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The Summer & Autumn of 2013

Margaret, Bill, Graham, and Julia standing in front of our new sign at Mexborough Library






Ella Needham and Nathan Chadburn, pupils of Doncaster Road School, who opened the heritage centre




Both Photos courtesy of Ron James

This year it has not been the summer months which have been most significant to our society but the autumn and I would like to commence with the most important event, the opening of our new heritage centre within Mexborough Library.

The Opening of Mexborough & District Heritage Centre In 2001 Mexborough & District Heritage Society opened, in the basement of Mexborough Library, The Local History Room, to serve the needs of anyone wishing to know anything of the vast local and family history of the area.

In the ten years of its existence it helped: hundreds of newspapers journalists, authors of books, writers of magazine articles, and playwrights; numerous schools, colleges, and universities; people from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand in fact from most countries and continents of the globe; as well as the thousand of normal everyday people who contacted us for information about their families and the town and area in which they once lived. In March 2011 unfortunately, despite a fight by our local councillors and the Hon. Ed. Milliband, due to cut backs, it had to be closed.

On 14th May 2012, after a closer of two weeks, Mexborough Library was re-opened by the then Mayor Peter Davies. For this occasion your society had erected a display and it was manned by Julia and Bill. Following his tour of the lower floors of the library the Mayor came to the upper floor where he spoke to the members and informed them that he would ensure that a heritage centre was reinstated within Mexborough Library. After a short period, and many meetings with Doncaster Library Services, to negotiate arrangements to give the society as many benefits as possible the society moved its furniture back into the library on Mon. 15th April 2013 with the archives following over the next few days.

During the time we prepared for the official opening of the Heritage Centre numbers using the service began to increase and in September we dealt with 217 enquiries from the general public by e-mail, and 35 people came to see us in person to ask for our assistance in some respect concerning either local or family history. One couple even travelled all the way from Norway. Proving that there is a need for a Heritage Centre in our town.

As you may have read in the press, the society believes that children are the future of local history and so rather than have a member of the aristocracy or dignitary open the Heritage Centre; the society decided it should be opened by a child. Mr. Norman Watson, our late President and founder, attended Doncaster Road School, where his aunt taught, and as such it was thought most appropriate that a young person from this school should perform the ceremony. Therefore over the weeks prior to the opening the society worked closely with both the Head of the school Mr. Hayles, and the children. They have taken part in an arts project, on the subject of the history of Mexborough, the winner of which officially opened the Heritage Centre.

At 1.15p.m. on Friday 4th Oct 2013 two children from each class of Doncaster Road School were escorted to the library by Mr. Hayles, the Head, and Mrs. Bennett. The result of the arts competition had been a draw between Ella Needham and Nathan Chadburn who together, cut the ribbon to officially open the centre and became the first to enter it.

The young people looking at the extensive exhibition and were surprised to find that the man who helped to make the lions in Trafalgar Square, came from Mexborough, as did Britain’s first formula one racing driver, the first Miss World, plus many well known stars of the cinema and celebrities from the music world. Mr. Hayles stated that he would bring further classes from the school to look at it.

The exhibition, which entitled ‘Famous People of Mexborough & District’, remained in Mexborough Library for the rest of the week. So much interest was caused by the opening that it is estimated, by Friday of the following week when the exhibition was taken down, that over one hundred people had viewed it.

Unveiling of Plaque/Information Board in Honour of Robert Glassby
The overdue unveiled of an item which both celebrates and honours the achievements of a true son of Mexborough, took place at the end of September. Robert Glassby, who was born in Mexborough the son of a mason, but with hard work and determination become sculptor to Queen Victoria, a man, as Michael Piper, the authority on all things Glassby, said is ‘the famous sculptor that no one knows’.

The plaque/information board was unveiled by Mrs Piper (nee Glassby), at 11a.m. on Saturday 21st September 2013. It really was a beautiful day; the sun blest us with its presence and the small garden to the rear of the Mexborough Almshouse, where the plaque is located on the gable of end of Robert Glassby’s birthplace, was dappled by the rays of the sun as it shone through the trees.

At midday, following the unveiling we all proceeded down to the Ferryboat Inn where a buffet was held and Bill Lawrence gave an excellent talk, telling all those present about the life of a man who, although his life had humble beginnings, ended it by brushed shoulders with, and creating images of, some of the most famous people in Europe at that time. But while doing so remained a fierce Mexboroughite until his dying day and in 1892, when he died, was buried beneath a red marble gravestone shaped to resemble a Mexborough Top Copingstone.
Further details are here...

Courtesy of Graham Oliver: Fire Appliances attending the fire at Montagu Buildings,
the afternoon of Friday 11th Oct. 2013.

Montagu Buildings
At 1.30p.m. on Friday 11th October 2013 the first of a number of Fire Appliances flew along the road to the rear of Mexborough Library. This was followed by numerous pictures appearing on the internet, stating that Montagu Buildings was on fire and showing flames shooting out of the eastern section of the roof.

The fire raged for most of the afternoon and after completing work at Mexborough Library I walked up to Montagu Square to look at the damage, fully expecting it, from conversations I had held with customers that it would be beyond repair. As I left the library it appeared to be dull and drizzling but when I arrived found that it wasn’t the weather causing the drizzle but the fall out from huge water cannons which were being aimed through the smouldering, exposed rafters of the building.

As the whole of Montagu Square was cordoned off the nearest I was allowed to get was the top of the car park, next to the Montagu Arms and to my delight the beautiful White Marble facia appeared to be undamaged.

As Montagu Buildings is contained with Mexborough Buildings Conservation Area, on my return home, I contacted Peter Lamb who is head of the conservation of buildings section of DMBC Planning Dept. The following Monday he returned my e-mail informing that he had been to inspect the building and, despite the ferocity of the fire, no long term extensive damage had been done to the structure of the building. Also as it was a building within a Building Conservation Area the owner was to rebuild it.

Since that day many have asked me about it and therefore I thought it would be interesting, this month, for you to read a ‘potted history’ of the building.

In 1903 Mexborough Co-operative Society, purchased a disused quarry in the middle of Mexborough to the north of Bank Street, and plans were made to construct a splendid new headquarters on the site. But because of the effects of a devastating, year long miners strike known as the Bag Muck Strike, the co-op went into liquidation and their plans to construct the building never came to fruition. It wasn’t until 6th April 1912 when we once again find an article in the Mexborough and Swinton Times, complete with a drawn impression, by the Architect W. C. Laidlaw of Edinburgh, of what the building would resemble when complete. The 1st WW then curtailed construction and it isn’t until 1922 that we find Kelly’s Trade Directory showing one of the first occupants, which was the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, who had their local Headquarters there, with William Carruthers as their District Manager.

In c1985 Jackson’s Supermarket moved out and the area they had occupied turned into Montagu Arcade by Walter Ashby, Shopfitter & Joiner, for the then owner Tommy Bourne.

Montagu Buildings stands proud as one of the only magnificent buildings, of its time, left in central Mexborough and as such, rightly so, forms part of DMBC’s Mexborough (Buildings) Conservation Area and is justifiably protected to a greater degree. The building is therefore to be reconstructed and brought back to a better condition than before the fire.

News from the Heritage Centre
In my last newsletter I reported that I had been very ill. This month things have got worse, with my collapse a few weeks ago. Unfortunately this collapse has been a severe one and coming on top of a couple of strokes, a few years ago, my future with the society and what part I play in it is requiring much thought. I will, naturally, keep everyone informed of my decision. .

Copyright: This newsletter may not be copied, in part or in its entirety, without the permission of J.R. Ashby