Totley History Group
Totley History Group

Angela Thirkell

Angela Thirkell (photo: Angela Thirkell Society)

It was the day a  literary hero returned to Totley - when a million selling authoress once again walked these peaceful streets, smelt that Derbyshire air, supped that Cross Scythes ale.

 

This was the second visit of the national Angela Thirkell Society, a group committed to the memory of novelist Angela Thirkell, a Totley resident from 1919-20, who went on to become the Jane Austen/Barbara Cartland (depending upon your point of view) of her age.

 

Regular Independent readers amongst you will recall the appreciative letter from the Wirral branch of the society after their first visit (Issue 92, see below). They were, wrote member Paddy Hancock "anxious to see the moorland village the Thirkells had enjoyed living in" and so to "gaze upon the actual house where they had lodged". That house was traced by Brian Edwards to Sunnybank in Totley Bents, which one of Angela's sons recalled blissfully as being the starting point for picnics spent high above the trains thundering through Totley Tunnel.

Sunnybank, Lane Head Road, Totley Bents

The real Angela Thirkell went on to write some 30 novels which sold around the world and which have recived an unexpected new lease of life through the current resurgence of the work of another son, Colin MacInnes, author of Absolute Beginners.

 

Members of the Angela Thirkell Society were surprised on their return to Totley to meet up with the writer's namesake, this writer's wife, Angela Thirkell, a journalist with the Rotherham Advertiser. That the Angela Thirkell who died 25 years ago has been described as reactionary and snobbish in the extreme, and the Angela Thirkell they met in 1986 has been described as a revolutionary socialist, seemed to cause them little concern.

 

It probably would have caused the dissolute and now deceased MacInnes a sly giggle - he hated his mother's work and she dutifully deplored his. (He came to Totley as a four year old).

 

The Angela Thirkell Society returned to the village for the dual purpose of trying to uncover more about the life and times of their heroine and also for the sheer good time they assured us Totley can bring. "It's a delightful place" was the common opinion - and everyone agreed to bring their husbands along on the next visit in just a few months.

 

The life of Angela Thirkell is not one Totley has ever made great boast of - but with the free publicity afforded by the hype surrounding MacInnes and the Absolute Beginners film, the local literary map is becoming just a little bit richer.

 

Thirkell's novels of Edwardian upper-crust life, the comedy of country house life, are said to be undergoing a resurgence which could bring a fair few more visitors to these parts. Two of her novels have been reissued in paperback and the old hardbacks can still be found in secondhand shops. Try them - if you're not a revolutionary socialist you may enjoy them!

 

Geoff Kemp

July 1986

Letter to Totley Independent, February 1986

Dear Sir

 

One phrase is a lasting memory of Totley (rather like "Gruss Gott", when one walks through the Tyrol). Everyone seemed to be asking everyone else this burning question about the coming Fell Race. Well, no, we were not "running next Saturday" - but we certainly walked that Saturday!

 

On July 6th, members of the Wirral Branch of the Angela Thirkell Society made a "pilgrimage" to Totley. Mrs. Thirkell, grand-daughter of Victorian artist Burne-Jones, cousin to Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin, and with many other literary and artistic connections, was a best-selling novelist from the 30s to the early 60s. In 1919, she and her husband, George Thirkell, plus her two sons by a previous marriage, lived in Totley for nearly a year, while George worked for an engineering firm in Sheffield. So here we are, anxious to see the moorland village the Thirkells had enjoyed living in, and if possible, to gaze on the actual house where they had "lodged".

 

I had previously been in touch with Brian Edwards, (after reading his book Drawings of Historic Totley) and he had kindly offered to take us on a tour of Totley and district. He proved to be a super guide! What a lot we learned in just one walk - all about the beginnings of Sheffield's industry - all about Totley Tunnel, (I hate to admit that we had all travelled through it at one time or another, and never noticed its name - but now we realise how much the building of the tunnel is part of local history).

 

We heard many a Totley Tale about ancient buildings and interesting characters and entertaining events - all this whilst enjoying the brisk, invigorating air, the grand sweep of the hills against the pale-blue sky, the well-wooded little valleys with their clear clean streamlets (though we never did see a trout), the coloured patchwork of fields "over yonder" and wild flowers everywhere, foxgloves and yellow loosestrife and meadow sweet.

 

How we enjoyed looking at the lovely grey stone buildings - all so trim and neat, and so well looked after. How we envied the old-fashioned cottage gardens, and relished walking along a real country lane, with its own brook trickling along the side. Every turn revealed another agreeable rustic view, or called for another fascinating anecdote from our intrepid guide!

 

We were intrigued by the names we walked along, "Strawberry Lee Lane" - sounds like an old English folk tune; "Penny Lane" (not a bit like Liverpool); and "Totley Bents". And here at last was THE house! We lined up for our photograph outside the gate, and tried to imagine what it had looked like 65 years ago, when the Thirkells lived here, and the two boys played on the old "tunnel tips".

 

Back to the village, and what better day to choose for our visit that the Saturday of the School Summer Fete and a village cricket match.  We began to feel it had all been laid on for our benefit - everything was just perfect. Even the weather was benign, after a rather doubtful start. So we boarded our bus at the Cross Scythes, at the start of our journey back to the Wirral. "What a mravellous time we've had" - we all agreed; "we must go back to Totley some day".

 

So thank you, Brian - and Belle - for a really grand "day out"

 

Paddy Hancock

"The Wirral Wanderers"

Latest News

On Wednesday 28th June, we welcome back Ann Beedham whose talk is called Days of Sunshine and Rain: Peak District Rambling in the 1920s, with words and photographs from the life of George Willis Marshall who was a keen walker and who took lots of photos in the 1920s and 1930s as he wandered the hills of Derbyshire with his friends. They were pioneers of the ‘right to roam’ and took part in the famous Kinder Trespass of 1932. The meeting is in Totley Library beginning at 7.30 p.m.

 

On Wednesday 26th July Alan Powell will tells us about The History of Newspapers in Sheffield. Alan is a former Editor of the Sheffield Telegraph and The Star newspapers and had a career of more than 44 years in journalism in Sheffield. The meeting as usual is in Totley Library beginning at 7.30 p.m. Non-members are welcome.

 

The first meeting after our summer break will be on Wednesday, 27th September when we present an illustrated talk by David Templeman called Mary, Queen of Scots: The Final Journey - From Sheffield to Fotheringhay (1584-1587). This talk relates the compelling tale of the events leading up to and including Mary’s trial and execution. Mary’s courage and conduct come to the fore as she takes her tragic story through Wingfield Manor, Tutbury Castle, Chartley Manor, Texall and culminating in the climax at Fotheringhay Castle where she is tried and executed for High Treason. But was she guilty? That is the question this talk addresses. The meeting is in Totley Library, starting at 7.30 p.m. 

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.

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 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 and Norton.

 

 

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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