Norton at the beginning of the 20th century

At the end of the 19th century, Norton was still very much an agricultural village.  During the first ten years of the new century, the population of the village changed very little (from 512 persons to 516 persons).  However, the mechanisation of agriculture meant that the number of workers in farming continued to decline.  In 1911, about a third (45) of the 126 heads of households were employed directly in agriculture compared to half in 1901.  Half the heads of households (68) had been born in Norton or the immediately surrounding villages of Stubbs Walden, Campsall and Smeaton.  Only 15 heads of households were born outwith Yorkshire.

In the 1911 Census, twenty-two heads of households described themselves as ‘Farmer’.  Six worked small holdings on their own, without any employees.  Kelly’s directory of 1908 lists the main farms:

  1. George Blakey                     Hall Farm
  2. William Booth                      Travellers Rest Farm
  3. Martin Charlesworth           Ryder’s Farm
  4. John Kealey                          Norton Common Farm
  5. William Lilley                       Hollies Farm
  6. Frank Lodge                         Manor Farm
  7. William Marshall                 Priory Farm
  8. John Milner                           Norton Priory
  9. James Moulson                    Southfield
  10. Thomas Rockliffe               Hillcrest
  11. Edward Sanderson              East End Farm
  12. Edward Senior                      Poplar Farm
  13. John Stanley                         Norton Priory
  14. Taylor & Son                        The Laurels
  15. Edward Terry                       Manor House
  16. Samuel Warrener                 White House Farm
  17. Edmund Wild                       Westfield Farm

The directory includes other related commercial businesses: Ralph Bateman (blacksmith), John Blackburn (potato merchant), Thomas Chester (maltster), John Dey (carpenter & joiner), John Denby (agricultural machine operator), Ernest Eskriett (carrier), Francis Eskriett (blacksmith), Francis Gill (market gardener), Alderson Thornton (miller), George Whiteley (painter) and George Woodward (wheelwright).  There were two boot & shoe repairers and three butchers in the village, located at The Lilacs, Manor Farm and at The Laurels.  There were three inns; the Forester’s Arms, the Royal Hotel and the Schoolboy Inn.  There were four shop keepers in the village: Annie Beale, who ran Norton’s first co-operative shop in a small property on High Street opposite Vine House Farm, George Lambert (draper & grocer), Hinslea Sanderson (stationer & post office, next to the Royal Hotel) and John Waddington (general grocer).

Whilst the mechanisation of agriculture reduced agricultural employment, it was the arrival of coal mining that really transformed the village.  It had a major effect on the population of the village, not only in terms of its size but also the nature of its inhabitants.  Rumours that a colliery was to be developed near the neighbouring villages of Kirk Smeaton or Askern led to the speculative erection of a number of rows of red brick terraced houses in Norton to serve the anticipated influx of miners.  Victor Bevan, a builder originally from London, arrived in Norton and took up residence in Norton House (previously called ‘West House’) at the top (western) end of the village.  Seeing the opportunities presented by the prospect of a new colliery nearby, Bevan commenced the construction of rows of terraced houses (Bevan’s Buildings) at the top [west end] and the bottom [east end] of the village.

After sinking trial pits to the north of Little Smeaton and around Askern, the decision was made to locate the new colliery on the higher ground to the north-west of Askern village centre, about a mile and a half from Norton.  In the late 19th century, Askern rivalled Harrogate as a Spa resort with spring water with healing properties.  It had five bath houses around a lake and a Hydropathic Hotel.  The first bathing house was built alongside the lake in 1786 and was rebuilt in 1828 as the Manor Baths.  The Spa Hydropathic Establishment [the Hydro], erected in 1808 as a hotel and converted to a college in the mid-nineteenth century, opened in 1894 and was by far the largest bath house with over 100 rooms, including 60 bedrooms.  The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway opened Askern Station in 1848 and operated a daily train service from Liverpool via Manchester and Wakefield.  Those “taking the waters” could stay at the Railway Hotel, the Swan Inn, the White Hart, the Crown Inn or the Red Lion Inn or in a variety of lodgings.  However, after the opening of Askern Colliery, visitor numbers declined, the baths gradually closed and the Hydro became the Miners Welfare Club in 1924.

The first sod for the new pit was cut on February 22, 1911.  The site chosen came as a shock to the Askern inhabitants because instead of being somewhere on the lower ground between Askern and Moss to the east, the head works were set up by the picturesque road to Campsall.  At the same time, the coal company established a brickworks on the north side of Campsall Road to supply bricks for the construction of the colliery buildings and the associated colliery village.  Many of the houses built in Norton after 1911 would be constructed of bricks from Askern brickworks.  The brickworks was also a regular supplier of tiles, chimneys and other earthen-ware products until its demise in 1956, since when the site was buried beneath colliery spoil.

Due to difficulties with water penetration and the intervention of the First World War, the extraction of coal did not begin until 1916.  By 1920, Askern was dominated by the new colliery and its associated new village of terraced and semi-=detached houses.  Its reputation as a Spa resort had disappeared.  With the sinking of Askern Colliery, miners arrived from as far afield as Scotland, County Durham and Wales; the population of Askern leapt from a little more than 600 persons in 1901 and 1000 persons in 1911 to almost 3,800 persons by 1921 [it reached 6,500 persons in 1931].  The ‘Model Village’, Instoneville [named after the chairman of the Askern Spa Coal & Iron Company, Sir Samuel Instone], grew to over 1000 houses, terraced and semi-detached.  Many of its streets were named after people who were associated with the colliery; for instance, Llewelyn Crescent, Davis Road, Theodore Road, Airstone Road [The Askern Spa Coal & Iron Company was formed by a combination of the Bestwood Coal & Iron Company of Nottingham and the Blaina Colliery Company of Monmouthshire].

Over 100 new dwellings were constructed in Norton between 1911 and 1921 and the population of the village more than doubled from a little over 500 persons to 1142 persons.  The ‘Bevan’s buildings’ at the top of the village provided 26 houses in three terraces, whilst some 60 terraced houses were constructed on Station Road/New Road/Common Road/Hawthorne Avenue and Quarry Road at the bottom of the village.  In 1919, a site at the top of the village (Brocco Bank) was purchased from Campsmount Estate by Doncaster Rural District Council for the building of low rent council houses but no progress was made with house construction.  The vacant Brocco Bank site was sold in 1925 to Frank Lawton, a building contractor from Penistone, who had moved to Norton in 1922 where he ran the grocers shop in the property ‘Fairfield’ on Common Road at the bottom of the village.  Brocco Bank was the first attempt to build houses for owner occupiers in the village, the vast majority of houses at this time being privately rented from farming landholders (or held rent free as part of the employment in lieu of wages) or private landlords, such as Victor Bevan and the coal company.  No council houses had yet been built in Norton.  Frank Lawton died suddenly in July 1927, aged 49 years, and development at Brocco Bank ceased with only 20 semi-detached houses constructed at the top of the site.  The rest of the land was re-purchased by the rural district council but it would be the 1930s before 22 semi-detached houses were built there by the council.  A further 12 houses would be built at Brocco Bank during the 1950s.

Notwithstanding this building activity by Victor Bevan and Frank Lawton, Norton’s core buildings remained its farms and small-holdings, and associated rows of workers cottages along the main street.  Perhaps the most significant event in the parish, apart from the opening of the colliery in neighbouring Askern, was the sale of the majority of the Campsmount Estate in 1919.  George Bryan Cooke-Yarborough (1843-1915) had expanded the Campsmount Estate throughout the 19th century with large farm holdings and properties in both Norton and Campsall.  By the end of the 19th century, the Estate owned three quarters (1,050 acres) of Campsall Parish of 1400 acres and over 2,000 acres in total.  His son, George Eustace Cooke-Yarborough (1876-1936) inherited Campsmount on his death in 1915.  However, after the First World War, many estates suffered badly.  Prior to the First World War, Britain imported 80% of its grain and 40% of its meat and was in great peril when unrestricted U-boat warfare commenced in 1917.  The Corn Production Act 1917 brought stability to British farming after 40 years of decay, guaranteeing minimum prices for wheat and oats resulting in a million acres of land being added to wartime cultivation.  The Act was repealed in 1921 and, with the re-opening of peacetime trade, the price of wheat halved.  In 1919, 90% of farmland was tenanted and rents were fixed by the 1917 Act whilst death duties doubled in 1919.  As a result, at a time when land values were inflated by farming’s apparent new prosperity, many land-holders decided to shed tenanted land that yielded a lower return than almost any other asset and often needed significant capital investment.  Between 1918 and 1922 a quarter of land in Britain changed hands.  Owner-occupiers increased nearly four-fold after the war.  However, many owner-occupiers that bought farms in optimism in 1918-1920 subsequently suffered or sold the land on again thereafter at a loss.

In 1919, over 1,600 acres of the Campsmount Estate, comprising 55 lots, was advertised for sale by auction at the Danum Hotel, Doncaster; George Eustace Cooke-Yarborough retained Campsmount as his residence, together with some 450 acres of gardens, parkland, farmland and woodland.  As reported in the local press, 26 lots were disposed of privately.  In all, 1,059 acres were submitted for auction, realising about £35,000.  The highest price paid was for Cliff Hill Farm (323 acres), sold for £9,500 and purchased by the tenant, Henry Auty.  Westfield Farm (203 acres) and the adjoining Warren House Farm (187 acres), situated close to Barnsdale Bar, were sold to the tenant Thomas Bramley.  Part of Westfield Farm had already been sold to Frank C. Lodge, the occupier of Manor Farm in Norton, which became Highfield Farm with a new farmhouse, in due course the residence of his son, Alfred Watson Lodge.  A number of properties in Norton village itself were included in the sale: East End Farm (103 acres) was bought by the tenant, Edward Sanderson; Hall Farm (80 acres),tenanted by Edmund Wild, was bought by David Milner, who rented Norton Priory from the Master and Fellows of St. Catherine’s College; The Manor House (17 acres) was bought by the sitting tenant, Edward Terry; Schoolboy Farm (10 acres), described as a small-holding and tenanted by Charles Johnson, was purchased by Mr. W.N. Carter; White House Farm (11 acres) was bought by the sitting tenant, Samuel Warrener.  Interestingly, Frank Lawton, who would build at Brocco Bank, purchased nine acres of land at Quarry Road, Norton, which included the stone quarry (Bradley’s Quarry), no doubt with future house building work in mind.

Kelly’s directory of 1922, when compared with that of 1908, illustrates the changes in land ownership that took place over this period.  The directory identifies the chief crops in the parish as wheat, barley, turnips and peas (much of the former pasture land was now cultivated) and lists G. E. Cooke-Yarborough, Mrs. F. Bacon Frank, the Viscountess de Vesci [the owner of Womersley Estate] and the Master & Fellows of St. Catherine’s College as the chief landowners in the parish but adds that there were now several small freeholders.  The 1922 directory lists 14 farmers, compared to 17 in 1908:

  1. Charles Johnson                  Schoolboy Farm
  2. John Kealey                          Norton Common Farm
  3. William Lilley                       Hollies Farm
  4. Frank Lodge                         Manor Farm
  5. William Laycock                 Ryder’s Farm
  6. John Milner                           Norton Priory
  7. James Moulson                    Southfield
  8. Thomas Rockliffe               Hillcrest
  9. Edward Sanderson              East End Farm
  10. Joshua Smith                        Priory Farm
  11. John Stanley                         Norton Priory
  12. Edward Terry                       Manor House
  13. Samuel Warrener                 White House Farm
  14. John Woodward                  Poplar Farm

The directory includes other related commercial businesses: Ralph Bateman (blacksmith), Victor Bevan (builder), John Birdsall (boot maker), Ernest Eskriett (carrier), Joseph Moorthorpe (scrap iron dealer), Arthur Robinson (cycle dealer), Alderson Thornton (miller) and George Woodward (wheelwright).  By the mid-1920s, the number of shops in the village had multiplied as new rows of houses were built for mineworkers and the village grew in population.  John Waddington had an established grocers shop below the cross roads in the centre of the village next to George Woodward’s blacksmith’s shop.  Norton’s first co-operative shop established by Annie Beale in a small property further down the High Street opposite Vine House Farm, had been replaced prior to the First World War by a new store, the Doncaster Mutual Co-operative and Industrial Society’s store, situated almost opposite Waddington’s shop.  The stationers and post office, located next to the Royal Hotel, at the cross roads in the centre of the village, was replaced by a new building on the opposite side of the cross roads in 1912; Elizabeth Green was the shopkeeper & sub-postmistress.  Ada Sawbridge had a grocer’s shop on West End Road and Elizabeth (Annie) Dickson had a small grocer’s shop on High Street.

With the construction of rows of terraced houses at the bottom of the village, corner shops opened on Station Road and Common Road; ‘Fairfield’ at 1 Common Road was one such shop, run by Frank Lawton, the builder, from 1922 to 1927 and then by the Kirkby sisters.  George Lund had a greengrocers at the other end of the terrace, at 9 Common Road, and would tour the village with his horse and cart selling fruit and vegetables.  Caroline Child’s general store was located at 1 Station Road and James Goodall’s shop was located further up Station Road opposite the row of terraced houses named ‘Hough’s Cottages’.  There were three butchers in the village: Alfred Hough on West End Road at ‘The Lilacs’, Alfred Dickson at the crossroads in the centre of the village and Robert Thomlinson on High Street at ‘The Laurels’ near the Schoolboy Inn.  Ernest Morton ran the Royal Hotel, Alfred Tooth ran the Forester’s Arms and Jane Arundel the Schoolboy Inn.  The existing three hostelries had been joined by the Norton Working Men’s Club & Institute, located in the former farmhouse ,‘The Laurels’.

My grandfather and grandmother, John William and Margaret Hope, together with their five children; Eva (b.1908), Walter (b.1909), Elsie (b.1911), John (b.1913) and my father, George (b.1914), arrived in South Yorkshire in 1916.  They spent a short time at Edlington, south west of Doncaster, where a new colliery Yorkshire Main had been recently sunk, before moving to Askern, where they lived in Kings Road (off Moss Road) for a few weeks, my grandfather working at Askern Colliery.  However, by 1918, they were resident in Norton.  They stayed at ‘Fairfield’ on Common Road for a short time and then took a gamble and bought Woodbine Cottage, a small-holding located on the High Street just below the crossroads in the centre of the village [the Royal Corner].  Woodbine Cottage is the most probable location for the former George and Dragon Inn, which closed in 1878, and had then been occupied by a poultry farmer and a hirer of a pony and trap.  Here, they erected greenhouses on the attached land and created a market garden for the growing of vegetables, soft fruit and flowers, and built a shop next to the house.  Three more children were born; Douglas (b.1918), Margaret (b.1920) and Alfred (b.1922).  To find out what happened next, you will have to wait for the next post!


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