South Yorkshire stations – Mexborough and Swinton

It was a fairly grim day up North on Thursday 2nd March as I headed back to South Yorkshire for the first time since January, to visit Mexborough and Swinton. The towns are located midway between Rotherham and Doncaster.

The journey to Mexborough station was fairly unremarkable, changing at Derby and Sheffield stations.

Mexborough railway station opened in March 1871, replacing two other stations in the town (Mexborough Junction and Mexborough (Ferry Boat) Halt, which both closed. It retains its station buildings, which house a staffed ticket office, although there are ticket machines for use when the ticket office is closed. In 2011, the station won the category ‘Station of the Year (Small)’ at the prestigious National Rail Awards. The platforms are traversed by a footbridge, and there is a long and winding ramp on the northbound platform which leads to a tunnel under the tracks and out into the car park.

My first stopping point in Mexborough was a small park called Pixies Park. It has a few benches and a small monument within it, and is accessed from a gate on the main road.

Pixies Park, Mexborough

I left the park and headed back down the road to the entrance to the Sheffield & Doncaster Navigation, a canal which runs almost parallel to the River Don.

The canal towpath was a little muddy, but not Kiveton Park levels of muddy, thankfully. A ferry used to run between Mexborough and nearby Denaby. A tragic incident where two men drowned in 1874 led to the inquest recommending that a bridge be built over the river. Almost ninety years later, in 1963, the bridge was finally built, and that’s where I left the canal to walk back to Mexborough for a look around the town centre.

Mexborough’s most famous son is arguably the actor and mountaineer Brian Blessed, born in the town in 1936. Other famous people from the town include the actor Keith Barron, Coronation Street and Shameless star Sally Carman and former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, who moved to the town aged 7. The town’s industry was coal mining and ceramics. A large railway shed known locally as the ‘Mexborough Loco’ was located close to the railway station, but this closed in the 1960s. The local member of parliament is Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader.

I left Mexborough town centre and made the short walk to Swinton. I walked a pathway through Queen Park and under the railway line to the remnants of the Dearne and Dove Canal.

The canal was opened in 1804 to link Barnsley with the River Don, but mining subsidence and competition from the railways led to its decline and eventual closure in 1961. Most of the canal route has been filled in, but a local group are attempting to restore the canal.

I walked to the Co-op supermarket in Swinton to buy lunch, then had a wander to Horsefair Park, a small park with a pond just off the main road.

Further along the road is the Swinton Butter cross, St Margaret’s Church and the town’s war memorial.

The butter cross was moved to St Margaret’s Church at some point, but was re-sited back to its original location in the town in the summer of 2004 and restored. St Margaret’s dates back to the early 19th century. The war memorial was unveiled in September 1921 and is dedicated to the local men who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Just across the road from the church and war memorial is the Swinton Peace Gardens. The gardens were laid out in 1986 to mark the United Nations International Year of Peace, and feature a sculpture called “Blooms” by Hilary Cartmel. This was installed in 2007 to mark the 21st anniversary of the gardens.

As mentioned before, Swinton was famous for the Rockingham Pottery produced at the Waterloo Pottery Works. The works were opened in 1815 and have long since closed, but the kiln and the ponds remain as part of a public park on the western edge of town.

After a quick look around the kiln and the grounds, I had to get back to the station to begin the long journey home. I arrived just in time to see a train back to Sheffield depart, but lucky for me there are three trains per hour to Sheffield from Swinton, so I didn’t have long to wait for the next one.

Swinton railway station is the third station to have existed in the town. The first was opened in 1840, and was replaced by another station called Swinton Town in 1899, just to the north. This was closed in the Beeching Cuts in 1968, and the station house remains as the headquarters of a manufacturing business. The present station was built as part of the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority’s plan in the 1980s to restore and re-open closed stations in the region. It opened in 1990, initially as an unstaffed station. However, demand from passengers led to a ticket office being built, which is still in use today. There are three platforms, two of which are for trains towards Sheffield and one for trains in the other direction.

I caught the next train back to Sheffield, then took a train to Derby, and finally got a train from there back to good old Burton on Trent, whose station is now gleaming after a recent paint job. Thanks very much for reading.


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