Tales of the riverbank. Where does your water come from?

River Derwent, North Yorkshire

Water has been a big topic this summer. We haven’t got enough of it. But things might have been worse if it hadn’t been for a pioneering scheme in the 1960s that allowed Sheffield to source water from an unlikely source.

South Yorkshire has at least fifteen reservoirs and more minor ones, but according to Dr Jenny Stephenson in her book ‘The History of Water – the Sheffield reflection’ (2019) not all these service water to the area. Some act as ‘balancing’ or ‘service reservoirs’ which receive water, pumped, or channelled into them, their purpose being to balance supply with demand. Others are ‘impounding’ reservoirs into which a river flows naturally.

The biggest shock is that Sheffield’s water is mainly from the River Ouse and River Derwent, in North Yorkshire, only in part being from the reservoirs on high ground above Sheffield.

The water from rivers is typically classed as hard water because the water gathers minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium) as it runs through and over rocks. Water from reservoirs is normally softer as it comes from high ground and moorlands.

Increasing demand in the 1960s, in which Sheffield used nearly 38 million gallons of water daily for industry and domestic use, meant that the city’s water supply from the Pennine hills had reached its limit.

In 1965, it was supplemented with the Yorkshire Derwent Scheme, which involved river water being treated at Elvington, near York, and delivered along 37 miles of pipeline to an underground service reservoir at Hoober Stand near Rotherham.

You might be surprised that the scheme was instigated by Sheffield Corporation, because of the Sheffield Water Order 1961, and it designed and executed the work at a cost of over £8m. It was cleverly designed so that Leeds, Barnsley, and Rotherham, also received a share of the water and paid contributions to Sheffield.

The treatment works at Elvington softened, clarified, and filtered water to remove impurities and sterilise it.

The first pipe was laid in May 1962, built by John Brown Ltd, land and marine constructors, and used bitumen lined welded steel pipes, involving four river crossings, including the Ouse and Aire,  13 railways crossings, and 53 road crossings. Once completed it allowed 15 million gallons of water to be pumped into the city daily.

The first water arrived in Sheffield in December 1964 and was celebrated at a Town Hall luncheon hosted by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Albert Smith, who toasted his 80 guests with water mixed with wine and brandy.

It was inaugurated in September 1965, eight months ahead of schedule, and the last weld was made by Alderman Charles Ronald Ironmonger, chairman of the Sheffield Corporation Water Committee and John Staniforth, managing director of John Brown Ltd.

The last section of the 37-mile all-welded pipeline linking the river Derwent at Elvington, seven miles east of York, with the Sheffield Corporation reservoir at Hoober. Picture Sheffield

At the official opening of the Elvington treatment works, Sir William Goode, chairman of the Water Resources Board, referred to Sheffield needing to increase water flow to 25 million gallons a day and suggested that a reservoir might be built on land owned by Hull Corporation at Farndale on the North Yorkshire Moors. This would have meant flooding the valley, like previous schemes at Ladybower, Derwent, and Howden, in Derbyshire, and provide water for Hull and Sheffield.

However, the scheme was derailed in the 1970s, and Sheffield’s municipal water company was amalgamated into a regional board in 1974 and privatised in 1989 and is now part of Yorkshire Water PLC.

The Yorkshire Derwent Scheme subsequently became a segment in the Yorkshire Water Grid which allows transfer of water around the region to balance supply and demand.

By the way, water from the Ladybower dams, is largely used in the East Midlands.

Hoober Stand Reservoir, Rotherham. Image: Google

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Sheffield’s clean air programme to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary

There is an important anniversary coming up in Sheffield’s story.

In 1972, Sheffield completed its clean air programme, and one person who had cause to feel proud was Joseph Batey, nicknamed ‘Smokey Joe,’ who had just retired as the city’s smoke control officer.

Fifty years on, many of us won’t appreciate the importance of this milestone. We are used to clear skies, (mostly) fresh air, and spectacular views across the city.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Concern over Sheffield’s air quality stretched back at least 400 years. As early as 1608 Sir John Bentley expected to be ‘half choked with town smoke’ while visiting Sheffield.

A traveller’s diary of 1798 said: “We had an excellent view of the town of Sheffield enveloped in smoke.” ; and in 1828: “Others have become so accustomed to regard an increase in smoke as an indication of improving trade that they can see nothing in a clear sky but ruin.”

By the 19th century it was apparent that measures were necessary to reduce atmospheric pollution in urban areas.

In 1819, industrial firms were being fined for undue smoke emissions. And in 1843, the Select Committee on Smoke Prevention issued its report, and locally, the Borough Council’s Watch Committee directed the police to enforce Smoke Byelaws.

“The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council’ disallowed the city’s smoke byelaws in 1852, but the council tried again the following year and were successful.

The Sanitary Act of 1866 permitted local sanitary authorities to act against smoke nuisances. It was not until 1875 however, with the passing of the Public Health Act, that attempts were made to control air pollution across the whole country.

In 1890, Sheffield’s first chief smoke inspector noted that the average smoke emission of all chimneys observed by his staff was ‘80 minutes smoke an hour.’

The real break-through came with the Clean Air Act of 1956 which established ‘smokeless zones’ in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. Here was a piece of legislation (and the city’s representatives were consulted when it was being drafted) which swept away the old, misconceived notions and gave any city that cared to have a go the chance for clean air for all.

The citizens proved worthy of their heritage. With power to prohibit smoke from domestic premises, now recognised as the biggest smoke producer, and a 40 per cent grant from the Government towards the cost of domestic conversions to smokelessness (a bonus that few Yorkshiremen could resist) the first area, in the city centre, became smokeless on December 1, 1959.

There was a clean wind blowing into the city from the Derbyshire moors, and the strategy adopted was to work for smoke elimination into this clean wind direction, namely into the south-west sector of the city, but there was not a large volume of heavy industry in the south-west, and smoke gauges in the north east sector, where heavy industry was located, only started to show a steady decline in the early sixties as the programme gained momentum in the south west.

Another advantage which accrued from working in what was largely the ‘domestic’ area was that industry was being alerted to the necessity of ‘getting it clean’ and ‘keeping it clean.’ There was little hope of clearing smoke from a house in the industrial belt if an adjacent factory chimney was pouring out smoke. The Clean Air Act of 1968 forced certain industries to use tall chimneys, and the cooperation of most managements was positive.

A final programme of complete domestic smoke control was forwarded to the then Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1960, showing the completion date as 1972. This programme was adhered to, and the promise kept.

By turning over to smokeless fuels there was a welcome reduction in the sulphur dioxide measurements, using measuring stations.

Fog or smog days disappeared by the late 1960s and Sheffield Transport’s manager stated, in reply to a query regarding bus time-keeping – “I can say that it is the opinion of all my staff that over the years with the introduction of smokeless zones, the problem has almost entirely disappeared.”

The effect on health was carried out at Sheffield University, but few needed convincing that cleaner air, more sunshine, and less dirt, was conductive to good health.

By 1972, the city of 71 square miles with over half a million population, and 186,000 houses, had tamed air pollution in 12 years, even though its basic industry, producing three million tons of steel, was notorious for its pollution problems.

The creation of smoke control areas was so successful that by the early 1980s they covered the whole of the urban parts of the city, and the transformation of Sheffield’s air was thought to have been complete. The 1956 and 1968 Clean Air Acts were repealed by the Clean Air Act 1993, which consolidated and extended the provisions of the earlier legislation.

However, the new threats from traffic emissions became the next clean air challenge.

In early 2023 Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone is due to start. This is a class C chargeable zone for the most polluting large goods vehicles, vans, buses, and taxis that drive within the inner ring road and city centre.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


County lines – the fight to keep Sheffield out

It was 1990, and the Boundary Commission was blitzed by worried Derbyshire ratepayers who feared a big part of their county could be gobbled by Sheffield.

Thousands of householders were issued with specially printed postcards by North-East Derbyshire District Council to send to the commission urging them not to make more than 100 square miles of territory part of Sheffield.

A bid by the city to grab Killamarsh, Eckington, and Dronfield, as well as parts of the Hope Valley in the Peak District, had been withdrawn after a high profile campaign by residents and neighbouring Derbyshire councils.

But despite the climbdown, the commission was still duty bound to examine the possibility of changing the boundary.

The story had begun in 1987 when the Boundary Commission wrote to Sheffield City Council announcing its intention to undertake a review of Sheffield as part of its review of the Metropolitan County of South Yorkshire.

Sheffield City Council made it known that there was a substantial case for extension of its boundary by absorbing the Hope Valley and Dronfield, Eckington, and Killamarsh. It resulted in a petition bearing 16,000 signatures, 800 postcards and 1,500 letters from people living in the areas concerned, opposing any transfer into Sheffield.

The three parishes of Dronfield, Eckington and Killamarsh had strong links with the city and despite Sheffield’s withdrawal, the Boundary Commission felt obliged to consider the proposal.

However, the Hope Valley, although falling within Sheffield’s travel to work area, and favouring Sheffield for shopping visits, had a large moorland divide, and the Boundary Commission dismissed the investigation.

Historical boundary changes had allowed Sheffield to expand in former years, and some districts that had once been part of Derbyshire, included Dore, Totley, Frecheville, Meersbrook, Hackenthorpe, Norton, Woodseats, and Beighton.

In 1991, the Boundary Commission published its findings, and the three Derbyshire parishes escaped becoming part of Yorkshire.

However, there were minor changes, including the former Lightwood Traffic Training Ground at Norton being transferred to Sheffield and using Bochum Parkway as the identifiable boundary.

It also transferred Birley Wood Golf Course to Sheffield, mainly because it was owned by Sheffield City Council and used by city’s residents.

And there was a stumbling block over land between White Lane and Birley Lane, in which Sheffield Supertram would later travel.  It was argued that the tramway should fall within Sheffield, and unless somebody corrects me, this section of tramway still runs across a tiny part of Derbyshire.  

This might have happened 32 years ago, but as one academic recently said to me, it is only a matter of time before Sheffield expands further into Derbyshire.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Castlegate – Geoarchaeological work begins on Sheffield Castle site

The next major phase in Sheffield City Council’s plans to regenerate the historic area of Castlegate is underway as essential geoarchaeological work begins.

Geoarchaeological investigations will be carried out by archaeology and heritage specialists, Wessex Archaeology, as they conduct 33 borehole surveys across the site of Sheffield Castle to examine the characteristics and conditions of the site’s underlying groundworks. The findings will then be analysed to give insights into what is underground and in turn inform the council’s redevelopment proposals for the area.

It marks a significant step in propelling the council’s plans to revitalise Castlegate after securing £20m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund last year.

Plans include the de-culverting of the River Sheaf, interpretation of the castle remains and the creation of attractive green public spaces; the creation of a cultural destination providing S1 Artspace and Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub with new state-of-the-art facilities; the preparation of land for future uses and investment; better connectivity and improved infrastructure for active travel.

In consultation with South Yorkshire Archaeology and Historic England, each borehole’s location has been carefully planned based on a need to further investigate the site, in order to add the information to the previously conducted archaeological evaluations, including the one carried out by Wessex Archaeology in 2018, after the Castle Markets were demolished.

This phase will supplement the information gathered from earlier assessments to produce a report, a detailed deposit model and archaeological sensitivity map to feed into a constraints plan for the area. The drilling is expected to last 6 weeks.

Castle Market Site. Illustration of the proposed mixed use development and open space from Sheffield City Council.


Happy Yorkshire Day

Map of the old Yorkshire Ridings

Happy Yorkshire Day. A celebration of the United Kingdom’s largest county.

Named after the old county town of York, we are familiar with its sub-division into North, West, South Yorkshire (the best of the lot), and Humberside.

But these are modern creations, and until 1974, the county was split into three ‘Ridings,’ derived from the Old Norse Þriding or Þriðing, meaning a “thirding”.

Yorkshire was divided into three ridings and surrounded the city of York, their boundaries meeting at the walls of the city: thus, York within the walls was the only part of Yorkshire outside any of the ridings.

East Riding, was the smallest and least hilly of the three, much of it in the plains extending from the north bank of the Humber and containing the seaport city of Kingston upon Hull.

The North Riding, extending from the Pennines to the North Sea, was the most rural but still contained Middlesbrough on industrial Teesside.

The West Riding, the largest and most urbanised as the southern part, contained the great industrial cities of Yorkshire, the largest being Sheffield and Leeds, though in its north it encompassed some of the finest of the Yorkshire Dales.

And each riding was divided into wapentakes, the Danelaw equivalent of an Anglo-Saxon Hundred in most other counties. The word derived from an assembly or meeting place, usually at cross-roads or near a river, where literally one’s presence or a vote was taken by a show of weapons.

And Sheffield was in the southern most wapentake of Strafforth and Tickhill, the original meeting place unknown, but may have been the future site of Conisbrough Castle, near Doncaster.

Map of Yorkshire wapentakes

And to add further confusion, there are portions of the great county which retain, from old feudal times, names unrecognised by the geographer, but well known and adopted by Yorkshiremen themselves. You may look in vain on a map for Cleveland, Richmondshire, Hallamshire, Craven, or Holderness, but you will hear of them spoken in each area.

Hallamshire, a large manor at the time of the Conquest was the southern most part of the West Riding, including Sheffield.

South Yorkshire was created on 1 April 1974 because of the Local Government Act 1972. It was created from 32 local government districts of the West Riding of Yorkshire (the administrative county and four independent county boroughs), with small areas from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. South Yorkshire County Council was abolished in 1986 and its four metropolitan boroughs (Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, and Doncaster) effectively becoming unitary authorities, although the metropolitan county continues to exist in law.

And while we are left with North, West, and South Yorkshire, Humberside reverted to its original name of the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1996.

If you’ve stuck with it so far, I’ll confuse you further by throwing in the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (formerly Sheffield City Region), led by Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire.

He has powers over transport, economic development and regeneration, and includes the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire as full members, with North East Derbyshire, Derbyshire Dales, Bassetlaw, Chesterfield and Bolsover, non-metropolitan Districts, as non-constituent members.

Be proud!

Modern-day flag of the West Riding of Yorkshire


“That’s not silver. It’s stainless steel, and it’s made in Sheffield.”

Savoy Theatre, alongside the Savoy Theatre, Strand, London

I had to make a hurried and brief visit to London. There is somebody you need to meet, said my friend. Come straightaway. The fact I heard this at 9am, and had only been asleep for four hours, made it an interesting journey. And so, hungover, I found myself waiting outside the world famous Savoy Hotel in The Strand. I would like to say the meeting was in the hotel, but it would take place in a nearby Costa Coffee.

I watched London rush by and looked up at the hotel entrance. “Fantastic engineering, isn’t it?” said a voice behind me. “It’s stainless steel,” said the member of staff. “Do you know they once found a dead body on top of the glass canopy?” I didn’t, and later found out it was true. In 1935, a down-and-out, one of the unemployed, exhausted, and defeated, had painfully climbed on to the shining stainless steel canopy over the entrance to the hotel to die of starvation.

And this got me thinking. Stainless steel. Was there a Sheffield connection? On my way home, I found out that there was.

“Isn’t it lovely?” exclaimed a girl gazing at the entrance to the adjacent Savoy Theatre. “Fancy a theatre front made of silver!” The year was 1931, and her boyfriend knew better. “That’s not silver. It’s stainless steel, and it’s made in Sheffield.”

But he was only partly right. The famous Sheffield product was not, strictly speaking, stainless steel, but a development of it – chromium nickel steel – which could be polished up to a degree that eclipsed the brilliance of polished silver and retained its sheen in any atmosphere.

‘Staybrite’ was a product of Thomas Firth and Sons, and in the 1920s and 1930s was making its mark in London. It was used for the imposing entrance to the Oxford Street Corner House, and combined with glass, there were the massive entrances to the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Taylor’s Guild, the beautiful rotating doors of the Strand Palace Hotel, and glittering turnstiles at the Olympia.

And there were examples abroad. Including the main entrance and ticket barriers of Geneva railway station, ornamental gates at Berne, and the doors of the Palais de Justice at Lausanne.

It was all manufactured in Sheffield.

Harry Brearley was the man credited with the invention of ‘rustless steel,’ but he left Brown Firth Laboratories in 1915 after a disagreement. It was his successor, Dr W.H. Hatfield who created the so-called “18/8” – Staybrite, still the most widely used alloy of this type.

The testing of it was rigorous. It was buried in a garden for six months and came up gleaming as new. It was attached to a vessel bound on a nine months’ voyage and dragged through the waves for that long period, hauled aboard, and found to be bright as polished silver.

Its use is ubiquitous now, but how did the Savoy Hotel come to get this Sheffield product? It was all about art-deco. A young architect, Howard Robertson, wrote to the hotel pitching for work, and in 1929 he revealed his most famous and prominent design – The Savoy’s iconic ‘Staybrite’ sign which runs the width of Savoy Court.

Sheffield-made ‘Staybrite’ canopy, and the figure of Count Peter of Savoy

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Endcliffe Bathing Pool – “The water is almost stagnant, in some parts the floor is quite a foot thick with mud and refuse.”

Sheffield Water Rats. In the water – Walpole Hiller, G. Wilson, F.G. Dixon. Seated on bank – W.H. Flint. Standing-rear – A.H. Cooper, C.H. Foster, T. Smith, E. Watson. In front – Albert Flint, M. Parker, W.M. Parker. This photograph appeared in The Swimming Magazine in 1914

During research into the recent story on William Henry Babington, the Sheffield photographer, this grainy image from a copy of The Swimming Magazine in May 1916 came to light.

This intriguing photograph features members of Sheffield Water Rats, an ‘all the year round bathing club’, whose members enjoyed themselves in the “fine open-air pool in Endcliffe Woods, about a couple of miles from the centre of town.”

The Water Rats were an all-male club and to qualify for entry into this select family of ‘rats of the pool’ one had to swim winter and summer in Endcliffe Bathing Pool for a period of six years. The ‘King Rat’ was Mr Walpole Hiller who had started about 1894, although he was surpassed by Mr C Foster who taken his first all-year round dip in 1891.

Bathing on New Year’s morn. A cold dip in the Endcliffe Bathing Pool. From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 2 January, 1907. Image: British Newspaper Archive

“How many persons would come down to the pool on a foggy autumn morning almost before it was light, plunge into the water, only to find they had a companion in the way of some poor suicide, and yet turn up the next morning as if nothing had happened?”

A tradition for the Water Rats was to take a plunge on Christmas morning, often reported by local newspapers. The custom was to take a dip at 9.30am and afterwards indulge in mince-pies, rum, and coffee.

“They quickly undressed, posed for a ‘snap’ on the edge of the pool, and then plunged in and swam their morning round, coming out glowing with health to dress leisurely and have their customary ‘constitutional ‘swallow.’ There was no shivering or trembling; they behaved with the aplomb of the summer girl basking in the sunshine on some seashore.” – Sheffield Daily Telegraph – 2 January 1923.

From the Sheffield Daily Independent, 27 December, 1930. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Members became older and more ‘youthful’ ones couldn’t make up the numbers. By 1937, the Water Rats tended to only venture out at Christmas, unlike the newer Spartan Swimming Club that had started taking to the open-air Millhouses Bathing Pool every morning.

Endcliffe Bathing Pool had opened after Sheffield Corporation purchased 20 acres of Endcliffe Wood from the trustees of Robert Younge of Greystones. William Goldring was commissioned to adapt the land for public use in 1886, part of which was converting Endcliffe Wheel mill dam as a place for boys and men to bathe.

Endcliffe Wheel Bathing Dam, Endcliffe Park. Picture Sheffield
Bathing Dam, previously the dam belonging to Endcliffe Wheel, Endcliffe Woods. Image: Picture Sheffield

However, the bathing pool always attracted unwanted attention due to mud and debris washing into it from the adjacent banking.

“I think it is most disgusting,” said one correspondent in 1896, “the water is almost stagnant, in some parts the floor is quite a foot thick with mud and refuse, whilst in other places there is nothing but glass and stones.”

“This pool would be a source of health-giving pleasure to hundreds of men and boys, were it only made clean and wholesome, and the supply kept free from the rubbish which now pollutes it,” said another in 1904.

“A type of woman, and also girls, whose idea of modesty seems to be at a low ebb, persistently come behind railings on the far bank, and also into the enclosure itself. Many of the men are nearly naked, and some of the boys quite so. A park keeper reports coarse language at times,” reported somebody else in 1909.

Youths disporting themselves in Endcliffe Bathing Pool. July 1914. Image: British Newspaper Archive

Endcliffe Bathing Pool closed for cleaning in 1938 and appears never to have reopened. It was filled in and today is understood to be the site of the children’s’ playground.

Endcliffe Park playground, once the site of Endcliffe Bathing Pool

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.


Construction begins on Pound’s Park in Sheffield City Centre

Pounds Park, named after the man responsible for creating Sheffield’s first fire brigade. The former John Lewis store is seen at bottom-left, and might even be demolished to become a green space itself. Image: Sheffield City Council

Once upon a time, the Sheffield construction company, George Longden and Son, might have been chosen to build a new park. From Victorian times, the company was the powerhouse behind many city landmarks. But it lost its way, and the name is all but forgotten.

Instead, the creation of a green space in the city centre will fall to another stalwart of Sheffield construction.

Henry Boot has been appointed to deliver Pounds Park, the landmark new public space, and work gets underway this month.

Sheffield City Council sees this as a key piece of the Heart of the City programme, and it is another project that Henry Boot has been involved with. The builder is underway with the residential development at Kangaroo Works, the Elshaw House office development and the Cambridge Street Collective – a food hall and restaurant destination.

(Left) Tony Shaw, Managing Director for Henry Boot Construction, and (Right) Cllr Mazher Iqbal, Executive Member for City Futures, Sheffield City Council. Image: Heart of the City

Pound’s Park is named after Sheffield’s first Chief Fire Officer, Superintendent John Charles Pound, and is being built on the former fire station site between Rockingham Street, Wellington Street and Carver Street.

Pound’s Park and two new office buildings within the Heart of the City masterplan. Image: Sheffield City Council

As we move forward, Pound’s Park probably won’t be the only new green space in the city centre.

Projects like this are seen as a critical tool in revitalising cities, regenerating poor areas, bringing nature into the city, rejuvenating neighbourhoods, creating a space for physical interaction in our increasingly digital world, and improving city sustainability.

“They are almost being viewed as like anchor stores, as a way of bringing people into a certain part of town,” says Dr Danielle Sinnett, director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments at the University of the West of England.

Previously, she reckons, there was some tendency for green space to be tagged onto the end of developments where land was left over. Not so much anymore. “Now it is being seen as key infrastructure in and of itself,” she says.

As well as being a green space, Pound’s Park will have a childrens’ play area, water features, and a new bus interchange. It will also provide an accessible new home for the William Mitchell frieze, which was removed from demolished Barker’s Pool House.

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

People Places

The Afghan charm offensive that came to nowt

Amanullah Khan was crowned the Amir of Afghanistan after his father, Amir Habibullah was assassinated in February 1919. Amanullah Khan was fiercely anti-British and wanted to destroy an old agreement which gave the British control over Afghanistan’s foreign policy. The British resisted this move, and so began the Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919). After a brief struggle, the British were forced to negotiate and in the end surrendered their control over Afghanistan’s foreign policy.
Afterwards, Amanullah became a national hero, and was given the tile Ghazi. He then turned his attention to modernising Afghanistan. Photograph: Britannica

Afghanistan is a country that seems to be in perpetual turmoil. There have been those that attempted to modernise it, thwarted at every turn, and there was a time when Sheffield was going to play its part.

In March 1928, Sheffield welcomed the King and Queen of Afghanistan. People crowded the streets to welcome King Amanullah and Queen Souriya who had travelled at high speed in Rolls-Royce cars from Derby.

The visit was part of a European tour that began in late 1927, taking in Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain and finally Poland. Amidst the flag waving, it was clearly an attempt by western industries to gain a foothold in a new economy.

Ghazi Amanullah Khan (1892-1960) was the sovereign of Afghanistan from 1919, first as Emir and after 1926 as King. Having wrested control from colonial powers, King Amanullah had set about reforming Afghanistan along Western lines.

The King met the Lord Mayor at Sheffield Town Hall by taking off his hat, shaking hands, and saying “How do you do?” in English.

When King Amanullah entered the Town Hall he noticed Sergeant Harper, an ex-serviceman, in his invalid carriage. He was about to pass when the old soldier held out his autograph album and fountain pen. The King duly obliged by adding his name to the book.

After luncheon, the King and Queen went onto the balcony over the front entrance and waved to the cheering crowds outside.

When the royal party left the Town Hall, Sergeant Harper had hoped to get the Queen’s signature. He held out his autograph book, but she did not see him. However, King Amanullah did, and went over to him, shook his hand again, and placed what was thought to be a £1 note in his hand. Only afterwards did Sergeant Harper realise that it was a £100 note!

Sergeant Harper, the disabled ex-serviceman, to whom the King of Afghanistan gave a £100 note. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive

Afterwards, the King and Queen visited Vickers-Armstrong’s River Don Works where they witnessed steel production and visited the gun machine shops. They were shown a demonstration of caterpillar armoured cars, guns, and rifles.

A Bean Motor Car at Hadfields Co. Ltd., East Hecla Works on the occasion of the Royal visit of King Amanullah and Queen Souriya of Afghanistan. Bean cars were manufactured by A. Harper Sons and Bean Ltd who were owned by Hadfields Ltd at the time. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

Next it was to Hadfields East Hecla works, where the strength of its steel helmets and armour was demonstrated by shooting at the figure of an infantryman. Queen Souriya proved to be an accurate shot, hitting the helmet, and was presented with the bullet as a souvenir. On their departure, the King was presented with a Sheffield knife with golden haft, in a Morocco case. In exchange, the King paid the customary halfpenny, and laughed heartily at a quaint old Sheffield custom.

The Royal party inspecting Vickers’ River Don Works. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive

The next stop was a tour of Mappin and Webb on Queen’s Road, where they witnessed the depositing of gold and silver, and the shaping of nickel silver sheet metal using power presses and drop stamps. Here he was presented with a silver-gilt casket, with his crest enamelled on the cover.

The Royal Party then returned to the Town Hall for tea and was presented with a canteen of cutlery and a case of scissors as gifts from the city. The King accepted this, and through his interpreter said he would always remember the warm welcome they had received in Sheffield.

King Amanullah and Queen Souriya of Afghanistan with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield at the Town Hall. The cabinet of Sheffield cutlery presented to them by the Corporation is seen in the centre. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive

They left the city for Manchester by royal train, the King and Queen occupying the saloon used by British royalty.

Looking back, it was a day of celebration, and one that might have cemented a special relationship with Afghanistan. However, while the King toured Europe, opposition to his rule had increased back home culminating in a march on the capital where most of the army deserted rather than resist.

There were allegations of corruption, and within ten months of his visit to Sheffield, the King had abdicated and was forced into exile in India before seeking asylum in Italy. Many of the reforms were reversed and Afghanistan remained a troubled state.

The King and Queen of Afghanistan photographed with their suite at the Midland Station when they left for Manchester. Photograph: British Newspaper Archive

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved

People Places

From Ballifield, Handsworth, to Ballifield, USA

Trenton is the capital city of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. It briefly served as the capital of the United States in 1784

Mahlon Stayce was born at Dore House on the family’s Ballifield estate, Handsworth, in 1638, and married Rebekah Ely in 1668. Both their families were English Quakers, a new religious movement that was treated with suspicion and hostility under the parliamentary rule of Oliver Cromwell following the English civil war. With the return of the monarchy by Charles II, Quakers were subject to persecution for their refusals to conform to the Church of England. Their refusal to pay mandatory tithes meant they faced crippling fines or imprisonment, and many decided to practice their faith in the American colonies.

Mahlon Stayce, a tanner, acquired, as a creditor, a large chunk of colonial soil in West Jersey, America, and his family sailed from Hull in 1678. He established his home on the south bank of the Assunpink Creek and called it Ballifield after his ancestral home at Handsworth.

Ballifield Hall in the late 1800s, rebuilt by Peter Cadman, and for many years previous was the home of the Stacye Family. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

Stacye was given permission to build a new settlement at the side of the Delaware River where he founded a church. The town was originally called The Falls, and later Stacye’s Mill.

Stacye held a large estate, had several business interests, and held many titles in public life.  He died a wealthy and respected citizen in 1704.

By 1719, the town had adopted the name “Trent-towne”, after William Trent, a Philadelphia merchant, who purchased much of the surrounding land from Stacye’s family

This humble settlement, with its Handsworth origins, grew into a big city – Trenton, New Jersey.

Back in Sheffield, Ballifield Hall has gone, the Ballifield housing estate built on its former parkland.

In 1910, the Trenton Chamber of Commerce put out a contest to create the slogan to be put on the bridge. S. Roy Heath was the winner of the contest, making him the creator of “Trenton Makes, The World Takes.”