Moorgate Cemetery

Albert Bibbs

Rotherham’s Golden Balls

Both John Guest in his “Historical Notices of Rotherham” and George Gummer in “Reminiscences of Rotherham” remember, but do not expand on, Mr Albert Bibb’s role in the town’s affairs around the middle of the 19th century. However Mr Bibbs did contribute a short paper for “Historic Notices”.

Mr Bibbs acquired the deeds of Heaven Chambers, Church Street, Rotherham in 1857 having carried on the business of pawnbroker and jeweller there since 1851. George Gummer informs us that he was familiarly known as “The Bombardier”, but gives no explanation for this nickname. Heaven Chambers were not as sublime, however, as the name might suggests. The premises were next to the Parish Church, but also neighbour to the Ring o’ Bells and the occupants of the Chambers encountered many problems associated with a 19th Century ale house.

Mr Bibbs moved to new premises in 1863 and occupied premises in High Street, next to the Brown Bear, where he carried on the business of auctioneer, pawnbroker and, jeweller. Around this time he also became a partner is Slinn Searle and Co,who owned a small brewery in the old flax mill, Market Street.

Around this time Mr Bibbs was also looking for a more suitable residence for himself and family and chose a property in Moorgate, which was becoming very fashionable in the middle 19th Century. Moorfield Villas, Boston Castle Lane, came up for auction and in 1867  Mr Bibbs secured the property and took up residence there.

Albert Bibbs

Although his new residence was near to the new cemetery there was a healthy distance between the boundary wall and his new home. George Haywood, a partner in Yates and Haywood owned Moorgate Allotment directly adjacent to his property and vines and soft fruit were grown in abundance.

In addition to his business activities, Mr Bibbs took his public duty seriously and was a member of Board of Guardians and the Rotherham and Kimberworth Local Board.

The first municipal elections were held in 1871, when Rotherham was granted a Charter of Incorporation under Queen Victoria. With the exception of three, all the members of the old Local Board of Health, including Albert Bibbs, offered themselves for election. Unfortunately Mr Bibbs,along with two others, was unsuccessful in his campaign for election to the town’s first council.

Shortly after the Council elections, a little book appeared, dedicated to William Whitfield, the new town clerk. The book was published by one “Thomas ye Rhymer” in recognition of the energy and perseverance by which the incorporation of the Borough had been brought about. In the preface the author states, “I deem it certain that they are works which in future will prove mines of wealth to succeeding chroniclers of the history of our Borough, more particularly when they come to treat of that glorious never to be forgotten event – the granting of our Charter of Incorporation.”

George Gummer chose to publish the rhyme relating to the battle which took place for the West ward between Albert Bibbs (Ye lay of ye golden balls) and Abraham Taffinder, jeweller and watchmaker (Ye master of ye pendulum). The lengthy rhyme , 25 verses in all, chronicles the rise and fall of  Bombardier Bibbs.

Click on the bars below to read the complete “Ye Lay Of Ye Golden Balls” or review the characters – and once again in the top of each  to collapse the relevant section:

Ye Lay Of Ye Golden Balls

The Bombardier of Rotherham 
By the nine gods he swore 
That the ancient House of Bibbs 
Should suffer wrong no more; 
By the nine gods he swore it, 
And named a trysting day; 
And bade his messengers go forth. 
East and West, and South and North, 
To summon his array, 

East and West. and South and North. 
The messengers run fleet; 
And fast explore each hidden court, 
And quickly scour each street. 
Shame on the coward voters. 
That linger in their homes 
When Bibbs the Bold of Moorgate. 
To seek supporters comes. 

Committee-men and canvassers 
Come pouring, in hot haste, 
From Westgate and from Market Place; 
(There’s little time to waste) 
Swift towing pens, and ready ink. 
O’er rnilk.white paper fly: 
And soon on ev’r’y lofty wall 
Print, Print, and ‘Bibbs’are high. 

There be chosen men to canvass,
The wisest in the Land; 

At eventide by Albert’s side 
Those chosen men do stand. 
Evening and morn the chosen, 
Have read their canvass o’er; 
And Bibbs hath trembling asked them 
What the fates hold in store. 

And with one voice those chosen
Have their glad answer made; 
Go forth to glory, Albert, 
And Councillor be made! 
Go, and return victorious! 
And on Rotherham’s vacant walls 
Placard a glorious triumph 
For the triple golden balls. 

Those gilded orbs thou bearest, 
Full in the light of day; 
Of old by Tuscan Princes 
Were borne in many a fray; 
And high on tossing standards, 
Girt round with spear and shield, 
Have proudly waved victorious 
O’er many a bloody field. 

Wherewith wan face and upturn’d eye, 
Scowling defiance to the sky, 
In ghastly heaps the dead did lie; 
Grim dead, whose parted ghosts, 
Slow flitting in the nether shade, 
Invoked a curse on those who made 
Of war a profit and a trade, 
And sold their slaught’ring hosts, 

And blazoned on the surcoat 
Of gallant knight or squire, 
Oft have they charged in battle’s front, 
But ne’er did yet retire. 
Then shalt thou dim their lustre,
In this more modern day; 
Because now ‘Uncles’ use them 
In quite a different way. 

Because when now suspended 
On sign instead of lance, 
They tell the dweller under them
Small sums will oft advance! 
Spurn thou all coward counsel, 
Gaze on thy coat of arms; 
And let the sight nerve thee to fight,
Reckless. of weak alarms. 

Hoist thou on high the emblems 
Of Medicis’ Royal Line; 
And forward gallant Bombardier,
And in the Council shine. 

But when the cheery Bellman’s voice
Told dwellers in our town, 
That Albert, though defeated once, 
Had thrown the gauntlet down. 
Then rose a gallant watchman. 
Hight Taffinder by name. 
Who swore that are such thing should be, 
The vacant seat he’d claim. 

With imprecations deep and strong
Loud, loud, did he exclaim, 
If Bibbs do represent us. 
We shall be much to blame. 
Up, up, each sturdy burgess, 
Up, up, my comrades stout, 
Rouse, rouse, the Ward on ev’ry side, 
Drive this invader out! 

Right soon did trusty helpers 
Quick answer to his cry; 
From every side with eager feet, 
To Abraham they hie. 
Stout Jervis from the lofty house,
That, perched on Moorgate’s side, 
Looks downward o’er the fertile plain, 
Where Don’s dark stream doth glide. 

Strong Arthur from the Building 
O’er Rother’s flood that lowers, 
Looming a storied mass on high, 
Of weathercocks and towers;
And rosy Jack from Church Street, 
With lusty ox and calf, 
Disjointed, hang from flesh hooks, 
Watched by his better half.   

Tall Wynn from out the Station, 
Where glittering tankards bright, 
Of juice of grape and foaming malt, 
Eternal drinks invite. 
And Hattersley, the roper 
Who throws aside his twine; 
And Wade who casts away his goose,
And Teddy from the sign 
Whereon a Dusty Miller swings 
Run hurrying up the street; 
And soon old Westgate’s time-worn flags 
Sound loud and trampling -feet. 

Committee-Men arrange themselves, 
Brave Jervis in the Chair; 
And one and all to Abraham 
Allegiance faithful swear 
Advertisements are written out, 
And then with bated breath, 
Each hero stands in readiness 
To struggle to the death. 

Now marshal each their forces, 
Now each review their ranks; 
Now each address supporters, 
Each tenders them their thanks; 
And now for deadly conflict, 
Prepares each valiant chief. 
And deep laid schemes devises, 
For his opponent’s grief. 

Bold Binghâm leaves his cleaver, 
To join the Bombardier; 
With Reynolds from the Westgate,
Known as Tubby, far and near. 
Brave Rupert quits his raisins, 
And Hanby leaves his till: 
While Henry quits The Feathers
The ranks of Bibbs to fill. 

From each dull court the Irish 
Come fast with out-stretched arms; 
And lend sweet Erin’s well-known brogue 
To swell the contest’s charms; 
And when on sultry summer day, 
Full in the lurid sun’s fierce ray, 
The carcase of an ox doth lay. 
And flies buzz round in swarms.
So alway come the Irish, 
That in sweet Westgate dwell
When they hear the sound of contest 
Or scent of whisky smell. 

At last arrives the day of fight,
And through the open doors 
Of Rotherham’s finest building 
Voters enter by the scores; 
First one for Bibbs then three for ‘Taff,
One more for Bombardier; 
Then cab on cab for Taflinder 
Are hailed with rapturous cheer; 
And faster now and still more fast
Opposing chariots drive; 
And load on load crowd through the doors. 
As bees swarm through the hive. 

In vain, oh gallant Bibbs, 
Thy friends try every art, 
Yet once again in public, 
To let thee play a part; 
Thy comrades of the Board 
Will miss thy blooming face; 
Throw up the sponge, bold Bombardier,
Lost is the hard fought race. 

Hark to the sound of cheering! 
Hark to that long loud shout! 
Proclaim thee, Bibbs, defeated, 
As councillor thrown out; 
In seclusion hide thine anguish, 
To Moorgate’s shades retire, 
And on thy woes in stern repose, 
Sit brooding o’er the fire; 
Tear down the signs of contest 
From off thy ancient walls, 
For Abraham’s victorious 
O’er the triple golden balls, 

And as lot’ thee old Pendulum, 
The conqueror in the fight, 
Long shalt thou live and try to do 
Thy daily duty right; 
And when thy mortal watch shall stop, 
Thine old heart cease to beat, 
Don’t fear thy name and lasting fame 
Shall perish from the street 

For in the nights of winter, 
Long after thou’rt no more. 
When bitter blasts howl loudly, 
Around each cottage door; 
When Bentley’s ale is flowing 
In the happy Christmas times, 
When children play upon the hearth, 
And bells ring merry chimes. 

When they carve the largest sirloin. 
And cut the largest pie, 
And the good man and his good wife, 
Sink blindly idly by; 
Then with jesting and with laughter, 
They’ll drink to thee in beer, 
And tell thy glorious victory 
O’er the gallant Bombardier. 

The Characters

Bombardier: Albert Bibbs, a pawnbroker and a member of the old Local Board. 
Taffinder: A jeweller with premises in High street. 
Jervis: Jervis Harris, ironfounder residing in Mountenoy road. 
Strong Arthur:  Arthur Hirst, manager at Bentley’s Brewery. 
Rosy Jack: John Waring, a butcher in Church street, so called for his ruddy cheeks.
Tall Wynn: Landlord of the Station inn, tall and thin. 
Battersley the Roper: Proprietor of the old rope walk in Westgate. 
Wade: A tailor of bibulous habit
Teddy: Landlord of the Dusty Miller Inn. 

Reynolds: Commonly known as Tubby, a fussy little character with a peculiar voice. 
Brave Rupert: A grocer named Lomas, with a shop in Westgate and later a Councillor for the Ward. 
Hanby: John Hanby, also a grocer, and later a Councillor for the Ward. 
Henry: Henry John Wright, landlord of Prince of Wales in Westgate, an excellent speaker. 

Three years after the town’s first elections, following the death one of the town’s Aldermen, a vacancy arose in the East Ward. Albert Bibbs on this occasion was successful , after defeating Alderman W H Gummer by a majority of ten. His success, sadly was short lived and in November of the same year the two opponents met again and Alderman Gummer won by a majority of 20 votes. This defeat appears to have heralded the end of Mr Bibb’s political ambitions and he directed his attention to domestic matters.

Following the death in 1883 of his near neighbour, George Haywood of Rotherstoke, the small allotment adjacent to his home, which formed part of Mr Haywood’s estate came up for auction. The allotment up to that point, as previously mentioned, had provided a buffer zone between his property and the cemetery. Mr Bibbs heard word that the Burial Board was interested in acquiring the piece of land as a second extension to the burial ground. and had gone so far as to engaged a solicitor to ascertain the price and condition of the land. Furthermore the vines grown on the land were to be auctioned off.

Disillusioned with Rotherham in 1886, the Bombardier moved to pastures new and took up residence in Broomhill in neighbouring Sheffield , where he continued his business as auctioneer until his death in 1890.

His obituary was however recorded in the Rotherham Advertiser and Mr Bibbs returned to Rotherham to be interred in the cemetery next to his old home.


“We regret to have to record the death of Mr Albert Bibbs which took place suddenly at his residence at Whitham Road Broomhill Sheffield on Saturday evening last. The deceased had been unwell for about a fortnight but had so far recovered as to be able to leave his room. He retired to bed about ten o clock and was seized with a fit of apoplexy expiring in a few minutes . Mrs Bibbs on following soon afterwards found her husband in an insensible state. Death ensued shortly afterwards. The deceased, who was in his 65th year leaves a widow, one son and two daughters.

Mr Bibbs commenced business in Church Street Rotherham in 1851 as a pawnbroker and jeweller and subsequently removed his business to High Street. During the last 12 years he has been retired from the business mentioned but continued that of auctioneer and valuer. For the past four or five years he has been resident in Sheffield and has followed the same profession. At one time Mr Bibbs was a member of the Rotherham Board of Guardians. He was a member of the old Rotherham and Kimberworth Local Board and was connected with that body at the time the Borough was incorporated. He was elected a member of the town council in February 1874 at an extraordinary election in the East Ward but was defeated by Mr W H Gummer at the following November elections”.

Albert Bibbs Grave