The Early History
Swintons very early past may well be associated with the Northern Britons of the Brigantes tribe. The Brigantes held an impressive hill fort at Wincobank and Swintons land most likely came under their lordship. At times during the Roman invasion, the legions had to overcome violent resistance from the Brigantes who would have used natural defences such as rivers in their battle plans. As Swinton is sited on higher ground to the River Don, we can speculate that the area witnessed some desperate hand-to-hand combat. Evidence of Roman presence has been verified. In 1853, workers digging out a cellar on Rockingham Road uncovered a hoard of 300-400 coins covering the period from 69 to 212 AD. We have no idea who the hoarder was nor what became of him. Further indication of Roman activity is the existence of two roads crossing the area which would have linked the Templeborough Roman fort near Rotherham with territory of the North.
The Romans withdrew back to their capital in around 410AD. Western Europe then entered the Dark Ages. It is believed, however, that Swintons impressive ancient earthwork, the Rig Dyke, was constructed during this period. For many years it was believed that the Dyke dated from the Roman period and it was named the Roman Rig. More recent theories have suggested that the earthworks may well have been a boundary between Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia. The Kingdom of Elmet to the North may also have played a part. The truth of our Rig Dykes origins is shrouded in the mists of time, but we can be sure that Swinton was indeed a borderland.
During the centuries of the Dark Ages, Barbarian tribes such as the Angles and Saxons invaded and settled across much of England. The River Don would have provided a watery highway to assist their migration.
Coin Found under Mystery Stone in Creighton Wood.
This coin was found in Creighton Wood shown on the maps.
It is believed to be a King William of England the third halfpenny, and he ruled from 1650 to 1702.
Ron James say “As no building in the past was situated where the stone is situated, means that the stone has been brought from elsewhere. One theory I have, is that laid below the stone, could be the ashes of a dearly departed. Having a religious cross, and the initials J W, would not be out of the question, as around the country many dearly departed ashes are spread where perhaps that person used to frequent. Another thing is that the stone is situated at the side of a well trodden path”.
During drainage work in July 2014 some very important Swinton archaeology was uncovered for a brief time.
These photos show the structure of the very old well located on Milton Street which provided water for the residents of this part of the village long before a piped supply was installed. Milton St was formerly called Well Lane which reflected the importance of the facility. The name was changed around the 1860’s in honour of Lord Milton who represented the area as Member of Parliament. A recess in the boundary wall opposite Chapel Mews indicates the well’s location; it has been capped off and hidden from view for many years.
In 1905 Swinton Urban District Council sought permission from Lord Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Woodhouse to open up the well and carry out water quality tests. The town was experiencing intermittent water shortages at that time due to growing industrial and domestic demands, it was believed the old well could be used to alleviate the situation. The plans however never came to fruition and the well remained abandoned. Some of the original pipework was recovered from the site in 2014 and this may be restored as a memento of Swinton’s vital ancient water supply.
As we know from our school days, William the Conquerors Norman invasion took place in 1066. William defeated the Saxon King Harold’s forces at Hastings . The Normans then began their ascendancy and England was parcelled out to Williams followers as a reward for their services. The Doomsday Book – completed in 1086 – was an audit of the property and resources available to Englands new masters. At this time Swinton was very sparsely inhabited and was an area of mostly waste and wood pasture. We do, however, get an agreement over the place name of Swinton deriving from the old English for Swine Farm. Documents in Latin dating from very ancient times refer to the settlement as Villa Porcorum – House of Pigs. At the Conquest Swinton with much other territory, was given to Roger de Busli. Under him, it was held by the Newmarch family and later became divided between the Mounteney and Bellew families. The Canons of Nostell acquired lands and tithe here. In Miller’s History of Doncaster and its Vicinity, it is mentioned that “Osbert Sylvan gave two carucates of land in this territory of Uswena to the Prior of Nostill (1159-1181) which was confirmed by Pope Alexander III. Herein also King Henry II (1154-1189) granted free warren”. It is from this time that the Norman Chapel was erfected to deliver a place of worship for the village. There is a tradition that the favourite butler of King John (1199-1216) lived in the Old Hall used to stand on Station Street on the site of the garage/car sales today. It is said that King John himself slept there when on his journey from York to Boston. He increased the endowment of the church which was however, subsequently absorbed by Nostell Priory and Roche Abbey. At the suppression of the monasteries, the Nostell Canons’ interest was given by Henry VIII to Richard Corbet through whom it came into the hands of the Wortley family who held it for about a century. The Knights of S. John of Jerusalem also had an interest in Swinton and it is said that they once had a manor here and were the builders of the first church. The following references to Swinton are mostly from early deeds or records quoted or referred to by the Revd. W. Keble Martin M.A. in A History of the Ancient Parish of Wath-upon-Dearne published in 1920:- Bretton Priory had a farm in Swinton mentioned in a deed of about 1260 as a “Court of the Prior and convent of Bretton on Bernestokes in the field of Swinton”. The actual deed is quoted from the Yorks. Arch. Journal XIII, p.57. “Quit claim by Reginald de Morthinc to Walter de Brampton of his right in the land and wood he bought from John de Roderham on Bernestokes in the field of Swinton, between his land and the boundary towards Addewyk, abutting on the Court of the Prior and Convent of Bretton, for a yearly rent of 2s. to the Prior and Convent of Worissope. Witnesses: Richard de Berechink, Peter de Wath, Richard Herlyng, Robert de Parys, William de Wath de Swinton”. Bretton still received rent here in 1353. The name of William de Swinton occurs in several deeds of about the middle of the 13th Century. In the 18th century Parliamentary Survey Swinton was descibed as; “a great town consisting of about 60 families”. The Parish Church of St. Margaret was consecrated on June 15, 1817, the patron being the then Earl Fitzwilliam who gave the land. It wasnt until 1851 that Swinton became a separate parish, independent of Wath and Mexborough. On March 24th, 1897, a catastrophic fire burnt down the original church, with only the tower surviving. The present larger church was built on to the old tower and was consecrated on October 28th, 1899. The rapid industrialisation of the Victorian period lead to extensive housing development and other building in the Swinton Bridge area of the town. To serve this community, St. Michaels Church was constructed on Whitelea Road as a chapel ease to the main Church. St. Michaels opened on August 15th, 1901. It is now demolished and no trace of the building remains on the site. Swintons population in 1800 was 653, which by 1901 has exploded to 12,217. This rapid increase in population corresponded with the building of other churches and chapels. St. Johns Methodist Church was rebuilt in 1910 replacing an original Wesleyan Chapel dating from 1865. A Congregational Church was opened on Station Street in 1902. A Wesleyan Reform Chapel, The Ebenezer Church, was opened on Milton Street in 1873. This building was demolished in 2000 and modern flats have been built. In 1869, a Methodist Chapel opened on Bridge Street, being demolished about a century later. Today, other places of Christian Worship occupying later buildings can be found with the Bethany Church, Rowms Lane; Bow Broom Chapel, Queen Street; Zion Gospel Church, Charles Street and the Piccadilly Methodist Church on Piccadilly Road.
Association with the Pottery Industry
Edward Butler first established his tile and pot works in Swinton in 1745. The site off Blackamoor Road was ideal for a pottery with clay available on Swinton Common, a reliable water supply, building stone quarried from Wath Wood and coal obtainable from close by. Eventually, control passed into the hands of the Brameld family, whose technical competence enabled the pottery to become world famous, with an international sales base and royal clients. Rising costs caused the factory to close in 1842. See the picture gallery for examples of the factories fine products. A further world-famous Swinton Pottery was the Don Pottery at the other end of town, nearby Kilnhust had the Twigg Pottery. Products from these potteries are now highly sought after in the an in the antiques world with collectors of ceramics world-wide maintaining a keen interest in Swintons pots. (PLEASE SEE DETAILED POTTERY HISTORY SECTION FOR A FULLER ACCOUNT)
Education and Schools
An early record of educational provision was a school provided by the Earl Fitzwilliam for his stable lads who worked at Swinton Racecourse (the racecourse was, in the main, a training grounds which did produce one Lincoln winner between the wars). A Church School opened on Church Street in 1854, with enlargements in 1900 and 1910. This became known as the Fitzwilliam County School. The buildings remain today as private residences. The Education Board erected a school at Swinton Bridge in 1878 and at Queen Street in 1908. Queen Street School still serves the children of the town, along with Fitzwilliam Infants, Fitzwilliam juniors and Brookfield Junior and Infant Schools. Secondary education, including VI form, is provided by Swinton Community School, which started life in 1958 as a teacher-training establishment. Milton School provides special education to children from a wide area. Swinton was home to the glass industry from the 1850s until 1988 trading under a number of names e.g. South Yorkshire Glassworks, Dale & Browns, Canning Town Glass and United Glass Containers. As the end of the World War II, the General Electric Company took over a former munitions factory at the side of the River Don. Cookers were produced in prodigious numbers as the factory grew into one of the largest cooker plants in the empire. Morphy Richards Limited now manages the plant which continues to employ significant numbers of local people. Swintons many other industries, both past and present, have included chemicals, mineral water, plastic products, foodstuffs, vehicles and much more!
To make the Highfield Farm Estate even more a “Garden City” the Council, in 1948, purchased 22 acres of pleasant woodland stretching from Warren Vale Road to Piccadilly Road from Earl Fitzwilliam at nominal price. This woodland walk has been called “Creighton Wood” and contains oaks and beeches planted in the late 18th century. A limestone path nearly one mile long has been made through the wood and there is a stream which eventually joins the river don at Kilnhurst. The Creighton family were associated with Swinton Common from 1862 when county Alderman Creighton’s grandmother, Mrs. Hannah Wroe, followed Earl Fitzwilliam’s head gardener as a tenant of the woodside cottage adjoining the woodland in Warren Vale Road. Her son, Mr. Tom Creighton, county Alderman Creighton’s father, succeeded her as tenant and it was thought fitting that the notable record of public service by members of the family should be commemorated by calling the woods by their name. A Lych Gate, designed by the Council’s Surveyor (Mr. H Goodwin) in oak and rustic brick was erected at the entrance to the wood and is the gift of Miss E.K.L. Harrop in memory of the men who served in the Wars. It is known as the “Sisters’ Lych Gate” because Miss Harrop wished it to be registered as a joint gift of herself and her sister, the late Miss Beatrice M.R. Harrop.
An alteration of the boundaries of the Urban District became effective on the 1st April 1938. The Roman Terrace Ward comprising an area of 32 acres, an estimated population of 2,440 and 616 houses, was transferred to the Mexborough Urban District and part of Mexborough Urban District comprising an area of 20.7 acres, an estimated population of 9 and 2 houses including the L.N.E. Railway running shed was transferred to Swinton Urban District. The district before the alteration comprised 1730 acres and with a net reduction of only 11.3 acres now has acreage of 1718.7. The estimated population of the district before the change was 14,089 and this was reduced by the transfer to 11,658.
In Swinton, as elsewhere, the Church was the pioneer of popular education. When Mr. Levett came, the only schools (other than private academies for the children of the better-of) were the old infant school erected by the Revd. J. Lowe on the site of the chapel-yard (this was the building demolished in 1913 to make room for the church Hall), the National School at Kilnhurst and a juvenile school which was held in a hay-loft near Swinton Stables. Temporary repairs were first made to the Kilnhurst School and in the autumn of 1851, a subscription list was opened for the erection of a national School in Swinton. The school was built and opened in 1853, the cost being £1,707 7s. 3d. towards which Earl Fitzwilliam contributed £236 besides giving the site. It had an excellent record as a Church School for many years but in 1932, the Managers found themselves in low water financially and leased the buildings to the County Council. It is now the Fitzwilliam County School for Juniors. Later in Mr. Levett’s incumbency, an attempt was made to provide a Church School at Swinton Bridge but since there was inadequate support and little enthusiasm on the part of the Churchmen and much opposition from Nonconformists, the scheme was abandoned and a Board School was erected instead in 1878. Other schools were erected by the Education Authority on Roman Terrace (1884) and Queen Street (1908). A similar school was built in 1879.