Memories of a forgotten village

Floods at Levitt Hagg, Sprotbrough, Doncaster.
Floods at Levitt Hagg, Sprotbrough, Doncaster.

The forgotten village of Levitt Hagg, which stood on the south side of the River Don across the river from the Boat Inn, is obviously a favourite subject with our readers.

Young and old are intrigued by the phrase “forgotten village”, but although photographs and general information is available, not a great deal is known about the people who actually lived there.

Our recent article about the subject prompted Mexborough school caretaker Keith Butcher to send in the following fascinating statistics about the men, women and children who once made up this charismatic community in which they were born, worked and eventually died.

They were entirely working class and although the quarry owners themselves lived away from the site, there were some craftsmen and large number of labourers there which reflects the activity of the village, quarry and limeburning.

It is also interesting that three residents were occupied as railway workers, presumably employed on the nearby South Yorkshire line.

Over two thirds of the Levitt Hagg residents in 1851 were born in the district parishes of Warmsworth, Conisbrough, Sprotbrough, Denaby, Balby, Edlington and Braithwell with the rest coming from as far afield as Snaith and Thorne.

The hamlet itself was made up of 13 cottages, which are now completely gone with the only faint disappearing reminders of the glory days of the site being remnants of the limeburning kilns.

What was once a busy throughfare and bustling workplace in its Victorian heyday is now a peaceful and pretty walk through a grass and tree lined track. There was also a Church Mission which was built in 1878 but that too was demolished along with the houses called White Row which were built in 1876.

Much of this information was compiled by pupils of Northcliffe School in Conisbrough, which is now the the De Warren Academy. The boys and girls also interviewed a lady called Mrs Mary Bramer Kellett back in 1968 and she recalls the that the glowing tops of the limeburning kilns could be seen for for miles and known as the “Levitt Hagg Lighthouse”.

Mary’s father told of the arches which were constructed under the railway line so the workers could get quickly and safely from their houses to the quarries for a day’s work.

Coal for heating the homes came in barges every July and the men from each house would help with the loading, with shovels, planks and wheelbarrows being brought from the quarries and everyone helping to unload the essential fuel needed for warmth during the cold weather. Life was hard and made even harder by the occasional flooding when the River Don overflowed.

Another interviewee, Mr Arthur Burton, remembers that Shire horses were used to pull the trucks along railway sidings which were then loaded with the by products of coke and slack from the kilns until the quarry company bought a small steam engine to do the job. He also recalls that five donkeys were kept by some quarrymen to help pull the large barrows.

How the village got its name is always a subject of much debate today, but when asked how it came to be called Levitt Hagg Mrs Kellett smiled and said it was after the rent collector who they called the old Hagg from Levitt.

But in actual fact it came from the owners of the quarry the Levitt family from Hooton Levitt, along with the Saxon word for an outcrop of land which was Hagg.

Ironically, when the properties were finally demolished in the mid-50s, leaving not a trace of their existence, the local council said it was for reasons of hygiene and the health of the residents was suffering due to the pollution of the water coming from the Don.

However, this information does not always tally with longevity statistics of some of the people who inhabited the houses with individuals living to a ripe old age in some cases.

Mrs Emma Lewis died in 1897 aged 71, Thomas Brammer reached 76 before he passed away and Eliza Mary Banks died in December 1913 aged 78. But perhaps the biggest proof that despite its somewhat sparse lifestyle the conditions weren’t always detrimental is that of Mrs Sarah Johnson who reached a magnificent 92 before she passed on.

There were of course, younger deaths too but so it was in many other enclaves, villages or towns two hundred years ago.