Time out of Mind Tales - Hathersage

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper on 7th & 21st June 1993, reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

Hathersage is widely associated with two particular claims to fame - its 18th and 19th-century industrial vitality and its renown as the birthplace and final resting place of the legendary Little John.

Both stories are close to the hearts of the villagers, none more so than Miss Amy Schofield who still lives in the cottage in The Dale where she was born eighty-three years ago.

Her close interest in local history is not surprising, for her kitchen window lies below the spot where Little John's cottage once stood. Some time after its demolition in the middle of the 19th century, a new house was built close by, where in recent years the tantalising find of a set of worn stone steps has been unearthed in the garden.

Only yards from Amy's front door looms the massive square chimney of the old Dale Mill. Some might complain it spoils the views of the open fields beyond, but Amy would not have it moved for the world and is delighted that it has been preserved.

THE MILLS For about a hundred years, until the 1820s, brass buttons were made at the Dale Mill, powered by the Dale Brook. Then it was taken over by Henry Cocker for wire drawing and the manufacture of steel pins and need[le]s which for a time had been carried out in workshops across the road eventually converted into Eastwood Cottages.

Pearl buttons were being made in Dale Mill during the later part of the 19th century, but the life of local mills was drawing to a close and by about seventy years ago this one had become the premises of a painter/decorator and undertaker.

In the mills' heyday, production had centred on needles, pins, and a great variety of items made from steel wire. Robert Cook & Co. of Bamfield Works, on the Hood Brook, was one of only three firms worldwide to manufacture hackle pins for combing wool and raising the nap on cloth.

Amy's grandfather, John Schofield, worked as a wire drawer at Atlas Mill, almost opposite the George Hotel. His first job had been at the paper mill near North Lees which supplied heavy brown wrapping for local and Sheffield industries. The paper mill closed in 1887.

JOBS ON THE RAILWAY Certain metal-related trades had been introduced from the Worcester area, when employers tempted a few of their experienced workers to move with them into the Peak. Amongst their number was the Wiggett family who moved into a thatched cottage, now lost, behind the present Royal Bank of Scotland. Daughter Ellen, born there in 1846, was to marry John Schofield and she herself worked in the mills for a time. When Mr. Stead took over the mill at Bamfield she was asked to go and teach young ones the trade.

Her son Fred - Amy's father, born in 1885 - was of a generation who could no longer depend upon the mills for work. His first job was learning to graft fruit and ornamental trees at Smith's nurseries on Leam Moor, reached by following The Intake, an old track which passed close to Hazelford Hall.

Fred next worked in engineering in the poor East End of Sheffield. In years to come, when his children asked for a few sweets too many, he would tell them of the weekly scenes outside the factory, when the newly-paid workers came out on Saturday lunchtimes to be mobbed by hungry urchins begging for a penny to buy a teacake. Their pennies never went on sweets.

For other Hathersage men there were jobs closer to home, on the Dore and Chinley line of the Midland Railway, opened to passenger traffic in 1894. Via the impressive new Totley tunnel, it provided a direct route between Sheffield and Manchester with stations at Grindleford, Hathersage, Bamford, Hope and Edale. Along with other immigrant construction workers had come a distant relative of the Schofields, Jimmy Lewis. An experienced 'over man', his nickname was 'Jimmy the Whip'. He brought his family to live in a cottage opposite the school but they all moved on to new opportunities at Clay Cross when the Dore and Chinley line was finished.

Fred Schofield re-trained as a plate-layer, later becoming a ganger. If he had any regrets it was having to give up his role as a sidesman at the parish church. Although the Sabbath was strictly observed in his home, and his children not even allowed to take a ball outside to play, it happened to be the quietest day for train services - so that was when track repairs had to be carried out. But Sunday was Sunday, and on that day Fred always worked in his best 'hard hat', a black bowler.

A SOLDIER IN THE SCHOOLYARD One of Amy's earliest memories was overhearing that her dad had been sent to some mysterious place called Totley Moss. She was too young to realise that he was guarding the shafts of the tunnel in case of sabotage, neither did she fully understand the story of how a Zeppelin had followed a train from Sheffield until the engine disappeared into Totley tunnel.

On one frightening occasion the little girl was sent on an errand to 'top Hancock's' shop but refused to go past a soldier marching up and down the school yard. Even her mother could not persuade her that this was not the enemy.

Mrs. Lilian Schofield used to help the Simpsons at the Hare and Hounds near the old slate quarries. Mr. Simpson next took over the Scotsman's Pack, where he also set himself up as a butcher in a wooden out-building. Today the former Hare and Hounds is a farm. The Blue Bell Inn, now Bell House, closed down about eighty years ago too. Amy's late sister, Flo, used to tell of being sent there as a little girl to fetch a bottle of porter for her grandad.

The George Hotel has always been 'The George'. One 19th-century landlord lent his surname, Morton, to the fictional village in Jane Eyre, one of several local connections used by Charlotte Bronte after her stay at Hathersage in 1845. Today's Little John Hotel, however, was originally the Station Hotel - 'commercial and posting house' - which gives its age away.

Some older villagers still occasionally refer to the Hathersage Inn as 'the Ordnance', for they remember it as 'The Ordnance Arms. It owes its military title to the man who had it built in 1808 - Major Shuttleworth of Hathersage Hall. Successive members of the Shuttleworth family made many gifts to the parish and its church as well as providing a public reservoir to the supply of piped water.

THE MISSION ROOM Other wealthy residents play their part in village life too. The Hodgkinson family at Moorseats - thought to be Moor House in Jane Eyre - used to welcome a small group of children who called every Sunday afternoon after Sunday School. In wintertime a huge fire would be lit in the library, where the young visitors were served little iced biscuits and allowed to read the children's books saved from years gone by. There was also a sixpence to share in return for taking letters down to the village postbox.

It was a daughter of the Hodgkinsons who made the most memorable float at one of the summer galas, with a horse-drawn 'Old Woman in a Shoe' that practically burst at the seams with children.

One lady held in particular affection in Hathersage was Miss Evelyn Barber of Leveret Croft. She was a Quaker and spent her whole life as a missionary, beginning her good works in her home village before leaving to spend almost thirty years working with the China Inland Mission. She once told Mrs. Schofield that the decision was made when she was only thirteen, having picked up a piece of crumpled paper from a hedge whilst out walking with her dog. The scrap had been torn from a bible, and it read "Go ye out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every nation".

Mr. Barber was in business in Sheffield and probably gave his daughter help in establishing the Mission Room beside the Hood Brook on Mill Lane. It was only a large wooden hut but it became a regular house of prayer for the navvies laying pipelines from the young Derwent reservoirs. A photograph of the Mission Room supports Amy's belief that it may originally have been one of the buildings up at 'Tin Town', the navvies' temporary settlement of Birchenlee.

After the itinerant workers moved on, Miss Barber took bible classes in the Mission Room. Young people had to wait until their fourteenth birthday before they could join the dozens of adults on Sunday afternoons. A Sunday evening service was open to all ages, and as soon as Amy was old enough to behave herself her granny took her along. She remembers hearing lessons read by Mr. Winder who lived on Baulk Lane, and by visiting preachers. Nobby Clarke from Sheffield impressed them all greatly; a former drinking man he had taken up religion and preached at the Mission Room regularly.

Miss Barber also set up a Missionary Working Party, consisting of almost every child in the village over the age of five. Seated at long trestle tables the boys were set to work making one-inch long beads from scraps of coloured wallpaper, threading them along fine wire into necklaces.

Meanwhile the girls were taught to dress dolls bought by Miss Barber herself. Each doll was given a dress and underskirt made from remnants of material given by the many home dressmakers in the village. None of the clothing could be white, this being the colour of mourning in China - the distant destination of the toys.

FUN AND GAMES Each year a summer garden party was held at Leveret Croft for the young helpers. One room was given over to a display of their hard work, ball games and cricket were set up, and the girls were allowed to play in Miss Barber's own doll's house, fully furnished and so big that you could actually get inside it - none of them had ever seen such a doll's house.

Evelyn Barber may have been the first person in the village to have a motor car, registration number BS 210 and purchased from Brook Shaw's. Every morning she drove her father down to the station for the Sheffield train, picking him up again in the evening. By this time the children in The Dale - and there were a lot of them with five or six to many a house - were often out playing in the road, but just after 6 o'clock they kept a look-out for the one and only car.

Cricket was played in the road all summer long, two stones for stumps and a good bat made by John Thompson the joiner. There was an ash tip in The Dale, ashes being all that was left when people had to dispose of their own rubbish, and this made a useful barrier for keeping cricket balls out of the brook.

The Dale was a close community, and on very special occasions a huge wooden pole was erected close to the mill and decorated from top to bottom with paper streamers. A faded photograph taken on the occasion of the 1911 coronation shows the pole in place and decorations strung from one side of the road to the other as far as the eye can see, with more paper ribbons draped around the doors and windows of every cottage.

The big annual event was Empire Day, 24th May, a time for patriotism, pride in being British, and Union Jacks galore. Even so there was school as usual in the morning, but in the afternoon everyone made for the Seele Field to share a party, games and sports - and it always seemed to be so sunny.

Another annual ceremony was held by members of the Ancient Order of Foresters. Dressed in their colourful regalia and plumed hats, members gathered in the Kirk Hill field next to the church for a parade and service before going to lay a wreath on Little John's grave.

Wakes week started on the nearest Sunday to the 11th October, coinciding with Stoney Middleton wakes. All the main events took place on ‘Fair Day Friday’; children took donkey rides up and down Mill Lane, and farmers congregated with their sheep around the butcher's shop, probably to sell off their surplus stock before winter. Stalls were set up in front of the parish room, while at night-time dazzling naphtha flares shone down on sticky brandy snaps and piles of sweets. Best of all was ‘Marry Me Quick’, flat spirals of brown and cream humbug, as round and big as a plate.

HOT BREAD POULTICES Whilst Hathersage did not hold a fund-raising Hospital Sunday, some neighbouring villages did. On just one occasion Amy was taken as a child to the annual service at Castleton which, in that year at least, was held in the Peak Cavern.

The nearest general hospital was at Sheffield, though during the First World War an auxilliary Red Cross hospital was established in Hathersage Institute. This had been built in 1907 as the Methodist school rooms, to which use it reverted until needed for light industrial use throughout the duration of World War II.

Although Hathersage had no resident dentist - seventy years ago George Morton, 'artificial teeth fitter', was advertising Thursday afternoon consultations in a room on Station Road - there was always a resident nurse and doctor. For many years the village nurse and midwife was Nurse Barker on Mayfield Terrace. To pay for her treatment, from first aid to hot bread poultices, Mrs. Schofield used to put away regular pennies in a Nursing Box.

A few people may still remember Dr. Herbert Lander, medical officer and public vaccinator. In the early 1920s he was followed by Dr. William Houlbrook. In turn they lived in what is now the Youth Hostel on Jagger's Lane, then known to everyone as 'the doctor's hill'. During construction of the early Derwent reservoirs Dr. Lander used to drive his pony and trap to visit the 1000-strong temporary population of Birchenlee, where there was also a fever hospital.

From her father Amy heard how the smallpox outbreak of 1892 had led to an isolation hospital being erected on an exposed field at The Booths. Only a few scattered cases spread outside Sheffield, but the scare closed Hathersage school for a while.

THE SCHOOLS The public elementary school in The Dale had an infants' class, from where pupils moved up a class every year, through Standards 1 to 7. Noah Boden was their long-serving headmaster, continuing to teach after his wife retired as mistress. Their daughter, Miss Boden, taught the infants. The rest of the staff generally lived locally, although Miss Royce cycled from Castleton and back every day.

Mr. Boden also provided further education for ex-pupils who had left school to go straight into work. From time to time these...

[Continued on page 17 which was not saved - duuh! how could I have been so stupid?!]

For many years the offices currently used by Eadon, Lockwood & Riddle belonged to Sheffield and Ecclesall Co-operative Society, eventually to be reached by telephone number Hathersage 3. Next door, where wine is now sold, Charlie Turner traded in fruit and vegetables. He also delivered all round Hathersage on his horse-drawn dray until the Co-op took over his shop as their butchery department.

On the opposite side of Main Road the very independent Miss Nancy Eyre ran another butchery single-handed in the present-day craftshop and gallery. The one shop in Hathersage which is still a butcher's and has been for as long as anyone can remember, going back to when it belonged to the Redferns, is now owned by D.H. Bowyer and Sons.

The discreet but indispensable expertise of 'Madame' Gowers, corsetière, was provided at her establishment at The Gables, whilst the services offered by Carl W. Widmann who around 1925 lived at Birchfield on Jaggers Lane, seem very strange - he was the consul for Cuba!

Gardening needs were supplied by Charlie Smith on Back Lane. Close to the place where today Alan Mosley sells plants and gardening materials, at the bottom of Station Road, worked the blacksmith Isaac Unwin. In a nearby wooden shed Louis Mosley sold confectionery whilst further along stood Barber's grocers, nowadays in business as Bannermans Store.

Old Bill Bocking traded across the road, recorded formally in 1908 as 'William Bocking, grocer, deal in earthenware and assistant overseer'. He was succeeded in business by his son and daughter. Another busy venture on this side of Station Road were the bakery and high class tea rooms of Mr. and Mrs. Crow.

BRIGHT LIGHTS The days when Hathersage lay beneath a constant pall of dust from the mills, with conditions so bad that they came under investigation by a Royal Commission, lay far behind. The village was now a popular tourist attraction and drew large numbers of day trippers on rail excursions; especially on Bank Holidays. Fifty or sixty years ago they could find refreshments at quite a number of establishments.

Comers from all directions were catered for: Miss Savage ran the Mill Café and the Misses Hudson kept the Corner Cupboard on Main Road. Mrs Crump provided tea rooms in her bungalow on Sheffield Road, Mrs Hinsley at York Villa on Station Road, Mrs Rust on Booth's Edge, and Eliza Steeples at Dale Cottage.

For the younger people of Hathersage, the train was their link with the bright lights of Sheffield. A Saturday night return ticket cost ten pence, and a pre-booked seat at Heeley Palace or the Colliseum was a shilling.

Another generation on and the bright lights were of a different order. Hathersage was close enough to Sheffield to be very aware of the war, with incendiaries dropping over Stanage on at least one occasion. In the early hours a large bomb landed in Seele Field, throwing up soil as far as the road in The Dale, and leaving the field marked with craters. Another bomb scored a direct hit on a rock at the top of The Dale and one exploded behind some houses on Sheffield Road.

It took families and businesses a long time to get over the war, and in many ways Hathersage was never the same again. Over the passing years it has become a very desirable place to live and the days when empty old cottages were left to crumble to the ground are difficult to imagine. If for this reason alone, former industrial buildings have been preserved and converted to new uses.

There is, in addition, great local interest in the history of Hathersage with publications by Barbara Smith, Tom D. Tomlinson, Brian Edwards and Mary Andrews recommended for further reading.

The illustrations and inspiration for this feature have been most kindly provided by Amy Schofield, herself a most valuable member of Hathersage Historical Society.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 7th & 21st June 1993.

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