The Dearne Valley has been and continues to be an area of change, an area whose landscape directly affects the economy and the community. Once you scratch below the surface, the depth of cultural activity becomes apparent.
Whilst born in Lancashire, Ted Hughes moved to Mexborough aged seven. The wildlife and landscapes of the area had a major influence on his early life and inspired much of his early poetry.
In contemporary terms, Ian MacMillan, the Bard of Barnsley, lives in Darfield and as well as broadcasting on Radio 3 and 4 and travelling nationwide he is actively involved in the arts across the Dearne.
Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel Ivanhoe is based in South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire with ‘Coningsburgh’ clearly based on the village and castle of Conisbrough.
The Dearne has been the location for a number of films and television series over the years. Perhaps most famously, Kes, which was filmed throughout the area. The book on which it was based (A Kestrel for a Knave) marks its 50th anniversary since publication during the lifetime of the DVLP in 2018. The village of Grimley in Brassed Off was a clear reference to Grimethorpe and it was used extensively as a location for filming. The soundtrack also featured the internationally famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band. This demonstrates another of the cultural traditions in the Dearne of brass bands and music. The area is still being used for filming today and during November 2013 Wentworth Woodhouse was a location for the filming of BBC adaptation of the book “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” screened in 2015.
Due to the strong mining heritage there was also at the peak of the industry a large number of Working Men’s Clubs and Miner’s Welfares which provided well loved venues within the villages across the area, some of which survive today.
The Dearne contains the Maurice Dobson museum in Darfield, which celebrates life in and around the village. The Dearne Playhouse at Goldthorpe is a 365 seat theatre and has audiences of over 50,000 year to its mainly amateur productions. There are also the Playhouse and Operatic Centre in Wombwell, regularly used for amateur performances. The Majestic Suite in Mexborough, a former cinema, is also tentatively being considered for restoration to create an arts and heritage centre. The Maurice Dobson Museum now has the records for the Darfield Amateur Dramatic Society which it is assessing and cataloguing.
There is a range of sporting activity, from cricket clubs formed as part of life around the mines, to the re-use of former industrial land to create a water sports centre. From football clubs both professional at Barnsley FC and amateur at Swinton FC to greyhound racing at Highgate track near Thurnscoe. In 2013 the Maurice Dobson Museum was gifted the archives of a local press reporter dating back to the 1930s. These are an invaluable resource (21 volumes) on sporting life in the Dearne.
Locations in the Dearne
All locations that are related to this content are as follows:
Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre
Experience Barnsley Museum and Discovery Centre contains information and artefacts concerning Barnsley.
Swinton Lock Activity Centre
Swinton Lock Activity Centre is a community-based activity, arts and education centre located in Swinton, South Yorkshire.
Conisbrough Castle is a Medieval period fortification built in the 11th century and is located in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire.
Elsecar Heritage Centre
The Elsecar Heritage Centre is a family attraction located in the village of Elsecar, South Yorkshire.
Worsbrough Mill and Reservoir
Worsbrough Mill is a working 17th century water mill located in a 240 acre Country Park in Worsbrough, South Yorkshire.
RSPB Old Moor
The Old Moor is a nature reserve maintained and operated by the RSPB located in the heart of the Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire.
Monk Bretton Priory
Located in the village of Lundwood, Monk Bretton Priory is a Grade I listed ancient monument site.
Glassby Arch, Mexborough
The Arch is a stone arch located in the Garden of Fern Villa in Mexbrough, South Yorkshire.