Trade Review – Don and Dearne Valleys – Prospects None Too Bright.

December 1930

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Wednesday 31 December 1930

Don and Dearne Valleys.

Prospects None Too Bright.

The tardiness of trade recovery in the Don and Dearne Valleys is typical of general experience. Unemployment even in this normally great coal-getting area remains a sinister reflection of developed and developing adversities, and with conditions not favourable for the institution of new industries, old and formerly reliable sources of profitable production continue heavily handicapped to the hurt of all concerned.

The miners, who comprise by far the greater proportion of workers hereabouts, have been subject, like the collieries, to the restrictive influences remaining in too mischievous a degree, and in the dismal duty of looking backward most satisfaction can be derived from the fact that the managements and men of the pits have for the fourth successive year steered clear of internal dissensions, or rather adjusted amicably the few that have come along, and have co-operated heartily in the prolonged effort to restore the coal industry and trade to the standard of sufficiency.

Rate of Employment.

Work at the great district collieries of Denaby and Cadeby, Manvers Main, Nos. 1 and 2, and Barnburgh Main, Main, and Hickleton Main, averaged from four to four and a half days per week, and a curious experience in the circumstances was the tendency to absenteeism in the brighter periods when employment was more liberally available. Also noticeable was the continued adverse effect of Friday pay days on Friday afternoon shifts.

That fuller opportunities will come in the new year is doubtful, for there nothing in the present position to justify suggestions that have been made that a real improvement in the coal trade will be forthcoming in the spring. Indeed, the unsatisfactory state of the steel trade points rather to the contrary, seeing that coal and coke disposal usually follows the selling of steel.

Any consideration of prospects must, however, necessarily be influenced by the operation of the Coal Mines Act, 1930. What its effect will be remains to be seen.

That the best results from the conditions prevailing are produced in this area is shown by the last annual reports of the Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries, Ltd., and the Manvers Main Collieries, Ltd., which revealed that for the year ended last June the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries showed a profit of £100,000, allowing payment, in addition to the 6 per cent. Preference, of Ordinary dividend at 5 per cent., the first Ordinary since 1925.

Effect of Legislation.

Equally welcome was the return to dividend distribution on Ordinary shares of the Manvers Main Collieries, the chairman of which (Mr. F. C. Hunter) at the 33rd annual meeting, said that the accounts showed much better state of affairs than in the previous year. Referring to recent legislation he said he could not say what the effect would be, but now that the scheme was compulsory he thought that as the collieries which had stayed outside in the past would have to come in and conform with the regulations, their company would be helped considerably. Legislation, he added, did not have a good effect on industry generally, because it left things in such state of uncertainty. It was there, however, and they had to make the best of it.

Another authoritative statement, and one representative of the experience of other famous and well-conditioned collieries, is given to this review Mr. L. C. Hughes, general manager of the Yorkshire Amalgamated Collieries, Ltd. (Denaby and Cadeby Main, Dinnington Main, Maltby Main, and Rossington Main), who, when interviewed, said :

When the year began the outlook appeared to be considerably better than it had been for several years, but before the end of February conditions became definitely worse, and have continued to decline up to the present time, when the outlook for 1931 is anything but encouraging. With regard to working under the Coal Mines Act, 1930, everything at present is very obscure, but the regulation of output will, I think, eventually help matters to some extent. I think it is essential that some support should be given to enable a reasonable amount of tonnage to be exported, and that it was a great error when the national levy (which could have been used for this purpose) was struck out of the Bill.

Nearer to Good Times.

Incidentally, it may be mentioned that arrangements have been made to provide pit-head baths at both Cadeby Main and Dinnington Collieries, where the erection of them should be completed by the end of 1931. Reverting to the immediate needs of the coal industry, the spirit to make the best of prevailing conditions is not lacking in this area, and one managing director of district collieries said philosophically, when asked his opinion of the situation, “Well, the coal trade has had a bad time for several years past, but the longer the bad time lasts the nearer we must be to the good time, which, sooner, later, will come.”

The Glass Trade.

Messrs. Kilner Bros., Ltd., the old established glass bottle manufacturers, of Conisborough, state that while the disappointing weather of last summer had an adverse effect upon the demand for mineral water bottles, the demand for milk and fruit and jam bottles was maintained, and conditions were about on a par or slightly better than in the previous year.

As to the coming year the present unsettled condition of trade generally made a forecast difficult, but there was a prospect, given a good summer, of revival of the mineral water bottle trade and the development of bottle supplies for the whisky and other trades and distributive agencies.

Messrs. Dale Brown and Co., Ltd., the glass bottle manufacturers, of Swinton, report that as far as glass bottle requirements for the mineral water trade, the demand in the past year was much less than in former years owing to the very unseasonable weather in July and August. The firm, however, was kept fairly busy on other lines, but orders were not so free because of the general trade depression and the tightness of money. In regard to next year, there was hope that conditions throughout the country would improve appreciably, and in anticipation further automatic bottle machines were being fitted at the works to cope with a larger demand.

Building Trade.

The Yorkshire Amalgamated Products, Ltd., who have extensive activities, including brickworks at Conisborough and Mexborough, have had a year of favourable experience considering the general conditions. They report:

“Despite the prevailing trade depression we have continued to receive good demand for our Conisborough, Stairfoot, and Askern brands of facing and engineering bricks. We are now producing blue and brindled engineering bricks, which have been favourably received. Our trade in sands and concrete aggregates has been well maintained, in spite of increasing competition.

“As regards the prospects for next year, the tendency, owing to the increasing financial stringency and depression in the basic and staple industries, is for private building enterprise to fall off, leaving the building trades dependent to greater extent on public and municipal works.”

Grates, Stoves, and Fireplaces.

Messrs. Hattersley Bros., Ltd., of the Queen’s Foundry, Swinton, record that their works have been steadily employed , throughout 1930, notwithstanding the very difficult times which have been experienced generally. The firm states :

“Considerable further development has been made in electric domestic appliances. With the many new and attractive designs introduced, particularly in electric heating fires, the demand steadily increasing and according to the reports received we are looking forward to a substantial increase of business 1931. Further developments have also been made in the engineering section. Gas fired boilers for central heating are being produced and installed in large buildings, such as banks, offices, halls, factories, etc., and as they are self-controlled they are proving a great success. The Swinton combination fireplaces maintain their popularity and orders come in from every part of the country. One new design in particular is the Swinton oven and side boiler combination, with a very large capacity side boiler, the first of its kind to be produced. It is much appreciated in country districts where the town service supply is not available.

“With the new productions generally we are looking forward to 1931 to be a better year than the one just passed.”

Other Activities.

A notable trading development, locally in the past year was the opening of the Federated Bakery at Mexborough, owned by a group of South Yorkshire Co-operative Societies. House building declined somewhat the district compared with recent years, but the Mexborough Urban Council has at present in hand a scheme for the erection of 60 more houses and is taking steps to provide public baths at a cost £ 20.000.

A reflection of the growth of local unemployment is afforded by figures secured, from the Mexborough Employment Exchange. The insured population of the Mexborough (part of the Don and Dearne) area is roughly 22,000, and 75 per cent, of these workpeople are engaged in the coal mining industry. The wholly unemployed have increased in the last three six monthly periods from 933 to 1,084 and to 1,377 successively, and the rise is attributed mainly to the changes effected in the conditions relating to the receipt of benefit.

The number of applicants temporarily suspended from work, and which in the three periods mentioned rose from 413 to 4,295 and to 5,514, varies from day to day and in the main depends upon the coal output allocation to the collieries.