Scope and Content

Comprising: log books 1882-1991; admission registers 1848-1963; punishment book 1932-1946

Administrative / Biographical History

This school, situated in Rossington Street, was originally known as Denaby Main Colliery School. There are no records before 1882 although it is believed that a school provided by the Denaby Main Colliery Company was opened near the railway in 1872. In 1883 a new school was built by the Company in Rossington Street and the mixed school transferred there, leaving the Infants Department in possession of the old school.

In 1893, the Company built a third school on an adjacent site in Rossington Street. It was intended to provide accomodation for both a school, and, in the main hall, an Anglican church. The chancel, containing altar and moveable pulpit and reading desk, was separated from the body of the hall by shutters.

On 23 March 1932, the boys school was destroyed by fire. The boys were temporarily housed in rooms in the 1893 school and in 'Epworth Hall', probably the buildings attached to the Methodist Church at the end of Rossington Street. The fire destroyed all the records kept in the building. These may have included not only the log books of the boys department from 1915–1932 but the earlier records of the mixed department as well. A few months later, on 12 October 1932, the school was transferred from the Colliery to the West Riding County Council.

In 1936, the school was reorganised as part of a countywide reorganisation being undertaken by the county council. Whereas the school had previously catered for children up to the statutory school leaving age of fourteen it now lost its older pupils to Conisbrough Senior School. The consequent reduction in numbers led to the abolition of separate boys and girls departments and the re-establishment of a junior mixed department, under the former head of the boys department, from August 1936. The infants moved into new premises adjacent to the old school in March 1971.

Denaby Main Junior School 1893–1993


Whilst Conisbrough to the east and Mexborough to the west are ancient settlements whose earliest history pre-dated any written documents, Denaby Main can place its origins very precisely to a date one hundred and thirty years ago. On 15 July 1863, George Pearson, John B Pope and their business colleagues signed an agreement with John Fullerton of Thrybergh Park. This allowed them to mine the coal which they believed lay under the Fullerton estate in the township of Denaby. At the time, it was not generally accepted that the Barnsley coal measures extended so far to the east. Geologists believed that the coal seam which outcropped in the Barnsley area could be found further east beneath the limestone but many in the mining industry were doubtful of this.

The mining agreement of 1863 was, then, a speculative venture. Practical proof that there was indeed coal to be found was not quickly forthcoming. Shaft-sinking began in 1863 but it was four years before coal was reached in September 1867 in a seam nine feet thick nearly a quarter of a mile below the surface. The following year, Pearson, Pope, and their associates registered themselves as the Denaby Main Colliery Company and in 1869 coal mining finally began.

The new colliery was very well situated for both rail and water transport as it lay between the River Don and the South Yorkshire, Doncaster and Goole Railway, later a line of the Great Central Railway. But, as can be seen from the mid-nineteenth century Ordnance Survey plan, the colliery lay in open countryside with no existing settlement nearby to host an influx of mine workers and their families. The Denaby Main Company was obliged to create a community as well as a colliery.

Unfortunately, the company had no overall plan for its colliery village and Denaby Main grew up haphazardly in fits and starts over a period of thirty years. The company bought land for housing piecemeal along the Doncaster Road and shoehorned the streets into the pre-existing shapes of the fields it bought from various landowners. The old pattern of field boundaries persisted very clearly in the layout of the new streets as can be seen from the Ordnance Survey.

Housing development began nearest to the colliery. By the end of the 1870s over a hundred houses had been built in Adwick, Annerley, and Barmborough streets, on land bought from the Fullerton estate. In November 1880, six acres of land nearby, part of the Underhill Field, were bought from Andrew Montagu, the owner of the High Melton estate. This land, developed as Melton, Tickhill, and Rossington Streets were the site of ninety houses, a shop and an elementary school by the early 1890s. By that date, the company had purchased more land from Montagu. It built 162 houses in Clifton and Firbeck streets at break-neck speed in the first six months of 1890 and nearly 200 more in Edlington, Marr, and Sprotbrough streets by early 1892.

Over a two-year period between November 1893 and November 1894, 148 houses were run up in Cusworth, Wadworth, and Scawsby streets, and another 250 were built in Blyth, Balby, and Loversall Streets along with the Denaby Main Hotel. This flurry of building activity in the 1890s was probably caused by the planning of a new colliery, Cadeby Main, a little more than a mile to the east of Denaby Main Colliery. The company began sinking the Cadeby shaft in 1889. The new colliery was ready to go into production in 1893 and the company changed its name to the Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries Limited in the same year.

By the turn of the century the company had built over a thousand houses for its workforce. It had created a village which lacked any real focus, but consisted of streets which straggled along the main road. Only the final stage of house building, the area bounded by Bolton, Ravenfield, and Tickhill streets, and Cliff View, ignored the shaping power of the old field boundaries.

What Denaby Main looked like on the ground at the opening of the twentieth century can be seen on the Ordnance Survey plan of 1902. The plan shows three schools. One is on the north of Doncaster Road, backing onto the railway. The second, identified as an Infants School, lies on the west side of Rossington Street, and the third is close by it at the end of Rossington Street. The school by the railway was probably the original school which the company is believed to have opened in 1872. The railway, indeed, was so close as to interfere with teaching from time to time and especially during Race Week in September when the disruption caused by the number of special trains passing forced the school to close for a holiday. The Government Inspector's report for 1893 commented on the 'great...interruption caused by screaming locomotives continually passing'.

The school housed infants and juniors in increasingly crowded conditions and in 1883 the Government Inspector threatened the withdrawal of the grant unless new buildings were provided. This the company promptly did and by 28 August 1883 a new school for juniors was opened in Rossington Street, leaving the old school to be used solely by the infants. Ten years later, the company was building a second school in Rossington Street and on Monday 23 October 1893 the new building was formally opened.

The Mexborough and Swinton Times (27 October 1893) reported that is was:

"built of Conisbrough red brick with free stone dressings. Externally it presents a fine and imposing frontage to the west and over the main entrance is a substantial tower surmounted by a cupola"

Internally the building was considered remarkable for its central hall. This was also described to readers of the Mexborough and Swinton Times:

"The hall is paved with wooded blocks on a bed of cement and some idea of the size of the hall may be gathered when we state that 50,000 wooden blocks have been employed in paving it. The walls of the hall are plastered with a high wainscotting of varnished pitch pine. The ceiling is of pine, and lighted by a splendid skylight, sweeping almost from one end of the hall to the other. The ceiling is arched and is lighted by sky lights on either angle of the sloping roof of the building."

The cost of the building was said to be between £4000 and £5000. During the week the building functioned as a school but on Sundays it took on another purpose. The company had decided that is was not only a new school that its village needed, but a new church, and the new building was intended to meet the needs of both. At the far end of the hall was a chancel housing the altar and moveable pulpit and reading desk. When the building was in use as a school the chancel was closed off behind two revolving shutters of the same type which were then used for shop windows but on a very much larger scale 'the shutters at Denaby are the largest of the kind in the world' each requiring three men to raise and lower them the newspapers claimed. On Sunday, the shutters were raised and the hall was transformed into a church. This arrangement presumably continued until the building of All Saints Church a short distance away at the turn of the century.

From 1893 to 1932 the Colliery School occupied two buildings in Rossington Street. When the new school was opened in 1893 the Junior School (or 'Junior Mixed Department' as it was known) moved out of the school built in 1883 into the new one. The other building was then taken over by the Infants School, which could at last abandon the original school near the railway.

The growing size of the Junior School, with sometimes as many as eight hundred and fifty children in the early years of the century, led to the creation of separate boys and girls departments, each with its own headteacher, in April 1914. The girls stayed in the 1893 school and were joined by the Infants who moved from the 1883 school nearby. The 1883 school became the home of the new Boys Department.

These arrangements lasted until the summer of 1932. On 23 March of that year the 1883 school was completely destroyed by fire. The blaze took place only the day before the Easter holidays began so by the time the 300 boys returned for the summer term, temporary accomodation had been found for them. Four classes were housed in Epworth Hall which belonged to the Wesleyan Methodist Church at the end of the street. The other two classes were moved into vacant rooms in the Girls Department in the 1893 school. It was probably the problems caused by the fire and the prospect of substantial rebuilding costs that led to the decision of the colliery company to end its responsibility for the school. It decided to hand over the school to the local education authority, which at that date was the West Riding County Council. The transfer took place on 12 October 1932.

The unsatisfactory state of affairs in the accommodation of the Boys Department appears to have continued for four years until in August 1936 the school was reorganised. The reorganisation was part of a scheme being introduced throughout the West Riding to provide separate schools for children aged 11 to 14, which since 1922 had become the school leaving age. From 31 August 1936, children aged 11 and over were transferred from Denaby Main Junior School to Conisbrough Senior School. This had a considerable impact upon pupil numbers. In the early 1930s, the Boys and Girls Departments each had around 280 pupils on their registers. After reorganisation the total number of juniors was around 250 to 280 in the late 1930s. Because of this change the separate Boys and Girls Departments, which had been established in April 1914 were reunited to form a single Junior Mixed School. The final major change took place in March 1971 when the Infants, who had been joint occupants of the school since 1914, moved into separate premises nearby.


The collection is divided into three series as follows:

SR106/1: Log Books

SR106/2: Admission Registers

SR106/3: Punishment Book

Access Information



Access will be granted to any member of Doncaster Libraries

Related Material

Newspaper reports concerning the opening of the third school and church in 1893 may be found in the Mexborough and Swinton Times, 27 October 1893 and 3 November 1893 (with illustration).