Treasures of the river (and canal) bank

A guest blog by our volunteer Antony Meadows 

Well, perhaps not treasures exactly, but interesting just the same! I started volunteering with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust in January this year, and have thoroughly enjoyed discovering the rivers and canals of Rotherham and Sheffield; places I have only driven past or not appreciated all the years I worked in Sheffield and Rotherham. I have even enjoyed the litter picking! So much so that I am now also part of Love Where You Live in Rotherham, where I litter pick with a local group and on my own in my village.

I enjoy the sense of achievement when we have cleaned up an area, knowing we have made a difference, even though I am aware it’s a never ending task and we need to keep on top of it regularly. I guess I’m also nosey  and curious to know what I might find! The answer has been up to now, the usual glass and plastic bottles, cans, crisp packets, and plastic bags. I have avoided finding anything too gross or dangerous thankfully. However, recently I found something interesting – at least I think so.

We were out along the banks of the River Rother at Canklow. Amongst the vegetation I saw a whole brick face up, with the manufacturers name – Stairfoot – clearly showing .  I know Stairfoot is a district of Barnsley, but that’s about all! I thought this brick, in some vague way, would be good to use in my garden somewhere. Moving further along the bank I saw 2 more bricks, again in good condition. One was inscribed Maltby Metallic, and the other the intriguing Midland Ir Rother,: the rest of the lettering was obscured under what looked like slag. By now I was hooked, so these were loaded into the wheelbarrow- thanks Matt and Sally! – and brought back to where we were parked. I spotted another brick near my car marked LBC Phorpres, so I came home with four!

Cleaned up – bricks found along the River Rother, Don and canals

I cleaned them all up when I got home. A quick google on one of the names brought up a  website devoted to old bricks! It told me all I, or anyone else, would need to know about bricks. As I thought, one was a London Brick which are quite common, but the others were local. There  was a brickworks at Stairfoot apparently. I had heard of Maltby Metallic as my childhood Council house home was made from their bricks ; finally, the one I had to clean turned out to be the Midland Iron Company of Rotherham. They were in Masbrough, and made wrought iron products but must have made their own bricks too. There were photographs of all these on the website so I haven’t found anything that unusual it seems, but I’m still pleased to find them!

Since then I have been looking for other examples while out with the DCRT team. I have managed to find at least  one brick on each occasion. I now have bricks marked Kilnhurst, D & S Clarke Rotherham, DMC Ld (Darfield Main Colliery), and I left a Dyson Refractory brick in situ as I already had one other brick to carry which was heavy enough!

I have also found R V (Rothervale Collieries), and Staveley bricks while litter picking locally. My greenhouse is resting on bricks, at least one of which is just visible and is marked Rushworth. This is apparently from West Yorkshire and were commonly found in Bradford buildings! I dug up a Dinnington brick from my garden some years ago, (luckily I kept it) and I recently found fragments of Accrington Nori bricks in my partners sisters garden near Coventry!

Until I looked into this I had no idea that there were so many brickworks in this country, and indeed in South Yorkshire. There was such a variety of types of brick and brick making companies, and to me these bricks are an window into our history. I hope by rescuing a few here and there I am preserving the memory of our recent past.

Antony and the rest of the team after a clear up of the Hartley Brook in Sheffield