Swinton Voices Book

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Robert Craig

Swinton’s streets have been walked by an incalculable number of people, most of whom are no longer living but each with many and often whole lifetimes of experiences of Swinton. The aim of this book is to record the memories of Swinton in yesteryear by people still alive today, for the benefit of current and future generations of Swintonians.

I established the ‘Swinton Record’ project in 2008. The goal was to record all names on headstones standing in Saint Margaret’s Churchyard. Within a year, I was looking into the lives behind the names. Before long, I realised that I was researching all of Swinton’s past population. Each person in the Churchyard had a personal story to tell but often lost forever when they died.

The inspiration behind this book was, ‘Memories – Recollections of Rawmarsh people’ that was produced by the Rawmarsh Manor Farm History Group, in 2004, which I read in 2008. I announced the ‘Swinton Voices’ project in January of this year. Rather than publishing a hard copy of ‘Swinton Voices’ and incurring printing costs etc. which might not be recouped, I decided to produce a publication that would be easily accessible to people, regardless of location, free of charge.

I wholeheartedly thank each and every author for submitting an account for the inclusion of this edition; without them, it simply wouldn’t have been possible. I hope that their stories are well read, around the globe, for years to come.

It is desired that this first edition will prove to be an inspiration and catalyst for additional submissions. Accounts of memories as recent as last year would be welcome; what might be deemed as being contemporary now will be considered as being old in years to come. So if you’ve enjoyed reading this book, please submit your own account for inclusion in future editions.

The book is currently only available in PDF format. EPUB and Kindle versions may be available in the future when I have mastered how to render the book correctly in each format.

Download the ‘Swinton Voices’ 2017 edition by clicking here.

Robert Craig, Swinton, Tuesday 12th December 2017

Yorkshire Tar Distillers Limited

Former Croda, Kilnhurst

Former Croda Site

In 1886, Henry Ellison of Cleckheaton purchased four acres of land. This firm became known as Ellison & Mitchell Limited and distilled tar. In 1927, the important tar distillers amalgamated to form the Yorkshire Tar Distillers Limited. The Kilnhurst works expanded from four acres to thirty acres and a quantity of tar being distilled increased by five times. In later years the company was acquired by Croda and operated until circa 2000.

Carlisle Park, Swinton - 22.06.17 (5)

Carlisle Park, Swinton

Mr. George William Mitchell (69) of Amphion House, Avenue Road, Doncaster, died on Monday 5th July 1943. He had been a director of Yorkshire Tar Distillers since it’s formation in 1927.

After much controversy, ‘Gleeson Homes’ began building houses on the land here in 2013, after taking away contaminated soil and capping the earth a few feet down. As of November 2017, houses are still being built. This new housing estate is called, ‘Carlisle Park’.

Glassworks, Swinton

White Lee Road, Swinton - 29.06.09 (35)

Avago Karting (site of the glassworks)

Circa 1850, James Tillotson came to Swinton, from the Leeds area and established a glassworks on White Lee Road. These glassworks would exchange hands in subsequent decades, notable owners being William Wilkinson and Dale, Brown & Company. The business was sold to United Glass in the early 1970s and finally to Canning Town Glass. The business was closed in 1988 with the loss of over 400 jobs.

(C) 93 (Tillotson) - 12.06.09 (2)

Tillotson family in grave in Saint Margaret’s Churchyard, Swinton

William Rupert Brown died in February 1929 at his home at 9, Priory Road, Sheffield. He was a member of Dale, Brown & Co. which they acquired in 1913 from the South Yorkshire Glass Bottle Company after they had been derelict and disused for two or three years. William was born in Stroud Green, North London and educated in London. As a youth, he was a traveller for a London glass bottle producer. At 19, he joined the staff of Alfred Alexandra & Company Limited and eventually became London manager of the firm. Mr. Brown, his future partner was at the time the works manager for the same firm in Hunslet. When they purchased the glassworks, William moved to Sheffield and Mr. Brown settled in Wath but later moved to Wetherby.

Gas was directly supplied to the glassworks via a pipe that ran from Manver’s Main coking plant in Wath.

The iconic chimney that belonged to the glassworks was finally demolished in 1996 and an indoor go-carting centre now occupies the land where the glassworks once stood.

Swinton Chemical Works Explosion

Former Croda, Kilnhurst

Former Croda Site




Early on Saturday morning the unusual sound of the fire bell was heard at Mexbro’. It transpired that an explosion had occurred at the chemical works at Swinton, and that a great destruction of property had been the result. This was the third disaster at the works within a comparatively brief period. About a year ago a workman lost his life by the poisonous fumes emanating from one of the large vats in which he was working, and a mate was only “brought round” with great difficulty. Prior to this a quantity of the inflammable liquid became ignited, and considerable loss was sustained by the owners, Messrs. Ellison and Mitchell, who also carry on similar works at Cleckheaton. It appears that about ten minutes to eight on Saturday morning an employee named James Lawrence, of Doncaster, was on duty at the works. He had been firing up a still which was preparing about 3000 gallons of benzoline. One of the proprietors would have been engaged near the same spot in all probability had he not met with a slight accident to one of his feet the previous day. He had interrogated Lawrence just before the accident as to whether all was right, and received a reply in the affirmative. Suddenly, however, there was a terrific report with a simultaneous flash of fire, which appeared to envelope the whole premises. Before it was known what had happened, residents at Swinton and Kilnhurst had feared an explosion had occurred at the Thrybergh Hall Colliery, and the wildest rumours were afloat. The workman, Lawrence, considers himself fortunate that he was not killed on the spot. When the explosion occurred he was far from the still, and the concussion “carried” him several yards away. The flames caught him, and the partial disfigurement of his face is proof of the great danger he was in. It is remarkable that he was not more seriously injured. He was promptly removed to the hospital at Mexbro’, after previous treatment by Dr. M’Call, of Kilnhurst, and it is hoped he may soon recover the burns appearing to be only facial and superficial. He has sustained no internal injury, beyond the shock to the nervous system. Another workman named Joseph Lee was on the ground, but he escaped unscathed. As an illustration of the force of the explosion, the top of the still, constructed of half-inch boiler plates and said to weight seven or eight tons, was carried through the air some 50 or 60 yards, finally alighting in a large tank of water. In its flight it just missed a tall chimney, which thus escaped demolition. The masonry of the benzoline shed – containing ten large boilers, capable of containing 3000 of liquid each – collapsed with a great crash, while the flames were darting heavenwards. The mechanism which ensured the security of the boilers also gave way, and the flames then devoured the benzoline inside. The boilers were fortunately by no means full, but there was ample liquid to cause a startling conflagration, which lasted a long time, until the benzoline had all been devoured. There was no wind at the time, otherwise the consequences would have been much more disastrous. The width of the building was about 11 yards, and the length about 40 yards. When the members of the fire brigade arrived from Mexbro’, their endeavour was to save that portion of the works which had thus far escaped. Between 30 and 40 benzoline barrels were on the ground, and these were removed to a safe distance from the fire. Water was poured upon the contiguous property in as large volumes as possible, though at the first the jet appeared much inadequate for the purpose. The labours of the brigade were not only arduous, but dangerous, while they stood in the vicinity of the blazing building, which every now and again gave ominous cracks, as though the whole would collapse. But no one was hurt. Captain Humphries (who is surveyor to the Mexbro’ Local Board) had charge of the brigade. Amongst others who zealously assisted were Mr. H. A. Fenner, the company’s analyst, Mr. W. H. Mitchell, and Mr. J. C. Haller, surveyor to the Swinton Local Board. Large crowds assembled from Mexbro’, Swinton and Kilnhurst, having been attracted by the fire bell and the flames. The extent of the damage is at present a matter of speculation, though it is calculated to amount to £2000 or £3000. The loss will be only very partially met by insurance. The cause of the explosion is not definitely known, but it is surmised that the “worm” at the top of the still had become clogged, thus preventing the escape of steam from the benzoline, under which was the furnace.

Swinton Common Colliery

Swinton Common Colliery (site of) - 12.05.11 (33)

Swinton Common Colliery Shaft Marker

Swinton Common Colliery (site of) - 12.05.11 (12)

Old Swinton Common Colliery Workings

Most people know about South Yorkshire’s coal heritage and many from the area will have heard the names of Manvers Main and Wath Main coal mines which were in operation in Wath Upon Dearne during the 19th and 20th centuries. However, most people are perhaps not aware that there used to be coal mining activity in Swinton.

Most of Swinton’s inhabitants will be familiar with Creighton Woods and have probably walked in there and seen the Sister’s Lynch-gate at the entrance but probably aren’t aware that there used to be a coal mine in close proximity to this entrance. This coal mine was called Swinton Common Colliery and would have been a relatively small affair in comparison to the likes of Manvers Main and Wath Main.

Former Scout hut, Swinton - 25.06.10 (3)

Former Scout Hut

Swinton Common Colliery closed in the 1920’s and was demolished soon afterwards.

Evidence of Swinton Common Colliery’s mining activities is still present in the surrounding landscape in the form of dips, holes and mini canyons which in the present day seem to be a venue of recreational activities for bikers. All of this man made damage however now seems perman-madeatural in its environment and has been covered and filled by trees and undergrowth over the course of 90 years since the closure of the coal mine.

The location of the mine’s actual pit shaft is easy to locate as there is a concrete marker on the spot and is situated on open grassland bordering Creighton Woods on Woodland Crescent.

There is also a brick building still standing that was used by the coal mine. It’s last use was as a Scout hut.

Queens Foundry, Swinton

Queens Foundry, Swinton

Queens Foundry, Swinton

Following the great Sheffield flood of 1864, Thomas and Charles Hattersley relocated their iron foundry at the end of Queen Street in 1864 and called the premises, Queens Foundry. These premises were demolished in 1936. The business was moved to much larger premises in 1869. These works provided employment for hundreds of Swinton people and produced stoves and grates. At some point in the 20th century, the works were acquired by the Stelrad company who specialise in the production of domestic radiators. In the 1990s, the building was divided into small units in order to cater for small businesses.

Deep Coal Mining In Swinton

Although mining had been taking place in the area for hundreds of years, it was not until the 19th century that it really took off. Small mines were established at Warren Vale and Swinton Common but mining in the area became a massive concern with the opening of Manvers Main Colliery in 1870 and Wath Main in 1875. These two coal mines resulted in a population explosion in Swinton and provided employment for thousands of men for over one hundred years until their demise in the 1980s.

Don Pottery, Swinton

The Don Pottery was founded at the very end of the 18th Century by the Green family of Leeds. In 1834, Samuel Barker purchased the business. The pottery ceased operating in 1893.

Swinton Pottery

Rockingham Pottery, Swinton

Waterloo Kiln, Swinton

For almost one hundred years, Swinton Pottery was one of the most important businesses of Swinton. Swinton Pottery was operational between 1745 and 1842.

It was originally founded by Edward Butler. From 1787 it was operated by a company called, Greens, Bingley & Company. In 1806, the firm became Brameld & Company – John and William Brameld previously being partners in Greens, Bingley & Company.

It was during the Brameld era that the company took on the name of the Rockingham Pottery and its products were sold all around the world.

The Waterloo kiln is the only remaining kiln of the three originally built.

Warren Vale Colliery, Swinton

Warren Vale Colliery, between Swinton and Rawmarsh, owned by the Warren Vale (High Hazel) Coal Company was closed on Saturday 21st March 1943, the reason given was for the “efficient prosecution of the war.” The colliery employed 180 men. The bulk of the men were to be transferred to Manvers Main and Kilnhurst collieries. Men too old to find work in the coal industry would be absorbed into other work. The drawing of coal from the colliery only started in 1937 and a pit-head canteen was installed a year or two before closure at a cost of £2,000. Dr. H. S. Houldsworth, Regional Controller for the North Eastern Region, Ministry of Fuel and Power said “This concentration of manpower is required in order to get the coal we shall require for next winter. The scheme will probably be widespread and not confined to Yorkshire.”