Totley History Group
Totley History Group

The Spanish Flu Pandemic 1918-1920 and its Effect on Totley and Sheffield

by Pauline Burnett

Anyone who has read the names of the WWI victims on Totley War Memorial will have seen James Parker amongst the ten men remembered there. James (Jim) was raised in a large family living on Summer Lane and was serving in 507th Agricultural Labour Corps, having been transferred from his original Lincolnshire Regiment posting when he became unfit for frontline duty. The reason for this is unknown. 

 

He died on 10th November 1918, the eve of Armistice Day, not as a result of war action but from Spanish Influenza, and not 'in a foreign field' but in East Yorkshire where the army was training soldiers to provide agricultural labour for British farms (food production being paramount). Influenza, pneumonia and heart failure are recorded as the causes of Jim's death, aged 30 years. How sad to have survived the fighting only to be struck down by this new and mysterious illness. 

 

The Spanish Flu Pandemic was to infect 500 million people worldwide and claim the lives of 50 million victims before it was spent, many more than had been killed by the fighting and horrors of the Great War. Knowledge of viruses was very limited in 1918. Some scientists of the day thought a bacterium was responsible, while others admitted the cause of this devastating disease was a mystery. It was in fact an Avian related flu virus, only positively identified a few years ago when DNA was extracted from infected lung tissue, retrieved when a corpse buried in the perma-frost of Alaska was exhumed. 

 

Today we are somewhat shocked to realize that the new coronavirus (Covid-19) can still present modern-day scientists and doctors with many unknown and challenging twists and turns, despite huge medical advances having been made in the intervening years. Experts in the field are racing to understand it, to produce a vaccine that will return us safely to our 'normal' lives, to beat it. No such expectation was being fostered among the population a hundred years ago. So how did the authorities of the day seek to manage this disaster, unfolding at a time when politicians were preoccupied with the problems of the continuing war? 

 

During the spring of 1918 the illness had been recorded in American soldiers travelling to Europe on a troop ship and was first reported by the Spanish press, thus giving it the label 'Spanish Influenza'. Being aided by such troop movements and frequently overcrowded billeting, the pandemic moved quickly throughout the military, passing into the general population and eventually encircling the globe. It lasted almost 3 years, peaking in the late summer and November of 1918, with smaller fluctuations continuing throughout 1919 and into 1920. 

Sheffield suffered its greatest number of casualties during the devastating peak in November 1918. More than 400 deaths per week were recorded and it was listed among the ten cities nationwide to have the highest rate of deaths per population. At that time many of the city's inhabitants would have had common 'underlying health issues' of the day: poor nutrition, slum dwelling, industrial disease and poor access to medical help, the norm for many. Crowded working and living conditions also increased the danger of passing on the infection. 

 

Conversely, small and isolated rural populations surrounding Sheffield could well have avoided contact with it altogether.Totley may well have been fortunate in this respect. As in the current pandemic, certain age groups were more likely to succumb to its ravages: babies under 6 months, the 20-40 age group and those over 65 years were all badly affected. Bearing in mind that life expectancy for a male was around 50 yrs at that time (and probably lower for the steelworkers of Sheffield) there were few who didn't fall within these categories. 

 

Much like today the authorities introduced restrictions and advice in the hope of controlling its spread.

 

INFLUENZA REGULATIONS

In view of the prevalence of influence, the Local Government Board require that in all places of amusement no performance shall be carried on for more than three consecutive hours; that there shall be an in interval of at least 30 minutes between two successive entertainments; and that during the interval the building shall be throroughly ventilated.

 

The Sheffield newspapers printed daily advice, updates and statistics: 

 

When entering crowded venues breath with mouth shut while sucking on a disinfecting lozenge 


flush your house with fresh air


make the best of it - advice when tram services were affected


don't worry - a totally futile suggestion! 

 

Lodge Moor Fever Hospital created five extra wards to manage the influx of patients, and pleas for extra nursing staff were made in the press when all of the city's hospitals became overwhelmed. Two doctors on home leave from the army were given permission to extend their time in Sheffield in order to help the overstretched medical staff. 

A report also claimed that the hills of Sheffield were proving too difficult for the horsedrawn ambulances. There were a few early motorised vehicles in operation, but insufficient in number to meet demand. Each patient was issued with a number. The morning newspapers printed a daily bulletin to keep relatives updated on any changes in their condition:

As the pandemic continued, statistics were published to inform the public that problems were being recorded and hopefully addressed.

 

  Throughout its course the epidemic has been most severe in the district known as Ecclesall North, which includes Walkley and the houses running down towards the Barracks. This condition of affairs still exists. Another rather badly affected area is the lower part of Ecclesall West Central, which includes Wentworth Street, where the epidemic began, and runs up as far as Fulwood. The death rate in Broomhall has risen considerably, but in Abbeydale, Heeley, and Sharrow it is rather below that of the rest of the city.

  The question of the interment of bodies of victims still presents many difficulties, but matters are not in such an acute state as they were. There has been a meeting between the City authorities and the undertakers, all of whom  are fully alive to the seriousness of the situation, and steps have been taken to improve matters. The question of the preparation of graves is now described as being 'satisfactorily in hand.' The assistance of a number of soldiers to perform the duties of grave-diggers has been obtained. The undertakers ahve also been able to obtain assistance in the making of coffins, and cofins have also been obtained from other towns. It is hoped that those two very awkward problems have now been carried to a point which borders on solution.

 

Advertisements abounded for products that claimed to protect or cure. From the distance of a century it's easy to be scathing about their efficacy, but with little medical understanding and fear ruling the population it is understandable that people would be prepared to try anything that might work.

 

Articles were frequently featured in which favourable opinions were made about the make/price and availabilty of someone's latest life-saving idea. 1918 versions of the false news and scams to be found on social media during this present pandemic. People are still gullible! Products disappeared off the shelves - sound familiar?! Drinking Oxo or Bovril was thought to be of great benefit. So much so that the inability to supply troops was of concern, forcing the manufacturers to place this apology and request in the papers.

This has echoes in our recent flour shortage. The product itself was available, but only if the packaging problems could be resolved. In 1918 it was a shortage of bottles, in 2020 the limited production-line capacity for producing 1.5kg bags of flour. 

 

By the early months of 1919 Sheffield's worst peak was beginning to decline, just as the Derbyshire newspapers were reporting a significant increase of victims in the Peak District. Totley residents must have felt they were being squeezed between these two areas of infection but I have been unable to find any reports of deaths in our area specifically due to influenza, so hopefully the villagers managed to escape the worst of the pandemic. 

However, deaths recorded by the Medical Officer of Health for Sheffield are shown in the graph above and illustrate the devastation that Spanish Influenza wreaked on the city over a period of more than two years.

 

Pauline Burnett

June 2020

Latest News

Coming Soon

July Meeting Cancelled

 

Whilst precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are in place, the monthly meetings of Totley History Group have been cancelled.

 

In the meantime, please continue to support your history group by sending us your queries, contributions and comments. 

 

On Wednesday 22nd July, there will be a visit to Stoney Middleston to see how their Well Dressings are made. This is a private visit ahead of the public event which runs from Saturday 25th July to Sunday 2nd August. Car parking is available on the roadside. Meet at 1.30pm in the Moon Inn car park. 

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.

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.

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 The Plumbe Family, Thomas Glossop and accidents during the construction of Totley Tunnel.

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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