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Buildings Other

“Suddenly, there was a deafening roar, a crash of breaking glass and – silence!”

On Tuesday April 4, 1923, about nine o’clock in the evening, London Road, at the corner with Sharrow Lane, was quiet, only a handful of people going about their business.

Suddenly, there was a deafening roar, a crash of breaking glass and – silence!

The loud explosion caused terror in the neighbourhood and within minutes hundreds of people swarmed out of their little houses and surrounded Highfield House at the bottom of Sharrow Lane.

Police officers from Highfield police station, about 100 yards away, rushed to the scene but had difficulty reaching the house through the crowd.

Highfield House was the home of Dr George Scott Davidson and he emerged at the front of the house to speak with the police.

Dr Davidson and his wife had just finished dinner and were traumatised by a loud explosion at the back of the property.

The police tried to move the crowds away from Highfield House and used flashlights to search the garden at the rear.

The house was unscathed, but remains of garden trellis work was strewed across the ground and glass in small garden frames had been destroyed.

“We rushed into the grounds, but could see very little, of course, except the frames were badly smashed,” said Dr Davidson. “I have not the slightest doubt the damage was caused by a bomb, but I cannot imagine any reason for the affair.”

And so, Sheffield newspapers filled their pages with the story of ‘another bomb,’ because a week earlier a similar explosion had occurred 200 yards away, in the back yard of a shop at the junction of Randall Street and London Road.

After the Highfield House episode, people told stories of the event.

“It was a noise like rumbling thunder,” said a woman who lived in a house some considerable distance away, “and the windows shook in their frames.”

A boy named Alec Winston, who was playing cards with a friend at 38 Sharrow lane, the nearest house, was thrown to the floor.

“It was a terrific bang, and I thought someone was showering stones onto the windows of the house.”

Closer inspection revealed that broken glass covered the window-sills and steps to No. 38, pieces of glass had shot over the 10ft walls from Highfield House into yards of several adjoining properties. Worse for others, soot had fallen down chimneys filling rooms and covering furniture.

The following day police began investigating the bomb explosion and worked on the theory that it had been thrown from one of the courts at the rear of Grosvenor Square or Sharrow Street, behind Highfield House, but no suspicious characters had been seen.

The neighbourhood was a small, congested area, a far cry from the days when Highfield stood in large grounds in the countryside. It was now isolated by shops on London Road, a large garden in Sharrow Lane, and the houses in Sharrow Street and Grosvenor Square behind.

It was suggested the bomb had been thrown towards the house but had hit the garden trellis causing it to fall short of its target.

However, further examination by police officers revealed a more menacing scenario.

A portion of time fuse was found in the garden, and furthermore the force of the blast had been downwards, suggesting a certain deliberateness that defeated the suggestion it had been thrown by some irresponsible person.
It seemed the device had been made up from gunpowder or dynamite, possibly a mining or quarrying charge, because no fragments of a bomb were found.

The perpetrator must have entered the grounds to lay and ignite the fuse.

Police made numerous enquiries but could not find a reason for the bomb.

There were suggestions it might have been placed by those with Irish connections and suspicion was directed at the out-of-control gangs from around West Bar and Park.

The leaders of the Communist Party in Sheffield denied any knowledge.

“It is not in our line, and we would not do things this way.”

In the end, police believed the two separate explosions, undoubtedly linked, might have been carried out by a ‘desperate man,’ who might have got possession of an explosive.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph tried to downplay the incident, possibly at the request of puzzled police.

“It seems scarcely conceivable that anybody who deliberately was trying to cause serious damage would place whatever explosive in a cucumber frame many yards from the house, while such a receptacle would certainly add to the effect of any efforts merely to produce a ‘big bang.’

“On the whole there seems no cause for anyone to get very nervous, though the sooner the practical joker, or escaped lunatic, who is responsible, is brought to book the better.”

The mystery was never solved but the bomb scares caused many people to look uneasily at their First World War souvenirs – nose caps, cartridges, ‘dud’ bombs and in many cases live bombs which for the previous five years had occupied an honoured place on the mantelshelf or sideboard. Dozens of people paid hurried visits to the Central Police Station in Water Lane to hand them in.

NOTES: Built about 1788 for John Henfrey, Brightfield House was renamed Highfield House by Dr Charles Nelson Gwynne in 1880. His surgery was later taken over by Dr George Scott Davidson. It remained a doctor’s surgery until the 1970s and later became the Charnwood Hotel. The house has since been converted into apartments known as Wisteria Gardens. In the 1920s, Randall Street ran from Bramall Lane to London Road but only exists today between Bramall Lane and Hill Street.

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Other

Merry Christmas

I think we can agree that 2020 has been an awful year for us all. But we can be proud that the ‘Spirit’ of Sheffield is as strong as ever, and like other traumatic periods in our history, we will emerge a much stronger city.

The pandemic has played havoc with Sheffielder posts because time and resource had to be invested elsewhere.

However, the support has been unwavering, and I’d like to thank each and every one of you for taking time to read, comment and share the posts.

Things will be different this Christmas, but I would like to take this opportunity to offer my best wishes, and hopes for a better year ahead. Be positive, keep safe, and look after one another.

You are never alone in our fine city.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

David Poole

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Other Streets

Connecting Sheffield

Our city centre may take on a new look if plans to pedestrianise large swathes of it get the go ahead. Sheffield City Council want to make foot and bicycle journeys easier and quicker, while streamlining public transport services.

The proposals include pedestrianisation to Pinstone Street and Leopold Street, linking Fargate with the Peace Gardens, as well as Charles Street between Union Street and Pinstone Street. The pedestrianisation of Surrey Street would create a traffic-free Town Hall Square.

Work would include more greenery, replicating the ‘Grey-to-Green’ scheme already seen between Castlegate and West Bar.

Bus gates would be installed in both directions on Furnival Gate, and along Arundel Gate to Norfolk Street

Rockingham Street would get a new bus hub with improvements to pavements, green planting, a pocket park, and bus stops.

The future of our city? Pedestrianisation of Pinstone Street and Charles Street connects with Heart of the City II redevelopment, due for completion in 2021. (Image: Connecting Sheffield)

Of course, there are benefits to the scheme – improved air quality, better accessibility to shops and businesses, a more attractive city centre, and public spaces that create city uniqueness.

Artist impressions paint a bright picture, but there are notes of caution.

Sheffield city centre is at a midpoint in its regeneration, with the pandemic decimating footfall, and placing even more uncertainty on retail, hospitality, and office space requirements.

The city centre is a travesty of its former self, Covid-19 exposing retailers already reeling from Meadowhall and the internet. And, after restrictions are eventually lifted, how many pubs, bars, and restaurants, will have survived?   

Half-hearted attempts to open cycle lanes at the heart of the city, further reducing traffic flow, have met with lukewarm response. With respects to cyclists, our seven hills make four wheels the favoured choice in and out of the city.

The prospect of a Town Hall Square, with pedestrian access and cycle routes linking Fargate, Leopold Street, Surrey Street, and the Peace Gardens. (Image: Connecting Sheffield).

The key to any redevelopment must take into consideration transport links.

Cars are already deterred from entering due to over-complicated traffic flow and the extortionate cost of parking. Our buses remain empty, not least because nobody knows where they go, or where to catch them anymore. Our elderly citizens must walk a distance to catch a bus, and the question remains whether they will bother anymore?

We must tread carefully, mindful that change must happen if our city centre is to be revitalised.

Any changes must take place before 2023 to qualify for a Government grant, managed by Sheffield City Region, and must be subject of public consultation.  

An overview of the ‘Connecting Sheffield’ proposal, providing a green space around the city centre. (Image: Connecting Sheffield)

Connecting Sheffield

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Other

Chicago: a British love affair that started in Sheffield

(Image: Sheffield Theatres)

During the 1920s, the bad lads of gangland Sheffield earned it the reputation as ‘Little Chicago’, and so it was appropriate that in November 1978 the Crucible Theatre staged the British premiere of Chicago, the John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse musical.

First staged on Broadway in 1975, Chicago had been optioned by a London producer for a year, but Peter James, the Crucible’s artistic director, learned that it had lapsed and wrote to Kander and Ebb’s agent asking whether Sheffield could produce it.

“It was a hundred per cent diplomacy and a 10 per cent royalty.”

The approach was successful, and it opened with hardware, costumes, and scenery costing £13,000, and with nineteen boys and girls, the total estimated expenditure was £45,000.

Ben Cross was cast as Billy Flynn, the role gaining him recognition, and landing him the role of British athlete Harold Abrahams in 1981’s Chariots of Fire, before going on to be a stalwart of TV and film.

Antonia Ellis, a West End regular, played Roxie Hart, and went on to appear on Broadway. Following an accident, where she was hit by a car, she sustained leg injuries and abandoned her career.

Perhaps the most interesting story is that of Jenny Logan as Velma Kelly. She continued to work on stage and screen but became famous as the star of the Shake n’ Vac advert between 1980 and 1986 – “Do the Shake n’ Vac and put the freshness back.”

By opening night, nine West-End managements were vying for a transfer and it launched at London’s Cambridge Theatre in April 1979.

The Crucible production was billed as the European premiere, overlooking the fact it had already been staged at the Malmo City Theatre in Sweden in 1977.

However, it was the first chance that the British public got to see Chicago, the musical going on to become an unwavering favourite and subject of the Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere movie in 2002.

© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

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Other People

Sheffield Legends

(Image: David Poole)

We walk over them regularly, and might be guilty of not giving them a second glance.

These are the Sheffield Legends, stars that line the pavement outside Sheffield Town Hall.

This is Sheffield’s Walk of Fame, honouring those who have achieved national or international acclaim. As in the Hollywood version, there are plaques with people’s names on them and why they are celebrated.

The idea was first suggested in 2005 when the people of Sheffield were asked who should be honoured after a local resident suggested honouring the footballer Gordon Banks, who grew up in Sheffield.

(Image: David Poole)

Nominations are considered by an independent selection board representing various sectors across the city such as the arts, sport, education, media, and business, and chaired by the Lord Mayor.

To date, the inductees are:

Gordon Banks – England’s World Cup winning goalkeeper
Sean Bean – film and TV actor
Joe Cocker – singer
Sebastian Coe – Olympic medal winner and President of the International Association of Athletics Federation
Derek Dooley – Footballing legend for United and Wednesday
Dame Margaret Drabble – internationally respected novelist and critic
Dame Jessica Ennis – Olympic Champion, double Outdoor and Indoor World Champion athlete
Professor Barry Hancock – OBE, world renowned cancer expert
Brendan Ingle – world famous boxing manager and trainer
Def Leppard – top-selling rock band
Nick Matthew – world squash champion
David Mellor – internationally renowned cutlery designer
Michael Palin – famous film and television personality
Steve Peat – champion downhill mountain biker
Helen Sharman – first British astronaut
Joe Simpson – renowned mountaineer, author, and motivational speaker
Joe Scarborough – one of Sheffield’s finest artists
Michael Vaughan – one of this country’s most successful cricket captains
Clinton Woods – world champion boxer
Grace Clough – Paralympic gold medallist, rowing
Tony Foulds – the man who inspired the spectacular flypast to remember those who died in the Mi Amigo wartime plane crash

(Image: David Poole)
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Other Places

The first television pictures in Sheffield

Radio equipment and T.V. experimentation’ masts and station, Dore Moor, near Newfield Lane, in 1938. The house was built in 1934 and called Newfield. Photograph by Picture Sheffield

I wonder how we might have survived without TV during the lockdown. It makes this story from almost 88 years ago even more remarkable and shows how far technology has advanced in a relatively short space of time.

In 1938, in a secret experimenting room on the remote outskirts of Sheffield, three men had received television programmes from London. One September night, George W. Bagshaw, K. Hopkinson and G. Thompson, all employees of mail order company, J.G. Graves, managed to receive an almost perfect picture and sound.

The television receiver used was the only one in the north of England and had been built by the three amateur radio enthusiasts, led by Bagshaw, the manager of the wireless department at Graves Ltd.

This was thought to be the first time that anybody had received television programmes in Sheffield.

The television pictures were being broadcast by the BBC from Alexandra Palace to the London area. It started broadcasting in 1936, followed by the first outside broadcast in May 1937, the Coronation of King George VI.

The receiver was installed at Dore Moor, near Newfields Lane, the only giveaway being two large latticed wireless masts, which few people knew what they were for.

Bagshaw said that he had been receiving pictures for three weeks, the gap between London and Sheffield being one of the greatest distances that pictures had been transmitted.

“It was thought that television had a visual range as far as the eye could see. That is its true range, but it is possible to receive from greater distances,” Bagshaw told the Daily Independent.

“Working on ultra-short waves, pictures have been received further than was at first thought possible, and I have found that I can receive transmissions from Alexandra Palace.

“In Sheffield, we are 160 miles away from the transmitter, and it cannot be expected that our pictures are as clear as those in the London area.

“However, we have obtained pictures which, although they might not suit the critical onlooker, are very satisfying to the experimenter.”

Mr Bagshaw had been experimenting in television since its inception, and the first station was in the radio department of J.G. Graves, but after a time it was realised that interference from motor-cars and trams were hindering progress.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The site at Dore Moor had been chosen because it was almost ideal for radio work. It was 750 feet above sea level, remote from roads and electrical interference.

In the station was a bewildering collection of radio apparatus. The workshop was only small, but large enough to contain all its necessary equipment. The shed, built in 1936, housed over a thousand pounds worth of apparatus, with five short-wave transmitters and several ultra-short-wave receivers. The two radio masts on the site, nearly eighty feet high, both carried a large aerial.

BBC television schedule for Tuesday August 30 1938. These programmes were received in Sheffield. Photograph by The British Newspaper Archive.

Unfortunately, when the Daily Independent visited Dore Moor for a demonstration of television pictures, thundery conditions prevented the signals reaching Sheffield.

Asked for his views on the future of television in Sheffield, Mr Bagshaw pointed out that results were only obtained outside London by using very intricate and expensive apparatus and having special receivers.

Until there was a local transmitter there was little prospect of Sheffield people being able to receive television.

So far as the provinces were concerned, he thought the BBC and the Post Office were waiting for a better response in London before they put up provincial stations.

The first step towards the opening of a provincial station was thought to be the completion of a special cable between London and Birmingham, but as that cable had been completed some time before, and there was no news of a Birmingham transmitter, it was thought in radio circles that either the cable was not satisfactory in a technical sense, or the Post Office thought it much more useful for multi-channel trunk lines.

“The solution to the provincial station is a radio-link, which means using ultra-high-frequency transmitters between towns to convey television, sound and speech.

“All this is a very expensive undertaking, and to cater for the whole country at present would appear to be prohibitive in cost,” he added.

Sadly, despite the sale of 20,000 TV sets in the London area, the service was immediately shut down when World War Two started in September 1939. Transmissions didn’t resume until 1946, with a Midlands transmitter opening in 1949, and one for the North two years later.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield
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Other Places

The View from Sheffield

Lincoln Cathedral photograph by Linsey Williams

Sometimes the subject of a post materialises by chance, and this letter from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in June 1926, caught the attention: –

“Sir, – In view of the present favourable conditions for long distance views from the hills about Sheffield, it would be interesting to know if it is possible to see Lincoln Cathedral from any vantage point about the district. Rumours have been current from time to time that Hagg Lane, Intake, is a suitable point, but it is difficult to get concrete evidence of this. On inquiries you are generally put off by ‘Well, I have heard my grandfather say that a cousin of his told him he knew a man, etc.’ Perhaps your readers in the Intake, Gleadless, and Ridgeway areas, might throw some light on the matter. Yours, etc., GREEBA.”

To start with, Hagg Lane is now known as Hurlfield Road, and these days we do not consider it to be part of Intake, more appropriate to say it borders Arbourthorne and Gleadless.

Ridiculous as the letter might appear, as Lincoln Cathedral was about 40 miles away, further curiosity was aroused a few days later in a response to the same newspaper: –

“Sir, – Greeba need not be in any doubt as to the possibility of seeing Lincoln Cathedral from Hagg Lane. It is a matter of considerable difficulty, of course, and needs a good glass, plus an exceptionally clear day, and from my own experience (it was visible from the garden of my house in which I lived for some years) I do not think it can be seen oftener than three or four times a year.

“During the coal strike of 1921, however, I saw it at least four times in one week, and after spotting it with the glass it was possible to see it with the naked eye.

“The normal appearance is that of a tower of immense height, but in 1921 it was possible to get a good idea of the whole building.

“The viewpoint I can recommend is that from the portion of Hagg Lane, between Gleadless Common and the old Handsworth Waterworks, but I should regard the sight of it by a casual visitor as highly improbable.

“I was looking for it on all suitable occasions for about two years before I succeeded in finding it, and I should imagine that visibility is worse now on account of the housing estate on Gleadless Common, the smoke from which will drift across the foreground, with a south-west wind, which normally gave us the clearest weather, – Yours, etc. W.W. WOOD.”

We must appreciate that in the late 1920s this part of Sheffield was still rural, and the new Gleadless Common council housing estate had just been built at the top end (since demolished and replaced with new builds). Hagg Lane, or Hurlfield Road, was slightly higher than nearby Manor Top with views across the surrounding countryside. The spot identified is approximately where Sheffield Springs Academy now stands.

Today, any notion of seeing distant Lincoln Cathedral from here is virtually impossible, the area built-up with further housing, restricting the view.

Photograph from Hurlfield Road by Google

The question is how reasonable it would have been to see the Lincolnshire landmark about forty miles away?

Dust, water vapour and pollution in the air will rarely let you see more than 12 miles, even on a clear day. Often, the curvature of the earth  gets in the way first, it curves about 8 inches per mile and, according to experts, standing on a flat surface, the farthest edge that you can see is about three miles away. Without the earth’s curve and from higher up you might be able to identify objects from dozens, even hundreds, of miles away.

This being the case, it might have been possible to see Lincoln Cathedral from Hagg Lane, especially as there was a coal strike at the time of the newspaper letters, making visibility much clearer.

Photograph of Lincoln Cathedral from Ringinglow by Daniel/Flickr

Further evidence emerges more recently, albeit using the zoom lens of a modern camera. A quick search on Flickr, the photograph sharing site, reveals interesting images taken from the western outskirts of Sheffield.

Looking easterly, from Fulwood Lane/Greenhouse Lane, it is possible to see the Humber Bridge (52 miles distant), photographs by Vince Sellars reveal the two towers of the suspension bridge,  and other contributors confirm that Lincoln Cathedral can be seen on a clear day from Ringinglow. Looking north from Grenoside, although there is no photographic evidence, it appears that York Minster (about 43 miles away) can also be seen.

Photograph of Humber Bridge from Ringinglow by Vince Sellers
Photograph of Humber Bridge at night from Ringinglow by Vince Sellers

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Other

Picture Sheffield: Twenty years of digital resources

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

In 2000, at the point of the internet boom, somebody at Sheffield City Council’s Archives and Local Studies department had the foresight to start digitalising its vast collections.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Picture Sheffield turned out to be one of the first digital resource libraries in the UK, and as it celebrates its twentieth anniversary, it remains one of the country’s best photographic anthologies.

The service collects and preserves original records and printed material relating to Sheffield and its surrounding area, dating from the 12th century to the present.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

In these days of lockdown, Picture Sheffield can provide hours of endless free entertainment and shows us how things used to look, how our ancestors appeared and how the city has evolved.

For historians, it is a valuable point of reference, and on a personal level, I have spent ages examining photographs of buildings and streets to check bygone information.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

It is estimated there are well over 60,000 local images available to view, boosted by last year’s acquisition of over 2,000 images from the Tim Hale Photographic Collection, bought with help of public donations (£2,500 bestowed within days) and a £5,000 grant from the J.G. Graves Charitable Trust.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Picture Sheffield is a non-profit making service and income received from picture sales and donations is used to cover the cost of managing and developing the service which includes adding over 100 extra images a month.

Go to Picture Sheffield

Photograph by Picture Sheffield
Photograph by Picture Sheffield
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Other

A hidden danger beneath our streets

Photograph by the Ministry of Defence

I don’t wish to alarm people in these sobering times, but there is another threat to the people of Sheffield, and it lies beneath our feet.

It’s almost eighty years since German bombers dropped around 355 tonnes of high explosives and 16,000 incendiary canisters on Sheffield during the Blitz of 1940. The bombers targeted residential and industrial areas and the city centre received incredible damage, with The Moor, Angel Street and King Street almost obliterated.

While death and destruction were immense, Sheffield’s citizens might have been forgiven that one of our nastiest periods had been consigned to history.

Alas, we are still likely to suffer the consequences for years to come.

Photograph by Sheffield Star

According to experts, Sheffield is a ‘high risk’ area for unexploded bombs, those that fell from the sky, failed to detonate, and buried themselves deep underground.

Bombs often failed to explode because they were ‘dud’ – casualties of fast, furious and error-prone wartime manufacturing.

But why didn’t the authorities deal with them?

At terminal velocity, a bomb would have penetrated 3-4 storeys before detonating. If it failed, its downward motion sent it deep underground, leaving destruction behind and almost impossible for watchers to determine the exact number and location.

The legacy is that we almost certainly have dozens of unexploded bombs hidden under the streets of Sheffield, as well as in other cities across Britain.

It is only now that some of these unexploded devices are returning to haunt us. Over the years, bombs have been discovered near Bramall Lane, Hillsborough, Don Valley, Owlerton and Burngreave. And it is just four years ago that four bombs were successively discovered in Matilda Street.

Most of these bombs have been found on construction sites, the Construction Industry Research and Information Association stating that in one two year period an estimated 15,000 military items were extracted from UK building sites. Now that buildings are getting taller, foundations dug deeper, we are starting to uncover devices , about five per cent of which are still live.

Worryingly, discoveries are still being made as original sites are being redeveloped for a second time after blocks thrown up in the post-war building boom reach the end of useful life.

The problem with unexploded bombs is their unpredictability, with Army Bomb Disposal Units (split between the Royal Engineers and Royal Logistic Corp Ammunition Technicians) having little information about how long it has been there and how it might have changed over time.

Photograph by The Independent

Most construction in the UK is now subject to risk assessment on the likelihood of unexploded bombs underground. These assessments may take the form of visual interpretation using historical photographs, as well as with geophysical and geothermic surveys. A similar set of processes was used when the site was cleared to make way for the construction of the Moor Market.

The situation is a lot worse in Germany where barely a week goes by without a new discovery. In 2014, a German digger driver was killed after accidentally striking an unexploded British device at Euskirchen, north of Frankfurt. And last year, a large explosion in a field near Ahlbach created a huge crater and turned out to be an undiscovered wartime bomb exploding after 75 years.

“According to the rule of thumb, if German ordnance hit the ground, it exploded, while Allied bombs were notoriously unreliable,” says Stephen Taylor, a period munitions expert.

Photograph by BBC News
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Other

April Fools’ Day (1)

It’s April Fools’ Day. No pranks here, but an attempt to determine why we stage hoaxes and play practical jokes on 1 April. It appears that nobody knows the exact meaning of the day although several historians have put forward suggestions.

It has been celebrated for centuries by different cultures and by embracing it, the media has ensured the unofficial holiday’s long life.

The earliest concrete records are from France and Holland in the 1500s and, because of this, people believe it must have been a northern European tradition that spread to Britain.

It is known as April Fish Day in some areas of Europe, believed to be because there are a lot of fish in streams and rivers around 1 April, and they are easy to catch – foolish fish!

In France, it is a common trick to attach a paper fish on somebody’s back on April Fools’ Day and give chocolate fish as gifts.

April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century, some arguing that a story told by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century – where a fox plays a prank on a rooster (who is almost eaten because of it) – is the first reference to pranks taking place on this day.

Chaucer doesn’t refer to 1 April though. In the poem, he says 32 “syn March began,” translated as “32 days since March began” which would be today.

On a wider scale, some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one. In the Julian calendar the new year began with the spring equinox on 1 April.

People who were slow to get the news, or failed to recognise that the start of the new year had moved to 1 January, and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through 1 April, became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called April fools. These pranks included having the so-said paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolise a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to festivals such as Hilaria (Latin for joyful), which was celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March by followers of the cult of Cybele. It involved people dressing up in disguises and mocking fellow citizens, and even magistrates, and was said to be inspired by the Egyptian legend of Isis, Osiris and Seth.

There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.