The Denaby Main Evictions – Sheffield Daily Telegraph (picture)

January 1903

In 1902 a dispute arose between the colliery owners and the miners over payment for the layer of dirt that miners had to remove before the coal could be mined – ‘The Bag Muck’. Coal miners were paid on the amount of coal they extracted and – although at most colleries in South Yorkshire the men were paid a seperate rate for removal of the ‘bag muck’- not so at Denaby.
In the the months before the strike the faceworkers were coming across much thicker seams of dirt and refused to remove the dirt without pay. The company drafted in labour to remove it and deducted the cost from the miner’s wages. On 29th June 1902 they downed tools and struck.
Six months later the striking miners were faced with eviction from their homes. This began in the heart of Winter – 6th January 2003

Sheffield Daily Telegraph

The Denaby Main evictions

100 houses cleared – Distressing scenes – Absence of disorder


Yesterday the law took its course at the mining village of Denaby Main. A new phase of the dispute, which has set down the two great colleries of Denaby and Cadeby for more than six months past, was entered upon, and the threatened evictions began. For three hours in the morning the village presented sights such as have not been seen there since 1885, when in order to get possession of their houses, the collery company had to adopt the same extreme course of putting ejectment warrants into the hands of the police for execution.

Belief in their own rights

There are some 1000 houses, all occupied by those employed at the pits, and owned by the collery company. A large number of the strikers are willing to go back to work when affairs are sufficiently settled, but there are also a great many miners whose belief in their own rights in the struggle induces them to refuse to sign any agreement, even though that refusal means being turned out of house and all, and wife and children exposed to whatever weather the winter may bring.

Ejectment Warrants

It is in the circumstances that the company wishing to fulfil accommodation for fresh hands, whom they can import to work the pits again, have had recourse to eviction. Ordinary notices have been disregarded by the tenants and at the Doncaster police court on December 13th the company obtained upwards of 740 ejectment warrants. These have been put into the hands of the police who will continue to execute them daily. As has been reported in previous issues some of the miners affected have given up possession of their houses since affairs reached the crisis, and it is estimated that there are about 500 cases remaining to be dealt with by the police.

Resistance would be useless

The first day of the eviction passed quietly. It might have been anticipated that collisions between police and public one would inevitably take place when the miners saw themselves turned out of their houses with bag and baggage, but nothing of the sort happened. Resistance would be useless, and worse, and the advice which the leaders and others have given the men to submit without disorder, is the best.

No resistance, no insults

That advice was implicitly followed. “We have had no resistance, and no insults.” Said one of the inspectors of police after the morning’s work, and this described the situation exactly. The evicted people maintain the utmost good order, putting the police to no unnecessary trouble, but rather, in some cases, affording them facilities for performing their unpleasant duty as easily as possible. The desire of the police to exercise no feelings of bitterness was equally evident. They made no indecent haste in effecting the clearances, but carried out all the household effects with the most commendable care. The absence of friction was complete, and the piteousness of the proceeding was not aggravated by a single scene.

Nine O´Clock it begins

Nine o’clock was the time fixed upon for the beginning of the eviction. Supt Blake of Doncaster, who is in command of the 200 police stationed at Denaby, had decided to clear 100 houses to the occupants of which he had given notice the previous night. A few of the people determined to save the police trouble by “flitting” early, but in 82 cases the ejectment warrants were fully executed.

First Evictions

The police began to appear on the scene about half past eight, coming from all quarters of the village, where they are being temporarily lodged, they assemble near the Wesleyan Chapel and in Tickhill street. Then dividing themselves into two sections, one party under superintendent Blake, inspectors Watson (Mexborough) and Simpson (Goole), went into Firbeck Street and the other, commander by Supt McDonald ( Rotherham) and Inspector Aykroyd (Wakefield) proceeded to Cliff View. It was there that the first evictions took place. The disposition of the police forces were made with a view to prevent any obstruction of the work. Each end of the street was guarded by two mounted officers. Next them were placed about a dozen men on foot, strong enough to fill the whole width of the roadway. Scores of other policemen were in the street to carry out the evictions. More officers paraded neighbouring streets, and the portion of the village where nothing out of the common was going on. Accompanying the evicting sections were a few constables bearing mysterious parcels, which turned out to contain crowbars, probably intended for the forcing of doors, if necessary, but no use was found for these implements.

It was a novel site; and one whose reputation dictators would very willingly from outside the guard of police, large crowds of people, watched the proceedings, few were allowed inside the area, except the tenants concerned. Capt Russell, the chief constable of the West riding, and Mr W Smith Gill, the deputy chief, were among those present, and other spectators were Mr G.B.C. Yarborough, the chairman of the Doncaster bench of magistrates, and Mr TW Grundy, one of the chief officials of Rotherham Main colliery. Soon the streets, which the police had first visited, were crowded with furniture of all descriptions. The officers were readily admitted into the houses, and proceeded with their work without hinderance. Out came chairs and tables, fenders, sofas, clocks, bedsteads, bedding, and all the miscellaneous effects of a household, and these were quickly formed into piles in the roadway.


In some cases the miners and their wives had been busy from an early hour putting small things into parcels, so that the task of the police was lessened. In others the officers had offers from miners to help them in their work, but the police prefer to do the duty themselves now that it can be put into their hands. Two of the first men to be evicted were miners official; Phil Humphreys, chairman of the Cadeby branch, and his brother Harry a committeeman, both of whom live in Cliff view.


There were some humorous incidents, but the prevailing note was one of sadness. “There goes my beautiful Turkey carpet” said one miner as a very tattered hearth covering was gently deposited in the street, and other remarks of a similar character – only showing perhaps, an assumption of indifference to hide a deeper feeling – could be heard occasionally. One man in Cliff view constituted himself an auctioneer for the occasion, and vigourously rang a bell to call attention to is good as they were deposited in the street.

Children´s Dismay

But with the children there was no make-believe. Innocent little victims, they watched the strange work with wondering tearstained eyes, realising that, the homes which had been theirs, perhaps from birth, were theirs no longer and incapable of fully comprehending the reason why, they could be seen running about, and saving their favourite toys from the general accumulation.


A hard case was that in which a family of 12, most of the children being quite young, were turned out. They were provided with shelter at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, the ministers of which (the Rev Jesse Wilson and C.Mathison) tried to relieve the suffering of the people and the distress they felt. As one house which was visited the miners daughter was found to be ill and the police deferred their duties there untill another day.


The women, generally speaking, accepted the situation with a show of bravery, but it only needed a sympathetic word, as they stood helpless by the side of their goods, to prove how near their tears were to the surface. The evictions had come and there was now no shutting their eyes to the fact, that accommodation must be found elsewhere, and that it might be rough accommodation, despite every effort that the men could make.

A constant stream of Drays to Mexborough

The furniture turned out was, as a rule of poor description, but cases were noticed where the tenants had evidently been people of some taste, who had able to live comfortably and had appreciated a little refinement.


One young man living in Rossington Street – a corporal in the mine – informed our reporter that his furniture was worth £200. A dining room suite, his bed room effects, and other goods heaped up presented a great contrast to the class of furniture seen elsewhere, and he said he had a short time previously, removed an organ worth £40 and a number of pictures. He had obtained a place at Mexborough for the storage of his goods and they would be dispatched as soon as a dray could be obtained. Mexborough in fact was a place where most of the furniture was taken. Quite a number of tradesmen their had offered the use of warehouses and sheds, Republicans have provided accommodation, and farmers had opened their barn.


Some of the miners were able to send their furniture to the homes of friends in Conisbrough, and there was none that had to be left in the streets all night. Drays and other conveyances were plentiful and no sooner had the police done their duty in a street than the piles of goods which they left behind were quickly transferred to vehicle and taken away. Those who are to be evicted helped those who were being evicted and plenty of willing work was shown. There was a fairly constant stream s down the road to Mexborough. One dray contained not furniture that a load of women and children, who had roof to go under at the adjoining village




The description given of the first evictions applies to all. Police passed from street to street, emptying the houses and locking the doors after them. Their warrants “authorised and commanded them, on any day being less than 21 and no more than 30 clear days of the date thereof, except on Sunday, between the hours of nine in the forenoon and four in the afternoon, to enter by force, if needful, into and upon the said tenements and to eject thereon any persons and of the said tenements and give full and peaceful possession to deliver to the Denaby and Cadeby Main Company

The Tally

The Cliff view section of the force visited also Annaley Street, Rossington Street, and Tickhill Street, ejecting 38 families and the Firbeck Street portion also went to Clifton Street, Edlington Street, Marr Street, Wood View and Sawsby Street, performing their duties at 41 houses. The ejections minutes will go on the rate of about 100 per day until the task is completed. It was expected yesterday that the work would last until one o’clock in the afternoon but it was over by noon, the last evictions taking place in Rossington Street. The evictions will be restarted this morning at nine o’clock.

What is to become of the homeless

A question that forcibly struck those present yesterday was, what is to become of those who are are deprived of house and home. Have they places for shelter or are any of them doomed to walk the streets all night. Inquiry showed that the outlook was none too bright. The housing problem assumed large proportions as the afternoon wore on. For the tents which were to afford such fine accommodation all but failed so far as the first day was concerned.


A Great improvement is expected in this direction today, but if the homeless ones had depended on canvas shelter last night they would have been in sorry plight. The tents were there, but the arrangements for erecting them were by no means of the best. By 11 o’clock in the morning sufficient canvas to make several tents, together, with the necessary poles and heating apparatus had arrived in Clarkson’s field, near the new workingmen’s club and Institute at Conisbrough, but the difficulty was to fix them. Nobody seemed to understand the work and a strong breeze baffled the efforts of the miners to direct them.

Tents and houses

About two o’clock a number of poles were raised and a roof was put on, but an hour or two later the tent was again lying on the ground. Finally the fixing of one small tent was accomplished and this was all. However the officials were able to report that, the tents could be dispensed with for that night. People who had nowhere to go applied to the leaders, who were able to send them to friends who had promised to take them in. In not a few cases, those evicted yesterday slept with those who are on the list of eviction. As the number of homeless ones becomes greater, the question of providing accommodation will grow more serious. The men’s leaders however entertain no fears on this,. Sites for the erection of tents have been secured at Sparrow Barracks, Mexborough- a field adjoining the Miners Arms – near the Masons Arms., Mexborough and in Garden Street. A number of houses in Kilnhurst have been taken, the rent having been guaranteed for a certain period.




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