The name Kilnhurst means the kiln in the wood. It is located 4 miles north/north east of Rotherham and 9 miles from Sheffield. The soils are mainly clay based.
Occupation of Kilnhurst land goes right back to the early hunters. This has been evidenced with the discovery of stone arrowheads. The Dark ages structure known as ‘The Roman Rigg’ has an arm which terminates in Kilnhurst.
Records show that in 1190 Robert de Kilnhurst transferred the lands to his brother Bartholomew. A family called the de Mountforts held land here from the 13th Century and they then had a long association lasting well over 300 years, they were attributed with building Kilnhurst Old Hall. Some parts of the land were owned by the Monks of Roche Abbey. There was even back then a paid toll for the amount of iron produced there.
The 1584 survey of Kinhurst stated it consisted of 3 messages (large dwellings/farms), 3 cottages, and a watermill with lands reaching out in Upper Haugh, Rawmarsh, Swinton. The Kilnhurst area was very well situated for industry as the site included the navigable River Don along with nearby coal and iron ore deposits. There was also an ancient crossing point on the Don. An iron foundry operated here from very early times. In 1720 it was noted there a forge was operated by a partnership of William Westby Cotton and his brother-in-law Thomas Cotton. A hammer mill was introduced there by John Smeaton in 1765. John Smeaton was himself a famous designer and constructor, he built the Eddystone Lighthouse. Kilnhurst really developed throughout the industrial revolution. It was renowned for having such an imbalance of industry for such a small place.
In 1760 the estate lands were under the occupancy of the Shore family. By 1822 Kilnhurst Hall had a new resident and owner when it became the seat of William Turner, Esq.
The River Don’s passage took it through a series of meanders which at time of low water made transport by boat hard work. To cure this the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation was built to solve this once and for all. The work was carried out in the 1730’s and it provided a straight deep water link and a Wharf. This development opened Kilnhurst up to heavier industry. The neighbouring quarries of Hooton Roberts used to load stone there for onward shipping.
One industry that flourished from 1750 was pottery manufacture. There were two potteries in Kilnhurst from this era; one owned by George Green, and the other by a Septimus Frost. The Kilnhurst Pottery which was located at the side of where the colliery was later sunk, it operated in the latter half of the 1800’s as ‘Twigg Pottery’. Its owner John Twigg was a very colourfull character, who also owned a pub called ‘The Nag’s Head’. Production of Pottery continued right until 1929.
The railway reached the village in 1830. This was joined with a second line shortly afterwards. The village boasted two railway stations, Kilnhurst Central built by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway on the line from Sheffield Victoria railway station to Doncaster, and Kilnhurst West built by the midland Railway, on the line from Sheffield Midland railway station to Cudworth and leeds. The latter one surviving until the cuts of Dr Beeching. The railroad was used to move freight. A special spur was constructed into the Croda Chemical works, Thomas Hills also were connected in order to roll out their newly built diesel engines.
In 1838 Kilnhurst is described as partly in Rawmarsh and partly in the chapelry of Swinton. At that time, it is said to have had two large potteries – one founded as far back as 1736 – an extensive ironworks, a steel works and a corn mill. The National School had been built three years earlier and the little Wesleyan Chapel in the same year. Among the names in the directory are: John Beatson, steel and file manufacturer; Robert Furniss, corn miller, George Kirk, tailor, Thomas Shepherd, schoolmaster and Thomas Wilson & Co, iron masters and steel manufacturers. Elizabeth Morton kept the Ship Inn, Messrs. Robinson and Wood and Mr. George Green were earthenware manufacturers; William Goulding, Wm. Perason. Jos. and Wm. Goldsbrough and Mr. Shepherd were farmers and George Taylor as the village shoemaker.
The village had gained a bit of a reputation. In 1864 following the conviction of some miners for their treatment of a fellow worker the Magistrate commented “Kilnhurst was situated in a very out of the way district and was a place where the people were addicted to barborous, ignorent and savage customs”.
Kilnhurst was formally a hamlet as it had no church, a National School was built in 1835 to allow education in the village. Christian worship was by travelling to Rawmarsh or Swinton. Later clergy did visit from Swinton, Wath on Dearne and Rawmarsh holding impromptu services in the Ship public house. This however was not satisfactory. The rising population of the village and the onslaught of non conforming religeous followers inspired the vicar at Swinton to arrange for a church to be erected in the village. This was achieved in 1859 with the assistance of the Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth. It was assigned the name of The consolidated Chapelry of St Thomas. The first appointed vicar was the Reverand H F Shepherd. By 1861 the population of Kilnhurst was 858 inhabitants. The 1st of January saw the opening of the Kilnhurst Co-operative. This was one of the pioneering co-op’s. It flourished occupying many shops on Victoria street, trading for over 100 years finally closing in 1969.
Coal mining was undertaken at Albany pit. This was worked by operating shallow shafts. With the onset of Deep Mining techniques shafts for the New Hall village colliery were sunk in the 1850’s. They sunk shafts down to the Barnsley Seam reaching it in 1858. It became a large employer. Deeper shafts were sunk in the 20th Century to reach the other coal seams that underlie the area. The colliery operated for over a 100 years closing in 1989.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Kilnhurst as:
KILNHURST, a village in Rawmarsh parish, and a chapelry partly also in Wath-upon-Dearne parish, W. R. Yorkshire. The village stands adjacent to the Doncaster and Sheffield railway, 4¼ miles NE of Rotherham; and has a station on the railway, and a post office under Rotherham. The chapelry was constituted in 1860. Pop., 1, 247. Houses, 248. Pop. of the Rawmarsh portion, 374. Houses, 69. The manor and most of the land belong to Earl Fitzwilliam. There are collieries, iron and steel works, glass bottle works, potteries, and brick yards. The living is a p. curacy in the diocese of York. Value, £152. * Patron, Earl Fitzwilliam. The church was built in 1858, at a cost of £1, 200; and is in the early English style. There are a Wesleyan chapel, a national school, and an extensive co-operative store.
As 1900 passed the expanding village was one of workers’ cottages with a large areas of allotments and a few larger houses for managers and industrialists. At the side of the colliery the Thrybergh Hall Brickworks operated along with a Saw Mill. A large factory called the Victoria Glass Works was located near the colliery on what is now Glasshouse Lane (it was founded in 1855 and traded until 1906 making medical, wine, soda water and pickle bottles). Kilnhurst Forge and steel works operated on a large site on the west bank of the canal continuing the villages’ association with metalwork. It was absorbed by John Baker and co and later in 1929 became Baker – Bessemar. It played a vital role in World War’s 1 and 2 making armourments. It traded into the 1970’s.
There was also a multitude of shops and small traders. The infastructure included two station’s, two schools, two Methodist chapels as well as the church. The 20th century saw new industries emerging like Train construction (Thomas Hills), Croda Hydracarbons built a major processing plant that traded until 2000. Danish Bacon established a large wholesalers there in the 1950’s .
St Thomas Parish Church (please read the dedicated section for a full history)
The church was constructed in 1858/59 on land donated by Charles William Wentworth Fitzwilliam (5th Earl), he also donated £200 towards the construction costs. The first service was on the Thursday of Easter week 1859. Consecration took place on the 5th July 1859 by Archbishop Longley of York. The church was called the Consolidated Chapelry of St Thomas-Kilnhurst. The building of a fine rectory took place at the same time. It was a large impressive building built of local stone.
The church was lit by candle only until the 1890’s when gas was installed.
A new Willis organ was installed on the 6th November 1867. It was funded by donations from parishioners. The same organ remains in situ today although an electric blower was fitted in 1948.
On the 10th October 1884 building work commenced on a new chancel as space was limited as the congregation started to rise. Burials took place in the churchyard but by 1910 was reaching bursting point. Further land was acquired at the side of the church and the new cemetery opened in 1911.
Noted Churchyard Burials
George Clarke – Founder of Kilnhurst Co-op 1874.
George and Rebecca Wright – Sheffield Flood disaster systems 1864.
Jagger family – children were sculptors and artists.
John Brameld – Swaithe Main colliery explosion 1868.
Thomas Astill – Warren Vale colliery explosion 1874.
Samuel Broadhead – Treasurer of the Yorkshire Miners Association.
Charles Bentham – Fatally wounded at the Somme.
John Twigg – Owner of Twigg pottery.
Mary Brameld – of the Rockingham Pottery family.
PORTRAIT OF A VILLAGE CIRCA 1900 by Barry Jackson
Like many other ex colliery villages, Kilnhurst is not much to look at. There are a few small businesses on the ex pit site, a few shops, and some companies down by the canal but on the turn of the century it was a very different picture.
On the 1901 Ordnance Survey map, the bulk of the village was clustered around Victoria Street, the main road through the village. Travelling from Hooton Roberts over the bridge, over the River Don, on the right is marked Kilnhurst Forge, then lining the road and running at right angles, rows of terraced houses all now gone. On the left is marked the Council School which is still there, then the Ship Inn also on the left. The Ship Inn is the oldest building in the village, built in 1752. Stables were provided to house barge horses from the canal which runs at the back, and the building was also used for Church services!
Victoria Street was crammed with shops. Kilnhurst Co-op dominated the village and was one of the first three societies to be formed in South Yorkshire, only 18 years after the founding of the Co-op movement! It is obvious from the log book kept by the head teacher of St Thomas’ Church of England school that the ‘divi’ was highly important to the people in the village as he mentions the paying out of the money several times. On the centenary of the Society in 1960 Kilnhurst Co-op had – Grocery and Hardware with three shops and six travelling vans; Furnishings with floor coverings, glass, china and electrical appliances; Pharmacy and optical which also sold wines and photographic equipment; Drapery, outfitting and boots and shoes; and lastly Butchery.
But other shops included fried fish dealer, chemist and druggist, earthenware dealer, newsagent and tobacconist, dress maker, grocers, butchers, hairdresser, and many others. The pubs included Terrace inn (now a house); Commercial (now flats); Rock Tavern and of course the Ship Inn, and the Nag’s Head which which has been demolished. But other places you could buy a drink were beer houses – one at 99 Victoria Street, another at 25 Glass house Road, a beer retailer on Hooton Road and a grocer and beer retailer at 30 Highthorne Road.
In a trade directory for 1862, listed are Alfred Hague boot and shoemaker and sexton; Johnathon Fairburn, miller and shop keeper; James Ross, painter and glazier; John Schofield, carter; and Henry Smith, boat builder.
There seems to have been rivalry between the church and chapels. In a parish magazine of 1902 it states: “For years past one has heard the continual complaint about the want of a suitable place for our young men to spend their evenings and spare time. If the temptation of the public house, the theatre and race course are to be successfully fought, it must be by means of counter attractions of a more elevating character”. It goes on to say that a suitable building for an institute had been found in the house belonging to Mr. V. Blunn – “The rooms will at once be put in good condition, and will be furnished with a small billiard table, others devoted to periodicals, games, etc. A caretaker will be appointed and, we need scarcely add, everything in the shape of intoxicants as well as gambling in any form, or the use of bad language will be rigorously excluded”.
But the Methodists beat them to it! A Literary and Mechanics Institute opened on a Saturday in a disused flour mill, and the Church Institute on the Monday. There was also a Young Men’s Gymnastic Club who met in the infants’ classroom in the school.
Activities included boxing, single sticks, draughts and dominoes. The latter two could hardly be classed as a gym exercise – perhaps they used very heavy pieces!
There were three chapels – Wesleyan, Methodist and Free Church. Two of the buildings still stand on Victoria Street, now used for other purposes – one though is a Boxing Establishment.
Jagger family were remarkable Enoch Jagger the father, an official at the Colliery and one of the School Managers, was a keen amateur artist, and his three children David, Edith and Charles were also gifted. The three Jagger children attended St Thomas’ School, but only Enoch, and pupils David and Edith were mentioned in the log book. Enoch didn’t think the profession of painting suitable for his sons. Therefore Charles Sergeant Jagger took lessons secretly. He was apprenticed to a firm of silversmiths but secretly attended Sheffield School of Art. Gaining a West Riding Scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1914, he won the Prix de Rome with his “Bacchanalian Scene”. He became a sculptor of note and although his career was short (16 years) became one of the leading war memorial sculptors. He took part in the First World War, was wounded twice and received the Military Medal.
The Royal Artillery War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in London is an example of his work. The realism of the sculptures was taken directly from his own experience of war. His daughter Gillian Jagger, who was a professor at the Pratt Institute, inherited her father’s talent.
His brother David, escaped to London and became an established society portrait painter, his final unfinished commission was a portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh. Edith, whose grave is in Kilnhurst churchyard was an accomplished painter of animals and landscapes and lived most of her life near Sheffield. David described Kilnhurst as “a place of horror, black with coal dust”, while Charles comments that his schooldays were spent fighting. “My childhood was one long series of fights” he said. “One fought not because one had enemies, but to find out where one stood with one’s fellows”.
The village had iron works going back to the 14th century and during the 17th century a forge was developed. Around 1722 the River Don was improved for navigation. A weir was also built near Kilnhurst Bridge, so that water could be diverted into a stream serving the forge.
John Cockshutt eventually took over using a new process of making wrought iron, and a new puddling furnace installed around 1790. It continued to operate during the 19th century but closed in 1883. Buildings next to the Terrace Inn are still on the map of 1903, marked Kilnhurst Forge.
Potteries were also important and were developed in the 18th century. With good supplies of coal from the Warren Vale Tramway, and access to wharfs on the canal, works were developed first by Thomas Hawley in 1783 and in the 19th century by Joseph Twigg and Bros.
John Twigg was a temperamental employer to say the least. He even issued summonses against workers when they demanded a halfpenny for working a new pattern. In court, he indulged in incessant and abusive language against the defence Counsel, and in local meetings he was noted for his frequent interruptions.
The old bell from Rockingham pottery was acquired by him, and was used to get his employees to work on time.
In 1884 William Hepworth and Bowman Heald, his son-in-law, took over the business, trading as Hepworth and Heald until it closed in 1929. In 1893 Bowman Heald had acquired the models and blocks of the Don Pottery at the liquidation sale. The pottery concentrated on Bristol Ware, especially beer mugs, and by 1916, had virtually cornered the market. The works went into decline when glass makers started putting handles onto beer glasses.
The Swinton Iron works was just up the canal, and changed hands several times in the 19th century before being taken over by John Brown & Co in 1863. There was a large plant for puddling iron for armour plate, no doubt for battleships. But steel superseded iron late in the century.
The building was derelict in 1901, but the site was bought in 1902 by John Baker and developed by his sons after their father’s death in 1904, producing railway wheels and axles.
In the First World War, John Baker & Co. frantically re-tooled for armament production, in particular, shells for the Western Front.
Machinery was adapted for shell making, and such was the demand, the company resorted to buying linseed oil cattle cake presses and altering them for shell manufacture. Women moved from traditional occupations into the machine shops and foundries.
In the South Yorkshire steel industry the number of women employed increased six fold.
To record this, George Baker commissioned the now famous painting ”The Munitions Girls” from the artist Stanhope Forbes. George Baker commented that “The primary object of the picture was to produce a memento for our women workers, and each of them received a framed copy of it”.
In the foreground two girls are depicted pushing a trolley loaded with 4.5” shells, while in the background there are dozens of others forging, operating furnaces and other tasks.
In 1983 the London Science Museum bought the painting for £17,840 to hang in their Iron and Steel Gallery.
Four of the original Munitions Girls were invited to the official unveiling ceremony – Mrs Sara Tooley, Mrs Lydia Newby, Mrs Bessie Muscroft, all from South Yorkshire, and Mrs Trewin from Cornwall.
After World War I, the company went public and they took over Henry Bessemer Ltd of Sheffield in 1929, trading as John Baker and Bessemer Ltd. They became part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain Ltd during the 1951 nationalisation. It eventually passed to a consortium of United Steel Companies and English Steel Corporation, and the firm closed in 1964.
There was also Ellison and Mitchell, manufacturing Chemists at the Don Chemical Works. This eventually became Croda located at the end of Carlisle Street, well out of the central village.
Opening in 1855 was the Victoria Glassworks which produced medical glass bottles; soda water, ginger beer, wine and pickle bottles; and dram ovals and flasks. This closed in 1906 and obviously that is how Glasshouse Lane got its name.
The then Thrybergh Hall Colliery was sunk in 1858 close to the canal. It was bought by the Charlesworth brothers about ten years later. They owned pits throughout Yorkshire and had twelve in 1869 at Dodworth, Barnsley, Rotherham, Leeds and Wakefield. The pit was sold to Stewart and Lloyds in 1924 and remained in production until 1989.
The 1800’s had many long and bitter strikes and lock outs, the miners winning better pay and conditions in 1893 and 1912.
At the end of the First World War, the miners assumed that Government control of the mines was a step towards nationalisation.
However in 1921 there was a lock-out following the Governments decontrol. There was a move in Parliament two years later to nationalise the pits but nothing came of it. During the war exports had fallen and other countries developed their own coal fields or went elsewhere.
So by 1922 demand for coal had fallen, production had fallen, and wages were failing to keep up with the cost of living. The usual pit owners solution was to cut wages and lengthen working hours. This led to the General Strike of 1926, and although it only lasted nine days, the miners struggled on for many months.
Fatal accidents in the pits were commonplace. In the area there were a series of major explosions between 1840 and 1866, and more than 600 men and boys died.
Accidents could happen at any time. In 1863 six miners were killed at Thrybergh Hall Colliery (Kilnhurst), when they fell down the shaft, the ‘chair’ on which they were travelling, overturning.
In 1851, just a mile away at Warren Vale Colliery, Rawmarsh, there was an explosion which cost fifty-three lives. There were floods, roof falls and other accidents crippling and killing boys as young as sixteen and men in their 70’s.
It must be realised that coal was the prime energy source of the country, without coal there would have been no Industrial Revolution. There was no natural gas, oil, nuclear power, or other source. Every industry relied on coal to power engines, produce steel, and produce electricity, warm homes and buildings.
The log book makes mention of a dispute at the pit on September 1893 “Children kept away either to nurse while mothers go to receive strike pay, or else receive bread, etc. given away by the Co-operative Committee on Friday afternoons during the strike”
According to the Rotherham Advertiser both sides seem to have dug their heels in. “We appear to have reached an important climax in the great coal war” says a report. “Both sides have declared their determination to stand firmly by their guns and for all practical purposes the two camps are facing each other and watching for whatever sign may be made by either of the contending forces”.
The school closed on September 8th so that the children could attend the distribution of bread at the Co-operative Hall, and attendance was hit by the children coal picking or receiving soup and bread.
On October 11th, the log book states that breakfast was given to 120 children “through the kindness of Messrs. J & J Charlesworth, owners of the Colliery. This will be continued twice weekly until work is resumed”.
At the beginning of November the paper reported that the Kilnhurst Relief committee distributed 1500 loaves of bread and soup. The committee had received £10 from the Military Tournament at Thrybergh and have donated £7.10s to the fund for children’s breakfasts. “The Co-operative Society have given liberally in alleviation of the distress” it adds.
The Kilnhurst Co-operative quarterly meeting was held on November 4th and reported that the amount of cash received for goods sold was £4,879.17s.7d which was a decrease on the last quarter brought about by the coal dispute. “Dividend on members purchases in all departments of 2s8d in the pound on £4,667 checks brought in” it said.
Then at the end of November “End of Coal War” said the Advertiser, “The miners to return to work under the old rate of wages”.
The Vicar of Kilnhurst, Rev. Houghton commented on the strike, “The plain deductions to be drawn include that of exercising thrift. Many promises have been made of a more careful life in future but I fear that until we look upon foolish extravagance as something wrong in itself, as selfish in principle and so contrary to the laws of love, both human and divine, that evil will continue”.
It is not reported what the miners said, it was probably something short and to the point.
In 1904 there was another dispute as Mr Kettle comments in his log book for December 2nd “Only 5 cases of measles now reported in the school; several children absent however from colds and sore throats. Some have no boots as the pit has now been closed 19 weeks.”
The pit also closed in June 1905 due to depression of trade and a strike. The South Yorkshire Times on 20 May 1905 reports “No change in regard to outlook at Warren Vale and Thrybergh Hall Collieries (the name was later changed to Kilnhurst Colliery) the deadlock continues pending the issue of the proposal put forward by the workmen to arbitrate on the question of the price to be deducted for riddles in getting coals”.
“The funds at the disposal of the Relief Committee are dwindling every week and we would urge upon readers not to give indiscriminately to able bodied cadgers but give through the medium of the Relief Committee”.
“Distress and poverty in Kilnhurst and District increases daily. Homes are beginning to disappear for food, women getting more gaunt and children whose cleanliness and good looks have testified to the care and attention are beginning to look like children of poverty”.
A Cornish pumping engine operated on No.2 shaft raising water from the Kents Thick seam from about 1870. The pump worked regularly until W.W.II and last run in about 1947.
In the 1930’s Stewarts and Lloyds did an extensive reorganisation of their business, building new steelworks and coke ovens at Corby, and improving the pit.
New screening and washing plant went up and an aerial ropeway was used to take spoil from the pit. Underground operations were also extended. Just up the road from the pit was a busy brickworks and in the 1930’s some 150,000 bricks were being produced each week, using local clay.
In the early 1930’s the pit shut down entirely for eight months to re-arrange and re-equip the surface and underground facilities. In the 1940’s because of faulting, five seams were worked to keep up productivity, which was below the county average.
The reserves were estimated at 46.75m tons.
United Steel Companies took over the management of the Colliery in 1945. Coking coal for Stewarts and Lloyds then was supplied by Manvers Main. The Swallow Wood Seam was abandoned in the mid-40’s but redeveloped in 1952 as part of the £6-5m Manvers Central Scheme. Under this development coal ceased to be wound at Kilnhurst but taken underground and wound at Manvers.
In 1986 Kilnhurst merged with Manvers to form part of the Manvers Complex. The pit produced coking coal (for coke for blast furnaces) steam, gas coal and house coal.
Going back in time, the log book refers to yet another pit dispute in November 1906. Attendance at the school was reported as not good owing to the long continued labour dispute at the Colliery. “A large number of parents have only their Union pay to depend on, there is much poverty and a considerable number of children are very poorly shod. Some few in fact have been excused from drill as the stones in the playground hurt their feet”.
There was another national coal strike in 1921 which dragged on for 12 weeks.
“Once again Rotherham and district is in the throes of a coal strike which coming at a time when the general trade slump is at a very low ebb is calculated to put a check on an industry for some time to come” states the Rotherham Advertiser.
“Heavy trades at Rotherham have been practically at a stand still for some few months involving serious unemployment. The ranks of the army of out of work is 20,000” it goes on. The dispute came about because the Miners Federation would not accept the coal owners offer to fix wages on a district level rather than national basis. The offer came through the Government’s decontrol of the industry on March 31st. Under Government control the mines were being subsidised, but the decision was taken to end this. The owners felt that without financial aid they could not make the mines pay, with wages at the past levels. “Pit open but employees did not put in an appearance” says the newspaper.
On May 14th, Gas supplies in Rotherham were restricted to 5 hours a day, and damage was being done in Canklow woods because of tree felling.
A decision was taken by the Transport workers and Railwaymen to refuse to handle coal from abroad. This was backed up by Belgium Transport workers who also refused to handle coal bound for Britain.
On June 4th it was the tenth week of the stoppage and the Federation rejected proposals put to them by the Government. June 18th saw a ballot which voted against acceptance, in Yorkshire 27,830 were for, 52,819 against. At the end of June the headlines stated “New Hopes of Coal Peace, Miners Executive to meet Government and Owners”.
At the beginning of July it was all over. A National Board was set up with equal numbers from the Miners Federation and the Mining Association; there were also to be District Boards. “Wages payable in each District shall be expressed in the form of a percentage upon basic rates, prevailing in the district, and periodically adjusted” was amongst the five provisos of the settlement. The Government subsidy was renewed
“They have gained nothing and lost a good deal” said the Rotherham Advertiser morosely.
It is sad to relate that all these industries do not now exist. Where the pit was is an estate with small industrial units. The Don Chemical works and Baker Bessemer is derelict land. The Glassworks and Pottery has long been built over.