Worst Storm for Years – Fireballs & Floods

October 1939

Mexborough and Swinton Times October 21, 1939

Worst Storm for Years.

The terrific storm which struck Conisborough and Denaby on Saturday was the worse the urban district has experienced within living memory. Several residents had narrow escapes, and two cases in the Daylands Housing Estate were reported of electric meters being struck and going up in flames.

The thunder and lightning persisted for two hours, and during that time there were two electric lighting failures.

The trolley bus system had to be abandoned for a time.

There were a number of road accidents, including one on the Sheffield road, near Rock House in which a motor lorry, driven by John Alfred Ellis, fruiterer of Rotherham, was involved in a collision with a stationary car which was directed by the force of the impact into another stationary car standing in front of it.

The cemetery wall on the main Sheffield road at Conisborough collapsed and traffic was held up at the spot for some time.

Among the local residents who were involved in accidents was Mr H.Thirlwall , surveyor to the Irving Council, who collided with another car on account of flooding on the Doncaster Wakefield Road about 6 miles on the Doncaster side of Wakefield.

On Sunday morning Council workmen were busily engaged in cleaning the streets of a considerable amount of debris washed down from the Northcliff Hills and other places, and for a few days Elm Green Lane was closed on account of damage it suffered.

A Conisborough woman, who was sitting within a few feet of the fireplace in a kitchen when a fireball flashed down the chimney during Saturday’s storm, described the experience as similar to burning of the skin after a few hours in a hot sun by the seaside. The woman was Mrs J.G. Millington of Old Road, Conisborough, who was sitting in a kitchen with her husband, two daughters, aged 13, and four, and Mrs Millington, 76-year-old mother.

Wireless Set Destroyed.

The fireball came down the chimney with a tremendous clap of thunder, played on the hearth a few seconds, and then darted to the wireless set near the window. After destroying the interior of the set the fireball passed out through the window, taking all the panes of glass with it, and wrecked the wireless aerial pole in the garden.

Mrs Millington was sitting between the fireplace, and the wireless set, and felt a burning sensation. “It felt as if my neck had been burned by a strong sun for a few hours,” she said. The lace curtains of the window were burned and pots and pans were thrown in confusion about the kitchen. Fancy paper trimmings to the crockery and pan rack were ripped. Mrs Millington (senior), especially suffered shock, and up to Monday afternoon had not fully recovered.

Another house, which was struck was that of Mr and Mrs Robert Burton, of Rowena Road. Mrs Burton was sitting on the cellar steps as being the most out of the way place, and with her was her sister, Miss S Handby. Mr Burton was seated in a chair by the fireside.

Lightning struck the chimney, followed and indoor aerial like a Catherine wheel, and then apparently struck Mrs Burton in the back while she was in the act of rising from her seat on the stairs.

But for her sister, who caught her as she was falling, Mrs Burton would have crashed to the bottom of the cellar steps. Her limbs were constricted with the nervous tension and she had to be treated by Dr D M Bell. Broken chimney pots were hurled down the chimney into the kitchen by the shaft and so was sent whirling through the house.

Mr and Mrs Burton had returned earlier in the evening from a holiday at Bridlington.

Brook Overflows.

Premises at the Conisborough gas works suffered severely from the effects of Saturday’s storm, and the huge volume of water which arose from the swollen brook near the works rushed through the works yard and carry away more than 20 feet of a solid brick wall about 9 feet high.

Much time has been spent in the past few weeks in restoring the yard to order after previous flooding, but the new inrush of water covered the yard to a depth of four or 5 feet, and brought with it several inches of sediment which was left in the yard when the waters receded.

To enter the yard the floodwater invaded a stretch of road connecting Burcroft with Minnymoor Lane, Conisborough and the Castle Inn, which is situated at the corner of the swollen stream was marooned in the swirling water for some time.

A heavy roller used for carrying out road repairs at Burcroft, was carried away by the force of the water into the stream, and the greater part of a small disused building at the river side of the yard was also carried away.

Walls laid Low.

60 yards of wall, 30 yards of the structure composing one side of the Denaby Main Schoolyard, and the other the wall of the Denaby Comrades Club car park enclosure were demolished during Saturday night’s storm. Opinions differ as to whether the damage was caused by a shaft of lightning or by the huge volume of water which rushed past the walls like a miniature river, but Mr Tom Kelly, of Doncaster Road, who witnessed the wall falling, said he saw lightning playing on the walls for several seconds. Bricks and heavy coping stones forming the top of the walls were swept away and hurled many feet.

A 60 feet wall was also demolished at Balby Street School, Denaby, by floodwater, and two doors in the school yard were damaged.

The houses at the bottom end of Wheatley Street, Denaby, were flooded out. The water entered at the front door and passed out at the back. Furniture had to be hurriedly removed, and in some cases it was floating about. This was also the experience of residents in Doncaster Road, Tickhill Street and Tickhill Square, and other parts of the village.

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