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Streets

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds

Backfields looking towards Division Street in 1937. Image: Picture Sheffield

Backfields, a cess-pit of filth, was how it was described in the 1870s. These days, we know it as an unassuming narrow lane running between Division Street and Wellington Street. Once it was rural idyll, the fields behind Coal Pit Lane (Cambridge Street) but by the mid-1800s contained slum housing and workshops.

There were a few unsavoury public houses to satisfy the thirst of the poor and were joined in the 1850s by another one.

It was an ambitious attempt by John Banks to capitalise on the success of ‘The Book of the Age,’ and he called his small hostelry Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, in full, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly,’ was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in serialised form in the United States in 1851-52 and in book form from 1852 onwards. An abolitionist novel, it achieved popularity, particularly among white readers in America’s north, by vividly dramatising the experience of slavery.

The first London edition appeared in 1852 and sold 200,000 copies. “Anything in such universal demand has never been known in the history of literature. Many booksellers aver that they are selling nothing else, the trade for the time being seemingly centred in this one book, which, unlike almost all others, presents equal attractions to both old and young,” reported the Sheffield Independent.

It was a brave move by John Banks, and one that probably raised a few eyebrows.

Very little is known about Uncle Tom’s Cabin and by the 1860s had been let out to another tenant before disappearing.

However, Uncle Tom’s Cabin had another claim to fame.

In 1857, a new lodge in connection with the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds – Ashton Unity, was formed at the house of John Banks, under the sign of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

This strange society had been formed on Christmas Day 1826, when several groups came together to create a mutually beneficial society. It came into existence in consequence of the refusal of the officers of the Manchester Unity to permit the opening of an additional lodge in Ashton-Under-Lyne.

The aim of the Order of Ancient Shepherds was “To relieve the sick, bury the dead, and assist each other in all cases of unavoidable distress, so far as in our power lies, and for the promotion of peace and goodwill towards the human race.”

They drew their mythology from biblical sources, emphasising pastoral aspects of mutuality that could be exercised for and by members of the lodge.

The pioneers attached importance to regalia and symbolism. When completing lodge business all members had to wear aprons made of lambskins with the wool on. The Chief Shepherd was to wear a mantle. Guardians were decorated with sheep shears, and to wear broad brimmed hats, and the Minstrel was to carry a harp, an imitation of the Biblical shepherd David.

In 1829 it was designated the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds. Loyal referring to the Crown, and Shepherds referring to the nativity of Jesus.

Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds. A photograph of typical regalia. Sadly, not in Sheffield, but taken at Springhills, Shotts, about 1896. Image: North Lanarkshire Council

Shepherdry was introduced into Sheffield with the Shepherd’s Care Lodge in 1852. It was followed by the opening of the Sir Colin Campbell Lodge in 1853 and afterwards several other lodges, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin, opened.

It held its national AGM at the Cutlers’ Hall in 1867 and at the Church Institute in 1886. It survived in Sheffield until 1930 when all the Sheffield District lodges transferred to the City of Leeds District.

Interestingly, the society still exists, and became Shepherds Friendly in the 1990s, now offering Isas, investments, life insurance and income protection.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Backfields – while you were sleeping last night

Backfields, looking from Division Street. Image: DJP/2022

While you were sleeping last night. Backfields, 3am. A forgotten thoroughfare amid 21st century redevelopment. A street with an undesirable history. Our ancestors imperilled this narrow street to crime – stabbings, muggings, and death, and I doubt that Sheffield has another street which suffered so many devastating fires.

In 1872, a Dr Hime expressed his opinion that it was not surprising that there should be so much sickness in the town while there were such places as Backfields and the neighbourhood.

Backfields led from Division Street to Wellington Street, off which were alleys and passageways with access to Coal Pit Lane, and Carver Street. It was an area of dirty, dense, back-to-back housing, and small workshops.

It was a cess-pit of filth, but it hadn’t always been like this.

Once upon a time, Backfields was exactly that. The fields beyond Coal Pit Lane (now Cambridge Street), once the distant boundary of town, was where cows grazed, sheep gambolled, and children played in the meadows.

Cometh the Industrial Revolution, no trace of its rural past existed.

In the same year that Dr Hime pontificated about Backfields, the Sheffield Independent provided a unique account: –

“On the eastern side of a yard there is a privy that must do duty for a considerable number of houses, and it is scarcely equal to the duty. The ashpit is more than full – it is overflowing. It has made an encroachment almost into the middle of the yard, in front of the doors of some of the houses and extends about twenty feet until its further extension laterally is stopped by the water branch.

“It is the same in every yard. Near St. Matthew’s Church there is an ashpit adjoining the street, piled up high beyond the retaining walls, and the rubbish falls onto the footpath leading to the houses. The passages are worthy of exploration. A visit to them will show that the ashpit question, though a grave one, is not the only point affecting the sanitary position in Sheffield. Air, light, ventilation, and crowding have much to do with it, and many of these places ought to be improved off the face of the earth.

“There is a passage, the old entrance to which has been removed by the erection of a privy, and the actual passage left would scarcely admit the entrance to a turtle-fed alderman. But there are other privies, not only as bad, but worse. One could not be seen because the doors were closed. The other could not be seen because the doors could not be closed. But here, as in the other case, a solution has been found. Human necessity is strong in resources; and the depositions that should be made in the privies are made in or thrown into the passage. These premises are stuck over with notifications from the Health Committee enjoining cleanliness on the inhabitants, in circumstances and under conditions where it is impossible to be clean!

“Yet again, in these jennels and passages, there are active business proceedings carried on. In one of them, there is a bakery, where spicy-looking buns were being made for the delectation of young Sheffield, which may be very excellent in their way, though fastidious people would prefer that the materials of their food should not be exposed and manipulated in such unsavoury localities. In another passage, a large tray of pork pies was met ready for the oven. These ‘Melton Mowbrays’ may be all that could be desired; and the givers of picnics will perhaps feel obliged for hints as to the possible sources of their pies and buns, or other delectable confections manufactured over conditions of sweetness that may impart a flavour and improve the appetite.”

It took years for things to improve. A hundred years later, the houses had finally gone while recession claimed industry and commerce. St. Matthews is perhaps the only reminder of our inglorious past.

Sheffield did little to redevelop Backfields and it is only now, with the Heart of the City project, that the area has been embraced. Tower blocks are not long from completion, and people, maybe descendants of those who ate spicy-buns and pork pies, are returning.

But, as somebody recently pointed out to me, are we simply building the slums of the future?    

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

A narrow cobbled lane with a violent past

Penton Street, looking towards Bailey Lane. Image: DJP/2022

I love those Sheffield streets that people struggle to identify with. This is typical of Penton Street, a short, cobbled road that slopes diagonally between Trippet Lane and Bailey Lane. It might serve little purpose nowadays, but if we go back in time, this was a residential street amidst factories.

This street was once a haven for criminals, many living in old houses deemed dangerous, injurious to health, and unfit for human habitation. It was no surprise that violent attacks and street robberies around this narrow, congested street, were not uncommon. There were tales of suicide, domestic abuse, and personal tragedy, within these slums.

To get an idea of what Penton Street was like, the oldest known novel about Sheffield, Put Yourself In His Place, written in 1870 by Charles Reade, a contemporary of Dickens and Elliott, is loosely based on the true story of a London woodcarving-tool maker, James Bacon Addis, who was brought to the town by Ward and Payne, and provided an account of the ‘Sheffield Outrages,’ the battle to protect union membership, often through violent means.  And Penton Street was always at the heart of the unrest.

In 1886, the street was at the centre of a riot at the factory of Ward and Payne, edge tool and sheep shear manufacturers. A crowd of two thousand youths, congregated in Bailey Lane, Trippet Lane, Penton Street, and West Street, and armed with stones, smashed hundreds of panes of glass. The rioters believed that German grinders had arrived to replace workers sacked by the company. In truth, no foreign workers had been employed.

A big fire in 1929 at the factory of F.G. Gill, putty knife manufacturers, threatened to burn down all the houses in Penton Street. People evacuated their homes and hastily removed furniture before the fire was brought under control.

Industry has long gone, as have the houses, but a huge block of student accommodation now lines one side of the street. And, of course, Trippet’s Lounge Bar, formerly the premises of Bowler J. Dewsnap, cutlery manufacturers, occupies the triangle of land on the right.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Streets

Cambridge Street – while you were sleeping last night

Image: David Poole

Cambridge Street at 3am. The changing face of our city centre.

Grosvenor House, home to HSBC, with the reflection of the almost-complete Isaacs Building opposite. Both buildings form part of Sheffield’s Heart of the City development.

Once upon a time, this was the site of Barrasford’s Hippodrome presenting music hall acts and films projected from the Barrascope. It was soon renamed the Hippodrome Theatre of Varieties and was Sheffield’s largest theatre. 

It eventually became the Hippodrome Cinema, demolished in 1963, and the Grosvenor House Hotel and retail outlets built in its place. History likes reinventing itself, and the hotel was itself demolished in 2016-2017.

Hippodrome Theatre opened 23 December 1907 as a Music Hall. Became a permanent cinema on 20 July 1931. In 1948, came under the management of The Tivoli (Sheffield) Ltd. Closed 2 March 1963 and demolished. Image: Maurice Parkin/Picture Sheffield 

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Those glass panels beneath our feet

I was on Trippet Lane the other day, answering a telephone call, when I looked at my feet and realised, I was standing on a piece of history. Beneath were glass panels that were common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More importantly, it tells us that there is a lot more going on underneath our pavements than we can see.

These are pavement lights that were installed to illuminate the space below, usually a basement or cellar. It was a way to lighten spaces where natural light wasn’t available and a way to avoid using gas, oil, and candles. It also indicates that basements often extended underneath the pavement and sometimes beneath the road as well.

The earliest pavement light was developed in America by Edward Rockwell in 1834 using single large round glass lenses set in an iron frame. The lenses often broke and it was Thaddeus Hyatt who corrected the faults with his Hyatt Light of 1854. They had protruding iron knobs, designed to protect the glass, and even if the lenses were broken the panel would still have been safe to walk on.

They first appeared in London in the late 1880s in the form of cast iron frames glazed with cut squares of glass. In time, the glass was replaced with pressed glass prism lenses designed to transmit as much light as possible. It wasn’t long before other towns and cities, including Sheffield, adopted them too.

Pavement lights were extremely popular, but they weren’t without problems. It was the responsibility of shopkeepers to replace broken squares, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to sustain injury after catching their heel in a hole. There were stories of small children getting their foot stuck in them and in World War One, wounded soldiers were reported to have had their crutch caught in them. Discarded cigarettes dropped through a broken panel were also the cause of many a fire below.

Pavement lights waned in popularity with the introduction of the electric light but have made a comeback in recent years.

They are far more common in Sheffield than you probably realise and provide clues that there are underground secrets waiting to be explored.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Buildings Streets

Thomas Street – the people are returning

Thomas Street, looking towards Moore Street, with a covered walkway between Cosmos, recently constructed student accommodation.

This was formerly the site of Stokes Tiles, but back in 1892 we would have been looking at a much narrower Thomas Street, with the Noah’s Ark public house evident. The council paid £750 for 113 square yards of freehold land from Tennant Bros for the purpose of widening these streets.

Former back-to-back housing in the area was cleared and made way for industry, but times change, and the people are returning.

In the background is the Moorfoot Building, and Wickes, this land now under ownership of NewRiver, owners of The Moor, and I’m informed will be assigned for further residential development.

Cosmos. New student accommodation situated at the corner of Fitzwilliam Street and Moore Street. The people are returning to Sheffield city centre. Image: DJP/2021

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Grinders Hill – while you were sleeping last night

Grinders Hill. Lonely at 3am. A shortcut for our ancestors… a shortcut for us now.

But it nearly wasn’t.

November 1935. “The City of Sheffield. Notice is hereby given that a certain public highway to wit a footway known as ‘Grinders Hill’ situate in Sheffield and running in a south-westerly direction between certain other public highways known as Paternoster Row and Leadmill Road shall be entirely stopped up as being useless and unnecessary for the public.”

The motion failed, and Grinders Hill is still with us.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Earl Way – while you were sleeping last night

While you were sleeping last night. This is a wet and deserted Earl Way, which lies parallel between The Moor and Eyre Street.

If we go back to Norman times, and the time of Thomas de Furnival, this was thought to have been the site of a large ditch at the edge of Sheffield Deer Park, one of England’s largest deer parks, and spanning a circumference of eight miles in total.

Earl Way is modern compared to most Sheffield roads. It was created in the second half of the twentieth century when this part of the city centre was redeveloped. Prior to this, there were three significant roads in the vicinity.

These were Porter Street, that ran diagonally from Hereford Street, towards Moorhead, and Porter Lane, a narrow road that linked it with Union Lane.

Union Lane once ran from Charles Street, near to the Roebuck Tavern, across Furnival Road (now Furnival Gate) and ended at Jessop Street (where the Moor Market now stands). The only surviving section of Union Lane is behind Derwent House, near The Roebuck (think deer).

In this photograph, it would have run along the left hand side where the former Plug nightclub and Kit-Kat car-park stand. Porter Street would have been to the right.

If we could go back in time, right in the centre of the picture, and in the middle of the road, would have been Porter Street School.

There were two reasons why Earl Way came into being.

Up until the 1930s, this was an area of back-to-back housing and designated for slum clearance. Then came World War Two. German bombs caused extensive damage around The Moor, Porter Street, and Eyre Street, leaving the site to be redeveloped afterwards.

Union Lane disappeared, and Earl Way was built as a link road to Earl Street (seen running across the end of the road here).

And familiar landmarks appeared too, including the Pump Tavern, later demolished to make way for the Moor Market, and Violet May, a record shop, run by a pivotal figure in the development of the music scene in Sheffield.

Perhaps the most dramatic modern building is the Kit-Kat car-park, designed by Broadway Malyan in 2008, and sold for £9m last month by joint owners NewRiver and BRAVO Strategies.

©2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

The last days of haymaking

A pastoral scene from 1892. Image: Picture Sheffield

In 1892, a Mr Cunningham captured a scene of haymaking. A farm worker gathers hay by fork and piles it onto the back of a horse-drawn wagon on which a bowler-hatted man stands. Tending the horse is a young boy. In the background, a fire is on the go in an old cottage and smoke rises from the chimney. It is a scene of rural paradise with fields and trees rising-up the hillside behind.

Within fifty years this pastoral scene had disappeared. Sheffield’s growing population needed rehousing, and many were moved from old city centre slums into new housing estates that crept up the hillsides.

This photograph was taken on East Bank Road, and I’m led to believe that the old cottage stood in a glade behind Midhill House, a large country property that became what is now the Earl Marshall pub.

Still countryside but not for long. East Bank Road photographed in 1946. Image: Picture Sheffield

The road itself, then little more than a country lane, climbed the hillside and had once ended at Midhill house before eventually being extended towards the village of Gleadless.

The Arbourthorne estate, at the top of East Bank Road,  was under construction by the mid-1930s and the road  widened, with council houses built on the opposite side to Midhill House. The first bus service between Sheffield and Gleadless came up here from 1937 (and continues as the No. 51 bus route).

East Bank Road seen from from East Road, looking towards, No 291, Midhill Working Men’s Club and Institute Ltd (formerly Midhill House) in 1946. Image: Picture Sheffield

The old cottage disappeared, and farmland became property of Sheffield Corporation, and although housing eventually surrounded this little oasis, the area around Midhill House remained green space. The Norfolk Park estate was built at the top of the hill behind.

Modern day view of East Bank Road. Midhill House, now the Earl Marshall pub, survives. The old cottage in the haymaking photograph is believed to have existed where woodland now stands behind the house. Image: Google

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.

Categories
Streets

Sands Paviours – a long forgotten street

West side of Sands Paviours (ran from Orchard Lane to Bow Street), pre 1890, demolished to make way for the Central Schools, Science School. Image: Picture Sheffield

Today, a look at a street in Sheffield city centre that was consigned to history long ago.

In 1874, a plan was produced by Sheffield architects, Innocent and Brown, for the laying out of Leopold Street, and the realignment of Church Street and Bow Street (now the bottom-end of West Street).

About this time, land between Orchard Lane, Bow Street, Orchard Street and Balm Green was covered by old houses in two streets, Smith Street and Sands Paviours.

The site was bought by the Sheffield School Board for building the Central Schools and offices. At the same time, Mark Firth founded Firth College, later part of the University of Sheffield, and this was opened by Prince Leopold in 1879.

The removal of old property between Bow Street and Orchard Lane caused the obliteration of the marvellously named Sands Paviours.

But what had once been a pathway across rural land had become a street of slum housing, workshops, shops, and a public house called the Norfolk Arms. And murder and crime were evident on the street.

According to John Daniel Leader, this little court of houses may have derived its name from Samuel Sands, who flourished in the reign of Queen Ann.

By an indenture dated 25 September 1708, Samuel Sands, a Sheffield cutler, conveyed to George Hawke of Leavygreave, yeoman, for the sum of £100, all that messuage, near the Townhead Cross with a smithy, barn, orchard, and garden, lately in the possession of John Hobson; also, a cottage adjoining, lately in the possession of Mary Wilson, to hold the same for ever of the chief Lord or Lords of the fee. The vendor signed his name ‘Samwell Sandes.”

However, there was another suggestion for it being named so.

In other towns there were streets called Sans Paviours (without paving stones), and it might be that because Sandes’ house was here, that he saw the name Sans Paviours elsewhere, and thought it appropriate for his own property.

The mystery was cleared up when the land was bought by the School Board, and the old deeds showed that it had been in the family called Sandes from 1657 to 1727, and that early mention was also made to Sands Croft and Sands Orchard.

Like many old street names that were adapted over the years, Sands Paviours was also referred to as Saint Pavers.

Remember this the next time you relax in Leopold Square. There is history beneath your feet.

Sands Paviors once ran from Orchard Lane to Bow Street (now the bottom part of West Street). Image: Google

© 2022 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.