It's not old as English villages go. There are some old farmsteads dating back to the 1600s, and some cottages in the village show signs of having had weavers' galleries on the top floor (very recognisable by the windows), but the village as it is now didn't really spring into being until the industrial revolution brought the weaving trade out of the cottages and into the mills. I'm guessing most of the older houses (terraced cottages mostly) were built between 1770 and 1830. They were probably buit to house millworkers as the mill in the village grew. Most of them were one-up-one-down and according to the census returns people were raising families with eight or nine children in these tiny two-room houses. The ones nearest to the camera in the forst picture look to be two rooms deep, but we think they were originally built as back-to-backs. The ones furthest away from the camera are only one room deep. Yes, that's a gas lamp halfway along the row. These two pics were probably taken some time between 1905 and 1911. The building that sticks forward on to the roadside furthest from the camera is now the village hall, but it was then a school, built by two Quaker benefactors soon after the 1870 education act. It wasn't until 1911 that they built the current 'council' school.
The River Dearne rises behind our house and there's a small dam, which drains into a culvert beneath the road and thence into the mill dam proper. The undershot water wheel (once at the extreme left hand edge of the mill photo) is long gone, but the course of the mill race is still visible. More importantly, the mill dam in Birdsedge controls the water flow into the Dearne from here to Denby Dale, the next village down the valley. The Hinchliffe family, which owns the mill in Denby Dale, also owns the mill in Birdsedge, and I suspect the water flow is the main reason they've kept it going as a viable working mill. Of course the water isn't used for power in Denby Dale, but they do still actively dam it, so I expect it's used in some kind of process.
I must ask James Hinchliffe when next I see him.
In a cottage-weaving situation several families would collaborate to buy one or two hand looms, and keep them working as long as there was light to see by (which in summer, in this part of the worlc, can be from 4.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.). Though some weavers' lofts were individual, some spanned several houses. I suspect that might be the case with the first three cottages here at Sunside. If you look carefully there are blocked up windows at either side of the upper ones (and at the back, too). Only the first three cottages were built as housing, the rest of the row was part of a farm range which was converted to three dwellings some time between 1905 and 1911. In an earlier photo you can quite clearly see a tall barn door where, in this picture, is a lighter patch of front wall. Barn conversions are not a new idea. (The farm house is part of the same structure, but is round the back)
You can see blocked up weavers' windows much more clearly on this 1960s photo of the back of Sunside cottages. Imagine the light in that gallery with a long row of mullioned windows at both the front and back of the gallery. Compare the size of the domestic windows downstairs where it was more important to keep heat in even if it meant shutting light out.
And here is the farm house. The photo is probably from the 1960s. It remains a farm - or rather a smallholding - to this day.
It's a bit more prosperous looking, but the top floor of what was the Crown Inn was obviously a weavers' gallery. The mullions of long-blind windows are still very obvious. I can see this building from my front window. It's still lovely and is now an artist's gallery rather than a weaver's one.
Having a weavers gallery on a third floor was fairly common, giving more space to the family. The weavers at Sunside must have been amongst the poorest, probably each family living in just one room and sleeping upstairs next to their looms.