The Public Utilities consist mainly of Gas, Water and Electricity, together with the Post Office and the associated Telecommunications system. A brief history of each of the main services is given under separate headings.
It is difficult to determine when the introduction of electricity was first discussed but certainly a 'high-powered' meeting was held on 20th January, 1905. On this occasion, Dr Whiteside presided and the following were present: Messrs R.E. Jones, G. Tristram, E., Highfield, J. Bell, G.C. Blagg, J. Wheatley, W. Wilson and T. Slaney. The object was to explore the possibility of forming an electric lighting company in Whitwell. The Local Government Board had already informed the Parish Council that it had no authority to establish an electric lighting plant either for public or for private use: the flotation of a company to do the work seemed to be the only alternative. An electrical engineer from Huddersfield had quoted £2,000 for lighting the whole of the village and £1,000 for a part scheme.
The proposal was compared with an alternative gas scheme, which had been costed at £7,000. Even though the electricity was three times as cheap, the few people who had bothered to attend the meeting, expressed a strong preference for gas. Mr Slaney made some pertinent remarks - he was more concerned that the Parish Council should attend to matters of public health and not worry about the lighting of the parish; 'I have been here for 60 years and can manage without any light. It is all very well for you people who are coming and going. If people want to go out in the dark, let them carry a lantern (laughter!).'
Had the electrification scheme progressed at that time, electricity may well have been supplied by the Warsop Supply Company. The next company to show an interest was the Worksop Electricity Company, who announced a scheme in February, 1930. Six months later, a press report stated that there had been an invasion of poles by the Worksop Ring-main. Despite this initial work and a further appeal in the following November for Whitwell to use the Worksop public electricity like Shireoaks had done - the Parish opted for a supply from the Shireoaks Colliery Company, who had decided to electrify the four collieries that they owned.
The Company employed a consultant, Mr Dyer, to prepare the overall plan for a total system. A generator was installed at Shireoaks and power was taken by overhead line to Steetley, then along the railway line to Whitwell and over Bakestone Moor to Southgate Colliery. Mr Ernest Dennett came to Steetley in October, 1928 to take charge of the progressing electrification.
In early 1929, a 1250 kW generator was commissioned at Whitwell Colliery to share the load: this generator was a mixed-pressure turbine economically using exhaust steam from No 1 winder and fan to supplement the 'live' steam direct from the boilers. Some years earlier, a small, vertical, steam engine had supplied a few lamps around the shaft and in the offices. Power was taken underground at Steetley in 1928, and at Whitwell and Southgate in 1929.
As the industrial supply was fully established, the domestic supply was commenced. Three sub-stations were built: at Hodthorpe, between King Street and Queen's Road; at Whitwell, alongside the Miner's Welfare; at Bakestone Moor, near the end of Sandy Lane. An installation team, led by Walter Dennett and Billy Blount, started to wire the houses in Hodthorpe, at the rate of eight per week, until some 200 dwellings were completed. The first nine houses were switched on during Friday, 4th February, 1931. They continued installing at the same rate through Whitwell and finally through Bakestone Moor. Highwood Farm was the first outlying farm to be fully electrified. Belph, however, did not receive electricity until 1946, relying on paraffin oil lamps before that time.
Each house was fitted with an overload device, known as a current limiter, which allowed a maximum load of 200 watts at any one time. The idea was to allow one light in the kitchen and one light in the living room with the wireless (mains fed) on: many will recall the lights 'blinking', when an additional light was switched on. For this limited supply, each house was charged 9d per week in summer and 1s:6d. per week in winter: there was a relaxation for the Old Peoples' Bungalows on Bakestone Moor, where the charge was 9d. per week all through the year. Mr Pigott Thompson collected payments from those households not employed at the colliery.
During the Second World War, an electrically driven siren was installed on the No. 1 Headstock at the colliery, controlled from the Power House; the first Power House attendants were Harry Gozney, Harry Steele and George Llewellyn.
In 1951 the Whitwell generator developed an electrical fault and was sent to Chesterfield for repair. Meanwhile the colliery and domestic load had to be drastically reorganised, using a small existing supply from the Electricity Board along with the Shireoaks generator. The colliery load was split by turning half the pit on 'day' and half on 'nights': the domestic supply was switched off between 8am and 4pm each weekday. At this time a further sub-station was established on Hodthorpe Recreation Ground to import more power from the East Midlands Electricity Board.
From 1951, the NCB policy was to reduce the load on the colliery and increase the dependence on the E.M.E.B. - increased mechanisation at the colliery, increased domestic demand, improved efficiency of the National Grid and E.M.E.B. operating costs below the colliery costs, all influenced this decision. The colliery generator was taken out of service in 1959 and the last house in the Parish was taken over by the E.M.E.B. in 1962.
Who in 1989 would like to have their domestic supply of electricity limited to 200 watts? But who today would like to have a December quarter electricity bill for 97.5p.?
The manufacture of gas commenced in Whitwell in 1901/2. The gasworks were sited beyond the lime kilns on Southfield Lane adjacent to the railway bridge. Cranmer House on Welbeck Street was bought by the Whitwell Gas Company in 1902, as the Manager's free residence, for £400 just one year after it had been built by a Hodthorpe builder. Mr Wilkinson was the first manager, followed, by Mr Staniforth, then by Mr Larner in 1933. Not only were the managers responsible for Whitwell, but also for Creswell, Clowne and Staveley. There were two gasholders on the site - one to supply Whitwell and one to supply Creswell.
Two stokers were employed to hand feed the furnaces; for many years these were Mr Webster and Mr Sprigg - the latter was a Boer War veteran who lived on Southfield Lane, a well-known grower of carnations. Mr Reuben Bell was employed to carry coal, by horse and cart, from the railway sidings to the gasworks.
Besides the supply of gas, the Company also sold coke; they held a large contract for the supply of coke to Welbeck. Not only was the Manager's house rent free, he also had a free supply of gas. Mrs Lamer recalls that in addition to the gas light, she also had a washer, wireless and magic lantern all powered by gas (these items are now in Leicester Museum).
The gas mains were laid progressively around the Parish: Mr Ibberson recalls that both gas and water mains had been laid as far as Barker's Cottage on Bakestone Moor in 1912. Gas was turned on for the first time for domestic use on 18th December, 1912.
Reference has been made elsewhere to the flimsy gas mantles (upright and inverted) with which the houses were illuminated. The same type of gas lamps were used for street lighting too. In 1927, the Whitwell and District Gas Company negotiated a six-months winter-contract for street lighting as follows: 'To supply gas and labour to light and extinguish - £2:1 1 s. per lamp.' Lamps were to be lit one hour after sunset and extinguished at 10.45pm. An additional quotation was given for lighting and extinguishing lamps at 4.30am and6.30am-13s:1d per lamp. No mention is made of the time needed for the lamplighter to complete his rounds, carrying his familiar lamp-lighter's pole! Familiar lamplighters were Messrs. S. Allen, Frank Beswick, 'Jameson' Hardwick, Dick Thompson and Mr Galpin. Tom Battersby was a lamplighter at Belph. This would have been an oil lamp. Mr H. Flowers, when at Hall Leys farm, received 6d. per week for lighting this lamp, which stood by the bridge over the stream. Gas fitters were Charlie Hardwick, S. Malthouse and Dennis Snodin (Holbeck).
In the interests of economy the gas companies were always seeking opportunities to merge. In January, 1930, a Bill was proposed to incorporate the S. Yorkshire and Derbyshire Gas Company, consisting of six companies: Staveley, Bawtry, Beighton, Dinnington, Maltby and Whitwell. Stockholdings in the new company were offered to the shareholders of the individual companies.
Two major changes transformed the industry in later years: nationalisation by British Gas and the switch to North Sea gas in place of Manufactured or Towns gas.
A regular supply of potable water is a vital necessity for any community. From the time of the early settlement, Whitwell has never been lacking in this respect. In the opening chapter we read of the Anglo-Saxon place name 'Hwitan Wylles Geat' or 'Hwitewylle', meaning a 'clear spring or stream' and of the Parish being bounded by 'Bondhay Dike', 'Darfould Dike' and 'Creswell Dike'. However the 'Dicken Dike' flowing through the middle of the Parish was probably the main factor which influenced the Anglo-Saxons to settle here.
Centuries later the Belvoir Castle Archives reveal extracts from letters written by the Earl of Shrewsbury from Worksop to his uncle, Sir John Manners, at Haddon Hall:
29th June, 1607. 'At Mr Fletcher's; being here I caused him to draw a book for some part of your springs at Whitwell and Godswell, to be brought hither, I send it by this bearer'.
21st August, 1608. 'I have found another spring on your land, which will serve my turn at this house, so I shall not need to fetch water as far as Whitwell. I have begun to lay pipes and I have drawn an indenture for you and my cousin Roger, your son, to seal if you like it'.
Thus Whitwell was considered a suitable supply source for Worksop at this time - a role which was to be reversed in later years.
Every farm and many of the older houses had a well which supplied water for all household needs. Many other houses had a cistern, commonly referred to as a well, which held rainwater collected from the roof. Frequently the cistern was situated under the kitchen floor and water was drawn up through a pump on the kitchen sink. This water was used for personal washing, laundry, house cleaning and, one suspects, often for drinking and cooking as well.
In 1897, according to a Clowne Rural District Council map, there were 39 pumps in Whitwell and 15 wells. The latter, presumably, where water was drawn up in a bucket, not pumped up.
The pump in the Square was a very important source of supply before 1912. Many inhabitants declared it gave the sweetest water in the village. People could fetch water from the pump when they wished. Huge barrels filled with the water were trundled round the village on a low horse-drawn dray for sale at cottage doors - one halfpenny a bucketful.
Seventy years ago there was a pump on Sunnyside. There were stables and pigsties behind the houses at the beginning of the road, and the pump was near there. It was used by all the people on Sunnyside, but when it dried up in summer, water had to be carried from the Square or the Green.
There was a pump on Bakestone Moor but an old Whitwellian, who lived on the Moor as a girl, remembers being sent, after school, with a bucket to fetch water from the pump on the Green, because her mother considered that water made her washing whiter. The pump on the Green is an unusual and attractive shape and forms part of the line of pumps along the side of High Street.
There was a well at the Brewery on Fox Road, and about 1910 water from here was piped to a tap at the top of Coronation Street for the use of people living there. A Mr William Tate was responsible for looking after the Brewery well.
What is locally referred to as the well inside the Old Hall, was a well-shaped cistern designed to hold water from the roof. There is a line of wells and pumps along High Street. In 1897 there was a pump at the top of Scotland Street. Sixty years ago there was a well in the garden of Manor Farm, a bucket was let down on a twenty foot rope to obtain water for garden use.
When The Chesnuts was a dairy farm, there was a pump in the dairy; almost opposite this was a well at No. 18 High Street. There used to be a well with a pump at No. 44 High Street. Just inside the big gate there is a small walled square, where the well stood. This supplied drinking water for several near-by cottages, which each had a rain water cistern with a pump over the sink.
The pump in the yard of the house at the junction of High Street and Worksop Road drew water from a well under the front garden. The pump in the garden of Rose Cottage continues the line down to No. 1 High Street, which was formerly a farm, where the pump stands near the back door.
A similar line of pumps and wells can be traced along Portland Street. There was a well at the Community Centre Buildings. At No. 1 Portland Street there is a well with a pump in the yard. The pump does not work but there is sweet water in the well. At No. 4 there was a well between the kitchen door and the roadside wall. Continuing this line, next is the pump in the Square. This follows the line of the Dicken Dyke, which emerged in the Square near what is now the entrance to the Health Centre. It continued westwards and at the back of The Vaults part of the arch of the little bridge, which carried the road over the stream, can still be seen.
All farms had wells and cisterns except The Branks (Ellis's Farm) in The Square. This was probably because the pump was so near and also there was the open stream at the corner of the stockyard.
Several houses in Welbeck Street had cisterns with pumps over the sinks, there were also several wells. At No.11 the water in both cistern and well was discovered to be polluted and were filled in about 50 years ago.
There were two wells at Fox House as well as two cisterns. One cistern was under the back yard, the other in the roof. One well was very deep, and during the Second World War the Auxiliary Fire Service investigated it as a possible water supply but found the water was too deep for their apparatus to reach.
Gradually piped water supplies were introduced throughout the parish. A ring main from Welbeck supplied Belph Cottages, New Cottages and Reynolds Cottages. Meanwhile a windmill near the site of Hodthorpe WM Club pumped water from a borehole in 'Gasgoignes' field to two storage tanks (garages in later years) by the railway side, for the water to be fed back to the houses by gravity. This water was referred to as 'Hoddings' water. To secure the supply, a well 6Oft deep was sunk and the water was pumped by a steam pump - Mr Harry Oates Wilson was responsible for the pump. In later years Clowne RDC built a pumping station on the opposite side of what was still Larpit Lane, to provide water for their whole area. The building and tall chimney were popular landmarks. Mr Benjamin Swain was in charge of the pumping station; the adjacent house (now being renovated) was built for him. Later Mr Stamper was the pump-house attendant.
Although the main pipe-laying activity was in 1912, a report tells of a Mr Sam Cottam, who later resided on Whitwell Common, helping to lay mains from the Dicken to Bakestone Moor in 1905. Certainly in 1912, two 10-inch mains were laid from Sparken Hill to Barlborough to store 'Manton' water in the West End water tower and in the covered reservoir near the de Rhodes Arms. The Worksop supply is drawn from wells sunk into the Bunter Sandstone and the Magnesian Limestone formations: the Bunter gives the clearer water; the Magnesian at a lower depth allows the water time to absorb salts. An estimated rainfall of ten inches per annum percolates through the ground to give a daily water supply of 96 million gallons.
An interesting item of water supply concerns the installation at Bondhay Farm, where water is lifted 60/70 feet from the Bondhay Dyke to the farm buildings. The water was made to 'flow uphill' by the use of a Blake's 'Hydram', a hydraulic ram installed about 1900, which continued to supply water until the early 1960's.
Another important aspect of water services was the disposal of sewage. The laying of sewers and drains followed a Local Board of Health initiative. A modern sewage works was built at Hodthorpe in 1897. The advent of water closets was a most welcome improvement for those who had suffered the privations of the back-yard privvy midden. Although no longer in use, earth privvies still exist in the parish and some with side-by-side seating.
The contents of the privvy middens were periodically wheeled by barrow and emptied at the roadside or filled direct into horse-drawn wagons. Following the wagons, men spread disinfectant or chloride of lime onto the dumping spots. The night soil men were still doing their necessary but nauseous rounds, until the 1930's.
The water supply for the colliery, from the time the shafts were sunk, was taken from the mill dam. A Cameron steam driven pump supplied a header tank from which a Weir pump fed the boilers. By l937 problems arose due to the contamination of the dam by sewage sludge caused by a rapidly growing population - in conjunction with the local council the dam was drained and cleaned.
Before the arrival of water mains, a hand-operated pump in the pit yard near the old stables drew water from a borehole. The pump was replaced later with a mains water tap, which was the only mains water in use at the colliery (except for the pithead baths) until 1950.
The water for the ponies underground was taken from the 'tubbing' in No. 2 shaft - a water pipe, tapped through the liner, ran down to the stables and this supply was never known to fail.
North Derbyshire Water Board was responsible for the mains water supply: their responsibilities included the assessment of water charges and control of purity. Typical of the water charges was the assessment for Birks Farm in 1936 - 2d per thousand gallons (1 cubic metre = 220 gallons), while today's charge for a similar quantity would be £1.30.
Nowadays the responsibility is vested in the Severn/Trent Water authority and purity levels are being determined by the European Economic Community. The Saxons came from Europe and found pure, clear water at Whitwell, now 2,000 years later, the Europeans are deciding what those purity levels should be.
The mail carrying system of the British Post Office developed out of the organisation for the conveyance of State despatches by Royal Messengers. The modern conception of letter post, with a uniform rate of postage by weight irrespective of distance, and prepayment with adhesive stamps, dates from 1840. We are familiar with the original 'Penny Black' stamp - the colour was changed because the black 'franking' overstamp was not discernible.
There is an interesting record of letters passing between James Keeton, cottager of Norbriggs and his brother living in Lincoln, including:
- letters dated 1827 and 1834, when there was no carriage running over Dunham Bridge
- an acknowledgement in 1840 of the safe receipt of half a £5 note (cut in half for security, as recommended by the postmaster).
- a parcel delivered in 1843 by Mr Morton, the Worksop carrier.
The main Post Office on High Street was once considered for transfer to Welbeck Street by the Mansfield postmaster. The Post Office on Bakestone Moor was first opened in premises built in 1898 at the north end of the moor and occupied by Mrs Kate Blagg before transfer to the present premises. The Hodthorpe Post Office was originally started in the premises where Mr Barry Johnson now trades.
The telephone service also became part of the Post Office service in 1912. Two of the earliest telephones in Whitwell were at The Poplars (Tel No. 10) and the Rectory (Tel No. 20) - these early numbers are still identifiable in the present telephone numbers. Various styles of telephone kiosk have been erected in the Parish, specially designed to withstand vandalism. The kiosk in the Square is listed as of historic interest by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
Changes of organisation and administration continue. The telephone service is now privatised as 'British Telecom': computerised systems are now part of the daily scene; answering machines, 'Fax' machines and audio-visual screens are all part of the modern science of telecommunications.