Home History Brief History of Darfield

Brief History of Darfield

July 1937

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 23, 1937

In 1937 the “Times” celebrated its 60th year and published short potted histories of the Dearne Valley Towns

Shaping of Darfield

Church Street c 1912

The traditions of Darfield are deeply rooted in the past; its hopes of expansion lie in the immediate future.

Ecclesiastically and in the local government sense, it is one of the oldest parishes in Yorkshire; during a period of intense industrial development, while its neighbours grew out of all proportion, it remained almost dormant.

Over the border defined by the Dove stream and the river Dearne, Wombwell, not infrequently referred to as a “daughter” of Darfield, is increasing population to nearly 4 times its size.

It is expected, however, that in the very near future the township of Darfield with more than doubled in area and nearly doubled in population, and agreed scheme of amalgamation of Darfield, with the outline district of great Houghton, little Houghton and billing who, having been approved by the county authority and the boundary revision proposal.

It is anticipated that ultimately the scheme will be approved by the appropriate government department

Anglo-Saxon link.

Records reveal that the history of Darfield goes back to pre-conquest days, that the Parish Church of all Sts Darfield is of Anglo-Saxon foundation, that as early as 1902 there was a “priest of Darfield” – but for the purpose of this issue it is not necessary to go back further than the middle of last century, which date the parish of Darfield included Darfield, billing who, Houghton, great and Little, Wombwell, Ardsley and Worsbrough.

The entire parish consisted of £13,000 and some 3 acres with a population of 50,385, which Darfield proper had 1673, and Wombwell 5014.

A quotation from a Gazetteer published about 1870 will be read with  interest. Darfield is therein described with the genuine Warren, as “a pleasant and well-built village, occupying a commanding situation between the river Dearne and one of its tributary streams (the dove), 5 miles east by South Barnsley.”

Joseph Townsend Machin was at that time the Lord of the Manner and he, with FH Taylor, The Right Honourable Earl Fitzwilliam, Sir George Dobson and Henry Briggs were the principal landowners

“Neat” Church

The church is described as a neat structure in the Gothic style, with nave, isles, chancel, clerestory, tower and chantries. In the tower are six musical bells, ringers which are greatly celebrated. The bells were taken down, restored and rehung, on modern mechanical principle some 10 years ago by the then rector, Canon A.E. Sorby, but recently have not been wrong on account of risks arising through subsistence.

The living Darfield was divided at the time in two medieties, the first of which was a rectory, and the second a vicarage. A most unsatisfactory state of affairs was terminated 1906 when the immediate is were dissolved in Wombwell church was increased in endowment from the Vicarage of Darfield which ceased to exist. In 1870 the Wesleyans had a Chapel at Darfield which had been enlarged and re-fronted in 1860, and the Primitive Methodists a chapel at low Valley.

The National schools have been erected in 1842, there were four almshouses for “four poor widows” endowed with land at Edwardthorpe. (Presumably Edderthorpe).

The Houghton Main Colliery Company have recently erected number of attractive homesteads in the same site for the old work people in commemoration of the Jubilee King George fifth. On the nearest Thursday to September 19, the Darfield horticultural Show was held.

Coming of Coal Era

Darfield was reborn to new destiny with the sinking of Houghton Main Colliery in 1877, the date of the foundation of the “Times,” but it never made the big strides its position on an arterial road would appear to justify, possibly because there was no coal mine actually within its boundaries.

In regard to communications the township is particularly well served, being situated between Barnsley and Doncaster, and on the mainline North and South.

Low Valley – a wilderness of bricks – was developed to serve Darfield Main Colliery, and the property closely clustered around the top of Snape Hill was also built to accommodate the new industrial population, completely obliterating Darfield’s ancient rustic features.

After that it was almost a “standstill township” for many years.

Sound Town Planning

In recent years Darfield has been most acutely “local government conscious” and from every standpoint, roads, lighting, housing, public health and in their communal amenities the town has undergone enormous improvement.

The vital statistics of Darfield bear favourable comparison with most of the health resorts, notwithstanding all the smother and drabness incidental to mining line. In a very literal sense local government at Darfield has “lifted its eyes unto the hills” and a fine town planning feature has been introduced in the development of a new thoroughfare linking Snape Hill with the main road, eliminating the dangerous corner at the junction of School Street, and Church Street, and providing quicker, safer and more convenient egress to Barnsley and Doncaster

Around this new centre a most attractive scheme with spacious roads and generous facilities for garden features has come into being. To its benefit in some respects Darfield has resisted ties with neighbouring municipalities, but the township is notoriously well administered, while rates are being kept at a relatively low level. That is possibly why the idea of amalgamation with Darfield so readily commend itself to Great Houghton and Little Houghton.

Darfield also has a well laid out Miner’s welfare scheme in a central position affording recreational facilities for residents of all ages, with a neat little park on the opposite side of the road.

There are in Darfield 222 Council houses – quite a large number for the size of the population – and they are disposed as follows; Millhouses 24; Nanny Marr 34; Woodall Lane, 86; North and East streets (erected in connection with slum clearance schemes), 78.

It is expected that a large area of land in Darfield, and also in Wombwell, will be restored to agricultural utility through the operations of the Dearne and Dove internal drainage board, which has already commenced to function.

Amalgamation Scheme

Though thoroughly progressive of itself, Darfield is a major hope in the amalgamation scheme, which will increase its population and potentialities as follows:

Population: Darfield 5,260; Billingley 863; Great Houghton 2,577,; Little Houghton 699; Total 9,399

Area In Acres: Darfield 2,018; Billingley 151; Great Houghton 1,649; Little Houghton 669; Total 4487

Amalgamation will also bring to collieries within the Heaven District, namely Houghton Main, and Dearne Valley collieries.

Prominent among those who have played a leading part in shaping the life of Darfield in the latter part of the last century and the early part of the present century were Canon A.E.Sorby, M.A., rector of Darfield from 1892 to his death in 1934; and Dr RF Castle, was medical officer for 36 years. The Taylors of Middlewood Hall, and the Hammertons have also done much for Darfield.

“Pillars” of Darfield

Canon Sorby became rector of Darfield in 1892, when the parish was held in medieties and parishioners were divided in allegiance to vicar and rector. Dissolution of the medieties solved a long standing problem, and amity as since reigned within the parish and between parent and daughter church.

A man of cultured mind and sound judgement, his mission was to preserve dignity and sanctity in church life and government. In the famous “Ascension Day Case,” he established the principle. Not satisfied with the decision of the Court, he appealed to the Kings Bench where, as a result of his action, he won a charter of religious liberty, whereby parents could with all their children from day school to attend church service on Ascension Day.

Under his direction Darfield church was greatly beautified. He died suddenly in October 1934, at the age of 75, loved and honoured by all.

Dr Richard Field Castle died in March 1925. He was the only doctor in the village of Darfield, where he built up a large and valuable practice. The miners and mining for the splendid work you did at the Houghton Main Colliery when a terrible cage accident occurred there.

For 36 years he was Medical Officer of Health and also help to build up the Darfield welfare clinic which today is a flourishing organisation.

He was a staunch churchman is also was his wife Mrs Moore Castle, who died two years ago. He was succeeded as Medical Office of Darfield by his son, Dr W.F.L. Castle, now settled in South Africa