Conisbrough & Denaby Main
Heritage Group

From 'Photographs of Old Conisbrough'
by June & Tony Greathead
with permission of Mrs June Greathead

Church Street

Church Street and village life at the turn of the century are aptly portrayed in this view.  Motorised vehicles are not threatening the safety of pedestrians who wander freely in the middle of the road.  The tree leaning from a garden into the highway adds to the rural feel and it could clearly not exist today.  Double decker buses and high sided vans and lorries would soon stunt its growth.

As the tempo and character of daily life has altered so much since this picture was taken, certain questions are raised about the activities of those depicted, what is the old man carrying in the basket, what has the boy got in his barrow, where does the boy in the apron on the left work?   Unfortunately these questions may never be answered.  
We do know however that one of the shops on the right belonged to the Ledger family from where they ran a plumbing business.  Mr Ledger was also one of the village firemen and this is noted by the plaque above his name sign.  The shop at the end of the block was Mr Penningtons Drug and Dispensary store.  Could it be possible that the man standing in the street is Mr Pennington?
The gap between Mr Penningtons property and the next one with the tree is the entrance to Waverley Avenue.  On the left of the picture the building with the youths standing outside was at this time the site of Joss Drabbles and John Maxwells sweet and confectionary business.  Later it was a sweet and tobacconists shop run by Mrs Haller.
Arguably the most appealing old photographs are those depicting scenes which are so different today.  This photograph reminds us of what used to be, incites long forgotten memories to scurry across our consciousness and settles arguments about aspects of a particular location.  The view here taken about 1910 looking from the West Street, Church Street junction towards Old Road, falls into this category.  It is a Conisbrough corner that most residents will pass every day and it is bound to evoke the emotions just mentioned.

One old Conisbrough name that seems to have slipped into the past is Jos Drabble whose shop is seen here on the right.  Jos was a renowned boiled sweet manufacturer and numerous locals will recall spending many a delightful childhood moment choosing sweets from his shop.  The Drabbles family home is the bay windowed house at the top of the photograph.
One of Jos's  grandchildren is Margaret Drabble, the acclaimed authoress.  
Adjacent to Joss Drabbles shop was H L Ogilwy, plumber, glazier and gas fitter, though the 'fireman' sign above an entrance suggests that he had another occupation.  Records show that he joined the fire brigade in 1908.  Later H L Ogilwy's son Cecil occupied property on the opposite side of the road as a furniture and antique dealer.   Cecils mother started the business just after the first world war.
This next photograph shows Church Street in about 1900.  It reveals how narrow the street and how small and crudely built the houses are, however, many of them had originally been either farm cottages or related farm buildings.  The street gives the impression of being nothing more than a dirt track and is in an appalling condition.  After a heavy rainfall it must have been in an even worse state.  The causeway, only in evidence on one side of the street is nothing more than uneven crazy paving.  Nevertheless whilst the buildings are decrepit they have character and a unity which is absent from the current scene.

The buildings taking up most of the view on the left belong to Church Farm and these existed until the early 1960s.  The shop next to the farm accommodated a fruit and vegetable business for many years.  At the time this photograph was taken the street was lit by gas lamps, a gas supply was introduced to Conisbrough around 1870.
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                                                            MR HORACE GERMAIN FENN - 53 CHURCH STREET CONISBROUGH
                                                                                                      Researched by Tony Greathead

His working life consisted of being a loco driver at Cadeby Colliery.  During the First World War, when possibly his interest in time pieces began, he was in the Royal Navy engaged as an 'electrical torpedo man'.  After the war was over he resumed his duties at the pit and on a part time basis he was studying and repairing watches and clocks.  In about 1931 he took the plunge into business leaving the local colliery and starting up business in this shop in the photograph at this time he became a member of the Horological Society Sheffield Branch and wrote a thesis as the subject for them.
Many of the watches and clocks he repaired belonged to local miners and their families.
During the Second World War when both materials and man power were at a premium he kept in good repair the anemometer (wind measuring instrument used in the ventilation of the pits) for the local collieries.  This he was able to achieve because he had a laithe on which to make spare parts and the knowledge to enable him to keep the equipment in good repair and very quickly return the equipment to the pit.
 Sadly Mr Fenn died at the early age of 59 years in 1956.

The obituary of Mr Horace G Fenn
Saturday 14th January 1956

One of Conisbrough's best known businessmen died on Monday.  He was watchmaker Mr Horace Fenn aged 59 of 53 Church Street Conisbrough.  Known generally as 'Sailor Fenn' he set up in business in Conisbrough over twenty five years ago.  He had been a member of the Conisbrough branch of the British Legion since it was formed.  A former Morley Place schoolboy he had lived in Conisbrough over fifty years.  During the First World War he served in the Royal Navy as an Electrical Torpedo Mechanic in a destroyer and visited China, Japan, India, Africa and Russia.  He was in Hong Kong when the Peace was signed.  Because of the contacts he had made with sailors all over the world he received watches and clocks in need of repair from all over the world.  After the war he worked for a time at Cadeby Colliery as a Loco driver before setting up in business.  During the last war he was a Security Officer at Maltby Ordnance Factory.  He was a member of the British Horological Institute.  The funeral took place at the Parish Church yesterday (Thursday).  He leaves a widow, two sons and a daughter.

                                                                                                   1841 census for Conisbrough
                                                                        OLD HALL now known as Cromwells on Church Street

HENRY ELLERSHAW is a clergyman and teacher and he is 45 years old, living with his wife SUSANNAH who is aged 40 years.  Their son, named Henry is also living there aged 7 years.
Living at the same property is JOHN CHAMBERLAIN aged 20 years of age and described as a Teacher.

PUPILS in residence at the Old Hall are:

JOHN SEWEL   14                            ROBERT LONG   13               
JOHN CARTWRIGHT   13                ROBERT WIGHTMAN   13
WILLIAM CROSS   12                       WILLIAM WRAGG   12
THOMAS CARTER   11                     HENRY JACKSON   11
FRETWELL HOYLE   10                    WILLIAM OXLEY   9
JAMES CROSS   8                             JOHN PARKIN   6

It is unknown whether these boys are local or from other towns and villages.

The White House, the old address for this property was 2 Church Lane, at the time this part of the High Street as it is now known was much narrower, a track that had been worn across the old village green which is believed to have been between the Church and the land we know as The Priory.  The Stocks were on the Village Green until they were removed and later stolen, however, the stones for the stocks were recovered some years later and placed in Coronation Park.
In 1841 the widow of our longest serving vicar Rev Henry Watkins was living here, she was 85 years old.  Several of the occupants have been Mr Colley, veterinary surgeon, Mr Norwood another veterinary who paid an annual rent of £31 to Godfrey Walker until Mr Walkers’ death in 1908 when the house was sold for £450.  Since then Dr Urruty one of our Conisbro’ doctors who lived there for some years.
Sextons Cottage was a small cottage in the corner of the Church graveyard where High Street and Church Street meet.  The access to this cottage was up stone steps from High Street, this is no longer visible in the wall.  This little cottage was demolished in 1878.    The last tenant of the cottage was Charles Woolhouse, Sexton, he lived there with his wife and was described as a cordwainer as well as being Sexton.  As Sexton he was allowed pasturage for his pigs and hens in the churchyard.  We do not have a picture of any livestock in the churchyard but we do possibly have a photo of Mr Woolhouse sitting on one of the graves, looks as though he has a shovel, the photo was taken before the clock was donated to the church in 1882 by Mrs Lydia Simpson, widow of Thomas Henry Simpson owner of the local brickworks.   
Across the road from Elmhurst were two cottages and a shop, behind that a main house and surgery which had once been owned and lived in by Dr McClure who also owned the two houses and shop.  He shared his surgery with doctors Bell and Clark in the late 1940s but soon afterwards all the buildings were demolished and in their place two bungalows were built.    

                                                                                                                      George Piper

In 1840 George Piper was a joiner.
Sheffield Daily Telegraph    7th July 1855
On Friday night last a valuable Mare belonging to Mr John Piper of Conisbrough fell into a quarry at Conisbrough Common and was killed.
8th May 1858
On 4th May at Conisbrough Mr Joseph Piper farmer to Miss Sarah Oxley both of Conisbrough.
31st March 1894
The body of Sarah Ann Piper aged 45 wife of John Piper of Conisbrough was found in the River Don near Levitt Hagg.  The deceased had been a great sufferer from neuralgia and this was believed to have affected her mind.  There were no marks of violence on her body.

August Walter - Pork Butcher
25 Church Street  
In 1901 number 25 Church Street was a Pork Butchers shop owned by Mr August Walter, he was 37 years of age and German, running the shop with his wife Sophia and their son Ernest, who was the errand boy and 14 years old.  There was another son Fred aged 8 and a daughter Lina aged 6.  Also in the house were Maggy and Lina, sisters of Sophia both German.  The children Ernest, Fred and Lina had been born in Conisbro so they would be growing up with Yorkshire accents.  We can picture Ernest cycling around Conisbro with his errand boy bicycle, standing on the pedals for the uphill climb and sitting with legs outstretched for the downhill.  There was also a second butchers shop at the bottom of New Hill, maybe operated by one of the sisters in law but we do not know.  It did have the name Walters above the window.  Everything was going well it would seem but then there were rumours of war, rumours turned to fact and war with Germany was declared in July 1914.  Possibly the Walters family were interviewed but thought to be safe as they had been here in Yorkshire for such a long time.  Then disaster struck on 7th May 1915, almost one year into the war, RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine just a few miles off the Irish coast.  Over one thousand people were killed.  The news was plastered over the front page of every daily newspaper.  Next day a mob of up to a thousand people came up the hill from Denaby and smashed not only the window of Mr Walters butchers shop but they also went into his home and smashed the furniture, a piano, mirrors and photographs, upstairs items were thrown through the windows out onto the street below, everything was broken.  What happened to Mr and Mrs Walter after this we do not know, did they pick themselves up and carry on with the business.  Their children were grown up by this time, Ernest now being 28 years old and possibly married in the village somewhere.  He could even have been in the army, as could Fred, now 21 years old.  More information is needed and if you know what happened to the Walter family could you please let me know.  Did they feel that after being here for all those years they had never really been accepted and decided to leave and go to pastures new?  Please, if you have any idea let me know, it would be interesting to find out if we still have Walter descendants in Conisbrough or Denaby.
August had the twelve houses of Willow Dene built and after smashing up his butchers shop in Church Street the mob went down to Willow Street to smash up the houses.  However, the housewives of the street were fore-warned and had time to fill their apron pockets with stones ready to fight back.  Maybe some of the women were known to those in the mob, after all there were more women than men involved.   Willow Street escaped un unscathed.
Mr August Walter was issued with a Certificate of Naturalisation in 1905 long before WW1 began.

Church Street

Joseph Drabble in partnership with his brother in law John Maxfield founded a confectionary manufacturing company in 1890.  However, the partnership broke up on friendly terms by both going their separate ways, John Maxfield to Church Street and Jos Drabble to Northcliffe Road.
John Maxfield closed his business but Joseph Drabble continued,  becoming a limited company in 1924.  When Joseph died his son Arthur took over control of the business.  Arthur was well known in motor cycling circles, coming 3rd or 4th in the Isle of Man TT race of 1924.  He also had a keen interest in flying and on Sunday afternoons could be seen performing tricks and looping the loop over Conisbrough.
Arthur was a great friend of Leslie Hawthorn of Mexborough, together making motor cycles for racing.  The son of Leslie Hawthorn was Mike Hawthorn, winner of the 1958 Formula One World Championship.
Doreen, the daughter of Arthur took over when Arthur died in 1958.  The sweet manufacturing ceased when Doreen retired in September 1978.