The History of Mosborough

Chapter I – Location and boundaries

            The township of Mosborough occupies some 2,200 acres immediately to the northeast of the parish of Eckington in Derbyshire. The area often described in 19th century directories as “the township and straggling village” of Mosborough was probably once an ancient manor in its own right[1]. As such, its boundaries would have been well defined and jealously guarded. Falling within the administrative county of Derbyshire until boundary changes in 1967[2], Mosborough lies within South Yorkshire, upon the south-facing flank of the valley of the River Rother as it follows its northerly course from Eckington. Here it is joined by the river Moss, towards Beighton and the Short Brook stream coming down from Halfway.

            Taking as our starting point the northern bank of the Rother at its confluence with the river Moss at the end of Pipworth Lane, the boundary with the manor of Eckington stretched upwards to the west along the tree-lined course of the Moss and is still clearly visible. It follows the Moss River roughly in a line to the south of Pipworth Lane, passing first beneath Rotherham Road and then Sheffield Road, slightly to the north of You Can Hire, formerly the old Atco works. It then follows a meandering route through fields to the north of Eckington’s parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul to Mill Road and the site of what was once the manorial corn mill, now demolished[3]. Here is one of only two ancient bridges between Eckington and Mosborough at the junction of Gashouse Lane and Mill Road.

            Mosborough’s boundary with Eckington then continues westwards through fields alongside the Moss towards Cadman’s Wood. Upstream lies the site of the Carlton Wheel, a former water-powered grinding wheel, and the nearby Seldom Seen Engine House, now a carefully preserved Scheduled Monument, which may have housed an overhead winding engine for the former Plumley Colliery.

            Beyond the Carlton Wheel, the Moss continues through the ancient woodlands of Bowercinder Hill and Twelve Acre Wood, which once formed the northern edge of Eckington’s medieval deer park, to the site of a second grinding wheel; the evocatively named Neverfear Wheel, with its millpond. Criss-crossing the fields to the north can be seen the vestiges of routes used by the Mosborough sickle smiths to lead their donkeys to the wheels, laden with sickles for grinding.

            The Mosborough boundary turns north a little west of here, leaving the Moss to follow the Nor Brook tributary[4] under Plumleywood Lane and towards Kent Wood. At the point where the brook forks near Newlands, the boundary follows the eastern branch to its source at the northern extremity of Kent Wood. Here, for the first time, it follows a hedge line to the west of Haven Farm (No. 1) and northwards towards High Lane at the eastern end of Ridgeway village, which was the old highway from Gleadless and the west to Mosborough.

            Here, the boundary crosses the highway to follow a hedge line to the west of Ribblesdale Drive, where it meets up with a tributary of the Ochre Dyke heading north towards Birley Wood. From this high point (around the 600m. contour) eastwards, it follows the Ochre Dyke. This stream forms the ancient boundary with the manor of Beighton, also representing the northern boundary of the former ecclesiastical parish of Eckington. The regular field pattern in this location reveals the effect of the enclosures of the late Eighteenth Century[5] on what was Mosborough’s common land around Mosborough Moor.

            Beyond Birley Wood, it meets Moor Valley Road, the former Turnpike Road between Sheffield and Mosborough. At a point to the south of the present Birley Moor Garden Centre, it follows the Ochre Dyke as it flows first north-eastwards towards Hackenthorpe and then south-east to skirt the northern edge of Hanging Lea. From here, it follows the course of a tributary of the Ochre Dyke, due south between Hanging Lea and Westfield Plantation, curving in an easterly direction at the southern end of the Plantation to meet a field boundary close to what is now the Moss Way at Westfield. At this point, the border follows hedge lines once more, due south until it meets the source of the Short Brook, which marks the boundary through the extensive new housing development down beyond Shortbrook Primary School and besides what were once the fields of Waterthorpe Farm.

            It is still possible to follow the course of the Short Brook to where it meets Eckington Way (B6053) at Holbrook and then beyond, in a tree-lined route. It meanders first under New Street and then under Rother Valley Way, past the former Holbrook brickyard (now Massey Truck Engineering) and the Midland Main railway line to meet the River Rother once more near to the southern end of Rother Valley Country Park.

            From here, Mosborough’s manorial boundary with Eckington follows the northern bank of the River Rother as it meanders southward roughly along the railway line, till it returns to our starting point at Pipworth Lane.

            In 1837 the village, then part of the ecclesiastical parish of Eckington, was combined with 33 other Derbyshire parishes to form the Chesterfield Poor Law Union[6]. The Union was given additional responsibilities by the Public Health Act 1872 and the creation of the Chesterfield Rural Sanitary Authority. This Authority continued in existence until 1894 when it became the Chesterfield Rural District Council under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1894. In 1974 Eckington (including Mosborough) became part of North East Derbyshire District. Sheffield City Council has administered Mosborough since boundary changes in 1967.

            A County Council Order establishing the Eckington Parish Council in 1894 divided the parish into four wards; Eckington, Renishaw, Mosborough and Ridgway. Among the functions it assumed were those of the Eckington Burial Board, established in 1874. In 1896 the Lighting and Watching Act was adopted for the Eckington Ward. In 1936 the Act’s provisions were extended to include portions of the Mosborough and Renishaw wards, and in 1946 it was extended to the whole parish[7].

            Ecclesiastically, Mosborough formed part of the ancient parish of Eckington until 1929 when it was created a separate new parish[8] with a church dedicated to St. Mark. It was transferred to the Sheffield Diocese on 1st January 1974[9].

[1] The Will of Wulfric Spot (1002 A.D.) lists Mosborough alongside other estates, subsequently recognised as manors in Domesday: “And I bequeath to Morcar the estates aet Walesho (Wales), aet Theogendethorpe, aet Hwitewylle (Whitwell), aet Clune (Clowne), aet Barleburh (Barlborough), aet Ducemannestune (Duckmanton), aet Moresburh (Mosborough), aet Eccingtune (Eckington), aet Bectune (Beighton), aet Doneceastre (Doncaster), and aet Morlingtune. And to his wife I grant Aldulfestreo just as it now stands with the produce and the men. And I grant to my kinsmen Aelfhelm the estate aet Paltertune (Palterton), and that which Scegth bequeathed to me.”

[2] Local Government Act, 1958, Sheffield Order, 1967.

[3] This was probably the site of the mill mentioned in Domesday, Stroud, G., Derbyshire Extensive Urban Survey, Archaeological Assessment Report, Eckington, 1999.

[4] Described in 1583 as “Norbeck”, Special Commission appointed 18th June 1853. DAJ, Vol. 38, p. 189.

[5] An Act for Dividing and Inclosing the Commons and Waste Lands, Common Fields, and Mesne Inclosures, within the Manor and Parish of Eckington in the County of Derby, 3 Geo. III, 1795.

[6] Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834.

[7] D.R.O., D453/

[8] Youngs, F.A., Jnr., Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England, 1991, p. 80.

[9] London Gazette, 18th December 1973.

Chapter 2 – Geology and geography

            The land of the township rises fairly regularly from about 150 ft above sea level in the Rother Valley to the south-east to a maximum of around 400 ft at Moor Hole in the north-west on the border with Beighton. Because of this difference in height over a short distance, the streams and rivers were a source of water power from early times. Mosborough is drained by the Moss Brook in the south and the Ochre Dyke and Short Brook in the north, all flowing into the River Rother to the south. Celia Fiennes, referring to the passage of the Moss Brook through Eckington in 1697, observed:

“through it runns a Water which Came down a great banck at the End of ye town like a precipice with such violence yt it makes a great noise, and looks Extreamely Cleare in the Streame that gushes out and runns along: it runns on off a deep yellow Coullour, they say it runns off of a poisonous mine or Soile and from Coale pitts; they permit none to taste it for I sent for a Cup of it and ye people in ye Streete Call’d out to forbid ye tasteing it, and it will beare no Soape so its useless”[1]

            Apart from alluvium in the valleys formed by the Moss Brook and the Rother, the whole of the township lies on the Coal Measures. These strata were extensively exploited for small-scale mining from at least the 14th century, ending with the closure of the collieries in the 20th century.  Ironstone and clay in the Coal Measures have also been worked for iron smelting and brick making[2]. The presence of the Parkgate and Silkstone sandstone rocks also gave rise to quarrying over a long period. The Silkstone rock is folded by the Norton-Ridgeway Anticline at Mosborough. The outcrop edge forms the prominent high ground (‘the ridgeway’) from Mosborough past High Lane to White Lane End at Gleadless.

[1] Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary, 1888.

[2] Geological Survey. Map 1:63,360, sheet 100.

Chapter 3 – Population

            A detailed discussion on the population of Mosborough is problematic because of the difficulty of isolating the township from its larger neighbour, the dominant parish of Eckington. Because Mosborough was just one “quarter” or “bierlow”, it is almost impossible to discuss the two areas separately except for a few isolated occasions. The early Census returns record the population of Eckington, but with no further division into its constituent townships. Eckington’s parish registers date back to 1559, but do not record place names until the beginning of the 19th century, by which time more reliable data becomes available from the national census.

            There were 231 households in Eckington in 1563 and in 1670, 214 householders were assessed for the Hearth Tax. In 1676 the incumbent returned a figure of 1,200 for his parish, which seems to be a rough estimate of the total adult population. The total of 98 houses in Mosborough counted by Pilkington in 1778 is the earliest guide to the township’s population, which might be roughly calculated for that year at around 490.

            In the first Census of 1801, there were 597 inhabited houses in Eckington parish, occupied by 2,694 people. The population increased fairly steadily throughout the 19th century, reaching over 4,400 by 1841. There was then a huge growth of population with the development of the coal mining industry, and it increased to over 6,000 in 1861 and almost doubled to about 7,800 in 1871. This massive growth rate continued to over 11,000 for Eckington as a whole by 1891, slowing to around 12,300 in 1901. Most of this new population in Mosborough was concentrated around Duke Street, initially, followed by new housing at Chapel Street, Hill Side, Queen Street and the lower end of High Street by the 1890s. Some new housing also grew up along Cadman Street and Station Road and at Halfway.

            Later figures were affected by boundary changes in 1967, since when there has been a massive expansion of new housing towards the north and east of the township, bringing the population of Mosborough to around 17,000 by 2016.

Chapter 4 Communications

           Until the late 18th century, the main road from Sheffield to Mansfield ran in a south-westerly direction across Mosborough Moor and through the village of Mosborough before descending into the Rother Valley to Eckington. George Sitwell described this early road in a letter of 1665 as “a great Road from the West partes of Yorkshire towards London”[1]. A Chancery deposition described it in 1692 as ‘the common highway from Sheffield to Gleadleys Moor, and so on to London, was by Little Sheffield, Heeley and Newfield Green, which appeared to be a very ancient way, being worn very deep’[2].

           The construction of the turnpikes in the years after the passing of the Act in 1779 brought an improvement in communication which made the village more accessible for trade and enabled the ready movement of goods and produce, particularly coal.

           Initially, the route was the modern one along City Road to Intake, Mosbrough, Eckington and Barlborough at Gander Lane, leading to Mansfield, where it joined the old Post Road. A tollgate was erected at the entry to the village in Mosborough High Street. In 1796, the road abutted directly upon the western entrance to Mosborough Hall[3], presumably at some discomfort and disturbance for the owner. By 1835, the road had been realigned at some distance to the west of the Hall[4], at the instigation, it was claimed, of Charles Rotherham, its owner in 1843[5].  

           In 1844, it was announced that the existing road from Mosborough Green, along what is now Station Road, through Killamarsh to Clowne, was also to be turnpiked[6]. A toll bar was located at Holbrook, and this enhanced road provided improved access from Mosborough to the Chesterfield Canal at Killamarsh. These toll bars were officially closed in 1896.

           The Chesterfield Canal, opened in 1777, ran just outside the Mosborough boundary and close by the River Rother at Killamarsh. The upper section of the canal, which included Killamarsh, was closed around 1905 following the collapse of the Norwood Tunnel.

           In 1840 the Midland Railway line was built between Chesterfield and Leeds via Rotherham and through Renishaw. It followed the Rother Valley along the eastern border of Mosborough and beneath Station Road at Holbrook, with a station at Renishaw, named Eckington Station. The station was replaced in 1874, later renamed Eckington and Renishaw station, which was closed in 1951. The Midland Railway was closed and decommissioned in 1975, and the route now forms part of the Trans-Pennine Trail.

[1] Riden, P., George Sitwell’s Letterbook, 1662-66, 1985, p. 192.

[2] Sitwell, G., Story of the Sitwells (n.d.), p. 56a.

[3] Eckington Enclosure Map, 1803, D.R.O., Q/RI/39.

[4] Sanderson’s Map, Twenty Miles round Mansfield, 1835, Part 1, p.8.

[5] Foster G., Reminiscences of Mosborough in the present century, 1886. This assertion may be incorrect, however, as Charles Rotherham did not acquire the property until 1843.

[6] Derbyshire Courier, 23rd November 1844.

Chapter 5 – Landscape and Settlement

It seems very likely that human activity in the area around Mosborough took place from the very earliest times. One of the oldest known sites of human occupation in England is but a few miles away at Cresswell Crags. These people left no written record of their presence, but evidence of their existence can be found amongst the artefacts they left behind.

Stone Age man has left evidence of his presence in the form of a significant known cluster of Mesolithic sites (c.8000 – 3900BC) around the flanks of an elevated ridge around Dronfield and Apperknowle, just a mile or so east of Mosborough[1]. Scatters of more than 4000 flint fragments were found sitting at contours between 110-190m above the valley floor of the River Drone. These were accompanied by cut features suggesting different phases of occupation. These sites conform to a general pattern found elsewhere in Derbyshire, comprising valley side locations which command expansive vistas across river valleys; features also found at Mosborough.

Evidence of Bronze Age (2200-700BC) settlement have also been discovered tantalizingly close to Mosborough, once again at Dronfield, where a site of some significance was found at Hall Farm and Birchen Lea Farm at Dronfield Woodhouse. Here evidence was found for two cairn burials consisting of cremations in inverted collared urns, along with substantial amounts of flint artefacts, including polished shale tools, and also a food vessel[2].

The 1796 Enclosure Award map marks Mosborough Moor as a long strip of common waste, with a total of …. acres, on either side of the Eckington to Mansfield turnpike road, stretching from the parish boundary at the west end of the turnpike to the toll bar at Mosborough Green. It marks scattered farms and houses on the Moor’s edge, among which was Moor Hole Farm. On the south side of the Moor is mapped the location of Mosborough Hill, and about a quarter of a mile to the west, Haven Farm.

In the 18th century, settlement in Mosborough was distributed between several farmsteads and hamlets, none of which, apart from the village itself, was large enough to be described as a village. Burdett’s map of 1767 shows a cluster of houses along both sides of what is now High Street and South Street. Towards the east, Halfway is depicted as a house or group of houses at Station Road and Rotherham Road junction.

By the 1830s, there had been a good deal of development around Collin Green, School Street, Queen Street and Duke Street. The two sides of the village had become known as East and West Mosborough, respectively. There had been little new building elsewhere apart from a few new houses on Mosborough Moor, at Owlthorpe, and the Sickle Works there, along with Knowle Hill Corn Mill on Station Road.

By the 1870s, several rows of terraced housing had been built at Halfway, and more terraced houses appeared as infill along Queen Street, Chapel Street, High Street and Hillside. In particular, Eckington Hall had been built upon land on the turnpike road opposite Mosborough Hall. There were collieries at Westwell and Plumley, at Hollow Lane (then known as Mosborough Hall Lane), at Moor Hole, Holbrook and Swallow’s Colliery, and several disused workings.[3] There were two nonconformist chapels in Mosborough, a Methodist Primitive Chapel on Queen Street and a Methodist Wesleyan Chapel on Chapel Street, and new terraced housing at Holbrook, near the Colliery and Brickyard.

By 1914, a network of terraced housing had grown up in the angle between Queen Street and High Street, including Cadman Street and Gray Street and Stone Street between High Street and School Street.

(to be continued)

[1] Brightman, J. & Waddington, C., Archaeology and Aggregates in Derbyshire, A Resource Assessment and Management Framework, 2011, p. 122.

[2]Ibid, p. 124.

[3] OS map, 1:10,560, Derb. XII.SE