Friday, 9 April 2021

Finding Smithies Working Men's Club - a great 'Rabbit Hole' to research

Eons ago I wrote a post about war memorials in Monk Bretton. I had only been researching war memorials for a year or so and my only resources were the newspapers in Barnsley Archives. It was about a week after the first meeting of what would become the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP, but now Barnsley & District War Memorials B&DWM). I had read an article in the Barnsley Chronicle from 1919 that suggested photographs of the men who had gone to war and not returned should be hung as a form of memorial in three places in the Old Mill/Smithies part of Monk Bretton. I couldn't find anything more out about these photos at the time so I mostly forgot about them.

From a Tweet by Cavalier Postcards
on 2 Nov 2016 (Twitter)

Then a postcard was reproduced on the Readers' page of Spring 2017 issue of Memories of Barnsley magazine showing the Roll of Honour from the Old Mill Wesleyan Reform Chapel. I was able to backtrack to a tweet advertising the postcard for sale online and took a copy of the image.

The names checked out as being Barnsley men but I just filed the images and a scan of the magazine as I was busy with Lives of the First World War and reading for my MA at the time. Another BWMP volunteer worked out that there were 24 names including 3 men who had been killed. 

It has only been in the last few days that I realised that this might be how the photographs proposed in the article about Smithies were eventually displayed. It looks like an elaborate wooden frame with the photos attached in some way. I assume the three in the centre were the men who died. 

Yes, their names were Frank Horbury (died of illness 16 November 1918 in Britain)and Thomas Hilton Horbury (died of illness 12 May 1917 in France), a pair of brothers and Herbert Kaye (missing presumed dead 7 October 1917). (Thanks PS!)

Last August I found a cutting online from the Barnsley Independent that referred to an unveiling ceremony at Smithies Working Men's Club. The Independent had only just reached the post war years then on the British Newspaper Archive and its coverage of the war years and beyond is still patchy. Anyway, I filed the cutting and sent a copy to PS for adding to the List. (He and I found out long ago that it's much better if just one person looks after an online spreadsheet. When two of us tried to edit it we ended up with corrupt copies and each having different versions. Now I just send him cuttings and suggestions (memorials and men) and he adds them to the lists.)  

And once more I was too busy to think more about it until someone asked a question about Smithies Club on our Barnsley's History - The Great War Facebook page a few days ago.  The Smithies Roll of Honour apparently listed 190 names including ten men who had fallen during the war. Only the names of these ten and of four men who were awarded distinctions are listed in the newspaper cutting. PS had written a bit about one of the men and someone had asked where Smithies Club had been. It may sound like I'm constantly off with the fairies these days but I have been trying to buckle down and write a 15k word draft chapter for my PhD so I have been trying to avoid getting too deeply drawn into 'rabbit holes'. PS replied that another member of the group had suggested the club might have been the on Smithies Lane opposite the Council Depot - well I've been down there (there's a Dumpit Site which was handy for where we used to live) and there's not a lot across the road from that depot. 

Then we get to today - I've now written nearly three quarters of my draft chapter and most of that in the last week - today I wrote 800+ words half of them on .... Smithies Club! Only that cutting about the unveiling is relevant to my academic writing so I thought I'd come onto my blog and pour out my workings about how I discovered where the club used to be and who was involved in it. 

1931 map of Smithies from Old Maps

In the 1931 map of the area above (click to enlarge) you should be able to see the club just off centre on a triangular road called Short Row. There wasn't a short row of houses there by 1931, some of them had been turned into the club and the rest had been demolished long before. I found some invitations to tender for decorating and repairs at the club in the Barnsley Chronicle in 1909 and 1912.  You do get some idea of how the club is arranged as one item mentions a billiard room and a bar.

1906 map of Smithies (Old Maps)

The 1906 map shows a row of eight houses in that triangle shape, it looks like three of them were turned into the club. This is confirmed by a report in the Barnsley Chronicle 21 March 1903 concerning five clubs in the Barnsley area which were suspended for breaking various licencing rules.

Barnsley Chronicle 21 March 1903 p.6 (Find My Past newspapers)

I love the detail - all the little facts about the costs and the times, the numbers of times drunken members had been seen leaving the building. The clubs suspended  were Smithies Club, Carlton Club, Jump Club (12 month suspension), Hemingfield Club (6 months suspension) and Wombwell Club (3 month suspension). You can clearly see that Smithies Club 'rented three cottages at 5s a week'. 

The earliest item I've found for Smithies Club is from November 1901. It's about a lecture on the importance of mining, miners and labour. I expect it was meant to be both educational and political  ... The speaker was a Mr. E. A. Rymer, 'how wonderful it was to find the miner emerge from the depths of the earth, emancipated from slavery, to think and act as a rational being and responsible citizen', he then complimented the club and gave some statistics about the success of the Working Men's Clubs movement. Importantly the article does refer to the Smithies Club as new.

It took me a while but I did eventually manage to find some census entries for the area - searching for addresses on Ancestry and Find My Past is much more difficult than searching for a name as the sites revolve around family history and most people want to look for their ancestors of course.

Thomas Taylor wasn't at the club in the 1901 census, but he wasn't far away. Smithies Lane runs between Wakefield Road and Cockerham Lane just before Huddersfield Road. It's about a mile long. The road crosses the River Dearne and that means that some of Smithies Lane lies in Barnsley and some in Monk Bretton, the river being the boundary between the two areas. As you are going up from the river towards Huddersfield Road, Rockingham Street is the left turn just before the railway bridge. Thomas Taylor, aged 26, his wife Alice, aged 24 and their children Jane, 6, Charley, 3 and Esther, 1, were living at number 54 in 1901.

Thomas Taylor was a Hewer in a coal mine and was born in East Hartlepool, Durham (I have some ancestors who lived there!) and his wife Alice was from West Hartlepool. I wonder how they both got to Barnsley? I found what I am sure is their marriage register entry, at St Mary's church in Barnsley on 26 March 1894, so they didn't marry and then move ... maybe their families moved together and then the youngsters (Alice claimed to be 19 years old when they married, but if she was 24 in 1901 she was only 17 when she got married) married in their new locale. All three of the children named above were born in Barnsley. When Esther and her younger sister Alice (born only a month before her baptism but who appears to have died young) were baptised at Monk Bretton church Thomas' occupation was given as Club Caretaker. 

Thomas may have answered the advert I found in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13 September 1902 for a Steward at the Smithies Working Men's Club and Institute. I sort of hope he came along a bit later because if he was there in 1903, well, then it was on his watch that the club got suspended. I haven't seen any other adverts yet, but I'll keep looking.

1911 census for Smithies Working Men's Club

The 1911 census tells us that Thomas and Alice had a total of eight children but that four of them had died before 1911. Oh, dear. The only surviving addition to the 1901 census is Elliott Taylor, aged 1 year and born in Short Row, Smithies, so actually born in the club I assume.

In December 1912 the club made a presentation to a local couple on the occasion of their Golden Wedding anniversary. The article in the Barnsley Independent gives a few little details about the club. The members had subscribed to a collection for gifts for the couple, apparently 'most energetically' organised by Thomas Taylor. The presents were  a silver snuff box for Mr Linsey, aged 74 and a brooch for his wife, aged 72. Mr Linsey had been born in 1838 in a house adjoining the club which had since been demolished and his parents had been handloom weavers. The article says Mr and Mrs Linsey lived at the Barnsley Corporation Water Works at Smithies and Councillor Lingard when making his speech referred to them as close neighbours of twenty years standing. The census summary book for 1911 shows Mr T Lindsey (a spelling mistake maybe) living at Waterworks House, Mr Lingard living at Mill House and on the other side of him the Club with Thomas Taylor. It would be nice to try to work out which shape on the old maps are which houses.

I will skip the war years as I have written about them today already.

Sadly Alice Taylor died in 1919 aged 44 and is buried in Monk Bretton Cemetery. Thomas joined her there in 1941 aged 67. He had remarried in the interim and in 1939 he was living at 23 Carlton Lane which is the address where he dies. I don't know when Thomas left the club - or what happened to his children (yet) but given their connection to the North East and that interesting fib about Alice's age when they got married I might take a look one day.

Roll on the 1921 census - only about nine months to wait - that will plug a few gaps!

The 1939 register suggests the club may have been split back into smaller houses again. The occupants of 'Club House', Smithy Green are Mr Percy and Mrs Ada Pedley, both aged 41. The next three rows are redacted so may be their children.

1962 map of Smithy Bridge and Short Row (Old Maps)

This map of the area in 1962 shows 'The Clubhouse' as the end building of a row of three, with a long thin building at some kind at the other end of the row. I don't know what those little outbuildings immediately to the north might be. Any ideas, or does anyone remember the area? Note the 'Ruins' where the houses on Smithy Green used to be.  

Percy Pedley was still living in 'Clubhouse', Smithies Lane at the time of his death in December 1970 according to the index entry for Probate on his will. Does anyone remember him? He would have been 72 or thereabouts.

13 April 1970 River Dearne flooding - Short Row in the middle of the picture

I found the image above on Barnsley Council's YOCOCO site. Percy must have witnessed this flood. 

I have cropped the picture and reduced the size a little. I imagine it is looking over Smithy Bridge or more probably the bridge over the flow out off the reservoir, so you can place it on the 1962 map above. Could this be the only picture of Smithies Club?

When did the Club close? What happened to the Roll of Honour? Did the Club amalgamate with another one and were the trophies, pictures and records saved? When were the buildings demolished? 

I have more questions than usual after one of these posts. More recent history is much harder to research online and Barnsley Archives won't be open for a while yet.

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