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Until the early 1800s, Denby Dale was known as Denby Dikeside. It was just a few farms and isolated cottages connected by dirt tracks. Improved transport links meant industry flourished in the dale and dwellings were built to house the workers.
At a time when our village is losing its green spaces, Churchfield, with its fascinating history, remains open for all to enjoy. We need to treasure it and value the history that surrounds it.
1825 – Turnpike Roads replace dirt tracks.
These were called turnpike roads from a military practice of using a pikestaff to block the road. When a toll was paid the pike would be turned. In Denby Dale the tolls were taken at the Catchbar, where the Barnsley Road meets the Wakefield Road. Tolls were dropped with the coming of the railway.
The Barnsley & Shepley milestone (pictured right) can be seen under the viaduct on Barnsley Road.
Did you know? One of the early road builders was blind? He was called ‘Blind Jack Metcalf’ and built many roads around Yorkshire.
1846 – The first viaduct was built by Yorkshire engineer Sir John Fowler. He built many bridges worldwide including the Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland. It was made from timber, in part due to a strike by stone-masons, and lasted only 12 months until it blew down in a gale.
1847 – A second timber viaduct replaced it. This too wobbled every time a train passed over it. Fire buckets had to be refilled each day in case sparks from the engine set the wooden structure alight!
1880 – The iconic Grade ll listed stone structure we see today was built. George William Naylor built it in 2 years. It is said that he did not make money from building it, but in doing so, found clay.
He started making drainage pipes and founded the company Naylor Industries. Look up when you pass beneath and see that it was built on the ‘skew’, quite a feat of engineering!
Did you know? The Denby Dale Pie that was made in 1887 went off before it was eaten. The pie maker used the train to get away before the hungry crowd got him!
1854 – Jonas Kenyon starts making cloth in the row of houses you see to the west of Churchfield. Jonas and his wife Mary lived in the larger house at the end of the row.
He is said to have “made cloth on wet days and to have farmed and played cricket on fine days.”
Pictured right: the first Kenyon’s Mill with the mill owner’s house at the end.
1883 – the business expanded and moved to Dearneside Mills, which bordered Churchfield to the northeast. The field was then known as Kenyon’s field. You can still walk along the flagstone path that led from Jonas Kenyon’s house to where Dearneside Mills used to be. Four generations of the Kenyon family ran the business, producing various worsted cloths and trading worldwide until with the increase in cheap imports, it closed in 1977.
Pictured right: view of Dearneside Mill showing a stone wall dividing Churchfield next to what is now the central path.
Today a housing estate has replaced the mill and is named after the Kenyon family. The mill engine has been preserved by the Northern Mill Engine Society at the Bolton Steam Museum (www.nmes.org). It is a vertical cross-compound engine, which is believed to be the only survivor of its type in the UK. Hartcliffe Mills, owned by the Hinchliffe family, is now the only surviving working textile mill in the village.
Pictured right: the mill engine on display at the Bolton Steam Museum.
Memories of a weaver
“I started in the mill at 14 as a bobbin winder but I kept looking at the looms and thinking, ‘I could do that’. So one day I asked Eric Kenyon. But he said I was too small. When I told my dad that night he said he could make a box for me to stand on. I persisted at the mill and they made a platform for me to work on and after a couple of years, I became a four loom weaver. My pay went up from £2 to £6 a week – that was in 1948. We were paid piece work but if there were faults in the cloth they would take it out of our wages. I lived at home and gave all my pay to my mother and she would give me 5 shillings back. I remember saving up to £20 – I thought I was a millionaire.”
Did you know? Children under the age of 9 worked in factories up until 1833? Then the Factories Act of 1833 was passed which also restricted the hours of working for children aged between 9 and 13 to 10 hours a day.
1893 – The original Holy Trinity Church, which became known as ‘the old tin church’, was built from wood and corrugated iron. It was located on Bank Lane.
1938 – The stone church you see today was built below Churchfield. The land was given to the church by JF Kitson, a local clay pipe manufacturer. Here you see local joiner Arthur Lockwood, Rev. Arthur Snow and stonemason Wilfred Beever laying the impressive top stone on the church tower in 1939.
Did you know? When the roof on a new building is completed, they have a ‘topping off’ ceremony to celebrate that the high point of the build has been reached.
The Friends of Churchfield group has been formed to preserve what remains of this little green space in an increasingly built-up village. In the words of Steve Robinson (1950 – 2016), a founder member of the Friends,
“Denby Dale is a product of the industrial revolution. Map evidence shows that the Churchfield site has been an integral part of the village landscape for two centuries. Its surviving character provides an important connection to Denby Dale’s industrial heritage; and we give up these connections to our cost.”