Kilnhurst History Snippets

Kilnhurst’s Versatile Mill

Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times issue 10/1/1936

Kilnhurst is a home of industrial ghosts.  Some of them are the frailest type of phantom with nothing to link them with the present day; others have gaunt skeletons which serve to remind us of activities, long since ended.  Such is the shell of the old water mill which stands near the Weir Bridge.  Sixty years ago it was milling corn, driven by the power obtained from the waters of the Don, which were diverted through a mill race.  The sluice gate regulating this race can still be seen on the side of the road near to Terrace Row.  The mill was the property of Mr. Charles Wilson, grandfather of the late Mr. Donald Wilson of Mexborough, and was managed by Mr. Tom Atkinson.  It was closed down some fifty years ago.

The waters of the Don were also harnessed in those days to drive rolling mills attached to a forge which was also the property of Mr. Wilson.  This has almost completely disappeared.  Another industry, conducted at that time in the same section of Kilnhurst, was brick-making, the clay from a series of small quarries situated where Charles Street has since been built.  In rainy weather these shallow quarries quickly filled with water and were known as the pools.

After the mill became disused it was taken over by a small body of men who were anxious to encourage social life in Kilnhurst.  Among them were Doctor Adams, now retired to South Kensington, Mr. Luther Henson and Mr. Jim Thorpe.  It was transformed by them into a men’s club and flourished as such for several years. Mr. Charles Wilson obtained trophies for competition by the members, including a number of cups.  These were lost sight of, however, when the club disbanded.

The mill building remained empty after this for several years.  The return of the discharged soldiers from the war found it a new use, however, as the headquarters of the British Legion, who gave it the name of the “Ivy Leaf Club”.  They have also departed and the building now stands a disused shell.  There is no telling whether it will be put into use again; perhaps it will fall into decay and disappear as the forge has done.  If some enterprising amateur dramatic society came along they might turn it into an excellent little theatre.


November/December 1918 – Spanish Influenza Epidemic

It was reported that in one month alone, 32 deaths had occurred in the parish.  The people who died during the epidemic included Alfred Hicks, Mildred Hoyle, Claris Whitfield, Mary Everidge, Annie Goodinson, Muriel Smith, Mary Smith, James Royce, Rose Williams, Alice Fisher William Ivor Carr Reed, Elizabeth Swales, Nellie Holroyd, Emma Holroyd, Harold Lyalls, Beatrice Lyalls, Lilly Smith, Phoebe Russell, Margaret Cawden, Rosalynd Hewitt, Dora Lisence, Ellen Swales, Emily Wilkinson, Elizabeth Squires, Hilda Hill, James Smith, James Booth, Arthur Rawson and Amy Godfrey.

Kilnhurst, Bridge Scheme,


Note the cottages on the Kilnhurst side, long gone.

Extract from Mexborough & Swinton Times 30/8/1935

The Minister of Transport has approved of the West Riding County Council’s scheme for a new bridge over the river Don at Kilnhurst.  The estimated cost of the scheme, which includes the demolition of the present bridge, the widening and the improvement of the approach roads, and the demolition of a row of cottages, is £38,500.  Half the cost, £17,750, will be borne by the Ministry of Transport and the remainder by the County Council.  The need for a new bridge was felt twenty years ago, and since that time the matter has always been before the county authorities.  When County Alderman John Siddall was elected to represent Swinton on the County Council in 1919 he brought the need for a new bridge at Kilnhurst to the notice of the authorities at Wakefield afresh and has pressed the matter ever since.  When the South Eastern area sub-committee of the County Highways Committee met last September and put the Kilnhurst bridge on their priority list to be commenced within the next year, it appeared that there was a real prospect of a new bridge being erected at a fairly early date.

The Ministry of Transport, however, called a conference of local authorities and traffic experts to consider road problems in South Yorkshire.  This conference did not include the Kilnhurst scheme among those selected for early attention.  The local representatives on the County Council, County Alderman John Siddall, Councillor S. Palmer, brought pressure to bear, however with the result that the Minister of Transport has now sanctioned the scheme.

Great satisfaction will be felt in Swinton and Kilnhurst.  The new bridge will be 48 feet wide and will have three spans.  The approach roads will be straightened and widened.  Although the wing walls, piers and buttresses are to be of concrete they will be faced with stone so that the pleasing appearance of the old structure will be retained.

It is confidently anticipated that the £8,000 scheme for the improvement of the canal bridge at Kilnhurst will shortly be sanctioned.  When this is completed the whole of the dangerous Kilnhurst portion of the Wentworth – Hooton Roberts road will be made safe for road users, and a useful extension of the existing bus services will become practicable.


Formal Closure of the Graveyard

Application was made to the council in January 1984 for closure of the graveyard and representation was also made to the Department of the Environment for formal permission.  The church had allowed further burials on the site since the opening of the cemetery in certain family vaults, etc, but over 2,500 people had now been interred since 1859.  The Department of Environment acceded to the Church’s request.


Hospital Sunday – 18 August 1912

This was anoted to be Kilnhurst Hospital Sunday and an outdoor service was held in the recreation grounds.  Unfortunately, the weather was somewhat inclement on the day but the support was still high.  Several brass bands were invited and entertained all with their melodies.  In accordance with usual custom, a procession was made through the streets of the village and St John’s Ambulance Brigade was also in attendance.

Friendly Societies from Derby were also there accompanied by the Grand United order of the Odd Fellows, the Ancient Order of foresters, Rotherham Order of Druids and the Yorkshire Miners’ Association.  The best band was noted as being Swinton Weslyan Reform Band.  The newly resident Reverend F W Shepherd was the president for the day.


Fever Epidemic  – 8 February 1913


Fever was rampant among the infantile section at the low end of the village in the Hooton Road district.  Several were taken to the isolation hospital at Wathwood and two children were anoted to have succumbed to the malady at that institution.  The Sunday School was cancelled until further notice.


Annual Flower Show


This flourished in the continued until the mid-1900’s.  The vicar in September 1886 reported, after allegations of cheating, “We sincerely hope that the time is not far distant when the absurd and dishonest habit of buying and borrowing vegetables for showing will be universally opposed throughout the district”.


Celebration of the Wedding of the Duke of York – 1893


Wedding of the Duke to Princess May

Charlesworths sent a gift for the wedding of the Duke (who was later to become Edward VII) to Princess May.  A letter was circulated around the village to make a further gesture from the village to benefit the underprivileged.  Within a week, over £34 had been collected.  On 6 July, the day of the wedding, the weather was clear but not too warm.  A procession of children under 14 was led by the Kilnhurst Brass Band thorough the village then onto Barton Field for high tea.  The old folk were also entertained by plays and entertainment put on for their benefit in the National School.

The Vicar in Controversy – Kilnhurst Coal Strikes

Stoppages at the collieries were frequent in the miners’ quest for fair pay and conditions.  At times however, the struggle seemed to become burdensome on the community and the vicar would voice his frustration at the effects on his parishioners.

February 1893 – the Reverend Phillip Houghton reports “Trade prospects are not so promising, you not only want a fair price for your labour but a good demand for it”.

November 1893 – The strike continues in earnest with feelings of great disappointment, we read of the failure of the leader conference, which all were hoping would bring about a settlement of some kind or other.  As it is, neither party to the dispute thinks the concessions of the other worth taking and so the struggle must continue.  It is beginning to take its toll upon everybody.  Those who have subscribed to relief funds, in many cases up to and beyond their measure are finding it difficult, the situation is painful.  Cupboards are bare, purses are empty, small hard earned savings are exhausted.  This is no joking matter for the honest man with a family of children who do not know where to turn for the next meal and whose debt is accumulating day by day.  The storm is severe yet to end seems to be in sight.  The strike was over by December and the vicar takes issue that his parishioners are partly responsible for their circumstances by their past excessive behaviour.  “Too much money has been spent on mere excitement and excess.  Until we look at foolish extravagance as something wrong in itself, as selfish in principal and so contrary to the laws of love, both human and divine, that evil will continue”.

January 1902 – The vicar reports the ending of another strike in December 1901.  He tells his parishioners, “Miners should think more and drink less”.

May 1905 – The Rotherham Advertiser reports the views of the vicar at yet another coal dispute which gave serious offence to some concerned.  On the interview, the vicar told his parishioners that if their present leaders can’t bring the deadlock to an end, it is their duty to choose men who can.  The pits had been stood for nearly a year and the end seemed far off.  He feared that some of the best men are sick and tired of the whole business yet they lacked the moral courage to actually speak out.

The District Visitors Scheme

As part of the close community spirit of the operation of the Church and the village, a district visitor scheme was installed in the late 1890’s.  This meant help and counselling was always available on your doorstep.  Roads, streets and districts each had someone appointed to administer assistance, particularly to the sick.  The visitors were directed by the vicar on how to carry out their duties.  Their names were displayed on a notice board and they were published in each parish magazine.  In 1913, the district visitors were as follows:-

Albany Row Mrs Lacy
Carlisle Street Mrs Bullock
Sand Hill Miss F Muscroft
Glasshouse Lane Mrs Bentley
Pottery Yard Mrs Bentley
Thomas Street Miss Wyke
Piccadilly M J Tingle
Highthorn Miss Bentham
Victoria Street Mrs F White
Hooton Road (left) Mrs F Hirst
Hooton Road (right) Miss C Taylor
Wharf Road Mrs Kettle
Meadow View Mrs Kettle
Charles Street Miss Isherwood
Victoria Street Miss S Taylor
Beechwood Cottages Miss S Taylor

A sick and poor fund was also run by the Church and parishioners in difficulty could apply for relief.


The Church of England National School

The old school is used as flats today.

1835 saw the foundation stone being laid by John Fullerton.  The stone for construction was provided by Earl Fitzwilliam.  For the first time, the village now had a proper seat of learning for the village children and also somewhere to hold the Sunday services.  Prior to the construction of the School, services were carried out in the Ship Inn which was the only Public House in the village at the time.  Divine services were taken alternatively by the vicar of Swinton and vicar of Rawmarsh.

The School House was also built at the same time.  To acknowledge the Schools’ sacred character a cross was carved out of stone and affixed under the gable of the porch.  The first classes were held at the School in 1836.

In 1836, the Schoolmaster was Nehemiah Hornby and Mrs Ellen Hornby is anoted as Schoolmistress.  They remained in office for over 30 years.

One memorable Schoolmaster was Edward Kettle who remained in post for 38 years.  He came from Rishmere, Ipswich, where he was church organist and lay reader.  He took post in 1883.  He commented his most distinguishing pupils were David Jagger, the painter and his brother, Charles, the sculptor who both excelled in life to great heights.  Mr Kettle retired in 1921 and went to Bridlington.  He died in 1945 aged 90.

Further memories of the School are from Jack Wilkinson who became the Headmaster in 1932 and remained there until 1941.  He was very popular with the Kilnhurst residents and won their admiration and respect.  Jack states that when he first started at the School, there were 146 pupils and there were only 2 other teachers, Miss Roberts and Miss Pollard.  Great emphasis was put on reading, writing and arithmetic as a base education to last through life.  He commented there were no such things as School Secretaries and he thought nothing of having 50 plus children in a class.  Despite the small number of teachers in the School, it still managed to organise theatrical events, country dancing and have camping and climbing trips.  Jack commented the other teachers would willingly give up their hours making costumes for productions and outside excursions.

He remembers there was a lot of poverty in the 1930’s but that there was always a happy atmosphere in the School.  It was a place where economic problems could be “forgotten”.  He was fondly referred to by his pupils as “Mr Chips”.  One amusing incident which Jack recalls is that when, just after he arrived as Headmaster, a Church Bazaar was held which he was asked if he would attend.  To his horror, a voice boomed out “Mr Wilkinson will now sing”.  Jack was completely ill-prepared for this but immediately boomed into song struggling through Eastthorpe Martin’s come to the Fair for which he received a mild scattered applause.  As he ascended the platform steps, the Chairman announced, “Mr Jack Wilkinson will now sing”.  In his enthusiasm, he hadn’t let the speaker finish his introduction and the speaker wanted him put right.  Jack was keen on sports and encouraged sporting activities amongst his pupils.  The School won the Mexborough and District Schools Championship and the Bond Shield in the 1934/35 season.

After leaving Kilnurst, Mr Wilkinson went on to Cudworth and retired in 1971 when he then received an MBE for his achievements in education.

Another former pupil was Clifford Owen who attended the school in 1919.  He revisited Kilnhurst in 1979 and left the new School a £1000 donation to start a centenary fund.  Mr Owen recalled how he felt he owed much of his career in education to the teachers at Kilnhurst School, where he was the first pupil to win a scholarship to Mexborough School.  He said it was one part of his life that was filled with nothing but happy memories.

The School was finally closed down in 1970 when it was then transferred to a new building on Birdwell Road.  The rising population had put a strain on the accommodation and a new School was essential.  After closure, the former School was converted into workshops and offices remained in this use until September 1995, when planning permission was then granted to convert the building into flats.



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