Dore and Totley Union Church

by Richard Moffat

Dore and Totley United Church 1888-1913

Had you been living near Totley Brook Road just over one hundred years ago you would undoubtedly have wanted to join the small procession of people accompanying, with some excitement, a corrugated iron chapel that was physically being dragged on a horse drawn bogey from Dore & Totley station to a “green field” site on the new Totley  Brook Estate – the area of land purchased in 1888 by the Midland Railway Company and divided into plots to either side of the railway line which had bisected the original driveway from Grove Cottage at the bottom of Totley Rise to Grove House, thus creating a new line of direction to Totley Brook Road.


The people behind this great adventure were members of the Dore & Totley Union Church, a group of non conformist friends who, coincidently, in 1888 first began worshipping together as a house group at The Laurels on Dore Road, the home of Frederick Dieroff. Quite why they gave the name Dore &Totley to their foundling church is not mentioned in the minutes of the founding meeting but is to be remarked upon because the only links between Dore and Totley at that time were Dore Road and Hillfoot. The parish boundary with Totley being at Old Hay Brook suggests the congregation were already planning to expand their membership in to Totley.


As their numbers grew they initially negotiated the rental of a school room each Sunday from the Licensed Victuallers Association (the Alms Houses by the railway station) and thereafter the purchase of what was happily referred to as a “tin tabernacle” to be sited on land by Dore station, courtesy of the then Midland Railway.  From records at the time it appears the Licensed Victuallers were very suspicious about renting rooms to a body of people who might preach abstinence – despite strong affirmation to the contrary by the congregation. There are also frequent references to the fraca caused by not a few engine drivers enjoyed blowing their whistles as they passed the “Tin Tab”, enraging the church caretaker, who would rush out waving a shovel! So Sunday worship was not without its excitement it would seem.


The move to Totley Brook Road some twenty years later and the subsequent building of the present church just before the outbreak of the First World War was certainly driven by the opportunities the early church members saw in the rapid growth of the new, emerging Totley. Their purpose was to own their own plot of land and they were encouraged by their architect to create a decent, sensible , ecclesiastical building in brick-lined millstone grit, echoing the Derbyshire moors so visible from what would be their front porch. Whilst the exterior, with its mullioned windows and leaded lights left no doubt that it was a church, the interior was designed to be a meeting hall, flexible in purpose and with wooden tip - up seats, “the first of the kind on the market” because this church was going to be needed seven days a week for all the community activities it was already getting involved in.  Very much of free and independent spirit, ministers and lay preachers of Congregational and Baptist Church persuasion were invited to lead worship for many years and this “freedom of spirit” still pervades to this day.


The first minister to be actually ordained to the church was called in 1910. Whilst maintaining denominational independence up until 1972, affiliation with the Congregational Church lead to members voting to become part of the United Reformed Church when the Presbyterian and Congregational Church of England Wales joined together as one body. Currently sixty eight thousand people make up fifteen hundred URC congregations in the country today, with approximately seven hundred ordained ministers.


So, like many denominations, ministers today oversee at least two or three churches. The Reverend Shirley Knibbs is minister at Dore & Totley and as if having one church embarking upon a major re-development isn’t enough, Shirley has Meersbrook Park URC undertaking a much more dire need for re-building on Chesterfield Road. She also ministers to The Michael Church on Low Edges estate.  


Dore & Totley has contributed to the community over the years and there will be many who can remember with fondness attending the plays given in the church hall twice a year. The Literary and Debating Society from which the Dramatic Society grew was formed in 1899. The last, hand written bound volume produced by the Debating Society in 1915 is about a Belgian soldier convalescing in the St John’s church hall (now the Post Office sorting office). Over and above light hearted entertainment a social club was formed to provide friendship, light relief and support during the dark days of the Second World War, Totley Brook Club meetings for elderly people living on their own take place every month and have done so for decades.


Facilities for lunch clubs, play groups, youth groups, scouts, guides, brownies and beavers, badminton and drama continue. The church continues to live up to the aspirations expressed by one who was at the opening ceremony in 1913 “In this simple building there is no special symbol of the eternal presence. There is no holy of holies, but it is one of the surest things that there will be such an opening of doors to the unseen that men might find themselves in the presence of God”.  Words which resonate in the church members decision to assist in the financing of the on-going S17 Youth Project .


The building of the church in 1913 was followed by a church hall (to replace the old tin tab but regrettably without the benefits of cavity walling and sound insulation materials) in 1930, a Manse to the rear of the plot on Chatsworth Road  and a smaller church hall built on the foundations of an air raid shelter.


Over the last four years members have been planning how the church premises might be brought up to date and more relevant to the current needs in our community. Clearly there is an on-going need to provide companionship and help to older people, especially those who are housebound, and to provide encouragement and facilities for young people.


Following the refurbishment of the sanctuary in 2008 with new facilities that will not only create more flexibility and space but also make it available for use by many more organisations in addition to worship on Sundays, a new integral church hall is to be built. This will have modern kitchen, new toilet facilities, new central heating and much better insulation to walls, roof and windows – thereby reducing maintenance overheads and time making a positive contribution to reducing carbon footprint.  


The “profile” for this new hall will mirror that of the 1930s building so looking at it from across the railway line there will be little difference in appearance. The contractors will be re-claiming the stone work of the original wherever possible but the new “footprint” will provide off-the-road parking.  Whilst the church and church hall are designed to be run independently, the lobby between them and the creation of a new doorway into the church will make the latter far more open and accessible to people using the premises – thus building upon the “open church” policy that the founding members held so dear.  The costs of the development have been financed by the sale of the former Manse on Chatsworth Road, the small church hall and the field which adjoined the church and was the setting for many fetes and barbeques in earlier years. Sadly, the footpath which linked the Manse to the church and which has been a short cut for residents from Chatsworth and Vernon Road (and worshippers!) to the shops on Totley Rise for so many years has been lost. The gain in having a new building with the very highest standards in safety, hygiene and accessibility is something which we hope will be shared by the communities of Dore and Totley for many more years to come. So, if you have any thoughts or ideas on activities you feel would be of  benefit, please drop the church a line. 

Tin Tab

The article by Richard Moffat in number 340 of the Totley Independent was very interesting. For me, like so many incidents from bygone days, it stirred thoughts of what a sight the transfer must have been and how much local interest it must have provoked. Of course, in those days, Totley was a Derbyshire village. The bogey turning into Totley Brook Road would not have been faced with fast traffic hurtling down from Totley Rise.  


I had understood the building referred to was originally from the village of Birchinlee constructed in the early 1900s to house navvies (and their families) employed in the construction of the Derwent and Howden I reservoirs. The name derives from Birchinlee Farm which was near the site of the village. Because the buildings were largely of corrugated iron it became more familiarly known as Tin Town.  


The provision of a complete sizeable village to house the workers seems a considerable improvement on the more casual housing of the navvies working on the Totley Tunnel some 20 years earlier. Brian Edwards in his book about the Totley Tunnel tells us that, although some wooden huts were provided for the workers, many lodged in surrounding areas including Totley. Houses on Totley Rise, many now used as shops, are one example.  


My first personal memory of the dam area dates from the 1930s. I was a schoolboy living in Mexborough but sometimes cycled into Derbyshire. On one such occasion I remember standing somewhere below the Yorkshire Bridge Inn to marvel at the dam wall of the Ladybower reservoir then under construction. I had no inkling at the time that 10 years later I would be courting a lass from Sheffield and going for long walks around these dams; that 20 years later we would come to live in Totley and therefore nearer these dams; more than 70 years later I would be reminded of this long ago cycle trip via the Totley Independent!  


Unlike today, when huge blocks of high rise flats can be razed to the ground after a comparatively short period of use, many Tin Town buildings were moved and used for other purposes, when no longer needed for the navvies. Presumably they were dissembled for transfer and put together again at their new site. Unfortunately I cannot remember why I thought the Tin Tab came from Birchinlee. If I am correct I imagine it would be conveyed to Dore and Totley station by train, probably in sections. Would the tunnel dimensions allow conveyance of the fully erected building even if it could be removed from Birchinlee as a whole? This would fit in with my understanding the Tin Tab was first erected and used on a site near the Dore station. I presume the bogey transfer in the article was the complete building - a much more impressive sight than a pile of sections.  


I do not remember this building from Birchinlee but I have seen two others. One was in the village of Abney, used for many years as the village hall and now replaced by a brick building. The other was used as a shop on the Edale road out of Hope. Perhaps other readers can add to the story.  Not much now remains of the Birchinlee village but there is a “memorial” to it near the site on the opposite side of the road round the dam.  


Don Ashford

April 2011 

Latest News

Our first meeting in the new year will be on Wednesday 24th January when we welcome back Chris Corker whose talk is called The Shell, Armaments and Munitions Production Crisis, 1915-1916. The wartime demand for armaments lead to the Shell Crisis of May 1915. Chris examines the effect that the formation of the Ministry of Munitions, under the guidance of David Lloyd-George, had on Sheffield's armament companies and its industry as a whole. Because of refurbishments to Totley Library, there has been a change to the advertised venue. The meeting will now be in Totley Rise Methodist Church starting at 7.30 p.m.

On Wednesday 28th February we will be holding another in our popular series of Open Meetings. Everyone is welcome to share photographs, memorabilia and recollections of our local Sports, Social and Community Groups and activities. The meeting is in Totley Library, beginning as usual at 7.30 p.m.

On Wednesday 28th March there will be an illustrated talk by Stephen Gay called Off The Track in Derbyshire when we shall find out what hides out of sight alongside the Dore and Chinley railway line. The meeting begins at 7.30 p.m. in Totley Library.

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 Totley Rise Post Office and local shops. Also available in Dore at the Village Store or direct 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.

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"

As we have nowhere to exhibit memorabilia and artifacts, we have decided to create a Virtual Museum instead, starting with old bottles that were found under the floor of the Old Infant School. Please contact us by email if you would like to see the real thing or have things that you own and would like to see added to the virtual museum.

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.

With more people having access to faster broadband and mobile networks, we have uploaded seven full and unedited oral history recordings and also added more short excerpts for you to listen to.

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.

We continue to add to our Totley Newspaper Archive. Recent entries have included several about John Roberts and the building of St. John's Church. There are several about the history of Brinkburn Grange and its first occupier, John Unwin Wing, an accountant who later lived at Totley Hall before being convicted of forgery and fraud and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in Pentonville gaol. There are more than 50 articles from the 1880s and 1890s about Joseph Mountain and the Victoria Gardens, and twenty on the construction of the Totley Tunnel and the Dore and Chinley Railway.

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 600 gravestones in  the churchyard.


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