Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Article - A Town in Development (Barnsley)

When the first visitors to Experience Barnsley pass through its doors in September 2012 they will be able to see a state-of-the art heritage and archive centre housed in one of the most impressive art decor public buildings in the north of England, Barnsley Town Hall.  The lottery-funded ‘people’s museum’ has taken more than ten years of planning thanks to the help of volunteers, councillors and professionals. But the main impetus has been the willingness of Barnsley people to donate objects and provide information celebrating the history and heritage of the town and its neighbourhood.  Barnsley people are  proud of its long and interesting history.  For well over a century coal mining was the dominant industry, at a great human cost for many families.  Other economic activities however also need to be recognized, especially linen and textiles, glass, leather, iron working and metal trades; and from medieval times Barnsley, with its weekly market and annual fairs was an important place for trade and travel epitomized in the later 'BARNSLEY FOR BARGAINS' slogan.                       

Today, Barnsley is rightly being marketed as a 21st-century market town and many new and restored public and private buildings reflect a ‘new town’ and forward-looking urban feel: for example, the Transport Interchange, Gateway Plaza, Digital Media Centre, Barnsley College, University Centre Barnsley, Civic Hall and Town Hall.  In a sense the new and revamped landmarks reciprocate a vision of hope and aspiration that began in Norman times when a new market town was strategically established in a key part of southern Yorkshire.  The post-pit closure years affected the town and its old mining communities badly and it has been a long haul to remake and recreate new services and facilities.  The hard task continues in the wake of national and international upheaval.  And yet Barnsley’s greatest asset, historically speaking and in the present day shines through: its people.  Everyone has heard of Michael Parkinson and Dickie Bird but  Experience Barnsley will reflect countless lost heroes of the town in areas such as Art, Music, Literature, Science, Business, Politics, Sport and Entertainment; and of course will not forget those who have given so much to their town and country via the armed services.   Enjoy the New Barnsley by all means but lets also not forget the Old.

Barnsley Then & Now by Brian Elliott
£12.99 Hardback, 978-0-7524-6402-2


Book - New book explores life at local coal face

OUR district’s rich seam of mining history is the subject of a new book released on Saturday.

‘Coal Mines Remembered 2’ is Annesley Woodhouse mining expert Martin Weiss’s second book on the subject of mines and features scores of photos from local pits and plenty of first-hand accounts of work underground.

Mr Weiss, formerly Chad’s coal industry expert and who later worked for the Coal Board, said he had researched the new book for two years and gathered tales from local mine workers.

“We were world leaders in mining technology in this area, during the 70s and and 60s, and at one time visitors would fly in from all over the world to see how things were done.

“The book is mainly about local pits, but there are tales from further afield, too.”

Among the memories is an account of the explosion at Sutton Colliery in 1957, which killed five men and injured many more.

The booked is priced £12.99 and Martin is signing copies of it at Sutton Library on Saturday morning between 10am and midday.

Sutton Library manager Gail Renshaw said: “Martin’s books are always popular and entertaining and his coal mining titles fill a valuable gap in local publishing.”

There will be another signing at Kirkby’s Conservation Society shop in Kingsway on Tuesday morning, 13th December.

Mr Weiss would like anyone interested in contributing to a third book in the series to contact him on Mansfield 754844.

“I am keen to record as much as possible about local coal mining so if any readers have fresh tales to pass on I’d be delighted to listen as another mining book is a distinct possibility.”

Book - A Children's History of Nottinghamshire

Ian Douglas discusses Nottingham's grim past. Words: Megan TaylorLocal freelancer Ian Douglas began his writing career in newspapers and magazines. He’s still busy reviewing and interviewing, but since graduating from Nottingham Trent’s Creative Writing MA, he’s also been steadily honing his reputation as a fine children’s writer. He’s had many short stories published, including the award-winning, ‘Making Grampie’, but here, he reveals his passion for Nottingham, and the squeamish secrets he uncovered during the creation of his first non-fiction book, A Children’s History of Nottinghamshire.

Your book is crammed with fascinating Nottinghamshire facts – how do you go about researching a book like this?
It took a lot of work. But it was enjoyable work. Hours in the local studies library browsing old Evening Post reports from the 1930’s for example. Trips to the Castle Museum and Southwell Minster. Tons of academic reading. Thankfully so much info is online these days. Medieval tax receipts, Norman death certificates, Tudor wills. These all helped me get my head around the story. There are also some excellent local history web sites that pointed me in the right direction. I even became a fully paid up member of the Thoroton Society. This is Nottinghamshire’s very own history and archaeology society named after a local physician from the Stuart era. They have a warehouse of research data.

But make no mistake, condensing 2000 years of history into 15 pages of language suitable for children was no easy task. At times my head was swimming with Viking warriors, Victorian capitalists, Luftwaffe bombers! One thing that I quickly realised is that there’s a reason we call it the Midlands. It’s because we’re right there, in the middle of everything that’s ever happened in this country.

My nine-year-old daughter particularly enjoyed the more gruesome information (the plague years, the child labour...) Which facts are your favourites? And did you find out anything that truly surprised you?

All kinds of things surprised me. That there was a bustling Roman town called Margidunum that thrived for 4 centuries before vanishing into the county turf. That Nottingham was a Danish colony for nearly 50 years. That Prince Edward was still 17 when he led his daring sneak attack through the Castle Caves to capture his treacherous mother and her lover. But that’s just it, history is full of amazing surprises. Both on a grand epic level but also in the day-to-day minutiae of ordinary Nottingham people. I also found out a lot of poo-related facts! The Theatre Royal had no loos when it first opened and theatregoers would just do their business anywhere in the auditorium. Every new season they had to burn all the poo to get rid of the smell.

You have children of your own. Did that help when it came to making your book so thoroughly accessible?
A little. I ran some excerpts past them to make sure the sentence structure and vocabulary was age appropriate.

What do your kids think of their published Dad?
The eleven-year- old is mildly embarrassed I think. ‘Why can’t you be normal like other dads’. And the eight-year-old doesn’t really understand it. Maybe he thinks I'm pulling his leg when I show him the book and say ‘that’s the book what I wrote’.

You’ve travelled extensively, but there is such involvement and appreciation for Nottingham in your Children’s History. Is Nottingham home now?
I do suffer from chronic wanderlust. But I’ve been a resident of Nottingham for over 30 years on and off. I even like mushy peas now, (joke, joke!). Most of those 3 decades have revolved around my beloved Sneinton, so yes I am a Midlander now. I adore the East Midlands, it has so much culture, landscape, history and above all, fantastic folk. There again I will always be footloose with one eye on the prevailing breeze. My grandmother was a Romany gypsy so I guess it’s in my blood. One day, like Bilbo Baggins, I’ll be off on one last adventure.

I know you also create your own (fabulous) fiction. Working on a project like this, where you have a certain format to follow and you’re negotiating with editors and illustrators, must be very different to the solitary act of writing your own stories. How did you find the collaborative process?
I’m a born collaborator, so it’s no problem. Feedback from seasoned editors is a vital part of producing quality prose, for anyone. Of course there are always minor professional differences but you have to take it on the chin. I wrote for the press in Thailand for a few years and I learned there how to deal with furious, desk-thumping editors. Duck!

However, I realised how important it was for a local writer to do the Children’s History of Nottinghamshire. Although the book was verified by independent historical experts, they needed someone with local knowledge to fill in the gaps. I feel I’ve made the book truly local. Then there was the picture research, which I helped with, but I found it fascinating. There are a couple of my photos in the book. It’s beautifully illustrated by the way.

Which do you prefer writing? Fact or fiction?
The book does have micro fiction inspired by real life. This helps children feel what it must have been like, for instance, to watch the Romans arriving in your village or the Vikings sail up the River Trent. Furthermore it has so made me want to write historical fiction. Use my knowledge to pen ripping sagas situated in and around the Trent Valley of yore. So if any publishers or agents out there are reading this, I’m your man.

On the other hand it really opened my eyes to the joy of non-fiction for children. It’s a way of capturing the marvels of life and pegging them down on a rectangle of paper, and in an easy-to-understand format. I would really like to do more, although no plans in the pipeline at the moment. So to answer your question I enjoy both, especially if I get paid! One more thing, even when doing fiction you have to do research, so the differences are not that great.

What’s next for Ian Douglas?
Well, we’re hoping to put together a bit off a road show to take around the local schools. I’ve been doing yet more research, stocking up with Victorian photos of Notts, composing fun quizzes, that kind of thing. We’ve got a day at the Angel Row library later this month welcoming a school party to the Local Studies wing. Meanwhile I’m hard at it with my children’s fiction. That’s the great thing about being a writer. One day I’m exploring the canyons of Mars. The next I’m rubbing shoulders with Roundheads and Cavaliers.

A Children’s History of Nottinghamshire is published by Hometown World and available from all leading bookstores.

News - EFCF Awards £372,764 to Six Projects (Barnsley)

The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, managed by the Museums Association, has awarded grants to six projects, from a total of 118 applications for its second round of funding.

Abingdon County Hall Museum received £23,346 to conserve and develop display and interpretation of a mid-sixteenth-century tempera on parchment map of the Thames.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council Arts and Museums Service received £62,400 to research and develop use of Barnsley’s archaeological collections to allow research of the collection in partnership with Sheffield University and add to skills sharing across the region for caring for archaeology collections.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens received £50,450 to review the museum’s natural history collections with subject specialists and enthusiast groups getting together to identify and find significant specimens.

Kirklees Museums and Galleries, with Calderdale Museums, Wakefield Museums, Bradford Museums and Galleries, and Leeds Museums and Galleries were jointly awarded £72,768 to review and reinterpret the textile collections of the partner museum services and to create the West Yorkshire Textile Heritage Trail.

Museum nan Eilean and Archaeology Service (Western Isles) received £85,000 to research the Udal archaeological collections and investigate potential for an Archaeological Resource Centre on North Uist.

The National Media Museum received £78,800 to research and develop the use of the Ray Harryhausen Collection.

Sally Cross, the MA’s collections coordinator, said: “Individually, the projects that have been awarded grants speak for themselves in terms of the quality of the collections and the creativity and ambition of the projects.

“Together, I’m really pleased with how they look for their diversity – it’s becoming clear that this fund is supporting a range of types of collection, types of museum and projects on different scales.”

Round three applications
Due to the high volume of applications to the EFCF, the MA has introduced a two stage application process.

The selection criteria for round three remains the same, but museums will be asked to complete a brief initial stage application.

The MA will then invite a shortlist to complete full applications.

The MA will advise applicants ahead of the deadlines to help bring out the key points that the selection committee will look for.

After receipt of stage one applications, the MA will invite a small number of applicants to move onto the second stage.

Those selected will be asked to complete a full application for consideration by the EFCF board and will have access to more detailed advice and feedback from MA staff. Organisations invited to complete a full application will have a 40% chance of being funded.

Closing date for round three initial applications is 5 April 2012.

Invitations to full application will be issued to successful applications on 16 April 2012.

News - Re-living the past (Gringley on the Hill)

Wartime uniforms, seamed stockings and 1940s-style hairdos were the order of the day at the Blue Bell pub in Gringley-on-the-Hill as the village’s history club celebrated its first anniversary.

More than 60 people attended the VE Day style party festooned with red, white and blue bunting, and sandbags were stacked outside.

Entertainer Miss Marina Mae delighted the audience with her lively performance of the songs by Vera Lynn, The Andrews Sisters and Gracie Fields.

Guests enjoyed a pie and pea supper which they claimed using replica ration tokens.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Event - Community Planning Workshop in Worksop (Priory)

Have your say! Hear your community's proposals!

Worksop Priory Gatehouse and Community Trust invite you to attend

Evening Public Sessions 7th December 2011 at 6pm and 9th December 2011 at 6pm at the Priorswell Centre, Priorswell Road, Worksop

Of a community planning workshop to begin to develop a vision for the area around the Priory and Gatehouse and addressing such issues as:

  • management and maintenance of the open spaces
  • traffic
  • parking and the public realm
  • how to enable the area to continue to thrive

The workshop will be facilitated by The Prince's Foundation in partnership with the Princes Regeneration Trust who have been working with the Parochial Church Council and the Worksop Priory and Gatehouse Community Trust.

Members of the public are encouraged to arrive early to avoid disappointment as interest for the event is likely to be very high.

From a leaflet through my door

Event - Fabulous fossils: Free Drop in Event (Doncaster)

10th December 10.30-12.30 and 1.30-3.30

Fabulous fossils: Free Drop in Event.

Bring your fossils for identification (first come first served).  Handle some rare fossils from the museum's collections.  Fun activities for all ages.

Buy your copy of 'Fossils of the Whitby Coast' and get it signed by the author Dean Lomax

Tel: 01302 734293

Address: Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery Chequer Road Doncaster DN1 2AE

News - Giant new gates at Ickles Lock

HUGE new oak gates had to be craned into place during a £125,000 project to revamp Ickles Lock on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation canal.

The work was carried out by British Waterways as part of a £50 million winter maintenance programme, at a time of year when traffic on the waterways is light.

At Ickles Lock, both sets of gates were lifted out by crane and replaced with new ones.

Work to fit new balance beams and cills and repair the lock chamber wall was also carried out.

Jon Horsfall, British Waterways’ waterway manager for the North East said: “Lock gate making and fitting is an extremely skilled and traditional trade; and one that remains essential to the waterways. Lock gates are constructed with tremendous strength as they have to control huge water pressures, take the hard usage they get from the thousands of boats which use them each year and survive for a long time underwater and at the mercy of the elements.”

He added: “The waterways are a much-loved national asset that are a tremendous example of our industrial heritage. These are all essential works to keep the waterways in the best possible condition we can for the benefit of the millions of customers who visit them each year.

“Next year the waterways in England and Wales will leave state control to become an exciting new charity – the Canal and River Trust. We’re hoping that this will attract new investment and give local people a greater role in how their waterways are run.”

In order to be waterproof, lock gates need to be built very precisely, fitting tightly to the masonry of the lock walls and to each other.

As different canals were originally built by individual pre-Victorian entrepreneurs, each one varies from the other and there is no standard design.

British Waterways looks after 1,650 lock gates across the country and over the next few months over 100 hand-crafted British oak lock gates will be replaced during the winer maintenance programme.

The average lock gate has a life span of 25 years, during which time it will be opened and closed countless number of times as it raises and lowers boats from one level to another.

News - Town Hall’s new look (Barnsley)

SCAFFOLDING has been removed after a six-month project to restore the exterior of Barnsley’s historic Town Hall, leaving the masonry bright and clean.

Mayor of Barnsley Coun Karen Dyson and Barnsley Council leader, Coun Steve Houghton, proudly showed the work to Dr Fiona Spiers, director of the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided a grant.

The relaunch was also attended by schoolchildren and other officials.

The Town Hall will reopen in 2012 when it will be used as a new museum and archive centre, Experience Barnsley.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Website - Town site goes global (Mansfield)

PEOPLE living as far away as China and the Seychelles have visited a community website celebrating Mansfield’s past and present.

The ourmansfieldandarea site has been developed by locals and saw a surge in visitors in its second year in operation. It gives people chance to share knowledge and photos of Mansfield.

In its second year, up to 1st November, the site had 27,117 visits – an increase of 90 per cent on the previous year. The site is supported by Mansfield Museum and for more information visit 

Article - Watching over their war heroes (Gainsborough/Ottawa. Can)

For more than 90 years, people in Gainsborough, England, have been faithfully watching over the graves of two Ottawa airmen killed there during the First World War.

But the decades have taken a toll on the stone monuments, so a local group is looking for descendants of the men to get their permission to restore the proud headstones marking the final resting places of Lieut. John Bernard "Don" Brophy and Lieut. James Arthur Menzies.

"They died a long way from home, so we think it's only right the local community looks after these headstones and makes sure they're kept in good repair," said Peter Bradshaw, a teacher and member of the Friends of the Gainsborough Cemetery Chapels.

The group has already restored the gravestones of a British and a South African airman, which were unveiled recently during a Remembrance Day service.

Bradshaw, 52, said there are six other gravestones the group would like to restore, at an estimated cost of about $4,800. A local charity has offered to cover half the cost and Bradshaw's group has already raised about $1,600, so they're getting close.

If he is able to locate descendants of Brophy or Menzies, they would be welcome to donate, but Bradshaw said that's not why he's trying to find them.

"The intention isn't to raise the money," he said. "The intention is to get permission from the families."

Masons have already inspected the gravestones belonging to the Canadians and say they need to be stabilized and moved slightly to stand on more solid ground.

Brophy and Menzies were stationed in Gainsborough, which is located about 60 kilometres east of Sheffield, to intercept Zeppelins flying across the North Sea from Germany.

It was dangerous work. The airmen flew in the dark of night and many lost their lives.

Brophy died during a flying accident on Christmas Eve 1916, while Menzies was killed the following year during an air raid. They were buried side-by-side in a small cemetery, on the ridge of a leafy slope.

Lieut. Brophy was born in 1893. An Irish Catholic, he grew up on Chapel Street and attended St. Patrick's School and the Ottawa Collegiate Institute (now known as Lisgar Collegiate). He was a gifted football player and apparently viewed the war as just another sport - only one with more violence and greater consequences.

He was one of only two known Canadian airmen to keep a diary during the war, and the only to deal with fighting on the Western Front.

Brophy's father was a civil engineer who worked for the Department of the Interior. He was a widower and had two daughters, Rita and Fawnie.

Menzies was born in 1896 to parents Peter and Isabella. The family lived on Waverly Street and Bradshaw said his name appears on the war memorial at Knox Presbyterian Church on Elgin Street.

His two brothers also served in the war and attended his funeral, according to a local newspaper report from the time. One of the brothers, Albert Percy Menzies, was a Presbyterian clergyman.

Brophy's headstone is a large tablet with a pointed top, engraved with a small branch and leaves.

Menzies' gravestone, which in pictures appears to be leaning to one side, features a large stone cross and the inscription: "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."

A third Canadian airman was also buried in the Gainsborough cemetery. Bradshaw said he tracked down Private Carey Pinnock's niece in Toronto, who sent photos of her uncle and a donation to the restoration project.

Three months before his own death, Menzies was injured in the crash that killed Pinnock.

Bradshaw, who teaches history at the Trent Valley Academy in Gainsborough, got involved with the cemetery group about a decade ago after taking groups of students to war cemeteries and battlefields in Belgium and France.

Gainsborough residents have long recognized the great sacrifices made by men like Brophy and Menzies. Many people in the town attended the military funerals for the two men and have kept watch over their graves all these years, he added.

"It's too far for the families to keep an eye on the headstones and make sure they're kept in good order, so we think it's only right that the local people get involved."

Think you are or someone you know is related to Lieut. Brophy or Lieut. Menzies? Let us know. Email

READ Lieut. Brophy's First World War diary at http: // dhh-dhp/his/docs/Pebbles.pdf

Event - Eraspiteron Bolsoveri; The Gracefully Winged of Bolsover (Creswell Crags)

This Autumn Creswell Crags sets out to unearth the real Beast of Bolsover. In 1978, two miners working in Bolsover’s Colliery  discovered a fossil of the oldest dragonfly known in the United Kingdom. Known locally as ‘The Beast Bolsover’ the dragonfly had a wingspan of over 20cm and belongs to the now-extinct variety of dragonflys known as ‘Protodonata.’ The fossil dates back to the Carbiniferous Period and would have been flying around 300 million years ago.  

For the first time in over 20 years, this nationally important geological specimen  returns to the region and is being celebrated in a series of events and exhibitions  at Creswell Crags.   Creswell Crags are now looking for  people to come forward with any  information to help tell the story of its discovery in an exhibition that will launch in April.   Project Officer, Rebecca Clay, says ‘ It is very exciting to have such an important part of the area’s natural history on display near to where it was discovered. It also gives us the opportunity to present the fossil in new way by telling the story of its discovery from the people that were there at the time’  

If you, or any one you know, remembers the discovery, please contact Rebecca Clay at Creswell Crags Visitor Centre on 01909 720378 or email


News - Keen to find out about war names (Stoke Hall)

The owner of a Nottinghamshire wedding venue wants help in solving a 70-year-old mystery surrounding wartime graffiti in a clock tower.

Mrs Diane Ansell is keen to find out more about three names scrawled near the top of the 40ft tower at Stoke Hall, Church Lane, East Stoke.

Scratched into the roof is: RAF P Milmore 1943, Fitzwilliam 1944, and F Robson, 1944.

The graffiti was found by a workman, Mr David Jones, ahead of renovation that will restore the bell and turn the hall’s carriage court building into an entertainment venue for wedding ceremonies.

Mrs Ansell said: “We know the hall was used in some way by the air force during the war and we have found an old sandstone weight from a barrage balloon, so it is likely that the service personnel would have explored the grounds thoroughly.

“But just getting to the top of the clock tower is quite a climb.

“From the second storey they would have had to go up two flights of narrow and steep internal stairs before scrambling out on to the roof next to the clock and climbing up to the bell, where they scratched their names.

“I would love to know more about the people who went to such a great effort.”

Mr Mike Smith, curator at Newark Air Museum, believes that nearby RAF Syerston is key to the mystery.

Now a glider training centre, RAF Syerston was used in the second world war as a base for Lancaster bombers.

In 1943, it was home to about 2,900 airmen and women and, notably, Number 106 Squadron, which flew regular sorties over Germany and whose commanding officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, went on to lead the Dambusters Raid that year.

Gibson was killed on a raid in 1944, by which time RAF Syerston had become a training facility for bomber crews.

Mr Smith said: “It is quite possible that the RAF would have used Stoke Hall during the war. They took over lots of big houses as officers’ messes.

“However, a tall building like the clock tower would have had a hazard light on it to warn aircraft coming into land, and RAF electricians would have had to go up the tower to maintain it.

“It’s possible these men were doing just that and I would imagine they might have been tempted to leave their names while doing so, just to say they had been there.”

Stoke Hall was built in 1812. Mrs Ansell and her husband, Mr Bryan Ansell, have spent ten years renovating it.

It is their private home but earlier this year they opened it as a wedding venue.

Mr and Mrs Ansell founded Citadel Miniatures and helped to make Nottingham-based Games Workshop a household name.

Anyone with information on the graffiti can contact Stoke Hall on 07815 055459 or email

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Review - South Yorkshire Archaeology Day 2012 (Sheffield)

This is normally my favourite reason to visit Sheffield and this year was no exception.  The Showroom Cinema room was once again sold out and various dignitaries came down to sit and watch the proceedings.

Excavations at the Medieval Hospital of Bawtry by Dawn Hadley.
The first talk of the concentrated on the medieval chapel and hospital of St Mary Magdalene at Bawtry which is currently being used as a masonic lodge. The excavations of 2010 were in a small section of car park by the chapel building.  Initially 18 bodies were identified in 16 graves on the site but after careful analysis of the disarticulated remains discovered at least 53 separate bodies.  The earliest carbon dating of these remains put the usage for burials at between 1185-1275ad.  Of the finds located other than bones was a copper alloy plate used to cover injured limbs (it was noted these sometimes had poultices in them).

Excavations at Aston Hall Hotel by Andrea Burgess
This excavation was initially done by ARCUS in 2007 and the materials and excavation were examined and interpreted by Wessex Archaeology.  The present building on site dates from 1772 and replaced an earlier hall which was destroyed by fire at Christmas 1770 which is thought to have dated to the 13th or 14th centuries.  The modern car park seems to have removed most of the archaeology and so only a small section of building was located. A sketch of the original building also exists but its accuracy was greatly debated by Wessex and members of the audience.  Finds on site included a 14th century segmented dish of East Yorkshire Sandyware type and some blue 15th century window glass and a glass bowl thought to originate from Venice.
Forgotten Industry: Research into the Stone Quarries at Green Moor by Margaret Tylee
This works was carried out to identify how much stone quarrying had been carried out at Green Moor and how much evidence was still to be found either physically or by looking at old photographs.  The Green Moor sandstone was noted for its fine close grain and its tendency not to split.  The first lease known to have been taken out was by Reuben Marsh in 1813 on land owned by the Earl of Wharncliffe. The quality of the sandstone was that good it was used as paving outside the Houses of Parliament in London and one of the local companies also had a wharf in the capital to transport their wares areound the capital. Huge 18 tonne blocks were hauled out of the quarry by teams of 10-12 horses on special flat carts.  The last quarry closed in 1936 and there are very scant remains left around the village.  New interpretation boards will be st up so visitors can see how the landscape progressed during these industrious times.

Craft & People at Holme Head by Bob Johnston
This talk looked on the industrial Rivelin Valley and two of the twenty water wheels which used to dominate the area. The earliest record of Holme Wheel is from 1742 when the land was owned by the Duke of Norfolk and plots leased out.  One building was initially built and during later periods a second joined it and they were expanded.  The mill mainly finished off knives with blanks being delivered for wet grinding and a final dry grind to glaze the metal. Evidence of both carbon steel and Stainless steel blanks were found during the excavation. The building still stood in the 1950's and it was unclear when it was pulled down or collapsed.  The other mill mentioned was later 2 storey Roscoe Wheel built further downstream and its related cottages of which only the foundations still remain.
Experience Barnsley by John Tanner
This talks concentrated on the towns first museum which is to be opened sometime during summer/Autumn 2012.  The museum has had a lot of work to do as most of the collection has had to be built up from scratch.  John expressed his great admiration for the people of Barnsley and their generosity and helpfulness in getting exhibits for the project.  The museum will be situated on the ground floor and basement of Barnsley Town Hall built in 1933 and will also have a separate archive centre. There are also plans to have digital content and interpretation boards and a conservation  workshop.

RAF Finningley and the Cold War by Roger Thomas
There seemed to be a lot of trepidation from the audience over such a modern subject at the archaeology day but Rogers efforts were well thought out and it gave the audience a lot to think about on interpreting sites which are though of as contemporary.  The talk was not on aircraft but on the buildings, staff housing and infrastructure associated with running an RAF base and how the site developed between 1932 when it was opened and the V Bomber days of the 1960's and 70's.   The talk also concentrated on how the runway and aircraft storage adapted to the times and how aircraft hard standings could easily be misinterpreted of it was not known that what they were.  The nuclear weapon stores such as the 'Unit Store type B1' were constructed and the various other small buildings used to house separate parts of the bombs mechanics.  It was also noted the Finningley hheld the UK's first hydrogen bombs called 'Violet Club'
After this talk one of the audience brought up the situation regarding the Traditional Heritage Centre and how important it was to preserve our local remains, receiving a resounding applause from the audience.  I also mentioned the visits available at Finningley for the last flying Vulcan XH558 and Vulcan to the Sky.

Excavation at Manor Farm, Bessacarr by Paula Ware
This plot of land lies between the M18 and East Coast Mainline south of Doncaster.  It has planning permission for 1000 houses to be built on it at roughly 50 per year.  The site was named after a c.17th century farm which was demolished in 1998 leaving only remains of some pig sty's on site. There were many Romano-British fragments of pottery recovered from one ditch numbering 212 sherds in all.  There was also the remains of an industrial scale furnace bottoms with large amounts of iron slag being recovered.  Henry II gifted the land to Kirkstall Abbey ad it is believed a small settlement was somewhere on site due to the large limestone blocks recovered.  a 16th century Jetton and some cistercian ware was also found.  It is hoped that a further excavation will happen next year with some community involvement.
Excavating Doncasters Civic & Cultural Quarter by Dave Aspden
The new CCT will occupy the site previous used for horse stables and selling called Glasgow paddock which was later Doncaster bus station before becoming a car park.  The site contained many roman urns holding cremated bodies along with several burials and lamps with the lettering Strobili and FORTIS on them, possibly denoting their manufacturer or that they were copies made in this country.  Included with the cremations were burnt dates, figs and grapes.  A first century glass jug was also found on site although it was very nearly destroyed as it was excavated by a digger!  The site also had World war 1 practice trenches in it created by men from the nearby Scarborough Barracks.

Heres looking forward to next years event - surely another sellout showing how important we view history and archaeology in our area.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Article - My great-grandad, the greatest hero of the Titanic (Southwell)

Next year marks the centenary of the great Titanic disaster. Andy Smart explores a key local link with the tragedy...

THE young scholars from Top Valley were mesmerised as historian Graham Anthony unfolded the tragic details of the Titanic.
But they got an even greater surprise when he told pupils at Westglade Primary that their teacher Nichola Gell was the great-granddaughter of a Titanic hero.

On the night of April 15, 1912, Notts-born Harold Thomas Cottam was the radio operator on the SS Carpathia when he received a Morse code SOS from the Titanic.

He alerted his captain and the Carpathia steamed at full speed to help the stricken liner.

But by the time the Carpathia arrived on the scene in the freezing north Atlantic, the Titanic was gone, taking more than 1,500 passengers and crew to their deaths.

But 705 survivors were rescued by the Carpathia and historians have agreed that, had it not been for Cottam's alertness and swift action, they may also have been lost.

Mr Anthony, a maritime historian from Cambridge who is planning a book on Cottam's role in the saga, has no doubts that he was the most important person involved that night.

"We need to get him positioned in history," he said.

He is hoping to unveil a plaque next year during the annual book festival in Lowdham, where Harold Cottam spent the last years of his life.

And, after talks with leading figures in Southwell – Cottam's birthplace – he hopes a similar project can undertaken there.

All of which has delighted Miss Gell.

"I want people to know what an amazing man he was," said Nichola, 37, who has only a vague memory of her grea- grandfather. He died in 1984 when she was only four years old.

"I have lots of books and, in my living room, a large picture. After the incident, he was told not to say anything about it, or about the part he played – he even turned down the offer to play himself in the film A Night To Remember because of that."

Mr Cottam was doing voluntary overtime on April 15, listening to news over the telegraph and monitoring messages his friend Jack Phillips was sending from the Titanic radio room to arrange a celebration dinner for when the Titanic arrived in New York.

Then he switched wavelengths — just as the Titanic struck an iceberg.

Less than an hour later, Mr Cottam finally decided it was time to turn in.

But as he was about to leave the telegraph room, he thought about his friend and put the earphones back on.
What he heard was the ship's position being transmitted.

"Does this mean you need immediate assistance?" he sent back.

"Yes, yes, yes," came the desperate reply.

Mr Cottam ran to his captain Arthur Rostron's cabin and shook him awake. At Cottam's insistence, the captain ordered the Carpathia to change course and make for the Titanic, 58 miles away.

From the Titanic came only silence.

When the Carpathia arrived three hours later, they found a mass of wreckage floating on the surface: doors, cases, clothes — and frozen survivors.

For the next four days, Mr Cottam neither slept nor had a decent meal as he tapped out the names and addresses of the survivors to New York.

When the Carpathia docked, he was tricked into going ashore by reporters who told him Mr Marconi wanted to see him.

The lie enabled them to interview a man with a remarkable story, and the ex-Southwell Minster Grammar School boy became something of hero.

But he preferred to stay out of the limelight and, after his seafaring days, he returned home to Notts.

He went to work at the ROF Gun Factory in The Meadows, lived in Chaworth Grove, West Bridgford, and then in a nursing home in Lowdham, where he died in 1984 at the age of 93.

Almost a century on, his great-granddaughter, understandably proud of her illustrious ancestor, said: "Listening to the story again, I got goosebumps."


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Article - From the archive, 24 November 1931: Gallantry at Yorkshire pit disaster (Bentley)

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 24 November 1931
The inquest on 37 of the victims of the Bentley Colliery disaster was opened yesterday in the colliery offices. Forty-two men lost their lives in the disaster – 10 were brought out of the pit dead, 21 died in hospital, and five were not recovered from the pit, the affected section of which has now been sealed.

It was a sad procession of witnesses that came before the Coroner – widows, some of them, with seven or eight children, gave their evidence and were led away. The machinery at the mine was not working yesterday, and it stood out in gaunt relief against the murky sky. The scene was dreary and desolate. The men, who were wearing their Sunday clothes, came down the road mostly in twos and threes. Scarcely a word was spoken.

Mr. Carlile, in opening the proceedings, at once expressed sympathy with the relatives of the dead men. "We can only trust they will be given sufficient courage and strength to bear their loss and that the efforts of those who seek to provide for their welfare will meet with abundant success." He paid a tribute to those who had worked so gallantly in trying to rescue the men. "It is always a matter of great satisfaction to know there are always plenty of men willing to risk their own lives to save the lives of others," said Mr. Carlile.

Major Barber, one of the proprietors of the colliery, who himself played a courageous part in the rescue work, joined in the expression of sympathy. His voice was shaken with emotion, and he could hardly be heard as he paid a tribute to the workmates of the dead and the willing helpers who put forward almost superhuman efforts.

Mr. Phillips, general manager of the colliery, mentioned specially Mr. MacGregor, the agent, Mr. Longden, the manager, and those on the spot from the first. "They risked everything. It was not a question of getting volunteers, but preventing them from taking unnecessary risks to rescue the men."

Mr. Joseph Jones, secretary of the local branch of the Yorkshire Miners' Association, brought to light another unknown hero of the disaster. "I should particularly like to mention Surveyor Temperley. Without rescue apparatus or anything to protect him, immediately he knew there were two men left and the likelihood that they might be alive, he dashed in and brought one out. This particularly courageous act stands out gloriously and shows the risks men were prepared to take."

The funeral will take place about noon tomorrow. The long procession will pass through the streets of Doncaster and will be one of the most moving spectacles in the history of the town.

Book - What life was like on the home front while war raged (S.Yorks)

When Britain was plunged into World War II, lives were turned upside down in many ways.

Obviously the disappearance of Doncaster people into the Forces and transfer of residents around the country with evacuations all meant major disruption to normal life.

But what about the home front, not the major cities where bombs wreaked havoc, but the ordinary villages and towns up and down the country? Towns like Mexborough for instance.

A Town at War is a fascinating publication which portrays perfectly the comings and goings in the town during 1940 as told through the pages of the council minutes.

Lots of mundane tasks and sometimes slightly bizarre decisions, bearing in mind there was a war on, but necessary to keep the community running, and of course there was always the perceived potential threat of invasion.

Harold Brearley was chief public health inspector and officiated at the council meetings. The following is an insight into what went on during those gatherings.

Twelfth June 1940 and decisions had to be made. At this time Roman Terrace consisted of 32 acres, 616 houses and a population of 2,440. The extra responsibility meant that sewage effluent problems had to be considered now the street had been transferred from Swinton Borough Authority to Mexborough two years previously.

Announcements were made that due to the war all national holidays should be cancelled and overtime payments should be considered where necessary. Council workers were paid for carrying out war duties and the average working week for council workers was 47-48 hours.

It was decided that no further post boxes should be erected, also that bus services to Thurnscoe should depart from West Street instead of Cliff Street - this was an alteration which remained until the 1980s.

More serious problems were the plans for hospitals to deal with Blitz and bombing victims. Stirrup pumps were distributed for firefighting use. Two nights a week were set aside for gas mask training in the Market Hall while all unassembled Anderson shelters were to be collected and erected.

Private homeowners were also contacted and questioned as to how many people they could accommodate in the case of bomb victims losing their homes.

The hospital carried on and there was a reported trend of an increasing population with 46 births registered (included one illegitimate boy), 17 deaths were noted. Notifiable diseases were two diptheria and 14 measles.

Finally, in this small snapshot of everyday life in war-time Mexborough enemy aircraft were becoming more frequent in the area and a resolution was passed that one council worker be paid for two hours loss of work when he had to turn out as convoy officer following the sounding of an air raid siren during his shift at work.

Some of the above may at first seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but were essential and meetings and decisions such as these were taken up and down the country as Britain settled down to an unsure and unpredictable future which in hindsight would last another four years.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

News - Solar panel bid warms up (Doncaster)

ONE of Doncaster’s landmark buildings could soon be getting a new look.

The owners of Hall Cross House, the first building on South Parade when entering the town centre, want to place 40 solar panels on the south-facing roof.

Because the Georgian office building is listed, special consent will be needed from Doncaster Council.

Good for them, although listed buildings need to be kept as close to original as possible we must still move with the times.

Event - Celebration of estate’s history (Parson Cross)

A CELEBRATION event is being held on a Sheffield housing estate to look back on the area’s history.

Parson Cross’s new library, off Buchanan Road, is hosting the event on Thursday, December 1, from 7pm.

Special guests will be writers Graham Shepherd and Steve Bush, together with Parson Cross’s most famous son, former Home Secretary David Blunkett MP.

The authors’ two books – Get Thi Neck Weshed, by Graham, and about life on the estate in the 1950s, and Gee’or Ruwerin, by Steve, about growing up there a decade later – have become local bestsellers.

There will also be a chance to buy the books and get them signed by the authors.

Tickets cost £6.50 or £5.50 for concessions and are on sale from Parson Cross Library or by calling 0114 2039533.

News - Goldthorpe pit strike tragedy memorial re-dedicated (Goldthorpe)

A memorial to two South Yorkshire boys killed while collecting coal during the miners' strike in 1984 has been re-dedicated at a special service.

Paul Holmes, 15, and his brother Darren, 14, were killed when an embankment collapsed on them at the pit village of Goldthorpe near Barnsley.

The memorial to the boys was until recently located in the centre of Goldthorpe, but had been vandalised.

It has now been moved to the grounds of Dearne Advanced Learning College.

The teenagers died in November 1984 while collecting coal which they were planning to sell for pocket money.

Local residents and the emergency services tried to dig the boys out. They both died as a result of their injuries.

'Still remember'
The memorial to the teenagers was the idea of three girls at Dearneside Comprehensive, the school which Paul and Darren attended.

After the boys' funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people, the girls decided they wanted to create a permanent memorial.

One year later, it was unveiled in the centre of Goldthorpe.

It shows a map of Yorkshire with a miner on each side and a plaque which names the brothers.

In recent years, however, it was targeted by vandals who defaced the memorial with graffiti.

Trevor Holmes, the boys' father, had long campaigned for it to be moved to a better location.

Mr Holmes said the memorial to his sons served as an important reminder of the tragedy.

"It shows that people are still thinking about it even today," he said.