Conisbrough & Denaby Main
Heritage Group


In 1918 Denaby and Cadeby Colliery Company loaned £2000 at a rate of four percent (repaid in twenty-five months) to five miners for them to start up a business delivering miners coal to miners.  Although the miners received their coal as part of their wages, the coal had to be delivered at an extortionate and always changing rate by private coal delivery companies.   The Denaby and Cadeby Home Coal Carting Committee was formed so that the miners could have their coal delivered at a fairer rate.   Ferry Farm was purchased with thirteen acres of land, one old stone house with outbuildings and by June 1919 the Company owned eleven horses and nine carts.

The original members of the committee who started the scheme were: Mr Tom Hill, President, Mr J Doran, Treasurer, Mr George Smith, Secretary, Mr W L Worsley and Mr George Starr, Committee Members.

Over the next few years they began acquiring motor lorries and by 1926 they had six of them, horses were still used but not so many.  Their workmen were all trade unionists and the carters were paid seven shillings and sixpence a week, with sixpence a day extra for chain horses more than those working for private contractors.  The motor lorry drivers earned five shillings a week more than the union rate.   Boys were paid three shillings a day at the age of fourteen with an ascending scale until they reached the age of twenty-one.  In 1932 Two Diesel-engined lorries, the first of their type In Europe, were purchased by the Home Coal at a cost of £750 each.  This had saved nearly 20s.  a day on running costs, and the new engines had a much longer life than petrol engines.   They had also purchased enough crude oil at 4d. a gallon to last them for two years.

Mr Tom Williams MP visited Ferry Farm to see where the Home Coal began and how it operated. He was much impressed with how the scheme was performing and praised the fact that the committee and workers were always trying to find new ways of reducing the cost of delivery.   He was especially impressed with the humanitarian conditions under which the enterprise was carried on and commented on the fact that no carter was permitted to use a whip on their horse. Mr Williams said that the result of this scheme was that the miners of the area got their coal cheaper than any other miners in the district, but more important, the miners knew how much they would have to pay for their next delivery of Home Coal.

When the Denaby & Cadeby Home Coal Carting Committee was seen to be so successful other collieries started their own Home Coal Schemes.

One of the first jobs undertaken by Mr Frank Sproxton on the Ferry Farm property was planting trees, mostly Lombardy Poplars with a few Willows and Limes along the river bank, one every six feet and six feet from the edge of the bank, to try stop the soil being washed away by the river.  This huge task was undertaken by Frank with the help of Mr George Starr, one of the committee members and several of the Carters.

The old Ferry Boat which was on the property and had been in operation for several centuries, known locally as Kings Ferry was operated by the occupants of Ferry Farm or Ferry House as it was known until around the 1860s.   The charge for an adult return journey, over the river and back again, was one old penny.  It is recorded in the South Yorkshire Times that on Whit Monday 1918, the year before the Home Coal was started, one thousand people paid to go over on the Ferry Boat, from early morning until after dark.

On the 17th February 1928 Waddingtons of Mexborough launched a boat onto the river Don at Mexborough, a very interested crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings.  This was a new four-ton boat, 22 feet long by 10 feet wide and it was heading down river to Conisbro’ where it was to be the new ferry boat at the Kings Ferry.   As it was launched it was christened by Mr L Worsley, Chairman of Conisborough Urban Council, the name given was ‘Tashy’, named after Mr George Smith, secretary of the Home Coal Carting Committee who was also at the launching.

Tashy’ was needing replacement by the beginning of WW2 and the committee decided that it was no longer required and would cost too much to replace.  Rather than repair it, several members of the committee where there when it was sunk, at the side of the old landing point and winch.  Its remains could be seen for many years.

There was more than enough stabling around the old farmhouse for each of the horses but there was also pig sties, chicken shed, several barns one with a machine used to chop hay (chopping chamber) and a pigeon cote that had recesses for eight hundred pigeons.  There was also a large duck pond between the house and the river.  One problem of being so close to the river was flooding and it did this at least once each year.  Too much rain and the level of the water would rise and come within twenty feet of the front door of Ferry Farm, some of the old barns couldn’t be reached due to the floodwater.  The whole valley from Ferry Farm across to the railway would be one massive stretch of dirty, swirling water on which garden sheds, baths, live and dead animals would be rushing by.  This changed in the late 1930s when the council who had been tipping rubbish stopped and the level of the land was several feet higher than before.  No more flooding of the meadow or the area in front of the house, but there was still flooding where the Ferry Boat was as that area had not been raised.  The land between the house and river up to the Ferry was turned into allotments and garden for what had become 1 Ferry Farm, where Frank Sproxton lived, and remained so until the Home Coal ceased.

Frank moved into the old farmhouse in 1924 but had been looking after the horses for some time prior to that date.  The house was huge, the Sproxtons had come from a house on March Street and decided that if it was possible the house could be divided into two.  In the late 1920s Mr & Mrs Goulding moved into what is still known as 2 Ferry Farm, Mr Goulding was a carter for the Home Coal.  In 1935 several new houses had been built on the property along Low Road, houses now known as Ferry Villas, these were to be rented out to the carters.  Much later in the early 1950s another house was built next to the existing houses this was called Ferry Dene and the then new manager of the property, Steve Sproxton, Frank’s son, went to live there leaving 1 Ferry Farm to be rented by Frank’s daughter, husband and their daughter.  By this time there were no horses, just lorries, very noticeable in their travels around the area as they were painted bright post office red.

​Tom Hill
George Tashy Smith
George Starr

​Tom Williams centre with Home Coal Officials and staff

​Tashy in the 1930s
​River in flood
​Barns and Workshop
​Ferry Villas
​Ferry Dene
​Trucks built in the 50's
​Tickle Cock Fair on Home Coal Property
​Ferry Dene Garden
​Committee Members 60s