In August 2014 the Civic Society arranged a trip to The Maurice Dobson Museum & Heritage Centre in the village of Darfield on the outskirts of Barnsley. Upon arrival at Darfield we were greeted by Geoff and a willing band of volunteers from the Darfield Amenity Society. The first order of the day was a cup of tea (or coffee) and a piece of delicious home-made cake in the exceptionally clean Maurice Dobson Museum cafe. The visiting group was then split into two, one taken round the Darfield Heritage Trail first and the other given a guided tour of the museum.
The Darfield Heritage Trail
The Heritage Trail started off at the museum in glorious sunshine and headed towards the Darfield Church Hall. This hall had started life as a theatre, and cinema, before becoming the Church hall. It is set in ample grounds and has a very theatrical look about it. It was also the resting place for the coach which brought the group to Darfield. The next stop was the All Saints Church and churchyard. The church has a Norman Tower and is built on Anglo Saxon foundations. There were a number of tombs explored in the graveyard, and many tales told about the harrowing accidents which had occurred over time in a village so closely linked to the mining industry. One tomb told of an accident involving ten people, mainly fathers and sons, who lost their lives when the cable snapped as the lift was being winched up to the surface. One can only imagine the horror that day.
After a walk down the church steps and along side the site of the now filled-in medieval fishing ponds we came to the old Pindfold and Bridge Inn. The pindfold was a walled enclosure where stray animals were impounded by the Pindar, only being released on payment of a fine. The present Bridge Inn, or Indian restaurant as it now is, replaced an earlier 15th Century Inn which was demolished because of subsidence, which probably happens a lot in a mining village. The small stretch of road directly in front of the old Bridge Inn is part of the old turnpike road. Following the path of this road we came across Middlewood Lodge. This 19th Century lodge marked the drive to the 17th Century Middlewood Hall.
Further up the road we came across an old milestone, which originally marked the distance to London and Doncaster, now badly weathered. Even further still we came across the remains of a smithy, with the circular stone tyring platform still partly visible. This stone would be used to fix the iron tyre to the wooden cart and coach wheels. It would be fixed on hot, and then rapidly cooled, to create a very strong wheel.
Our final leg of the heritage trail led us along School Street. It was a surprise to come across a Conservative Club, right in the middle of what must be a strong Labour village. This Conservative Club is housed in what was once a Wesleyan Chapel. The plaque above the door is slightly confusing as it states Darfield Conservative Club 1886, which must surely be when the Wesleyan Chapel was built? Next came the Cricket Club, founded in 1858. We then passed the old Church School, which at the time was being heavily renovated and was hard to see, but what was visible had a striking resemblance to our very own Wilderspin School. Next was the Reading Room, which was donated to the village by the then Rector in 1879, and finally we arrived back at the museum.
After the Heritage Trail, or the museum visit (depending on which group you were in), there was time for a spot of lunch (either packed-up or purchased from the village) in the cafe of the museum, or the patio area at the rear, accompanied by another drink laid on by the volunteers.
The Maurice Dobson Museum & Heritage Centre
Next came the tour of the museum. The Maurice Dobson Museum tells the story of Darfield, its people, and Maurice Dobson. It explains how the village grew in the 19th Century as families moved into the area to work in the coal mines. It was opened in 2000 and is run by volunteers from the Darfield Area Amenity Society, much like the museum, Wilderspin School and 51 Fleetgate are run by volunteers in Barton. There are three main rooms to view, one downstairs and two upstairs. The first room we viewed was upstairs, and was full of everyday objects from years gone by. There were some obvious items such as an old Gramophone, a television, hot water bottles, vacuum cleaners etc., and some not so obvious items such as a snooker cue file and hair curlers. Many of the items were explained to us, and in some cases demonstrated. The next room upstairs was full of mining memorabilia, which is exactly what you would expect, and want to see, in an old mining village. It was not exclusively so though, as there were other exhibits such as First World War items, old computers, old bus related items, and old toys to name but a few. Again, most items were explained to us, and there were some very good working models to view. Looking up we saw some of the original Georgian roof timbers on show, again holding more museum items in place.
The final museum room to view was downstairs, and was full of some of the antiques left by the late Maurice Dobson. This was much more in the style of 51 Fleegate in the way it portrayed the lifestyle of the previous owner to very good effect. The array of old antiques and furniture was very impressive, as was the knowledge given by our guide, from the Grandfather clock with the toy mouse on top to the bed pan with the amusing rhyme. But all too soon we ran out of time, and had to finish our excellent guided tour. This just gave us time to spend a some money in the excellent gift shop in the museum before making our way back to the coach.
All in all it was an excellent day out, and special thanks must go to the Darfield Amenity Society and all the volunteers who made our day so special. If this has inspired you to visit please click here for the Darfield Amenity Society website http://www.darfield.btik.com/.