The villages of Staincross and Mapplewel1 are coterminus and situated approximately seven miles South of Wakefield, and three miles north of Barnsley, in the County now known as South Yorkshire.

In the distant past there were two separate hamlets:

Mapplewell: lying along Towngate, between the Four Lane Ends and the area around the King's Head Inn;

Staincross: in the area of the Paddock and the upper end of Greenside.

It is possible that in early times no effort was made to define a boundary between the two places, but as each began to expand. some distinction seemed desirable.

The Census takers of the 1800's allocated one side of Blacker to Staincross and the other side to Mapplewell. They regarded the King's Head Inn and an adjacent building as part of Mapplewell. The road we now call New Road was called Staincross Common Lane, so we can assume New Road was part of Staincross. It seems there are 'grey' areas which were in Mapplewell or Staincross according to the people who lived there.

The Danish invaders who settled in and took control of most of northern England during the ninth and tenth centuries divided Yorkshire into three Ridings. Each Riding was divided into smaller areas known as Wapentakes. Of the seven Wapentakes into which the West Riding was divided, one was the Wapentake of Staincross. This continued to be an administrative and legal unit until the middle of this century. Its centre is deemed to have been a "stone" or stone cross.

It is not possible to say with any certainty where the stone cross was located, but it is thought that it may have been somewhere between New Road, once known as Staincross Common Lane and The Common, which was previously known as Staincross Lane.

In his 'History of Barnsley' written in the 1800's, Jackson states that a Roman altar was found in the vicinity of Staincross Common. It was damaged and incomplete but bore an inscription indicating that it had been dedicated to the god Mars.


Early Inhabitants

Certain deeds concerned with the transfer of land make it clear that Mapplewell , Carr Green and Swallow Hill were inhabited before 1300, but the inhabitants would be serfs, tied to the land and working for great land owners, such as the de Laci family or their subordinates. William the Conqueror had rewarded many of his Knights with generous areas of land in acknowledgement of their loyalty during the Norman Invasion of 1066. The serfs would have to weave their own cloth, perhaps even make their own footwear, grow their own food, find their own fuel and water and make much of their own furniture. They were their own doctors and nurses, often relying on herbs, using remedies handed down from their own parents. They made their own entertainment and rarely or never bathed.

The Feudal system introduced by the Normans gradually broke down and its end was hastened by the Black Death during the 14th Century. This disease so reduced the working population that those who worked on the land were able to achieve liberty and demand higher returns for their labour.

The change in the lives of the 'lower orders' had been slow for 450 years but improvement eventually came. By this time much land had come into the hands of the church and the Monasteries and some had been subdivided. Some land had been bought by successful traders who had managed to accumulate sufficient money and some was leased to farmers who paid an annual rent.

By the time Henry VIII became king, there were yeoman successful in trade, business or farming. Many of these achieved the status of Gentleman.

In 1150 a church was built at Darton and a parish formed around it. It was not until the reign of Henry VIII, who made the Church of England independent of Rome, that parish priests were required to keep a record of Baptisms, marriages and burials in the parish. The Darton Registers began in 1539.


Changing Occupations in the Village

Because of changes in farming methods, fewer farm labourers were required and nail making became a popular occupation. During the 17th Century there was a close and enduring connection between nail makers and farmers. There was a market for nails and these had to be made by hand.

Farmers were equipped to carry out their own simple repairs to tools and equipment. They had outbuildings and they owned horses which would be available for bringing in supplies of materials and for carrying finished goods to market or a known buyer. For four months of the year there would be less to do on the farm and in Mapplewell coal was in abundance, much of it close to the surface of the ground. Making nails was a second string to the farmers bow but it soon took priority.

One John Spark of Mapplewell who died in 1726 was such a tradesman. It is almost certain that Spark Lane was named after him.

Nailmaking was a job which could involve the whole family.

In 1841 there were 244 Nailmakers in Staincross and Mapplewell and 45 miners as mining was by now also an alternative occupation to farming. In 1861 the number of Nailmakers was 280, the number of miners had increased to 314. Early miners had worked in shallow mines dotted about the village. The sinking of a deep mine at North Gawber was to make mining the main industry of the village for many years to come.

The 1861 census showed that almost 200 of the men working in the mine had not been born in the parish of Darton. Some came from adjacent villages and towns, many from adjoining counties and a substantial number from the south of England and some even from Scotland and Ireland. Many had brought families with them. The census also shows that many families were taking in lodgers and that many houses were greatly overcrowded in spite of the fact that many new houses had built in Spring Gardens and the vicinity of Wentworth Road. There was also some building on what we now call New Road, but here it consisted of small developments in which the immigrant miners were mixed with people already established in the village. It was different in the Wentworth Road area and in the Spring Gardens, where there was a preponderance of incomers , whose lifestyle so perplexed and offended the old residents that the Wentworth Road area became known as "Monkey Park" and Spring Gardens was renamed "Silly-Row" - names which were in common use until both areas were demolished some years after World War II. Later generations were less harsh in their judgements. Pye Avenue was merely converted to "Happy Valley" and is still remembered as such by older members of the community.

There were of course quite a few occupations other than nailmaking, farming and mining. There were masons, carpenters and basket makers. The basket makers were chiefly employed in making baskets for use in the mines. There was a thriving iron works. Some men made their living by gardening, growing and selling their own produce. There was no doctor in the villages until after 1881 but there were herb gatherers, and from the year 1861, an apothecary. In 1871-1881 there were 12 cordwainers or shoemakers some of whom may, in later years, have become clogmakers.

In the middle of the 19th Century, the Turner family from Carr Green were involved in boat-building and repairing at Low Barugh where many barges called regularly. When the canals declined in importance, after the railway network widened, some who had been involved in repairing barges became carpenters in the mines.



Before 1856 there were only private schools. Some of these were Dame Schools, all quite small, run by ladies who were considered to be capable of giving some instruction to young children. These ladies normally worked within their own homes. Two schools were run by school masters, one in the Salem Chapel which eventually became the Institute and the other in the original Primitive Chapel off New Road. These two were operating in 1861 for a period of a few years. In 1856, Mr. Beaumont of Bretton Hall put forward the money for an educational building called a British School and the census of 1861 shows that there were 271 scholars. The number of pupils steadily rose over the years and by 1881 there were 553 pupils. The present school had been built on Blacker Road. An additional school was built, and in more recent times, the Wellgate Infants School has been built.



Until 1800 the Church at Darton was the only place of worship for all the surrounding villages, the only place where baptisms, marriages and burials could be carried out. It is difficult to assess how regular the people of the outlying districts would attend church, especially in the depths of winter.

In 1761, John Wesley preached at Mapplewell. His views were held in high esteem by many throughout the country and Mapplewell was no exception. The first place of worship to be built in the village was the Methodist New Connection Chapel in Peckett's Square in 1800. Foster's Bakery now occupies that site. More building of chapels took place throughout the 19th Century. All of these chapels flourished at that time.

One of the features of all these chapels (and of the church at Darton at that time) was the Sunday School. The early Sunday Schools appear to have been more concerned with teaching children to read and write than to give religious education. This was, of course before the advent of State education.

In 1841, a commission was set up to inquire into the employment of young children in mines in the Yorkshire coalfields and elswhere. Some of the comments about their attendance at Sunday School are very revealing:

"I go to Park School * and they teach me writing, but they don't teach me my letters. I go to chapel every Sunday. I don't know who made the world. I never heard about God."

"I have been to Sunday School . I can read 'Reading made easy' and I learn spelling. I know God made the world, but I don't know who Jesus Christ was

"I go to Sunday School always. I read 'Reading made easy'. I don't know who Christ was. I never heard of him".

"I have been to a Sunday School . I don't know who made the world. I have heard them talk of God Almighty. but I don't know who he is. I don't know whether I ever heard of Jesus Christ. I never pray, I'm not taught how".

"I go to Sunday School every Sunday. am learning my letters but nought e1se".

Most children went to Sunday School until a dramatic decline, beginning in the 1970's and perhaps still declining today. Some chapels and churches no longer have a Sunday School

Much of the social life of children took place in connection with Sunday School ; Whitsuntide walks, tea parties, sports days and anniversaries, where one could show off a talent for singing, reciting or reading biblical text and an occasional outing to a local beauty spot

Teenagers of the 1940's and 5O's also found much of their social life revolved around the church and chapels where there were flourishing youth groups, Saturday socials, football teams, table tennis teams, cricket teams, drama groups and many more activities in which to participate.


Public Houses

There were social centres of another kind, the local taverns. The two public houses in the villages in 1841 had increased to four by 1861 and to eight by 1871. For some these were as much a refuge as the religious establishments were to others.

From 1850 onwards there appears to have been a certain amount of drunkenness, particularly from latecomers to reside in the villages which incensed and outraged the chapel folk and many right-minded people of no particular religious persuasion.

A flourishing Temperance Society was formed by George Hamby and James Casmey. Over the years, many changes have been seen in Staincross and Mapplewell. Mining is no longer a thriving industry. North Gawber closed along with many other mines in the country after the strike of 1984/5. The pithead gear, once a prominent land mark in the village of Mapplewell , has been dismantled; on the site, a super-market, the Co-Operative store now known as Pioneer, has been built, along with a Chinese Restaurant and other industrial and residential buildings.

A decline in attendance at religious establishments has made it necessary for the closure of some chapels in the village.

More houses have been built and large open spaces are diminishing. No doubt, in future years, many more changes will take place.

We live amidst changing scenes; what happens today will be tomorrow s history.