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A first-hand look at a pit lad's life more than a century ago

A hand-written record of weekly income for a Manvers Main Colliery miner has been donated to the Heritage archive, and offers a glimpse of working life in the mines more than a century ago.

From boy to man, John Henry Needham grew up underground after joining the pit workforce aged 11, and remained there for 31 years.

From 1910 to 1919, when he quit the industry, he kept meticulous records of his weekly income in an exercise book, which also sheds light on some outgoings - and a wrangle with the tax collector over Union dues.

Giving this unique record to the society, John Henry's grandson Alan Needham says:
"I think the reference to The Armistice in 1918 is poignant. He left the mine in Dec 1919 and he bought a bakery in Llandudno.
"He was very successful and became a local councillor and JP.
"He was Chairman of the council in Llandudno in 1937.
"His eldest son, my father took over the business after war service and my grandfather died at the age of 81 in 1959. He was predeceased by his wife in 1958.
"I think he did pretty well for a lad who at the age of 11 was down the pit minding ponies.
"I knew him well and liked him a lot."

He continues:"He was born in Brampton, Chesterfield in Dec 1877 the son of a miner. My grandmother, Martha Collins, was born in Swinton as was her brother Sam and sister Hannah.
"Hannah married a William Robinson and they lived at 296 Wath Road in a house they built themselves.
"My grandparents married in 1902 and lived in 15 Victoria St of Wath Road where my father Horace and his brother Colin were born."

This photograph from 1914 was taken outside the Roman Hotel, Mexborough, and Mr Needham can be seen standing at the rear of the coach, sporting the obligatory flat cap, and a moustache.
His wife is seen second left, standing in front of the window, and her brother, Samuel Collins, is seated at the back of the coach on the far right of the photo

Click on an image below for an enlargement.

Book cover

1909 - 10


1910 - 11

1911 - 12



1913 - 14

1914 - 15


1915 - 16

1916 - 17

1917 - 18

1918 - 19

1919 - end

Letter to tax collector

Tax calculations

Tax calculations

Manvers Main yard around 1918 - a photo from the
Heritage Society's own archive.

Here are some more gems from Mr Needham's family collection:

A locomotive taken by a Mexborough photographer. I do not know if this has any relevance to my family but family folklore says that my great grandfather, Samuel Needham was killed by a ‘light shunting engine’ whilst working as a general labourer. That would have been in 1901.

Roman Terrace Infants. My grandmother, Martha, is third row back second from left and the girl on her right at the end of the row looks like her sister Hannah. Their name was Collins. I guess this was taken about 1888

Looks as if it was taken a couple of years after the previous photo. My Grandmother is 6th from the left on the front row and the girl behind her left shoulder is Hannah her sister. Looks as if their mother bought a job lot of dress material

This is from the first world war and shows a gathering of special constables in Mexborough. My grandfather is 2nd from the left on the front