Parish History

Visit for lots of information on the history of the Parish.

Additionally information about the men named on the Silkstone War memorial can be found at

The following information is abstracted mainly from 'Silkstone Ancient and Modern' by G N Sykes, first published in 1976, and from information supplied more recently by Jim Richie. The section on 'Parish Pubs' is taken from an article by Jack Wood that appeared in Silkstone Church Magazine in February 2000.

old silkstone highstreet

Photo courtesy of Andy Horsfield

Village life down the years

The Origin of the village of Silkstone is lost in the mists of antiquity. G H Teasdale, writing on this in his History of Silkstone Coal in 1901, says, "Silkstone was undoubtedly known in the days of the Romans, and the village is said to have existed when the Roman legions were withdrawn and the Britons left to govern themselves about the year 440 AD." However, no Roman remains have been found in the Parish.

Following what are known as the Dark Ages, the first name to come to light is that of the Saxon Ailric who before the conquest owned many of the surrounding villages. After the Conquest the new Lord Ilbert de Laci granted out his fee to Ailric who thus remained in possession of Silkstone etc, but did not retain all his former lands.

The 1086 Domesday Survey contains the entry: 'To the same Manor belong Silchestone. 1½ Carucates of land taxable.'

The village seems to have escaped 'The Harrying of the North', when, after the insurrection in the Northern Counties, William's troops ravaged many towns and villages, burning them to the ground. Among these were Oxspring, Penistone, and Thurlstone. In the Don valley, a total of 25 villages were laid waste within 8 miles of Silkstone, but our village escaped being despoiled. This occurred between the years 1069 and 1070.

For many centuries the villagers lived simple lives in their lovely rural community, undisturbed by blasts from the outside world. Most likely they would have been affected by the Wars of the Roses, with the terrible battles fought at Wakefield and Towton. The Civil War burst in the midst of them with its fearful clash of loyalties, separating even those of the same family in some instances. We read of several people being executed in a field near Hall Royd Farm at Silkstone Common, watched by several women. The field is now known as Lady Royd.

When King Charles II was being hotly pursued while escaping to Scotland, he was hidden for a short time in Stainborough Castle and then brought to Knabbes where he was for a day or two hidden in a secret passage. Just after his escape, Cromwell's men, deprived of their quarry, set fire to the west wing of the Hall. The Coat of Arms of King Charles is still in position on the front of the Hall, in confirmation of the King's visit. I understand it is the only one of its time in the north of England, and is dated 1674.

Exciting times came to the village during the Napoleonic Wars. A Press Gang visited the village and entered a public house then situated near the old Bethel Chapel, searching for any likely men. One J Mitchell, a cobbler, escaped by a back door and ran to his shop. The boots requiring mending were always placed in a tub. He quickly emptied it and got inside, his wife covering him up with boots etc. Although the party searched all over the place they could not find 'Jacky'.

Knabbes Hall is the third building to be constructed on the present site, and has been the home of the Johnson family for many generations. A secret underground passage is said to run all the way to Silkstone Church. Many years ago on opening this up they found a bricked passage.

husker memorial

The Huskar Pit Disaster 

Perhaps the most terrible event to befall the Parish was the Huskar Pit Disaster on July 4th 1838. The word 'Huskar' is a derivative of 'House Carr'.

The tragic event happened in the exit leading out to the 'dayhole' at Moor End (No 5) Pit. At about 3.00 pm there was a torrential downpour of rain which swept away the lane from Knabbes Hall to the highway. Evidence given to the Inquest held on 12th July 1838, at the Red Lion in Silkstone, stated that the alarm was given by the person in authority at the top of Moor End Colliery as water was seen to be running down the pit shaft.

This may have come from House Carr Dike nearby. He ordered all those below to put out their lights, to remain where they were and to come out as soon as possible. Consequently all made their way to the pit bottom, expecting to be drawn out immediately, but so much water had fallen down the shaft that the engine could not get up steam.

When the alarm was first given the children asked Mr Lamb, who was with them at the pit bottom, what they were to do, and he told them they were to remain where they were and not to stir. They then bothered him very much to go out, and at last he said they might please themselves, which they did by rushing up the dayhole instead of remaining by him. Several older miners strongly urged them not to go.

Of the forty who went out by the dayhole exit, twenty-six were washed by the floodwater against doors which were closed by the force of the water, and they were drowned. Fourteen of the older children managed to climb up into a 'slit' - an opening at the side. Two of these were rescued by being pulled up from the water by their hair as they were being carried down. Mr Clifford Marsden recollected his father taking him to the dayhole exit in the 1920s, and he was able to see a distance of about fifteen yards into the exit where the first lot of doorposts remained. Further in would be the second lot of posts.

Twenty of the victims were from Silkstone, whilst three each came from Dodworth and Thurgoland. Their bodies were taken to Throstle Hall Farm (now demolished) and placed in an old barn where their faces were washed by Messrs G H Teasdale, Johnson and Buckley. A government enquiry into the disaster, led by Lord Shaftesbury led to women and children being prohibited from working in the mines. A memorial to the Huskar Pit Disaster is to be found in Silkstone Churchyard.

In January 1843 Mr Davis from West Yorkshire lectured at the 'Six Ringers Inn' (now the Ring o' Bells) on Trade Unionism. There were many present, and a man called Jonas Wilson was the first to be enrolled. In February there war a great demonstration held at Stainborough. Over 4000 were said to have been present, and the procession, headed by a Band, started from Barnsley picking up the Dodworth, Silkstone and Cawthorne men en route. A resolution was passed calling for the reducing of the hours of labour to eight hours.

The Simple Life

Until after the first world war amenities were few, and life was very simple. The streets were covered with an inch or two of gritty dust in summer, whilst winter changed the roads into a slimy sludge which was scraped to the roadside to be collected. A single kerbstone separated the roadway from the footpath, and it was not until years later that these were paved. Public lighting was unknown until the third decade. The late Mr Thomas Marsland was the first to enjoy electricity in his house at Silkstone Common, a connection being made at the substation in Ben Bank Road with the line running from Thornhill Power Station to Stocksbridge.

Sanitation was most primitive until the 1920s when the Council gave a grant towards the cost of converting the old privies. These were terrible places, especially when emptied during hot weather. No collection of waste was made until years later, there being little call for this service. 

old photo of station road

Photo courtesy of Andy Horsfield

The packaging of foodstuffs was in its infancy, and any waste was easily disposed of in the fire which everyone in the village possessed. It was not until almost the end of the 19th century that a simple sewerage system was installed in both villages.

It is interesting to note that, from Queen Elizabeth I's reign until almost the end of the 19th century, the care of the poor, policing and the repair of roads were in the hands of the Parish Church who levied a rate each year for these services. Parliament also decreed that every able bodied man should give four to six days free labour in the repair of the roads, and this was done far many years. We see that each Parish was then almost an entity of its own, People were almost independent of the outside world, and most needs were supplied by local tradesmen in the village. The following trades and professions are listed in Raines Directory for 1822: John Ellis, surgeon; Joseph Shooter, schoolmaster; two butchers; three grocers and corn dealers; three tailors; two shoemakers; William Haynes and John Jubb, blacksmiths; George Tattersall, nurseryman and seedsman; and one each of the following: whitesmith, malt dealer, hat manufacturer and linen draper. According to the records, George Tattersall had a nursery at the beginning of the century near Silkstone Cross, and when the waggonway was made in 1809 the garden was cut in two by its passage. William, his son who followed, lost some 30,000 rose trees in the great storm of 1838. With the coming of better transport facilities, people were able to get to the towns to do their shopping, and by degrees the local tradesmen mostly disappeared.

In 1823 the Parish of Silkstone was descibed as: "a parish-town, in the wapentake of Staincross, liberty of Pontefract; 4 miles from Barnsley and Penistone, 10½ from Wakefield, 39 from York. Pop. 807. The Church is a vicarage, dedicated to All-Saints, in the deanery of Doncaster, value, p.r. £17. 13s. 4d. Patron, the Archbishop of York."

Eighty years ago families were much larger than is the case today, and a generation before even larger still. No pre-natal care existed for mothers; nurses were practically unknown, but each village had its widwife whose only training consisted of what she had picked up from her predecessor or the local Doctor whom she often assisted at a confinement.

Children and Schools

Educationally the Parish was comparatively well provided for. The Endowed School was built first in the latter part of the 17th century, and re-built in the 1840s. During the first World War the military took it over, and pupils were transferred to the newly erected Council School at Silkstone Common. It was at the Endowed School that the celebrated John Ford was a teacher and subsequently headmaster. There was also the National Infants School given by Mrs Sarah Clarke in 1850 (now closed down), whilst in 1939 a new Council School was erected. Some children living in Silkstone Common attended the Silkstone School, whilst others went either to Dodworth Wesleyan Day School or to Hood Green.

At the age of between 13½ and 14 boys commenced work, chiefly at the local pits, whilst girls went to work at the Rug Mill in Penistone or at the mills in Denby Dale. When a little older, some of the girls would go into domestic sevice, which meant leaving home and working long hours for low wages. One of the girls usually stayed at home to help her mother with the household duties.

Creature Comforts

Homes in those days were furnished very simply, and not even the well-to-do had the gadgets which people take for granted today. The weekly wash was a toilsome job. First the Set Pot - a boiler in position over a fire - was lit and filled with water. No hot water was available 'on tap' except for those lucky enough to have a small boiler on the side of the fireplace. When the water was hot enough, it was poured into the wooden 'peggy tub'. Rinse was added and the soiled clothes put in. These were then rotated by a wooden peggy to get the dirt out. A scrubbing board was then used to further cleanse the clothes, after which they were rinsed out and placed in the wringing machine. This was a clumsy contraption about three feet wide holding two wooden rollers which were turned by a handle. After the water had been squeezed out between the rollers, the clothes were then placed outside on a line to dry in the sun. In wintertime, however, they were placed on a 'clothes horse' beside the fire. The clothes were then ready for ironing. There were electric irons then! The solid iron was placed between the firebars to be heated. Later it was made possible for pieces of heated iron to be placed inside an improved iron.

Floors were brushed with a bristled brush which threw up clouds of dust unless a quantity of spent tea leaves was first scattered on the floor to 'lay' the dust. Cottages were invariably clean and had at least both a Spring and Christmas clean through.

People managed admirably, assisted generally by a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables, fresh eggs and if fortunate a home killed pig whilst this was permitted by the Local Authority. Some cottages had a pig sty within ten feet of the kitchen door where they lived. No married mother went out to work - her family kept her incessantly busy. Every family endeavoured to provide the children with new clothes for Whitsunday, and the Co-op dividend came in useful here. Often the clothes from the eldest child would be handed down the family until almost threadbare. Then they were placed in the 'ragbag' to be used eventually for rug-making - a wintertime occupation for the whole household.

High Days and Holidays

On Christmas Eve villagers listened to the Church Choir singing at Bloomfield House in Silkstone Common. Christmas Day saw the coming of the Silkstone Band while the Silkstone Wesleyan Reform Church went on their rounds.

Easter, as nowadays, was looked upon as the beginning of the open-air life, spring games, gardening and walking. It was also a busy time at the Chapel where on Good Friday there was a morning service, and on the Monday there was often a bazaar to raise funds for the new Church at Silkstone Common. On the Tuesday a 'wagonette' took a party to Wharncliffe Craggs.

The Feast was the next big event, and for many years Grimley's Roundabouts would set up swings and stalls up by the 'Roggins' The 'dobbie horses' were propelled by a horse in a shaft, and music was provided by a mechanical organ. In later years a 'Sing' was held in a field by Martin Croft (Silkstone) where a united choir under Mr Joseph Mann sang choruses and the Silkstone Prize Band played. On the Monday a united Sunday School procession sang through the village following a custom started in the 1820s. This was followed by tea and then by sports. In the old days the Feast was an event of its own, but round the turn of the century that holiday fell into line with Barnsley Feast although the 'Sing' continued on the original date. On the Saturday and Monday, special cricket fixtures were arranged.

There was no radio or television, and very few reading facilities, but people were nevertheless happy and contented with simple pleasures.

Changing Times

August 1914 saw the end of the peaceful and quiet village existence, and life has never been quite the same since. The food situation became increasingly grim through the First World War. Towards the end, there was only a small portion of butter per person each week, along with margarine (a terrible concoction), and meat was also rationed.

In 1914 a camp was built at Newhall between Silkstone and Silkstone Common, and was soon occupied by 1000 men mainly from Barnsley, followed by a large number of Royal Engineers from the Newcastle area. This area is now Silverwood Scout Camp.

The post war years were restive times, marked with long strikes in the years 1921 and 1926, but they were also years of increasing social amenities. Now that better transport facilities were available, the villages tended to be more outward-looking.

The Second World War from 1939-1945 did not affect the villages as much as the first War. Three local men died, compared with 11 in the first War. Only about 100 soldiers of the 1st Highland Light Infantry were billeted in Noblethorpe Park, whilst the HQ Staff were in the Hall itself. The Home Guard and Auxiliary Fire Services were manned by local volunteers, and apparently only one bomb was dropped at Little Moor End in Silkstone Common. The barrage balloons placed around Sheffield could be plainly seen from the Common, and when Sheffield was attacked by night, the sky could be seen illuminated by the fires which raged in the city.

Musical Tradition

Silkstone has always had a musical tradition. The Old Silkstone Prize Band was founded in 1861 by Coniah Stringer who was then Choirmaster at the Parish Church and who became the band's first Conductor. In those days the Church possessed a harmonium which was augmented by a violin or two which led the singing of the choir. When a pipe organ was acquired which dispensed with the services of the instrumentalists, Coniah Stringer bought a cornet and, by soliciting subscriptions, acquired further instruments and so had the beginnings of a band. Later he moved to Barnsley where he became a publican, and was succeeded by Dennis Bailey ('Wag' was his nickname) who was Bandmaster for twenty four years. He was followed by Joe Bottom for a short period when Dennis again took over. He was followed by his son Ellis, and later succeeded by George E Mann who was presented with a Silver Cigar Box after 53 years' service, 24 of which he served as Conductor.

Parish Pubs

There have been, at one time or another, at least ten public houses or inns in the Parish of Silkstone. Until the end of 2002 there were two establishments in Silkstone Common. The Bonny Bunch o' Roses was built in 1813 by the Tattershall family who were market gardeners. It is believed to have been the only pub with this name in the whole of England, but sadly the Bunch closed its doors for the last time in December 2002, and in early 2005 was demolished to make room for yet more houses. It had been hoped that the premises could be put to some other commercial use as an amenity to local people and a source of employment, but greed and high residential land values outweigh the needs of the community, and it appears that the Planning Authority (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council) is unable or unwilling to offer much protection.

The Station Inn at Silkstone Common, which thankfully still survives, was originally called the Junction and existed before the railway actually came to the village. It was built by John Gaunt in 1853, and then inherited by his daughter who married a Jonathan Ingerson. They then sold the business to Brook & Co Brewers of Penistone in 1857. In more recent times ownership of the Station passed from brewery to brewery, ending with Wards of Sheffield until the closure of the Sheaf Brewery in the late 1990s. The property is now owned by Pubmasters.

The Pack Horse Inn was the oldest tavern in Silkstone, and existed from the early 1600s. There was a sundial over the front door, and the fireplace contained a spit driven by a fan in the chimney, which was turned by the hot air rising up the flue. Legend has it that the Pack Horse Inn once provided lodgings for Dick Turpin. Over the other side of the road was Highfield Farm which at one time had been a public house called the Salutations.

On the site of the present Health Centre in Silkstone was another hostelry called the Crown. The stone from the fireplace is now in the church, in front of what was the north door, and on it is written a verse in Old English with a date of 1643 and initialled 'TT'. The inscription reads: "Let virtue spring and vice decay, and God will turn his wrath away." The first innkeeper of the Crown, Hugh Walker, is buried under the north aisle of the church, just a few feet from the stone which came from his pub.

The house in Silkstone called Bridgefoot, overlooking what was once the village green, was a public house kept by a man named Paddle. He had spent much of his life at sea, so the locals called him Amiral Paddle. The story goes that he was courting a girl from Lancashire, and led her to believe that he owned a lot of property in Silkstone. When she came to visit him, it is said that he took her up to New Hall, which is now Silverwood Scout Camp, and closing his eyes he told the lady, "All I see, I own!"

Bank House Farm, halfway up the bypass, was once the Angel Inn. The licence was later tranferred to a house next to the present-day Red Lion, and eventually the name was changed to the Fox and Hounds.

Next door, the Red Lion was built in 1733 as a coaching inn. It belonged to the Silkstone School Trustees who sold it to the Barnsley Brewery for £1500 in the late 1800s. The inquest into the Huskar Pit Disaster (see above) was held here in 1858.

The Ring o Bells was built in the mid 1800s and was originally called the Six Ringers. The first Miners' Union meeting was held there (see above). The pub stands next to the stocks which date from 1405. There used to be a verse over the fireplace in the Ring o Bells, which read:-

Customers came and I did trust 'em,
I lost my liquor and my custom.
To lose them both it grieved me sore,
So I'm resolved to trust no more.
Chalk is useful say what you will,
But chalk ne'er paid the maltster's bill.
I strive to keep a decent tap,
For ready money but no strap.