Now that I have ‘discovered’ your magazine I am eager to contribute some more of my memories! The response from my childhood memories of The Chemical Yard has been very satisfying and I am pleased that so many people have read and enjoyed my story. Before I embark on another epic story I thought I would write a short reply to some of the comments and provide other little snippets of information.
Many people have commented that I did not write about the Siddall brothers. They were called Tommy and Freddie and they did live in The Chemical Yard possibly during the late 1930’s early 1940’s. My memories are from the mid 1940’s to late 1950’s and during this time the two brothers were living on Queen Victoria Road with their sister Mrs Sharpe, her husband and daughter Jennifer. Jennifer was just a few months younger than me and we were good friends. Their house overlooked our cottage. As Mike Roberts says in his letter in your June issue, Tom and Fred were gentle, kind and helpful. I couldn’t have used better words to describe them! My mum was especially fond of them and she would find little jobs for them to do on our tiny smallholding. She would reward them with cigarettes for their help. Sadly, some children did tease them but our mum always taught us to treat others with respect and she wouldn’t have tolerated us making fun of them. We just knew that they were a bit different to us, that’s all. They, in return thought a lot about my mum, she was always kind to them. One day, they were helping us to tidy the garden and they were filling the wheelbarrow with weeds and overgrown branches etc. They worked hard and were eager to please but my mum was upset to discover that one of them had ventured into the greenhouse and pulled out her carefully nurtured grape vine and tossed it into the barrow where it lay irretrievably buried under all the other garden waste!
I am so pleased that Mike describes the blacksmith and gives his name as Mr Bradbury who lived on Queen Victoria Road. I can distinctly remember watching the blacksmith at work; I recall the heat from his fire and the loud ringing sound as he hammered out the red hot glowing horseshoes on his anvil. I instinctively knew that I would be allowed to watch as long as I didn’t get too close or make a nuisance of myself and I was fascinated. I must have been a very small child and I wonder when Mr Bradbury retired. I think that Mr Marcroft bought the premises when their role as a blacksmiths ended. My step-gran told me that the horses which were brought to be re-shoed had often been walked for a long distance and they would be taken into the river which was similar to a shallow ford at this point so that their feet could be cooled down. Mike describes a sledge made for his family by Mr Bradbury. We also owned a large sledge, it was heavy and had strong iron runners, I wonder if this was one of Mr Bradbury’s creations too. On the map of The Chemical Yard, which I attempted to draw as accurately as possible, I didn’t quite get the river in the right place as it ran directly behind the blacksmiths and Marcroft’s Builders yard.
I find so much of interest in the Totley Independent and I loved the picture of the cottages in Totley Hall Lane which was featured on the front page of the May issue. I remember Mrs Stubbs very well. She was a dinner lady when I attended Totley All Saints School during the 1940’s. Her son, I think his name was John, was in my class. He was off school once for quite some time and our teacher told us that John was feeling lonely and isolated and that he was missing seeing all his friends from school. Our teacher thought that it would be a nice idea and a friendly gesture if some of us would visit him. I went to their cottage and Mrs Stubbs kindly invited me inside and showed me into John’s bedroom where he was tucked up in bed looking lost and forlorn. Both John and his mum seemed pleased and grateful to have me visit them. I don’t know what his illness was but I trust that it wasn’t contagious!
I also enjoyed reading Jean Smithson’s contribution to your June Issue. I always knew the woods by the name of Gillyfield and, the first time that I saw the name in print, I thought that the printers had got their facts wrong! I remember walking through the woods in early springtime, they were full of bluebells and the sun’s rays shone through the baby green leaves of the beech trees, I thought I was in the Garden of Eden. I recall seeing the remains of the swimming pool and wondering why it was there. I would often go for walks all by myself or often accompanied by one or more of our dogs. One of my favourite pastimes was jumping over the river just as Jean describes and I would always have friends with me on those occasions. One day, we came across a large, square piece of stone which was partly in the river, partly on the riverbank and partly buried. We examined it with curiosity and thought that some of the writing on it was similar to Roman lettering. When one of my friends suggested that it might be a headstone from a grave we hurriedly left and never went back to it again. I wonder if this was by any chance the milestone which Jean mentioned?
I only intended to write a few short words but, finally, I have to mention Tommy Barber as both Mike Roberts and J W Abson have mentioned him in their letters to your magazine. Others have asked if I knew him and I understand that he was quite a well-known character for various dubious reasons. Well, he did indeed live in The Chemical Yard. My step-gran was his mother and his father was my maternal grandfather who I have only recently discovered was also called Thomas. My grandfather had 5 children (one of them being my mum) with his first wife, Hannah. Hannah died and granddad married Ada, my step-gran. Together, they had seven more children and it seems a shame that, out of all my grandfather’s children, it is only my Uncle Tom who is remembered so well. The rest of his siblings grew into hardworking and respectable people who were a credit to the local community. I am beginning to realize that he must have been the black sheep of the family. When speaking to me or writing about him people have been guarded and discreet, they probably know more about him than I do as I only knew him well when I was a child and rarely saw him in later years. Today, in this era of open-mindedness and acceptance, his behaviour might not seem as scandalous.
My step-gran was a lovely mum and grandma and the people who knew her respected and admired her honesty and down-to-earth attitude. She was what was then known as a ‘grafter’, her home was spotlessly clean and she was a good cook. Her life hadn’t been an easy one but she had dignity and a pride in her appearance. She worked as a cleaner at Gratton’s shop on Totley Rise and as a cleaner at Mrs Gratton’s home. One incident which highlights my childhood naivety was when I was sent on an errand one day to Gratton’s. I was about 9yrs old and as I walked along the Back Lane holding on tightly to the money I had been given, I kept repeating to myself the name of the product I had been asked to purchase. I reached the shop and stepped inside; even though the shop was only small it was always staffed by several assistants. No self-service in those days! One of the assistants came to serve me. “Please may I have a jar of Pond’s vanishing cream'?” I asked politely. I felt smugly proud that I had remembered the purpose of my errand but my pride and confidence swiftly vanished as she held out two jars and asked which size I wanted. “I don’t know" I said. One of the other assistants came over to help. They checked my money, I had enough to buy the larger jar so we didn’t know if I should buy that one or take the smaller one and some change. Seeing my bewilderment, one of the assistants asked in a gentle voice, "Who is it for Anne, is it for your gran?” When I answered her question I was even more bewildered as all the assistants looked embarrassed, they exchanged knowing looks and put their hands over their mouths to try and still their nervous laughter. I had replied with the total honesty and innocence of a child, “No, it’s for my Uncle Tom!” Enough said I think!
I was delighted with the response to my memories of life in The Chemical Yard during the late forties/early fifties which you published in issue 342 of The Totley Independent. When time allows I am hoping to write more of my memories and I had every intention of trying to organise them into chronological order or into some other kind of organised categories. However, after reading some of the recent letters, stories and other items of interest in your magazine I find that I can no longer hold back some of my memories.
Firstly I must apologize to David Lee, you published a letter from him in the July/August issue last year and I should have replied to his comments immediately. He mentions fishing in the river with either myself or my sister Audrey. I do remember him as being one of the friends I had at this time, and we spent many happy hours paddling or fishing together. I also remember the tree he describes which was high up on the bank overlooking the yard, someone had tied a thick, coarse rope to one of its branches and there was a thin stick attached to the other end for us to sit on as we launched ourselves out into mid-air. He also mentions a car which had been abandoned. Yes, we played in this car and used it as an unofficial den, but, I don’t think that it was a Jaguar. However, as anyone who knows me will agree, I am not much of an authority on cars so he may well be correct! I intend to write about all of these subjects in much greater detail eventually so I hope my answers to his letter will suffice for the time being.
Recently there has been much interest shown in the old school house on Totley Hall Lane which is being refurbished. Around 1949 when I was 8yrs old the school house was a private residence. The people who lived there were friends of our family, my mum in particular. I am annoyed, that try as I might, I cannot remember their names. As far as I can recall, they were a young couple with two children, a girl and a boy. I remember the inscription over the doorway which gave the date when the school was built. I would read the words over and over again and thought that it was rather romantic for someone to be living in an old school house. At that time, I was a pupil at Totley All Saints Church of England School. I didn’t like school dinners but the school was too far away for me to go home for lunch so, my mum and the lady who lived in the school house came to some kind of arrangement whereby I would go to their house and she would provide me with a hot dinner each school day. I was very happy with this plan though I seem to remember that my lunch often consisted of a bowl of semolina with a spoonful of jam - and very nice it was too!
These lovely people even took me with them on a weeks family holiday to Scarborough; we stayed in a private house which I believe belonged to the lady’s mother. I have a very vivid picture in my mind of the last part of our journey to this house. We were walking along a narrow path at the side of a quiet country road, it seemed a long way and the father was striding out in front of the rest of us as we tried to keep up with him. He carried my case on his shoulder with his arm raised above his head to support it, in his other hand he carried the family’s case which presumably contained all the clothes and belongings which the four of them would require for their holiday. Even though I was only a child, I realised, with a mortifying feeling of guilt and embarrassment that my case seemed to be the heavier of the two. In the privacy of the bedroom I opened up my case and discovered that, apart from a few clothes and other small items, my mum had packed it to the brim with bars of chocolate and packets of sweets! From our cottage in the Chemical Yard, my mum and dad sold sweets and cigarettes as a way of supplementing our income. It was all legal and ‘above board’ as my dad had a license to do so. Rationing was still in force so my mum must have saved our coupons in order to supply me with all those treats, she was certainly making sure that I didn’t starve! The house where we stayed was in a quaint picturesque country village, there was a village greenof neatly mown grass with a large jet-black pump in the centre. It became the children’s duty for the week to take a bucket to the pump, fill it with pumped water and carry it back to the house. It was the only source of water for the entire household. This chore was a novelty and great fun at first but by the end of the week I was more than ready to return home to our cottage and the luxury of an indoor tap with cold running water!
During this holiday, we spent a day at the coast. We had played on the beach and paddled and splashed in the sea, I had been in my element and had had a great time but I started to feel very cold and shivery. As I lay on the damp sand with a towel wrapped tightly round me I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my tummy. I began to cry and desperately wanted my mum to be there to comfort me. For several weeks after the holiday I felt this same pain, our local doctor was called upon many times to examine me and his diagnosis was that I had what was known as ‘grumbling appendicitis’. His opinion was that, if it continued or became totally unbearable, I would have to have an operation to remove my appendix. Eventually, the pain subsided and I am still unsure whether it was my appendix or eating all those sweets which gave me such problems, all I do know is that, despite many other health problems over the years my appendix is still intact and in its rightful place!
A topical issue of interest at the moment is whether or not Totley should have a community centre. I wonder if anyone recalls that there was a thriving and very popular community centre for Totley based at Abbeydale Hall? I loved this place and spent many happy hours there. There was a large room where dances could be held; it had tall windows with wide window seats and heavy wooden shutters. Upstairs there were games rooms with a snooker table, dart board and lots of room for other similar sporting activities.
Each year a concert would be organised and everyone was welcomed and encouraged to take part. I expect it was, in a way, Totley’s own version of Britain’s Got Talent! Audrey and I would always take part in little sketches or sing in a children’s choir. One year, when I was about 9yrs old Audrey decided that we should create an act of our own for the concert. I would sing a solo while she played the piano. I chose a popular song of that time called ‘Mockingbird Hill’. We rehearsed it at home, but, when the time came to rehearse at the hall, I refused to sing. This happened on several occasions; Audrey would sit at the piano and play the song in its entirety while the organisers of the concert calculated the time required for our performance. They became increasingly concerned about my lack of co-operation. Audrey re-assured them telling them there was no need to worry as I would definitely sing on the night, and she was right. I stood all alone at the front of the stage while Audrey sat at the piano way below me to one side of the stage. I sang out loud and clear and word perfect exactly as we had rehearsed at home, the curtains closed and I could hear the audience applauding enthusiastically. Just as I was breathing a huge dramatic sigh of relief, the curtains suddenly re- opened and, at the sight of my startled face, the audience burst into laughter. That was the first and last time that I ever sang a solo in public. The audience consisted mostly of local people and they always gave huge support and encouragement to all those taking part no matter how good or bad or talented their performance.
There were no other distractions such as television etc in those days so the concerts played a big part in Totley’s entertainment calendar. Whole families became involved in one way or another. The White family who lived in Laverdene Avenue were very active members. Mr. White was involved in administration and organisation and Mrs. White was the dressmaker. Their daughter Valerie attended ballet lessons and she would give a solo ballet performance which was always rewarded with rapturous applause. On the occasion when Audrey and I appeared in the concert, Mrs. White had made a special dress for me to wear. Dress material was almost unobtainable and very expensive in those austere years following World War II so my dress was made from fragile crepe paper in garish shades of orange and green. There was a type of ‘ruff’ with ties at each end made from the same paper and the lady who was helping me to dress for the concert wasn’t sure where to fasten the ‘ruff’. Mrs. White was busy elsewhere so my helper tried tying the ‘ruff’ round my waist then round my neck and finally she decided that it should be fastened on top of my head. I think I probably went on stage looking like a demented cockatoo! On another occasion, several of the younger girls were chosen to take part in a little ballet dance scenario.
The curtains would open to reveal a luxurious throne and a beautiful queen watching in regal silence as several girls, dressed as dainty little butterflies, fluttered around the stage their gossamer wings quivering with excitement as they whispered to each other. As the butterflies departed they were replaced by black and yellow bumble bees also whispering to each other and obviously spreading important news. After several groups of other insects and birds had made their appearance, the finale arrived with the grand appearance of a stork (me of course) dressed in a white ballet tutu and a white hat complete with yellow beak. In my tightly clenched mouth were the four corners of on of my dad’s pristine white handkerchiefs.
Enclosed in the handkerchief’s folds was a small doll. I had to strut around the stage, full of my own importance before making my way to a small cot strategically placed next to the queen’s throne and gently lower her ‘newborn baby’ into it. During rehearsals I was told that I was supposed to bend over the cot with my back to the audience. I flatly and adamantly refused to do this; I knew that it was bad manners to face away from the audience. What a Diva! In fairness to myself, I must explain that the main reason for my refusal was that I was extremely conscious of unsightly scarring on the top of my leg which was a result of burns I had suffered in a dreadful accident two years earlier. Sometimes, a play or other type of production took place at Abbeydale Hall and the people who performed in these became the original members of T.O.A.D.S. (Totley Operatic and Dramatic Society).
Mr. and Mrs. White’s son Norman became very influential within this group and the breakaway group who formed part of Sheffield Teachers Drama and Operatic Society. Mrs. White remained the chief dressmaker for some of their wonderful productions. Norman became an eminent Sheffield solicitor. The gardens of Abbeydale Hall were beautiful and I loved to run around the front garden weaving in and out of the branches of the weeping willow tree. At the back of the hall was a walled garden with many different species of flowers and there was a shallow garden pond which was always overflowing with frogspawn in the springtime. One of the main events of the year at the hall was the May Queen ceremony.
This would take place in the grounds of the hall if the weather was fine. A parade would start inside the premises, it would wend its way round the front of the building to the walled garden at the back where a stage would have been erected and the throne for the queen placed in its centre. One year, the girls carried hoops decorated with flowers. We walked to a selected path where we opened up the hoops and facing a partner across the path we formed an archway for the queen to walk beneath We all wore our one own clothes for these events and, on one occasion, I wore a dress which had been given to us by Mrs. Gratton who owned the well known and prestigious grocery shop at the top of Totley Rise. The dress had belonged to one of her daughters; it was so pretty, I felt like a princess as I walked at the front of the procession with a smartly dressed boy of about my age by my side and a bouquet in my arms ready to be presented to the new May Queen. The dress was beautiful and unlike anything my parents would have been able to afford.
In March 1955 my sister Audrey married her fiancé Peter in a beautiful wedding ceremony at Totley All Saints Church. They held the wedding reception in the main room at Abbeydale Hall, with outside caterers providing the food. It was a very special and happy occasion. A couple of years later I started going to a weekly Old Time Sequence Dance night at the hall. Scratchy vinyl records played on an old record player provided the music. Most of the people who attended were much older than myself but I loved it, one of my favourite dances being The Lancers which involved many different dance sequences and moves, it required a lot of concentration and was a serious challenge. Some of the other dances we enjoyed were the Progressive Barn dance, The Valetta Waltz and The Square Tango. During the interval the caretakers would disappear into the huge kitchen, they would return with biscuits and strong tea served in utility cups and saucers in a nauseous shade of green. The caretakers were called Hammond and their son, David, would sometimes play the piano for our dances, it provided a welcome relief from the scratchy records!
Mrs. Cooper who lived in Laverdene Avenue was one of the people who came occasionally and Mr. Butterworth who owned the cycle shop on Abbeydale road regularly attended. Winnie Stanway, who was our next door neighbour, would come along with me sometimes as would my friend Judith Littler who lived in one of the prefabs on Green Oak Road. The girls and women far outnumbered the menfolk so we would have to learn both sets of steps and take turns dancing with each other.
My dad didn’t approve of me going to the dances; he would frown at the sight of me dressed in my best ‘Sunday’ clothes on a weekday and wearing a hint of make-up which he strongly disliked. Sadly, my mum had died and dad took his role as single parent very seriously. He had only ever known a life of hard work without any holidays or leisure time, his health was rapidly deteriorating. He would give me firm instructions that I was to be back home by 10.30pm so I would have to choose whether to leave the dance early, in plenty of time to catch the last bus home, or enjoy the final dance of the night. If I chose the latter, I would more than likely miss the bus and have to walk home. Whichever choice I made, I would always receive a firm lecture as I entered the house, he wasn’t a particularly religious man but he was convinced that by going dancing and staying out ‘late’ I was heading for a sinful and immoral life!
From John Perkinton
Re The Totley memories by Ann White in last month’s issue. She mentions the family at the school house who were friends of her family, and their trips to Scarborough. I think she means Ethel Smith and her family. They had two girls called Brenda and Janet and a boy Ian. Mrs Smith’s mother and other relatives lived at the little village of Staxton near Scarborough. It had a small pub just off the Main road and a pump and a village green and you did go down quite a long lane in to the village and church. I too used to visit Staxton on numerous occasions to take Mrs Smith to visit her Mother, Brother and other relatives. Ethel was buried in the church yard there a few years ago.
For several reasons, it has been a long time since I wrote about my memories of my childhood living in the Chemical Yard at Totley during the 1940s and 50s. So, after much gentle nagging and flattering encouragement from Graham Gregory, my very dear friend and old classmate, here are some more of my recollections.
I shall concentrate this particular story on my Gran. She was my Step-Gran, so not a blood relation, but she was a great comfort to me during a difficult time in my life.
Both my parents had died by the time I reached 15 years of age. I was living on my own in our family home, North West Cottage (now demolished). The cottage was being renovated and my sister and her husband were due to move in once the work had been completed.
My Gran lived in Sheaf Cottage which was one of four cottages which backed immediately onto the river. The cottages didn’t have back towards but they did have quite long, narrow, pretty front gardens. Next-door to Gran lived Mr Thompson. When Mr Thompson died, his cottage became home to Reg and Jean Pashley and their children, Richard and Diane. Jean Pashley is Graham’s cousin and I am delighted to say that we have recently been re-united and love to reminisce so this story is also for her. She was a very helpful and friendly neighbour to both my mum and my Gran and I thought of her as a role model as she always looked so pretty in her fashionable summer dresses. My mum was an agent for Gratton’s catalogue and Jean bought her clothes from the catalogue and paid for them on a weekly basis. I can call her Jean now because we are both more of an age, but in the 50s when I was just a teenager and acted as their babysitter, I would never dream of calling Jean and Reg by their Christian names. I always referred to them as Mr and Mrs Pashley.
My Gran was a small ‘wiry’ woman, always busy, always dashing here and there. She had a very down-to- earth and practical approach to life and wasn’t one to feel sorry for herself. She just ‘got on with things’. I would sleep at her house some nights when the renovation work left our cottage rather uncomfortable. I never received a cuddle or a hug from her - she didn’t display those kinds of emotions – but she would cook a good wholesome meal for me, place it on the table and say, “get that down you lass and you won‘t come to any harm”.
She worked as a cleaner at Gratton’s, the general grocery store on Totley Rise. She was also a cleaner for Mrs Gratton at her home on Marstone Crescent and she was always on standby to act as babysitter at Mrs Gratton’s when required.
Her own home was immaculately spotless and her routine was strictly adhered to. As soon as we finished our evening meal, the dishes would be washed and dried and neatly stacked away before we made ourselves comfortable and listened to the radio broadcast of ‘The Archers’. This was the only time of day when she relaxed. We sat in silence until the programme finished. As an occasional treat she would sometimes pour herself a glass of Guinness before retiring to bed around 9.30 pm in preparation for an early start the next morning.
Recently, I decided to research my Gran’s family history. I had already researched my maternal grandparents as I had never known anything about them. My mum was 38 years old when she gave birth to me and all of my grandparents had already passed away. I didn’t even know their names. Everyone was too busy getting on with life in those days to even think about discussing past events.
I discovered that my step-Gran was born in 1886 and named Ada Whitford. According to the 1891 Census her father’s name was Sidney Thomas Whitford (39 years), he was a widower. He worked as a beef butcher and lived in Newbold/Dunston, Chesterfield, with three daughters and son, and Ada was listed as his youngest daughter. However in the 1901 Census, he is still at the same address with Ada, now 15 years old, and his youngest daughter Louie aged 11. I need to carry out further research to discover the name of my step-Gran’s mother and also the year and cause of her mother’s death, for I believe she may have died giving birth to Louie.
Losing her mother at such a young age goes a long way to explaining why my step-Gran never gave, nor expected to receive, any physical affection. She had a strong sense of duty and probably had to help to look after her younger sister. She may even have helped her father’s butcher shop so the practicalities of life were her priorities.
The 1911 census shows her, at 25 years of age, living as a general servant in a large house on Botanical Road, Ecclesall, Sheffield.
My maternal grandma Hannah died in 1914 leaving my grandad Thomas with five children to raise including my own mum who was the eldest at nine years old. Later that same year my grandad married Ada: she became his children’s step-mum. I am curious to know how Ada and Thomas met and how he managed to persuade her to take on his young ready-made family! Their ages ranged from three years to 9 years.
Less than two years after their marriage Ada and Thomas had their first child together, Reginald, born in 1916. Six more children followed in quick succession though the youngest child, Douglas, born in 1926 was either stillborn or did not survive to his first birthday.
I have such admiration for my poor Step-Gran – how did she cope with raising eleven children in her tiny two bedroomed cottage? All the children in her care became hard- working and highly respected members of society. They received a good education and followed their paths in life guided by her strict moral code of conduct and traditional family values. All, that is, bar one. He was the rebel and black sheep of the family. I know that he caused her heartache but she loved him nevertheless and forgave him his indiscretions as only a good mother can. To raise 10 children so successfully is a supreme achievement considering the restrictions and conditions she battled against on a daily basis. It’s a shame that her wayward son is the only person who people remember and still talk about to this day. She deserves a more fitting legacy.
The cottages didn’t have the luxuries we take for granted today. They had a large coal-burning Yorkshire ranges which dominated the main room and provided the only source of heat. There was an oven to the side of the fire where most of the meals were cooked. The cottages had no hot water supply or bathrooms or indoor toilets. At the end of the Chemical Yard there was a small outdoor building housing just three toilets to cater for six cottages. Two families shared a toilet but I can never remember any quarrels or arguments about toilet cleaning etc. The toilet doors were ill-fitting and I remember the icy cold chill that blew through the gaps in the door – in winter, it wasn’t a place to loiter! A huge nail on the inside of the door contained torn up sheets of old newspapers for use as toilet paper. The papers were mainly the Sheffield ‘Star’ or the ‘News of the World’. It was great fun in the summer sitting there and trying to match up the torn pieces of paper so that I could make sense of the stories I wasn’t supposed to read!
Gran’s cottage was sandwiched between the Pashleys and the Nicholsons. The Nicholson family was large (about 14 children in total I think, including two sets of twins). Pamela and Mary Nicholson were born just 14 days after my birth. We were great friends and spent many happy hours playing outdoors together – if the sun was out then so were we! One day we were out playing in the yard when my Gran came out of her front door. I was used to seeing her dressed in her working clothes and practical shoes so my mouth must have dropped open in astonishment to see her in all her ‘finery’. She was wearing a mid-length fur coat with a smart knee-length skirt showing below the hem of her coat. Her shoes were sturdy but fashionable with a chunky heel and she wore thick lisle stockings with rim-rod straight seams. Perched jauntily on the side of her head was a tiny pillbox hat and she carried a pair of gloves and a clutch bag. There was the faintest suggestion of face powder brushed over her nose and cheeks, and just a hint of pale pink lipstick on her lips.
She made her way up the stone- flagged path. Then, even more astonishing, was the sight of a shiny black taxi trundling its way down the track from Queen Victoria Road and gliding to a stop at the top of the path. The smartly dressed driver stepped out of the taxi and opened the door for Gran to climb elegantly inside. As we three children watched in silent awe, the taxi, with its precious passenger, slowly made its way back up the track. This track is now the tarmacked continuation of Back Lane.
As soon as I could I bombarded my mom with questions about what I had seen. Now my mom would always answer and explain any of my frequent questions as fully as possible, but she seemed rather reticent on this occasion. I persevered however, I discovered that my Gran had gone to vote. Apparently, she would have placed across on a piece of paper showing which political party she believed should govern the country and her cross would even help decide who would be the next prime minister!
How important was that! No wonder Gran had found it necessary to dress for the occasion. The suffragettes had fought for her right to vote, and she hadn’t let them down!
If I remember correctly, my mum told me the transport to the polling stations was provided, if required, by one of the political parties. A person’s vote was strictly confidential so I expect that the political parties involved may have believed that their offer of transport would gain them votes though I doubt that my Gran would have fallen for that kind of flattery! We owned a car so, when my dad and brother came home from work, mom was going to go with them to cast her vote. I believe that our polling station was based somewhere in Bradway. I was intrigued by the whole business and asked many questions but I quickly realised that the whole subject of politics were shrouded in secrecy.
Our friends and neighbours in the Chemical Yard shed all of their life events with each other and discuss the most personal and intimate details on a daily basis. Politics however was strictly taboo. There is such a huge contrast between their stoic silence and the heated debates and public discussions which take place nowadays. I never found out who received my Gran’s vote and it was several years later before my parents eventually trusted me enough to reveal who received their loyal support. So strong was their belief that their vote was highly private and confidential that I still respect their wishes and their trust in me safe, for even now, I’m not telling!
I had almost finished writing this story when I received a very sad news that Jean had died. I wondered whether to alter my story but I feel quite certain that she would have been delighted to read my memories of her and her family. So, I dedicate it to her with my love.
Anne White (née Russell)
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A few copies are still available of Sally Goldsmith's book Thirteen Acres: John Ruskin and the Totley Communists. Totley was the site of a utopian scheme funded by art critic and social reformer John Ruskin. In 1877 he bought 13-acre St. George’s Farm so that nine Sheffield working men and their families could work the land and, to keep themselves busy, make boots and shoes. Sally tells an engaging story from our history with a quirky cast of characters including Ruskin himself, the poet and gay rights activist Edward Carpenter and Henry Swan, a cycling, vegetarian artist and Quaker. The book is available to order online from the The Guild of St. George by following this link.
A recently discovered box of WWII correspondence reveals the story of how a small group of ladies from Dore and Totley recruited knitters from the west of Sheffield and how their efforts made them the country's greatest provider of Comforts for the Minesweeping crews of the Royal Navy. The story is told in Knit For Victory, a new book from Totley History Group. Written by Pauline Burnett, it has 82 pages and many illustrations. It is on sale in local shops and via our website.
Since 1875 when there was only a Rolling Mill and Chemical Yard alongside the river a mile from Totley, the area has changed beyond anyone's imagination This book by Pauline Burnett tells the story of how it was named and grew into the community we know today. The Rise of Totley Rise has 94 pages including a useful index and is profusely illustrated throughout with many previously unpublished photographs from private collections.
The story is told in Totley War Memorial WW1 of the ten men from our village who gave their lives in the Great War. Written by Pauline Burnett, Jim Martin and Dorothy Prosser, a chapter is devoted to each of the soldiers with a family tree followed by as much information as could be discovered about the men and their families. There is also information about their military careers and the actions in which they lost their lives. The book has 64 pages and is illustrated throughout with photographs of the men, their families and the houses where they lived.
Green Oak Park was opened on 23 March 1929 on land that had been bought by Norton District Council from John Thomas Carr, a farmer and smallholder of Mona Villas. In later years, the buildings were used by the Bowling Club (the green having been built in 1956) and by the park keeper. However, the buildings appear to have been constructed in several phases, the oldest of which predates the park to the time when the land was used for pasture.
We believe the old Totley Police Station at 331 Baslow Road was built around 1882. Two lock-up cells were excavated just below floor level in the summer of 1890. We have traced the Derbyshire Constabulary police officers who lived there from John Burford in 1886 to George Thomas Wood who was there when Totley was absorbed into Sheffield in 1934.
This picture postcard was addressed to Miss Abell, Holly Dene, Totley Brook Road and posted in Rotherham on 10 December 1907. Edith Annie Abell was born on 4 February 1887 in Sheffield and her family came to live in our area in the 1900s, staying for the rest of their lives.
Charles Herbert Nunn enlisted in the British Army on 23 August 1915 and was sent to France on 18 December 1915 to served with the British Expeditionary Force. In March 1916 it was discovered that he was underage and he was returned home. Shortly after his 18th birthday he re-enlisted and was again posted abroad where, in addition to this trio of medals, he was awarded the Military Medal.
This certificate was awarded jointly by the Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance to Isaac Henry Williams, of Lemont Road, for his services during WW1 as a stretcher bearer. We are seeking anyone who can help us pass it on to a living relative.
In 1832 Samuel Dean pleaded guilty to stealing a quantity of lead from the Totley Rolling Mill and was sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. He sailed on the Mangles and upon arrival in New South Wales he was sent to work for William Cox, the famous English explorer and pioneer. After receiving his Certificate of Freedom in 1840, Samuel became a farmer and went on to have a very large family. Samuel was born in Whitechapel around 1811 to parents Samuel Dean Snr. and Susannah Duck. His descendant Sarah Dean would like help in tracing his ancestry.
Ellen Topham was born in 1889 in Nottingham. Her parents had been living together since 1862 but had never married so it was most unusual that, after their deaths, Ellen was accepted into Cherrytree Orphanage. Even more so since her father, Snowden Topham, had been acquitted somewhat unexpectedly in a widely reported manslaughter trial. Ellen remained at Cherrytree until her death from pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 15.
Mabel Wilkes was a resident in Cherrytree Orphanage between 1897 and 1905. Her granddaughter Sally Knights sent us these images of a book presented to Mabel as a prize for her writing. Sally also sent us some personal memories of her grandmother and a photograph of a locket which contains portraits of Mabel and her husband Septimus Gale.
John Henry Manby Keighley was living at Avenue Farm when he enlisted in 1916. He fought in France with the Cheshire Regiment but after home leave in early 1918 he went missing. The Army were unable to determine whether he had deserted or returned to the front and been either killed or captured by the enemy. In August 1919 he was formally presumed killed in action but it appears he did not die but returned home to his family.
Horace Ford was admitted to Cherrytree Orphanage on 26 October 1888 at the age of six. He left at the age of 14 to become an apprentice blacksmith and farrier. Soon after his 18th birthday Horace enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry to serve his country in the war in South Africa. His letter home to his Orphanage mentor tells of the lucky escape he had in battle.
Pat Skidmore (née Sampy) lived on Totley Brook Road from 1932 to 1948 before her family moved to Main Avenue. In this short article she remembers her time at Totley All Saints School where she was a contemporary of Eric Renshaw and Bob Carr.
As we have nowhere to exhibit memorabilia and artifacts, we have created a Virtual Museum instead. The latest addition to our collection is this double-sided Totley Rise Post Office oval illuminated sign which was on the wall of 67 Baslow Road before the Post Office business transferred to number 71. Please contact us by email if you have things that you own and would like to see added to the virtual museum.
Conway Plumbe was a man of many talents who came to live in Totley Rise around 1912. As a young man he had poems published by Punch magazine and is remembered in modern collections of WW1 poetry. A number of his paintings were accepted by the Royal Academy. An engineering graduate of London University, he joined the Civil Service where he rose to a high level as a factory inspector, publishing two books on the subject and giving a series of talks on workplace health and safety on BBC radio during WW2. In retirement he wrote a philosophical-spiritual work called Release From Time.
Inside Totley Rise Methodist Church there is a Roll of Honour commemorating the soldiers from its congregation who served their king and country during the Great War. For all but one of the 28 names the soldier's regiment is recorded in the next column. The exception is David Cockshott for whom 'killed in action' is written alongside yet he appears on no war memorial in our area and no record of a mortally wounded soldier of that name is to be found. We think we have solved the mystery.
Mrs. Kate Plumbe moved from Mansfield to Totley Rise with a number of her family in 1913 and became closely involved with the Totley Union Church. Her daughter Winifred became a missionary and headmistress in Calcutta for over 38 years following which she returned home to live with her sister Hilda on Furniss Avenue. Hilda had also been a teacher, missionary and, like her mother, a volunteer at St. John's VAD during WW1.
Thomas Glossop was a cutler and razor manufacturer who was well known amongst cricketing and gardening circles. Despite going blind, he was able to continue his hobbies with remarkable success
The Totley Union Cycling Society Prize Giving and Fete was held on the fields near Abbeydale Hall on 18 July 1914. Anne Rafferty and Gordon Wainwright have named some of the people in two wonderful photographs of the event. Can you identify any more for us?
The Tyzack family are well known in our area for owning iron and steel trades at Walk Mill, Abbeydale Works, Totley Rolling Mill and Totley Forge. This article covers the history of the family from the late 18th century when William Tyzack the founder of the company was born until the early 20th century when Joshua Tyzack farmed at Avenue Farm, Dore.
Walter Waller Marrison moved to Totley around 1897 with his wife and their two young sons. He was a house builder who constructed properties around Totley Brook and Greenoak before ill health forced him to take up less physically demanding work. In 1904 he took over the tenancy of the grocers and off licence at number 71 Baslow Road. After his death in 1908, his widow Kate and later their eldest son Jack continued to run the business until it was sold in 1934.
Ron Wijk of Nieuw-Vennep in the Netherlands has sent us two scanned images of drawings of old cottages made by the celebrated Dutch painter, Anton Pieck (1895-1987) simply annotated "Totley", and wondered whether we could identify their locations.
We would like to thank Christopher Rodgers for bringing to our attention this fascinating log of the 85th Sheffield (St. John's and Totley Orphanage) Wolf Cub Pack for 1927-45. The log is published jointly by Sheffield Scout Archives and Totley History Group as a free PDF download. It is illustrated by no fewer than 92 photographs and is supported by a comprehensive index and biographies of some of the main participants.
Following our Open Meeting event on School Days, Roger Hart, Howard Adams and John Timperley have each written to us with their memories of Norwood School, which was located in the rooms attached to the Dore & Totley United Reformed Church on Totley Brook Road.
On 22nd July 1909 the children of Dore and Totley Schools celebrated by a pageant the union of England under King Ecgbert which took place at Dore in AD 827. The pageant was devised and written by Mrs Sarah Milner and her daughter Marjorie and performed in a field close to Avenue Farm in front of a large audience. Photographs of the event survive together with a fragment of the script.
John Edward Greenwood Pinder had lived all 46 years of his life in Totley but on census night, Sunday 2 April 1911, he was not at home; he was in Derby Gaol serving a sentence of three months hard labour. From the age of 20, John had been in and out of local courts for a series of minor offences including drunkenness, assault, wilful damage and night poaching. Finally he was sent to gaol for cutting down and stealing 86 small trees which he sold in Sheffield market for Christmas.
We have already transcribed the census returns for Totley, Totley Rise and Dore. Now we have transcribed Census Strays. These are people who were born in Totley but are missing from our earlier transcriptions. They may have been living, working or studying elsewhere or just away from home on the night the census was taken. Two people were in prison. Others were in Union Workhouses, hospitals and asylums. Fully indexed strays from the 1851, 1861, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses are available now.
We wish to thank Gillian Walker for allowing us to digitize an archive of material about the 1st Totley Scout Group. Most of the material was collected by Arthur Percival Birley in the period 1949-51 and there are many interesting documents pertaining to the building of the scout hut on Totley Hall Lane. In addition four Newsletters survive, two from the 1940s and two from 1971.
We are grateful to Angela Waite and All Saints' Parish Church for giving us access to baptismal and kindergarten birthday rolls dating from 1926 to 1941. We have transcribed the names, addresses, birthdates and baptismal dates and created an alphabetical index of entries for you to search.
Edmund Sanderson, a Sheffield estate agent, aquired the land on either side of the old drive to Totley Grove in 1874 and divided it into plots for development. He called it the Totley Brook Estate. But before many houses were built, the estate road was severed in two by the building of the Dore & Chinley Railway line. The eastern end of the road became the cul-de-sac we now call Grove Road.
John Roberts was born in Sheffield in 1798. He became a partner in one of the leading silversmiths firms in the city before moving to Abbeydale Park in 1851 and extending the house in Victorian gothic style. He paid for the building of St. John's Church and was believed to dispense more in charity than any other person in the neighbourhood including his protege Ebenezer Hall.
The Coke Family owned the Totley Hall Estate from 1791 to 1881. With the aid of a family tree to guide us, Josie Dunsmore takes us through the story of their tenure.
When the Rev. D'Ewes Coke inherited the Totley Hall Estate in 1791 it had two farms. Josie Dunsmore tells the story of how the two farms were combined under the tenancy of Peter Flint with the aid of field maps drawn by Flint himself and later by the Fairbanks family.
Do you think you recognize this face? More than sixty photographs of the girls and teachers at Hurlfield Grammar School for Girls in the 1940s were given to Totley History Group by Avril Critchley, who was herself a student at the school. The collection includes fifteen form photographs from June 1949. There would have been a number of girls from the Totley area attending the school in those days.
Christine Weaving tells the story of her 2 x great uncle George Edward Hukin, a Totley razor-grinder, and his life-long friendship with the academic, poet, writer, and free-thinker Edward Carpenter.
Eric Renshaw (pictured here on the right with Bob Carr) grew up and lived in Totley from 1932 to 1960. Many of his memories are of a sporting nature.
We are very grateful to Gordon Grayson for giving us this splendid sale document for the Norton Hall Estates, following the death in 1850 of Samuel Shore. The estates included a large part of Totley and the document has maps and illustrations, plus schedules of land and property with the names of tenants. We have also added a transcription of the entries for Totley and Dore.
Watch this Youtube video of the talk given by Dr. Mark Frost and Sally Goldsmith on Ruskin, Totley and St. George's Farm. The talk was hosted by Totley History Group on 20th May 2015 as part of the Ruskin in Sheffield programme. Also enjoy a video of the outdoor performance Boots, Fresh Air & Ginger Beer written by Sally.
When Jacqueline A. Gibbons became interested in what made her father tick, it began a journey through WW1 archive records and led to her flying from Toronto to visit the house and village where he lived and the countryside that he so much enjoyed. Jacqueline reminds us that in the early 20th century Sheffield was a driving force of industry and that Totley was the place where many of its remarkable people lived and where they formulated their ideas.
Edgar Wood was the designer of The Dingle, 172 Prospect Road, built in 1904 for Rev. William Blackshaw, the founder of the Croft House Settlement. The house, together with its western terrace and boundary walls, has now been awarded Grade II listed building status.
What was probably "the most perfect little garden railway in existence" in 1910 was to be found in the grounds of Brook House, Grove Road, the home of its designer and constructor, Guy Mitchell. Look at some wonderful photographs and read reports in newspapers and a full appreciation in Model Railways magazine.
We have now completed our transcription of Totley School's Admission Records for the period from 1877 to 1914. There is also a useful index to the names of the scholars and to their parents or guardians. We are very grateful to Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library for allowing us to transcribe and publish these records and for permission to reproduce the photograph of a specimen page of the register.
On 8, 9 and 11 November 2014 Totley History Group held an exhibition at Dore & Totley United Reformed Church to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Below are additional links to some of the photographs we were lent and stories we researched especially for the exhibition.
Oscar Creswick was a local farmer who served with the Army Service Corps in Salonika and who after the war returned to Totley to become the innkeeper of the Cricket Inn and a member of the village's successful tug of war team.
Walter Evans was a market gardener who also ran a small grocery shop on Hillfoot Road when war broke out. He fought with the Machine Gun Corps at the fourth battle of Ypres. After the war, Walter ran a grocers shop at the top of Main Avenue.
Fred Cartwright was another Totley soldier who survived the Great War. He fought in France and Belgium and although he wasn't wounded he was gassed and was home on sick leave when his daughter was delivered by Nurse Jessop during a snowstorm in January 1917.
Maurice Johnson joined the Yorkshire Dragoons, a territorial unit, on 1 Jan 1914 and so was called up at the very start of the war. He fought throughout the war on the Somme, at Ypres and at Cambrai. After demobilization in 1919 Maurice returned to his old occupation in the steel industry.
Bill Glossop lent us a letter written by his father, William Walton Glossop to his wife describing life in the army during training in the north east of England and asking her to keep him in mind with the children.
The photo above provides a link to an album of photographs taken of WW1 Hospitals at St. John's, Abbeydale and the Longshaw Estate.
Nora Green, of Chapel Lane, was only 14 when war broke out. In 1914 she was ill with diphtheria and was sent to the isolation hospital at Holmley Lane, Dronfield. Nora recovered and wrote a letter of thanks to one of the hospital staff and the reply she received survives.
We have collected together on this page the names of local men who appear on various War Memorials and Rolls of Honour in Totley, Dore, Abbeydale, Norton, Holmesfield and Dronfield.
Unfortunately we were unable to identify all the photographs we were lent of Totley Soldiers. Please take a look at this album to see if you recognize any of the missing names.
This walk visits locations that have strong associations with Totley during the First World War. It includes the homes of the ten soldiers from the village who lost their lives, the auxiliary hospitals, war memorials, and even the rifle range on which the soldiers trained. Take a look at the first draft of a new walk by the authors of "Totley War Memorial WW1 1914-1918"
We wish to thank the Trustees of Cherrytree for giving us permission to publish transcriptions of the Cherrytree Orphanage Admissions Book entries for the years 1866-1929. There is also an alphabetical index for you to look at.
Our transcriptions of local trade directories have been expanded to cover the 95 years from 1837-1932 and have also been indexed. From the days when there were a handful of farmers, stone masons, saw handle makers & scythe grinders to the wonders of the Totley Bridge Garage Company, Betty's Boudoir and The Heatherfield Shopping Centre.
Totley Church of England Parish Magazines for the years 1922-1939 and 1948-1967 with notices of births, marriages and deaths and accounts of spiritual, educational, charitable and social matters in the village.
Around 90 photographs taken by Stuart Greenhoff for his thesis A Geographical Study of Dore and Totley including several of Totley Moor Brickworks. Superb!
Chronologically ordered snippets of information recorded by Brian Edwards during his many years of research into our local history.
Read the inscriptions on more than 700 gravestones in the churchyard.
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