Friday, 2 July 2021

An Afternoon in Mexborough - Part 1

A detail of the Glassby Arch

Week 30 of the COVID-19 Pandemic coincided with the first week of October, when the autumn had started to close in and, following my exploration of the geology around Conisbrough, I decided to further investigate nearby Mexborough – a small town next to the River Don that can easily be reached from Rotherham.
The town first developed after the industrial revolution, with local mineral resources being exploited by the coal mining, quarrying, brick making and ceramics industries. A large railway depot, which served the local Denaby Main and Cadeby Main collieries, and wharves and mills along the River Don Navigation also contributed significantly to the economy.
When surveying the region for the Doncaster Geodiversity Assessment, I highlighted several points of geological and geomorphological interest here. These include the structural geology, which relates to the Don Monocline, and the formation of oxbow lakes in the floodplain of the meandering River Don, with wetlands further to the east at its confluence with the River Dearne.
An escarpment of the Mexborough Rock beyond Old Denaby

Arriving on the train from Rotherham, I crossed over the River Don Navigation and headed east along the dual carriageway that bypasses the town centre, stopping to look at the wooded escarpment of Mexborough Rock seen on the skyline to the south-east beyond Old Denaby.
An extract from the Doncaster Geodiversity Assessment

The general strike of the Coal Measures strata in South Yorkshire is approximately NW-SE, as seen to the north of Mexborough, but from Old Denaby to Rotherham and further along the Lower Don Valley to Sheffield, the strike is NE-SW and the strata dip steeply to the south-east.
Continuing along the south side of the dual carriageway, which with the roundabout obliterated much of the old street pattern, I made my way down to Church Street, where there are the only two listed buildings in Mexborough.
The Glassby Arch

The Glassby Arch, which was restored and relocated to its current position in 2015, was commissioned by the pottery manufacturer John Reed in 1860, with the renowned sculptor Robert Glassby undertaking the work.
Romanesque style details on Glassby Arch
The Romanesque style arch is built with four orders, with three reproducing typical details found in churches of this period – beakhead, star flower and chevron decoration; however the third order is composed of various heads and grotesques, with a skull at the centre, which are made with Permian dolomitic limestone and not the Coal Measures sandstone that has been used for the bulk of the structure.
A detail of the Glassby Arch

Mexborough is thought to have developed near the site of the old ferry, which was once at the end of Ferry Boat Lane - a short distance further to the east. The River Don here was fordable and a settlement grew on the north bank of the river, with documentation showing that the church of St. John the Baptist existed here shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
The church of St. John the Baptist


  1. It will be interesting to see if the church style & ornamentation provided some of the details of the arch

    1. The church was closed when I visited. The Historic England listing refers to a 12th century core, but no reference is made to Romanesque ornamentation; however, there are several gargoyles on the exterior.