Mexborough & Swinton Times, June 1921
W. H. Chambers Retires from Public Office
Mr William Henry Chambers, managing director of the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries Ltd, has resigned his membership of the Doncaster Board of Guardians and the Doncaster Rural District Council, and on Saturday, he received from the chairman and members of those authorities cordial expressions of appreciation of the lengthy and signal public services he has performed in association with them.
Mr Chambers is now advancing in years, and though still hale, hearty, active, and alert, as decided, on medical advice, to relinquish practically all his multifarious public and social duties, and to enter upon some of the keys which he has undoubtedly earned by a long and strenuous and public spirited career. He retains only his position at the collieries, whose operations he will continue to supervise and direct, though not so intimately as in the last 40 years. He will shortly be leaving the district, and will settle in his new home, Clayworth Hall, Retford, about Eastertide.
A Crowded Career
His retirement from the public life of the district may perhaps be taken as a convenient opportunity to review the career of a man who for over a generation has been a force in the local government and the industrial life of an important part of this district. Mr Chambers was a son of Mr Henry Chambers, for many years, manager of the Tinsley Park Colliery. He was born at Tinsley Park, and studied mining at that Colliery, when quite a boy, and later served as assistant manager of the Tibshelf and the Birchwood Collieries of Messrs Charles Seely and Co. where he obtained his certificate.
He returned to Yorkshire in 1879 as manager of the Woolley Colliery, Barnsley, and was appointed manager of the Denaby Main Colliery in 1882, succeeding the late Mr John Warburton. He resided at the “laurels,” Conisborough and seven or eight years later moved his present residents, “the Dale,” following the late Capt. Johnson there.
At that time the Denaby Main mine, which was sunk in 1864, was developing the Barnsley bed, and when Mr Chambers came a big underground fire, arising from “gob” trouble, was at its height, and had to be dealt with. Mr Chambers spent many years struggling with this problem of “gob” fires, and is acknowledged as the most eminent authority on the subject. In 1887 Mr Chambers had to deal with a very disastrous surface via, which broke out on Christmas Eve, and destroyed a large part of the picture. In addition to the ordinary arduous routine of a colliery manager, Mr Chambers has had to battle with abnormal conditions on many occasions and disputes, mishaps, and difficulties of all kinds have made in common demands on the judgement, patience, skill, and energy. But his hands have never been quite full with these collieries, large and important, and prosperous as they have become under his direction- he has devoted an extraordinary amount of time to representing the district on various local authorities and to attending personally to the development of the little town which has sprung up around the collieries.
In 1883 he was elected to represent Denaby on the Doncaster Board of Guardians and the Doncaster Solitary Authority (which became the Doncaster Ruler District Council in 1894), and has sat continuously on those bodies, his return been only ones opposed.
He has been chairman of the Denaby Parish Council since its formation, and will retire this year. At one period of his career, he was simultaneously chairman of the Doncaster Rural District Council, and the Sanitary Committee of that body, chairman of the Doncaster and Mexborough Joint Hospital Board, chairman of the Denaby Parish Council, president of the, middling Institute of Mining, Civil, and Mechanical Engineers, vice president of the Institution of Mining Engineers, a member of the Mining Committee of the Sheffield University, president of the Denaby Main Cooperative Society, on the Denaby Main Institute, of the Denaby and Cadeby Cricket Club and of the Denaby United Football Club, warden of the Denaby Main Parish Church, and Chief superintendent of the Denaby Main Ambulance Corps, and all this does not give a complete idea of the range of his activities outside his duties at the collieries
When he came to Denaby, the late Mr Buckingham Pope was chairman of the Colliery Company, and Mr Edward Pope was managing director.
On the death of Mr Edward Pope, some few years later, Mr Chambers was appointed managing director.
It was under his direction that the Cadeby Colliery, was sunk in 1889 – a splendidly equipped mine, albeit the scene of one of the saddest disasters in the history of British coalmining.
The Denaby mine is 450 yards deeper at the Barnsley bed, and 704 at the Parkgate bed the Cadeby pit is 763 yards deep at the Barnsley bed, a fault occurring between the two mines.
The pits are fit for a very large output, and yet the area of coal taken includes seams on an aggregate thickness of 56 feet, which can hardly be exhausted for centuries.
It is difficult to get an adequate view of the size of this colliery enterprise and the contribution it is destined to make to the prosperity of the district.
The wonder is that even a man of Mr Chambers abounding, restless energy, should have been able to spare any attention from this undertaking to the hundred and one private and public interest, great and small, which have steadily occupied him all these years.
Genesis of Church Life in Denaby
He personally initiated practically all the institutions of Denaby Main. Nearly all his plans for improving the amenities of the place were adopted by the Colliery Company, and he was left to carry them out.
In many instances he did this with the assistance and cooperation of the people of Denaby, and was very ready to leave the actual management of things to the people themselves.
When he came to Denaby there was practically no spiritual provision for the people. A few Roman Catholic went to Wath, and a few Anglicans to Conisbrough.
The ecclesiastical parish of Conisbrough and Mexborough met in the middle of Denaby May, and the Colliery Company subscribed in both parishes with the idea of obtaining the occasional support of a curate.
There was the little chapel of St Chad´s, near the railway, which was in the parish of Mexborough, and about four services a year were held there.
As neither parish was willing to supply services at Denaby on a Sunday, Mr Chambers tried to arrange a midweek service in the Rossington Street School, as soon as it was built, and the then Vicar of Conisbrough at first undertook to all services there, but the work was not carried on. At length Mr Chambers was authorised by the Colliery Company to propose to the then Archbishop of York (Dr Thomson) that the Colliery Company should find a stipend of a curate to work entirely in Denaby Main. Dr Thompson agreed to this arrangement, and to the establishment of a “conventional district” of Denaby Main.
The reverent, J. Brookes was the first incumbent, and the patronage was vested in five trustees: Mr J. Buckingham Pope in brackets. Deceased, and succeeded by Major Maurice Pope, the present chairman of the company), Mr S.A. Peto, Mr J.C. Cunningham (deceased, and succeeded by his widow) Mr F.J.O. Montagu, and Mr W.H.Chambers.
Mr Chambers was an original warden of the church and with one break as for many years held that office. He holds it now, and will relinquish it at Easter.
It is also interesting to know that, man and boy, Mr Chambers has been a church chorister for 57 years – at Tinsley Park, in Derbyshire, at Leeds, Conisborough, Barnsley, and Denaby Main. He is exceedingly fond of music, and was one of a quartet, who started the Denaby Main Orchestral Society many years ago. He still plays the clarinet in the orchestra, and is a regular attender at the weekly rehearsals. At home he loves to play on a fine little organ he has installed there. Through Mr Chambers, the Colliery Company have done a great deal to help and encourage all the other religious denominations in Denaby Main. Mr Chambers himself designed the Wesleyan Chapel and begged the site. Occasionally he used to attend the Wesleyan Chapel at Denaby and Conisbrough.
Mr Chambers´ interest in the ambulance movement is known throughout a wide district. He obtained his first certificate at chip shelf in 1878, and has since gained almost every certificate, medallion, label, or order obtainable in the movement. He started classes at Woolley, but in those days the doctors of that district look rather askance at the prospect of creating a body of amateurs, and Mr Chambers had not only to organise classes, but to give the lectures.
At Denaby Main a more enlightened view was taken, and Dr Sykes and Dr Hill took up the movement with enthusiasm. The work was difficult and discouraging at first, it did not “catch on,” especially after the first batch of examination failures, but in May, 1899, the Denaby Ambulance Division was formed, and the movement as never looked back. Today, the Denaby Ambulance Corps comprises 11 ambulance and five nursing divisions. Until recently it was the largest in the provinces, but now holds second place because of a big amalgamation in Nottinghamshire. Mr Chambers has held the chief command of the corps until a few days ago, when he resigned it to Mr H.C. Harrison. In 1914 He was appointed and Assistant Commissioner of the grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England, with responsibility for a very wide district, and with very onerous duties in connection with it. At Retford, he will still be within the district, and will continue to exercise the functions of the office.
Mr Chambers started the Denaby Main industrial cooperative society in 1883, was its first member, and the first and only president. This office he is shortly giving up. He presently retired from the position of president of the Denaby Main Institute, a position he has held the time when he caused the Institute to be removed from its dingy and dismal quarters at St Chads to the present commodious properties. He was involved also in the foundation of the Fullerton hospital, a splendid little institution which is similarly, supported by the workmen of the collieries, and in which they have some great and justifiable pride. His work for education has been considerable. The Colliery Company built the Rossington Street School and afterwards the Large Hall. Both have been taken over by the County Council, but the Colliery Company continues to maintain them. Mr Chambers sat on the old Conisbrough school board, and also on the Conisbrough education subcommittee as well as on sub committees concerned with education
As a member of the Doncaster Rural District Council he has been immersed in the administration of the district for some 40 years has been a member of practically every committee, having concerns with the Administration of the district council, including the Conisbrough Parochial Committee.
He has taken a prominent part in the debate which has ranged around the question of urban powers for the district, and of the most recent enquiry into the question he advocated amalgamation in the district with the neighbouring towns of Mexborough and Swinton and the construction of a municipal hospital.
As the successful controller of a very large undertaking, he is a believer in large scale methods.
For that reason he supported the Doncaster Rural District Council against the Conisbrough Parish Council, and more recently as the district became definitely urban in character, he supported the borough idea against the smaller scheme of an urban authority for Denaby and Conisbrough alone.
Few men can look back on such a record of prodigious and concentrated local effort, or made possible by a high degree of system and of business talent. Few men, we should say, can turn to ease and raced with so complete a sense of having earned it.
Mr W.A. Chambers was succeeded at Woolley by his brother, Mr J.E. Chambers, who subsequently became manager of Darfield Main, Tinsley Park and Cortonwood, and retired about 10 years ago. His son, Mr Douglas Chambers (Mr W.A. Chambers, nephew) was manager of the Denaby Main Colliery in 1912, and perished with the gallant rescue party in the disastrous explosion at Cadeby in that year.