at school closing time and on summer evenings. I have read and heard reports of road accidents in newspapers and on the wireless. It was natural, therefore that my next  question be in pursuance of this line of thought. Accordingly I called on two local doctors for information – information which I felt sure would be lurid.

Here is what one said: “Street accidents? We are very few. My only case at the moment the child and was not down on the way to school you can’t blame lack of playing ground for that! But I’ll tell you this: I get a constant stream of accidents from the playgrounds themselves!”

Here was a poser for one expecting to find that most patiently given to children!

Actually the official figures show that in Denaby and Conisborough between April and August (as a sample) out of 10 people injured in Street accidents, falls under 12 years old. There were no fatal accident. All these four were injured on roads on which they go to school, not on the way to playing grounds.

Your doctor said “We have very few Street accidents to children,” and agreed that the playgrounds were a fruitful source of injuries. He suggested further, the provision of special apparatus such as swings and seesaws was not only dangerous but unnecessary and that children would prefer some wild ways spot with, to quote him, “a pig’s bladder to kick about.”

Realising by now my utter ignorance of the subject on which I have undertaken to report, I called on Mrs Oldfield, the energetic wife of councillor Oldfield.

Kindly, but firmly, Mrs Oldfield made me see again how little I knew of my birthplace. Much of what she said is elsewhere in this article, here one for two points from her remarks.

“To get to the Pygotts you have to cross the main road. When you get there the ground is too steep to play stop anyway, after the slum clearance which had been done, there are no population to use it. The East Ward is badly served. Something should be done for the Low Road and Burcroft. Many women keep small children (too small to be sent to playgrounds) indoors sooner than let them play in the street. Coronation Park is not meant for and not suitable for children. The playgrounds of Old Denaby Road are too far away from us children live near the crossing. The apparatus of Mrs Walker’s park has been allowed to fall into disrepair because of misuse. But it might be repaired if an attendant were put in charge.”

This brings me to which many Councils after content – damage. In this case, for example, not only have swings assess been broken, but have been broken up. The wood has been taken away, presumably for firewood, and some of the ironwork removed as well. I have heard of a piece of chain from this part which now fulfils a useful (I hope) purpose in somebody’s garden.

I will not go so far as some people and say that this hooliganism is unexplainable. – “I simply can’t understand why they do it.” – Considering what miners have to put up with I am frequently surprised that they are so moderate. But I do suggest that the proverbial moment thought, would have shown the perpetrators of this particular folly the boomerang nature of their protest.

Finally I called on Mr H Thirlwall, the Urban Councils Surveyor. He agreed with much that I had learnt. It was some years, he said, since she had ceased regard to bag seriously as a playground. The tenant at the playground on the North Cliff Hills, a St John ambulance man, was constantly ‘patching up’ injured children in addition to the numbers who had to be taken to doctors. The Low Road and Burcroft were badly served from a child’s point of view, but where was a site? The ground of the Riverside was unsafe (by reason of the river) and suitable (because it had been a rubbish tip); that the tops I was already used as allotments. The two main blocks of houses in Denaby were cramped according to modern ideas. But short of pulling down every alternate row, what could be done? The colliery company were levelling and asphalting their backyards, which was a step in the right direction.

In talking Mr Thirlwall and coming up against the hard facts of what is possible, as opposed to what is desirable, I realise what a great deal has been done to make Conisborough and Denaby healthier for children.

This brings me to my summing up which takes a form of suggestions. How far they are practical I do not know, but they represent what I should aim for, had I the necessary powers.

  1. Denaby Park is a favourite resort for the very small children who do not require much space for their games. They play at ‘shop’ and ‘housekeeping’ there uncramped. The railings keep them from straying onto the road and mothers can leave them with reasonable confidence while they themselves play at ‘shop’ and ‘housekeeping’ on a larger and less amusing scale.
  2. Whilst not decrying the value of ‘organised’ playgrounds, more of the natural type might be provided.
  3. In this connection I have only one suggestion to make. It is that enquiries might be made with regard to the wood known as Denaby Thicks. It might be possible for the Council to acquire this.
  4. Regular playing field (football, hockey et cetera) should be made at some central spot and a comprehensive scheme for organised games schoolchildren should be put on foot. Several schools have such schemes which are just a proud of their own children, but in my opinion, should be tackled on a large scale from above rather than piecemeal below.