In search of Swinton’s “Little Britain”

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Before their deaths Peter (1873) and Mary (1870) Robertson lived in “Little Britain” Swinton. But where is this Little Britain?

Current map’s don’t show the area in Swinton or the nearby Mexborough. After many internet searches filled with results for the comedy TV program, Tilda Swinton. and the London District of Little Britain, I finally found 2 direct references:

  1. South Yorkshire Times:  “It appears that “Little Britain” encompassed an area of both Mexborough and Swinton, and was surrounded by: Rowmes Lane, Swinton; the base of Cowood Street; Britain Street, and the canal.”
  2. Glassby family history pages: “Little Britain” is next to “Upper Canada” in the 1841 Census list, and close to Don Pottery and Swinton Wharf. Giles Bearley of Swinton Heritage Society says:-  These fanciful names were generated by the Canal people. The South Yorkshire Cut and the Dearne & Dove Canal were put through the town circa 1780. Employment on the canals was quite extensive with all the local industry. Some were short runs and some were long runs. Others used to set off on “the wander” where they would go anywhere they could get a cargo. It was not as fanciful as being on the ocean wave but names from sea voyages filtered back as nicknames for different places. Particularly where there was a turning circle or a boatman’s mission where they could get religion and supplies. In Wath-on-Dearne (the next town) for example was the “Bay of Biscay”. Families residing there used the same names to describe where they were which was picked up in early censuses.


The area formerly known as "Little Britain" in Swinton, South Yorkshire

I found this area on the map, it’s about a 20 minute walk all downhill from Peter and Mary’s burial place at St Margarets church graveyard. I couldn’t find a way to walk along the Canal side. Most of the buildings in the area are from the 20th century and looking very neglected. I parked on Walker St. and photographed the pub on the corner of Station Road and the Victorian terraces on Station Road. It wasn’t the sort of area you feel safe walking around alone. I walked along Rowms lane, up and down New Station Road and tried to spy the canal over large hedged wire fences.

I suspect Little Britain was a much more raucous and lively place at the height of the canal trade.
Little Britain            Little Britain

In search of Swinton’s “Little Britain”
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