Urban Powers Inquiry – 3. Evidence for the Colliery Company

February 1901

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 08 February 1901

Conisborough Urban Powers Inquiry

Evidence for the Colliery Company

Mr WH Chambers, the general manager of the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries Company (Limited), was the first witness called for the appellants.

He had been the chairman of the Denaby Parish Council since that body was constituted. He said the Colliery Company were the largest owners of houses in Denaby Main, the other landlord with Mr Caleb Kilner, who employed about 600 hands at the glass works.

Of the persons employed at the pits, 240 men and boys lived in Old Conisborough the last time they were counted, and about 1000 in Mexborough. He knew of no one in Denaby who was not entirely opposed to the Conisborough scheme; he could not suggest a single advantage that would be gained by Denaby being included in it. Under the scheme, Denaby people, although there was no necessity or convenience of life the scheme could bring them, would have to bear the burden of rates in respect of anything that was got by Old Conisborough. The rates of Denaby were 3/4 in the pound on land and buildings, and in Conisborough 6s in the pound, including the new School Board rate.

The Colliery Company, having created the population of Denaby, and largely provided for the wants of the people. They had built elementary schools which they maintained at an annual cost of £1,000, and there had never been any complaint whatsoever regarding the conduct of the schools are the quality of education provided. There was accommodation for 1200 children, and preference was given to the children of employees at the colliery. Apart from that the schools were open to other children, and those who attended also went free. So far as New Conisborough was concerned, they paid the same school rate as Old Conisborough, but in spite of that the people are the preferred to send their children to the colliery schools, instead of the Conisborough Board Schools.

The Company contemplated building some 1100 more houses in Denaby. If were done the population would be increased by 5000, making the population of Denaby greater than that of either Old or New Conisborough. The Company lighted the streets of Denaby with gas free, but in New Conisborough they charged 34/6 per lamp per year. The price of the colliery gas to private consumers was 3/6 per 1000 cubic feet.

Denaby had nothing to gain by becoming joined to Old Conisborough in the matter of either education, roads, scavenging, lighting and water supply. From the Cadeby bore hole they had a practically inexhaustible supply of water, which was perfectly good and pure for domestic purposes, but rather hard. The total cost of the borehole, storage, reservoir and pipe to the Colliery Company was about £7,000. If the scheme for urban powers was not confirmed, Old Conisborough would get a supply from the Cadeby bore Hole, as the Doncaster Rural District Council practically accepted the offer of the Colliery Company to supply the water into a reservoir for the use of Conisborough, at a rate of 6d per 1000 gallons.

The sewage scheme at present existing cost £10,600 of which Conisborough paid £7900, and Denaby £2700 and so far as Denaby was concerned the scheme was useless.

Mr Wedderburn: Is Denaby prepared to bear that loss and look upon it as an unfortunate loss?

Mr Chambers: They have paid the money, and it will be hard to get it back. (Laughter).

In cross examination, Mr Chambers agreed that the establishment of the collieries had caused Denaby Main to become more or less urban in character. On January 19th there were 1,624 men and boys employed at Cadeby colliery and 1,699 at Denaby. As a general principal he agreed that the industry which brings a population into a district ought to bear it’s fair share of contributing towards the rates occasioned by the population. He did not know whether or not Mr Caleb Kilner had signed a petition against the confirmation of the order.

Mr Waugh cross-examined the witness at length on a previous application of Denaby people to have Denaby, New Conisborough and part of Cadeby formed into an urban district. This was put forward as an alternative scheme at the time of the first application by Conisborough. Witness now said an urban district, consists of Denaby, new Conisborough and Cadeby would be worse than the present arrangement, but it will be better than the urban district proposed by the Conisborough scheme.

Mr Waugh endeavoured to get a definitive answer to a question as to whether, if Denaby had not received any benefit in the past in respect of the sewage scheme, and would have to pay in the future and get no benefit, we not be fair that Conisborough should contribute fair share towards making Denaby sewage disposal works effective?

After a considerable amount of fencing, Mr Chambers said: “I do not know whether it is fair or not. I could answer it both ways.

The Inspector: That is the answer

Mr Waugh: He does not know whether or not it is fair.

Another question that Mr Chambers would not answer definitely and reference to his statement that the Colliery Company were waiting to see the result of the appeal before they provided any more elementary school accommodation. The question was: Do you consider the education of a district or to depend on the caprice of a limited liability company?

Mr Chambers eventually answer the question by saying, “if you mean by caprice improper administration; if it is proper I say yes; if it is improper I say no.

Mr Waugh: I am afraid I am paying a greater compliment to your intelligence and it deserves if you can answer questions of that kind. (Laughter)

In reply to other questions, the witness said he did not approve of Mr George White sewage scheme, and voted against it when it was adopted at a meeting of the Rural Sanitary Authority. He was overruled. The scheme are provided a dead failure so far as Denaby was concerned. Whatever scheme was adopted it would have to be a joint scheme for part of Conisborough and part of Denaby. Coal had been worked by the company under the line of the present sewer, but that would not have a tendency to cause subsidence. The call was rated a depth of 753, and Stone pack wall some 6 foot 7’6” thick were left 7 feet apart.

In reply to Mr Waddy, the witness said that as a member of the Rural District Council he had heard letters from Mr White read, in which Mr White complained of the way in which the Colliery Company were treating the sewage system. That was a complaint frequently made from 1895 to August 17, 1898.

Mr Waddy: My suggestion is that until your Company started to interfere with the system and turned in your surface water it worked perfectly satisfactory for months, without any complaint from you or anybody else?

Mr Chambers: There is not a pint of sewage that I know of ever flowed out of Denaby into Conisborough. We never did turn in surface water.

Mr F Allen (Clerk to the Conisborough School Board) also cross-examined Mr Chambers, and in reply to his question the witness said he did not know that there were 1,700 children in New Conisborough and Denaby liable to go to school, and that a number of children were running at Denaby and Conisborough not attending school at all. He did not know that the Education Department had compelled the Conisborough School Board to build a new school on account of the number of children were not attending school at New Conisborough. He got his information as to the Conisborough school costing £23 per head from the statement made by Mr Brocklesby, and published in the newspapers.

Mr Bairstow (for the Rural District Council) elicited the statement that the body responsible for the existing sewage scheme was a parochial committee, consisting of Conisborough and Denaby ratepayers and members of the Rural Authority. About 4000 acres of coal were leased from Mrs Bewicke Copley by the Colliery Company.

Mr F Parker Rhodes ask questions almost exclusively dealing with the coal workings under the line of the existing sewer. The witness produced a copy of the working plan of that part of the mine, and explained it in detail. The effect of the evidence was that in some parts of the line of sewer the coal had been taken away so long ago that if there had been subsidence it must have ceased before the sewers were laid. In other parts, though coal had been taken away, proper provision had been made to prevent subsidence. While the company and colliery existed the company were ready to give the supply of water they were able from the Cadeby bore Hole. There were coal seams in the Cadeby pit that would last for very much more than 100 years.

In reply to Mr Wedderburn, the witness said that up to the present enquiry no suggestion had been made as to the working of the coal below the line of the sewer.