Message on a bottle

In a bottle, surely?

– Not quite.

Image of whisky flask type glass bottle embossed with G Steeples, Milton Arms, Hemingfield
Flask bottle embossed with G. Steeples, Milton Arms, Hemingfield

The original contents of this particular whisky flask type glass bottle are unknown, although spirits seem more likely than the round bottles usually seen for beer. Starting with this object with a local provenance, and working with memories and records from Hemingfield families, this blog is an exploration of the changing times in the village, and a small contribution to sharing the stories of local people through to the present day, as part of The Friends of Hemingfield Colliery’s Hemingfield’s Hidden History project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It’s thanks to National Lottery players that this history and heritage work can be developed and shared with the public.

Made possible with National Lottery Heritage Fund support, thanks to National Lottery players.

George Steeples (1869-1920) and later his wife Mary Elizabeth, née Atkinson (1864-1941) ran the Milton Arms Hotel in Hemingfield together from 1906 to 1923; Mary running it for a few years after George’s death before the licence passed to Harold Vincent Wroe (1887-1968), later landlord of the Royal Oak Hotel in Wombwell.

The Steeples had originally taken the inn over from William Parkin (1841-1918) who ran the Milton Arms between 1897-1906 and had the distinction of having been landlord of both the Milton and Albion Hotel pubs in Hemingfield.

See them and other members of the local community in Hemingfield and Jump in a contemporary local directory from 1902

Milton Arms, Hemingfield

The inn’s origins seem to date to the 1830s or 40s when the inn, at the time technically in Wombwell township, in the parish of Darfield, was put up for auction. In November 1842, it was described as:

ALL that MESSUAGE, or DWELLING-HOUSE, in Hemingield, known by the Sign of the Milton Arms aforesaid, with the Cottage, Carpenter’s Shops, and other Out-Buildings, Yards, Garden, and Vacant Ground adjoining, or situate near to, the said Messuage, and lately occupied therewith by Mr. Samuel Smith.

Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 26th November 1842

The owner, Samuel Smith (1791-1868) had operated as a wheelwright, carpenter and small farmer as well as branching out to become a publican, but as trade turned bad, he had been unable to pay his various suppliers, Messrs Hinde & Co., brewers, and several wine and spirits merchants, including Cotton of Leeds and John Armstrong of Doncaster, to whom Smith ultimately assigned his property to pay his creditors.

Detail of Old Series Ordnance Survey map (1 inch to 1 mile), showing Hemingfield as surveyed 1838-9.

After 1844, the inn’s longest owner was the Rotherham Brewer Robert John Bentley (1823-1890) and his company, later run by his Executors. The inn itself was run by a changing set of licence holders as landlords and ladies.

In the 1850s the licensed victualler was George Trickett (1822-1889) with his first wife Hannah (d.1856) and second wife Sarah. Brought up as a shoemaker/cordwainer, he appears to have continued and reverted to this trade later in life. He ran the inn up to 1867.


JOHN COCKING, of the Milton Arms, Hemingfield, begs to inform his friends and the public that he has now on view, an EXTRAORDINARY GERANIUM, which contains no fewer than 21 grafts on one stem, 8 varieties in all. The plant is known as Flowerest Flora and is the only one of the kind to be seen within 100 miles of Barnsley.

To be seen daily, at the Milton Arms, free of charge.

Advert from Barnsley Chronicle, 17th July 1869, p.5

Following the Tricketts, the inn was taken on by John Cocking (1821-1871). The Cockings connect us back to Hemingfield Colliery in several ways. Born in Greasbrough, John’s wife Jane being the daughter of James Utley, colliery manager at Hemingfield from 1842-1862. Sadly one of their children, Allen, was to die in a terrible accident at the pit, in the engine house where his father worked as an engine tenter, in January 1853, shortly after the explosion of 22nd December 1852.

John’s wife Jane Cocking (née Utley) took over after his decease, before passing the licence to William Blackburn (1835-1916), joiner and carpenter of Hemingfield in 1873. Blackburn worked as a stone mason from the premises into the 1880s and had also previously been landlord at the Albion Hotel after Henry Lees. In 1886 alterations were made to the Milton Arms.

George Cowood (1849-1901) took on the inn around 1886. With his wife and Jane Elizabeth and growing family. He was a knurr and spell player and held matches. Towards the end of his time at Hemingfield in 1889 a small fire damaged one of the rooms. He moved on to be landlord of the Leaper’s Vault in Selby.

Detail of a photographic postcard of the Milton Arms from 1904 (photo credit: Courtesy Mary Reid)

From 1891-1897 George William Hudson (1850-1929) took on the licence. In 1897 George Sokell (1845-1902), a coal mining deputy from Wombwell Main took on the licence briefly before moving on to a pub in Sheffield, and ceding it to William Parkin mentioned above who served locals until the Steeples took over in 1906.

Pre-1911 view of Cemetery Road, Hemingfield, the older Milton Arms Hotel can just be glimpsed as a range of buildings at the centre rear of this photograph published on a postcard.

The Steeples stint at the hostelry from oversaw perhaps the greatest changes to the inn when in 1910 it was demolished and completely rebuilt according to then modern designs by architects Stubbs and Brown of High St., Sheffield.



FIRMS desirous of Tendering for the whole of the Works required in the pulling down of the Milton Arms Hotel, Hemingfield, near Barnsley, and Rebuilding the New Hotel, are required to forward their names to the undersigned not later than Monday, 9th May, together with a deposit of Two Guineas (which will be returned on receipt of a bona-fide Tender), after which Quantities and other information may be obtained and Plans inspected.


Architects, etc.

74, High Street, Sheffield

Advert from Barnsley Chronicle, 30th April 1910, p.4
View of the former Milton Arms Hotel, now Marbrook Apartments, Cemetery Road Hemingfield, July 2016

The 1910 plans are the stylish building which can still be seen today, although now converted to 4 flats as Marbrook apartments since 2011.

Milton Arms January 2021

The Milton Arms later Milton Arms Hotel, had a long and busy life in the Victorian period, as a centre of activities, meetings, coroner’s inquests, and being the site of several unfortunate events itself.

View of Milton Arms building with outbuildings (now separate ownership), Jan 2021

After the Steeples, Harold Vincent Wroe (1887-1968), a colliery clerk took on the licence. He had served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War and saw the hotel into the postwar depression period.

Henry Upton (1886-1932) held the licence afterwards, having worked as a coal miner. Unfortunately business was very poor during his tenure. The stress sadly led to the landlord taking his own life at the pub in 1932, being buried at the Jump and Hemingfield Cemetery. His widow Edith continued for a few years before it was taken on by Walter (William) Kirby (1885-1939), who had seen service in the RAF during the First World War, and then his wife Florence Kirby took it on, before transferring the licence to Herbert Hawcroft (1879-1943).

A side note in the pub’s history is that in 1939 the building served as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) post, with local people on duty, including Mr Edward Cooper of Fitzwilliam Street who was both an air raid warden and ambulance man.

Jan 2021 view down Cemetery Road, the old Milton Arms can just be seen at the bottom of the hill (compare with pre 1911 image above).

By 1950 another former miner, Thomas Tomlinson (1893-1974) and his wife Lilian (née Avison) were running the pub. Followed by Spencer Rippon Hazzard, known as ‘Spenny Hazzard’ (1901-1980) and his wife Lois (née Wild). Spenny was a butcher and had worked as a Special Constable for the West Riding. He died in California, USA.

The late Twentieth century saw a gradual decline of the business. It became disused in the 1970s and reopened under a new name, the Fiddlers Inn in the 1980s, before being changed again, to the Marbrook Tavern in 2001, and finally reverting back to the Fiddlers Inn again in 2006 under new owners, before latterly being converted for apartments.

A large and attractive building, with ‘ghost sign’ lettering on the outbuildings, the Milton Arms remains a reminder of past vitality in the village.

Detail of outbuilding with ghost advertisements for Bentley’s noted beers, January 2021

10 thoughts on “Message on a bottle

  1. Thanks fo info on Fiddlers ,we brought it back to life in 1980,It would have been good if you had mentioned the landlady from that time ,Jean Fennel,lots of the villages would have known her,a lovely lady.
    Ps I still have some documents going back to 1910 and further


  2. Thank you for posting this information about the pub. William Parkin was my great great grandfather and George Trickett my great great great grandfather. I appreciated learning more about their connection to the pub.


  3. hey guy, i have just come across this web site, we are the current owners of Marbrook apartments so if we can help you with what we know just ask, we would also be keen to learn more about its history. My email address is;

    Barrie Craven


    • Hi Barrie
      I first saw this empty pub in the seventies whilst selling building materials and windows to a contractor on quest ave just opposite what was then the Milton struck me at the time what a well built structure it was ,the next time I heard of it was after loosing bids on a pub down Hoyle mill.A builder approached with an offer to buy the Milton and has the business was looking to buy we took it on.The seller was a builder called Doug from Hoyland,he had started turning it to flats.
      Myself and a fellow director bought it and over the years 81/82 turned it into a very beautiful pub ,installed an exceptional landlady,Jean Fennel who with our help ran it well with good meals and entertainment .The pub did ok for a few years but whenJean left it went a bit pear shaped and it was decided due to internal problems with fellow director to close it down and I was forced to sell .
      I have the old deeds to the place which contains paperwork going back to before it was rebuilt around 1910?? The pub also became pretty much the Center of village life with coffee mornings Ski trips treasure hunts and quizzes,it never made a profit but was enjoyed by all who visited .
      Should you need more information please ask


  4. My Grandfather was Spencer Rippon Hazzard and i have fond memories of the Milton Arms prior to my Grandparents departure to California in 1969.


      • I have never heard the ‘Spenny’ nickname but will ask my father who is now 90 if it means any thing to him. Yes he was a butcher and his shop was in Wombwell where he grew up. They took on the Milton Arms when my father was at university. I was 11 when my grandparents went to America in 1969 to visit their daughter who had emigrated with her family in the early 60’s. They decided to stay and Spencer died in California. Lois came back to the UK in 1982 after the death of her daughter, Margaret. The pub consisted of an ‘Offy’, a best room, snug and large public bar. The living area was at the back. Upstairs were bedrooms, a parlour and very large bathroom. It was very cold upstairs!


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