Gerry was originally from Cheshire and has lived in Braithwell for over fifty years. He has been extremely active in village groups and in the work of St James’s Church. In this recording Gerry is recalling the events of his nomination to receive Maundy Money from the Queen in recognition of his ‘Christian service to the Church and to the Community.’
Pauline’s grandparents lived in Braithwell and her mother was born in one of the Moat Hall cottages. When she was 9 yrs old her parents moved from one of the pit houses at Scotch Springs to a High Street cottage that had no bathroom. She remembers loving school under Mr Fox and also camping at Clifton with the Guides, run by Miss Dunford. Pauline was involved in many community activities and her father ran social events in the old school for his friends at the pit.
Kath Davison was born near Filey and came to Braithwell in 1934 when her father, an agricultural engineer moved for work. She describes attending Braithwell School and the educational routes for children from Braithwell, Micklebring and the villages around. After completing a commercial course at Doncaster Tech and starting work, Kath joined the war effort at the Royal Ordinance Factory in Maltby. Kath gives a detailed account of life in Braithwell during the war, including the families she knew, the Home Guard and the social life. After he returned from service, Kath married William Peter Leigh from Maltby whose family were well known in the area.
After marriage, the Leighs lived with family until an aunt’s property became available in Clifton. They called the cottage and smallholding ‘Wildways’ after the name of William’s mother’s family, the Wilds. They had owned and rented agricultural holdings in Braithwell and Clifton for hundreds of years. The tenancy and ownership of Wildways can easily be traced back to before the 1838 Tithe Map for Clifton. Kath and her family created a continuity rare in agricultural holdings! The cottage was in need of considerable modernisation when they moved in 1951, having no electricy or sewage system. The Leigh’s three children, Susan, Jeremy and Mandy, were brought up in Clifton. Kath gives a picture of a lively social life in Clifton that included people who walked from Conisbrough and Braithwell. Susan and her husband have recently built their own house on the medieval croft that is part of Wildways.
Brian took up his first appointment at Braithwell School under Headmaster Norman Harker in 1975. He recalls finding Braithwell a sleepy farming community. He ended his time at the school as Deputy Head. Under Miss Merriman there were many innovations designed to broaden the children’s experience of the world. The Doncaster decision to raise the leaving age to 12 years meant introducing subjects from the first year of the secondary curriculum. Brian trained to deliver Science and French was underpinned by visits to France. In 1994, despite objections, the school closed and Brian moved to a school in Finningley
After researching the history of Braithwell, along with Les Pugh and Joyce Milnes, Allen Smith was a founder member of the Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton, History and Heritage Group (Village Memories) in 2015. Allen’s findings from the Doncaster Archives and his comments on the early history of Braithwell form much of the Website section ‘Settlement Development’. In this recording he recollects his wartime childhood and Braithwell people he knew, including the well-known farming families to whom he was related. He was one of the few from Braithwell to go to Grammar School and, after National Service, he trained as a teacher. He retired after 25 years as a Headteacher at two local schools. Allen takes the listener on a walk through Braithwell in the 1940s and describes his involvement with the original Wheelbarrow Race in 1953!
Born in Braithwell, Frances was 4 ½ years old when she went to school. Her recollections include wartime activities of her parents and relatives and later activities of villagers based on the old school and the church. After training as a teacher, Frances taught infants in a Bentley school.
Sheila Hough came to Micklebring in 1955 after marrying Geoffrey Spencer, from an established farming family, in 1955. Richard, her eldest son, now runs the farm from The Gables with his wife, Lesley, his brother, David, and his daughter, Lizzie. Sheila and Richard discuss the origins of the business at Well Farm, the acquisition and sale of land over the years, changes in farming and the coming of the M18 across their largest field. Sheila describes her role as a wife and mother, but not as a traditional ‘farmer’s wife’. Sadly, Sheila has died since these memories were recorded in 2016. The History and Heritage Group are grateful for the support of the Spencer family and particularly for their hosting of an afternoon tea for friends and supporters on a glorious day in July 2017.
Joyce joined the school in 1957 when her husband, Tom, became head teacher after Mr Fox and Brian came as a new teacher in 1975.They recall the development and problems of such a small school and its closure in 1994, despite the modernisation of teaching methods encouraged by the final headteacher, Miss Merriman. The school was at the Heart of the village and was much missed by parents in the three villages as well as the Braithwell community.
This discussion was organised by Christine to record the acquisition of the Playing Field for the use of the village community: the way it was funded and the amount of work by volunteers that went into the project. Members of the Parish Council led the negotiations with the owner, Cyril Cooper, after a village meeting approved the purchase. The Council agreed to raise the local rate by 2 pence to help pay for it. The field then became the property of Braithwell Village. The group discuss the problems of creating access to the field and how they were overcome and the setting up of the properly constituted Braithwell and Micklebring Recreation and Leisure Association to manage the asset. They describe how farmers brought their machinery to prepare the land, while others used their influence to acquire the materials for the access path and the block-paved drive and car park. Volunteers laboured in the evenings and at weekends. The first facilities for sports and the playgroup took the form of a mobile classroom swapped with school and dragged into position, while the larger building was later brought from the new Selby Pit, using Arnold Pawson’s lorries, and was completed over one weekend. Mr Albert Tuke, the manager of Selby Pit who lived at Clifton, was amazed at this achievement by a group of volunteers with borrowed machinery! There was a village-wide celebration of the opening of the Playing Field, which was not yet the Ruddle Centre.
Terry and Tom are twins born in 1941 and Christine is 3 years younger. They originally lived in a small cottage off the High Street with a garden at the back of the old school that is now the Braithwell Clinic. In 1950 they moved to the new council houses off Holywell Lane. They describe a happy childhood with grandparents living at the Master’s House and at Moat Hall for a time. They describe the shops that were available in the village in the 1940s and 1950s. There was little reason to leave the village until they reached the age of 11 and the boys transferred to Maltby Grammar School and Christine moved on from Braithwell School to Edlington Hill Top and then on to Doncaster Technical College for a commercial course. All three praise the education they received at the new Braithwell School under Mr J J Fox and mention the community activities that added to the community spirit.
Three of ten children of an agricultural worker, they were born at Conisbrough Parks Farm and moved to Beech House Farm cottages in 1950, next to the Carsons at Hall Farm. Their grandmother, Mrs Blackwell lived across the road in Rose Cottage. They talk about the farms and people they knew and activities in the Village Hall. They left Clifton in 1967, but continued contact through their aunt, Doris Blackwell, who lived in the New Houses.
Since they moved to Braithwell Post Office in 1981, Mike and Val have been at the core of the Community. Val became the Postmistress while Mike continued working as a Technical Director for Shardlows in Rotherham. They brought up their family and became well known to everyone through the Post Office and their involvement in Community activities, particularly the Ruddle Centre. Mike held a number of posts after joining the BMRLA Committee as representative of the Bowls Club when he retired. He was Chair and Director, Letting Officer, Secretary and Committee member in charge of Maintenance, sometimes holding two or more posts at the same time! Mike describes the difficulties and responsibilities of running and funding a community asset like The Ruddle Centre.
April 2018 - Mike received the J.J.Fox Award from John Parkes and Roger Greenwood (BMRLA).
Val Hoyes was the last village postmistress. The Hoyes were in competition with several others to buy the Post Office in 1981 but by the time they retired in 2009 no one was willing to take on the demanding nature of the business for such little financial reward. Val describes gradually becoming accepted by the Braithwell community and the effect of the business on family life, particularly after taking on the sale and delivery of newspapers. Gradually the number of small shops declined and the Post Office took on a social role as well as a general store. Val describes the problems that have led to the disappearance of Post Offices from most villages, including the experience of armed robbery! Like Mike, Val became involved with community activities, including serving as Letting Officer for the Ruddle Centre and organising the monthly Luncheon Club. Like Mike, she was chosen to receive the J.J.Fox Award for Services to the Village (May 2007)
Joyce describes the changes at Braithwell School from Tom Scales’s time as Head to the closure in 1994. She mentions the changes after Miss Merriman became head and when the school became a First and Middle School.
Charlie and Pat Wilkinson’s mother came to Clifton from Lincolnshire to work for her aunt and continued to live with the Barlows in the cottage/shop when she married and had her children. She met their father when he came up from Conisbrough to camp on the Beacon. Orginally a miner, their father worked on the farms and had a window cleaning round. In 1950 They moved into Beacon Square, then known as The New Houses, which were built by the local authority and Pat continues to live there in number 8. On this recording they remember their childhood friends and their education, with Pat doing well at Maltby Grammar School and Charlie moving from Maltby Secondary Modern to Dinnington Tech to study agriculture. Charlie was not interested in studying and he describes, with some humour, the jobs that he tried and rejected before settling as a welder at Maltby Forge. Pat became a librarian and moved away, returning to Clifton after the death of her husband. Charlie took a relaxed view of life and had many friends. Sadly, he died in 2019 after living in Clifton for 78 years.
Val Grindley was Val Beard when she and her husband, Wilf, bought the newsagents on Braithwell High Street in 1971. This was a time of redundancy and the couple felt that a small business would be a safety net for their family of three boys. Val describes the difficulties of remodelling the premises and moving from Tickhill at the same time as taking over the business. She describes the shops that were there in 1971 and the way that they co-operated over stock. They needed one income as the shop could not support them and, after brushing up her skills, Val was employed by the Social Services at Maltby while Wilf ran the shop. Sadly, Wilf died in 1981. Val was able to sell the business and the family remained in the premises. Val then worked as secretary to the Director of the Rotherham Library, Museums and Arts Department, an experience that she thoroughly enjoyed. Val relates how another Braithwell shop disappeared!
Peter was born into a Braithwell farming family in 1943. His grandfather, Albert, bought Orchard Farm and expanded his milking herd from one cow to 70 by the time Peter left school. Peter describes the crises that befell the family, including as a schoolboy having to take over the milking when his father became ill and the need to slaughter the whole herd when the cows contracted Brucellosis. His mother and grandfather kept the farm going and, with the help of the bank, encouraged a change to arable farming. The farm grew and with each change in the economic situation the Dunstans adapted into new techniques and new crops, setting up a farm shop and then diversifying into a nursery for ‘Plants of Special Interest’ and the Garden Room Restaurant. Peter describes the lives four generations of a farming family in Braithwell.
Sheila came up from Birmingham to Lady Mabel College at Wentworth Woodhouse to train as a teacher after leaving school. She describes the way that the House, the grounds and the Stable block accommodated the young women and their studies and the accent on physical training.They had some social life and sheila met her future husband during a badminton match at his youth club in Wath. Brian was working for the Coal Board, so they moved to Maltby for their first home and then to Braithwell. Sheila remembers how small the village seemed, but it was safe for children to play out.