The fight for the legacy of Orgreave Hall

The fight for the legacy of Orgreave Hall

By Gareth Dennison | 15/09/2020

The fight for the legacy of Orgreave Hall


PARTS of 17th century Orgreave Hall were rescued to become a cricket club’s clocktower monument.

Some bits were cherry-picked by the council for use in an office development in Rotherham town centre.

And the rest remains in a pile at the site — although a young historian is on a mission to find it a fitting home.

The hall — built in 1684 — spent most of its time being used to support farming but it is fondly remembered as a dinner, dance and events venue after being converted into Rotherwood Sports and Social Club in 1976.

But about two decades later it was demolished and just a pile of rubble remains at the site, near where Orgreave’s open-casting operations have happened since.

Historian Joe Peacock (25) has made a film about the hall’s plight as he campaigns for the rest of the stone to be incorporated within the neighbouring new Waverley community.

“This is a vast landscape which has changed so much over the last 25 years,” he said. “One of the changes has been the loss of Orgreave Hall.

“The hall was a three-storey country house at the bottom of Orgreave Lane surrounded by trees and a large stone wall, making it a very private place to live.”

The hall’s ownership was mostly by the Sorby family and its use was primarily agricultural.

The family fancied a bit of the Industrial Revolution action and opened Dore House Colliery in 1820 — beginning an era of coalmining on the land which would last 185 years — with Orgreave Colliery beginning in 1851.

“Orgreave was a huge success, lasting 130 years,” said Joe. “It was part of a major coal boom in the area, with further pits at Fence, Treeton and Thurcroft.”

With industry growing, and the opening of Orgreave cokeworks in 1920, you would assume that the views of rural Rother Valley would have been spoiled, but not according to Berthold Sorby.”

Mr Sorby had emigrated to the US but returned on a visit and recorded his thoughts about Orgreave Hall’s new surroundings in a letter in 1944.

He said: “I expected to find merely shells of the houses still standing, surrounded by derelict collieries.

“Imagine my surprise when I walked down Orgreave Lane and peered over the high stone wall to find the place in perfect order.

“The valley was a beautiful sight in the bright Sunday morning sunlight, the only defect being the Rother Valley Colliery, which has erector and other structures adjacent and in the centre of the valley and is a huge unsightly pile of mining refuse.

“However, Orgreave, surrounded by its huge stone wall, stands apart and once within its walls, everything is as it has always been these last 250 years.”

Legend has it that Orgreave Hall was connected to a tunnel network, which had been rumoured to have been used to move Mary Queen of Scots, when she was imprisoned in the city in the 16th century.

Joe said: “In 1976, Orgreave Hall was converted into the Rotherwood Sports and Social Club, which is very fondly remembered by locals for its annual bonfire night celebrations and meet ups for car enthusiasts.

“However this was to be the hall’s final chapter. When the club closed in the 1990s, the building was abandoned. It suffered serious vandalism and even a fire.

“In 1993, it was announced that the hall was to be demolished. It finally met its demise in 1995, falling into the blackhole that was to become Orgreave opencasting.”

He added: “The reason for the demolition was that, after 170 years of heavy industry, the area had to be cleaned in such a way that everything had to go.

“Not even the River Rother could escape. Nearly a mile stretch had to be rerouted as part of reclamation of the Orgreave site.”

Joe, who grew up in nearby Handsworth, has contacted landowners Harworth Estates with a view to having some of the hall’s stone within Waverley.

“The hall was a listed building and should never have been knocked down,” he said. “But hopefully it can be used on the new development.

“I’ve been in touch with Harworth and they seem very optimistic. We’re currently awaiting a date for the stone to be collected and stored somewhere safe.

“There are a few ideas about what to do with it, the main one being to have it in the community park, possibly at the entrance.”

One resting place for other stones from the building is Treeton Cricket Club, where trustee and groundsman Keith Haynes completed the clocktower in 2014.

Keith (71) has been involved with the club since he was 15 and spent more than three decades in the mining industry, completing training at Orgreave.

He arranged a visit to see the opencasting site with then ward councillor Reg Littleboy.

“We were talking about things, including Orgreave Hall,” said Keith. “It had been demolished and a fair lump had been used by Rotherham Borough Council to do work in the town centre like the Moorgate Crofts centre.

“The council had hand-picked and left a lot of rubbish. There were even some timbers in there.

“I asked what was going to happen to it and the impression I got was that it would just be buried.

“I went away thinking I could do something with that. I knew something could be done with it and spoke to a site manager.”

The stone was stored for a few years at the cricket club, where Keith was chairman for 15 years.

“An initial thought was to build a wall and seating but by the time you’ve dressed the stone, you can be left with little or nothing,” he said.

“So I decided on a clocktower. Treeton has a rich sporting vein and I had always thought about people having somewhere they could remember loved ones who had been involved in sports, maybe with nameplates.”

Keith assembled a small team for the job, including Freddie Scott and stonemason Mark Machin from Aston.

“Fred was 4ft-odd, strong as an ox and knew every trick in the book,” said Keith. “Between us we managed to get this sorted out and built but we didn’t have a top for it.

“I went to Chesterfield cricket club and was quite impressed with the one at their Queen’s Park ground.”

A top inspired by Chesterfield was added and the clocks were paid for thanks to a donation from Roger Baxter in memory of his wife Sylvia Perkins.

The mechanisms are maintained by Smith of Derby, one of the country’s oldest watchmakers, and the Orgreave Hall date stone was found another spot at the Treeton ground.

Keith is pleased and proud to have pulled the project together and saved some of the stone from the hall, which hosted Treeton’s dinner dances.

“If I hadn’t have done it, I suppose it would have been lost,” he added. “I’m happy that it’s one of the things people see when they arrive here.”