All posts by Andrew Shorthouse

The Aberfan Disaster of 1966 — Prof Dave Petley — 13 July 2020

Dave Petley gave a superb talk to 41 mem­bers, guests, and an unknown number of wives and girl­friends. It was the second highly suc­cess­ful Probus Zoom present­a­tion since COVID-19 lock­down (thanks to Peter, Graham, Richard and Jacko).

Dave is Vice President for Research and Innovation, University of Sheffield. His research focus is inter­na­tional land­slide mech­an­isms and he advises the Hong Kong Government, blogs with the American Geophysical Union and is a Council member of the Royal Geographical Society. He has a great gift for put­ting over dif­fi­cult con­cepts clearly and con­cisely.

There were seven large spoil tips rising up the hill­side and close to the vil­lage of Aberfan, where 116 chil­dren at Pantglas school and 28 adults lost their lives in the infam­ous land­slide of the morn­ing of 21 October 1966 (Fig 1).

Fig 1 Aberfan land­slide 1966

A prim­it­ive rope­way led to a crane at the top, where there had been loose tip­ping for sev­eral years. The tip­ping gang (Fig 2) arrived at the top at 7.30am and found it had sub­sided overnight.

Fig 2 Ropeway and tip­ping gang on the spoil heap

Finding that the tele­phone to the pit below wasn’t work­ing, one of gang walked down to raise the alarm. The crane driver stayed at the top and saw its tip move again, but rising up ini­tially. The solid mass, as it broke free, rotated and “bull­dozed” ahead, caus­ing the ini­tial rise then the down­hill slide. Rotation pulled away solid blocks which then frag­men­ted into a 40000 ton flow onto the vil­lage

Landslides result from a grav­it­a­tional effect on loose spoil, sat­ur­ated by under­ly­ing nat­ural springs within weak gla­cial depos­its. Solid spoil con­verts to a flow of water, sludge and debris, and a rota­tional slide between loose spoil, gla­cial depos­its and under­ly­ing solid bed­rock occurs (Fig 3).

Fig 3 Mechanics of land­slide form­a­tion

The NCB knew of the Aberfan springs (Fig 4), making no earlier attempt to divert the water and fail­ing to anti­cip­ate, mon­itor and rec­tify

Fig 4 Pre-spoil heap topo­graphy of Aberfan and adja­cent hill­side with the springs circled.

They were aware of sim­ilar tips with land­slide poten­tial. Furthermore, uncon­trolled tip­ping on top of loose layers pro­gress­ively weakened the base to facil­it­ate a slide. There were earlier land­slides in the area at Abercynon (1939), Aberfan (1944 and 1963), and Rhondda (1965). The NCB, nation­al­ised in 1946 and headed by Lord Robens, chose to ignore the danger.

The school was inund­ated and the chil­dren at the rear of the school had no chance. Classrooms at the front remained intact and some sur­vived. Parents, many of them miners, attemp­ted to rescue their own chil­dren and others before the more formal rescue effort could begin.

The Tribunal was con­duc­ted by Lord Justice Edmund Davies, who had sen­tenced the Great Train Robbers. He was highly crit­ical of the NCB, in denial until day 65, but par­tic­u­larly its chair­man Lord Robens, whose invest­it­ure at the University of Surrey was coin­cid­ent­ally and cyn­ic­ally on the night of the dis­aster. He chose not to go to Aberfan. However he even­tu­ally made amends by set­ting up the Health and Safety Executive, a world leader.

Removal of tips was recom­men­ded after the Tribunal but the NCB pleaded it would lead to bank­ruptcy. £150,000 was cov­ertly sequestered (!) from the £1m+ dis­aster fund by the NCB. This was even­tu­ally repaid into the dis­aster fund by the Blair Government, but without interest, until Gordon Brown finally repaid in full. Compensation was capped at £500 for each family, Lord Robens claim­ing that they “wouldn’t be able to cope with a larger sum”.

There was another land­slide at Tylorstown in February 2020, due to rota­tional spoil heap fail­ure. Spoil heaps now have mixed own­er­ship and are not neces­sar­ily well-monitored. Degradation and cli­mate change is renew­ing interest in future poten­tial land­slides in Wales.

Landslides are a major prob­lem around the world. Loss of life is rising with time, con­firmed by evid­ence from Dave Petley’s own data col­lec­tion from 2004. Tibet, Brazil and recently Myanmar have had dis­astrous rota­tional land­slides, in the latter case pre­cip­it­ated by unem­ployed jade miners scav­en­ging and dis­turb­ing spoil heaps.

It was a sur­prise to learn there is no book writ­ten on the Aberfan dis­aster, des­pite the emo­tional memor­ies linger­ing on and a detailed sequence in Netflix series “The Crown”. Dave’s retire­ment pro­ject maybe?

Those inter­ested in more of Dave’s work can access:

Twitter: @davepetley   Blo: https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog

Beware the cliffs!

 

 

 

The Lost Railway –Woodhead Tunnel Part 2–10th February 2020 — Stephen Gay

Stephen Gay by  Sheffield’s Great Central Railway war memorial is a series of panels within a wooden frame — upon the panels are the names of those who fell in World War I. It is on dis­play out­side the Crowne Plaza Victoria Hotel — the ori­ginal hotel to the Victoria Station.

This won­der­ful talk about east of Woodhead Tunnel, was the second in a series of three (see John Abel’s blog 15th February 2019) and was lib­er­ally illus­trated with tra­di­tional slides, stuffed with anec­dotes from the folk he’s met walk­ing along the line over the years, some of it now form­ing part of the Trans Pennine Trail. The Woodhead route of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway linked Sheffield Victoria and Manchester London Road Stations and was open between 1845–1981.

Townhead, Dunford Bridge There are four rows of rail­way cot­tages now filled with ex-Oxbridge vet­eran eco-warriors, includ­ing Swampy (AKA Daniel Hooper and well worth a read in Wikipedia). Stephen met Ashley Jackson, the famous Yorkshire artist, there on a walk and after chat­ting him up, thought he might be in for a cheap paint­ing of the cot­tages. “How much?” “£13000” “I’ll take post­card!”

The elec­tric loco­mot­ive 26020, designed for use on the Woodhead Line finally elec­tri­fied in 1954 is the only engine left of its type and rests at the rail­way museum in York.

There were prob­lems due to lack of space during line elec­tri­fic­a­tion. Arches were blown up and replaced with a con­crete gantry. But Woodhead remains with EUR load­ing gauge so and might one day accom­mod­ate Eurostar.

Hazelhead Station closed in 1950 from lack of use. The wait­ing room on the Manchester side remains as a house. The owners have made a bob or two from cold drinks in the summer and with an eye for the main chance, hot drinks in winter. It got a Best Station award in 1949, which is a ser­i­ous busi­ness and any­thing but friendly rivalry. The post box just out­side and seen on the tele­graph pole on the A616 had Hazelhead Station on it, even 50 years after clos­ure.

Barnsley Council got a grant to demol­ish the arched bridge at the sta­tion, only real­ising after­wards that the A616 would be opened up as a “race track”, just where there’s a nasty dip in the road.

Signal box at Bullhouse Colliery There were rail crashes on the line in Victorian times partly due to the steep gradi­ent whose summit lies within the east­ern end of the Woodhead tunnel. There were four fatal train crashes in 15 years. The first one killed a cow.

The worst fatal dis­aster was the Bullhouse rail crash in 1884 which involved a derailed coach derailed by the buckled line and pulling the other gas-lit coaches 16 feet down an embank­ment into a road (double page spread in the London Illustrated News).

Shawhall Lane Crossing: The ori­ginal rail­way lines can still be seen at the cross­ing.

Richard Branson and Virgin trains are weigh­ing up whether to reopen Woodhead which would be very bad news indeed for the cross­ing keeper’s cot­tage. Health and safety would inev­it­ably lead to demoli­tion because an express run­ning inches from your bed­room car­ries issues. Incidentally this photo at the cross­ing keep­ers cot­tage was Stephen’s only known selfie (shadow bottom left).

Thurlestone Signal Box This is where the Trans Pennine trail splits to York Chesterfield and Leeds.

Penistone The goods shed and office date from 1845. Coal drops are still there (wooden bodied wagons dropped coal down from the arches). The stone work is grade 2 listed and the plan is for res­tor­a­tion with fac­sim­ile wagons above. It’s in a a poor state of repair at present how­ever. Bring back the birch?

The owner of one of the new houses seen behind the coal drop was unaware of the his­toric rail­way (he did know how­ever about the Trail, thank good­ness. He remains bliss­fully unaware how­ever that Richard Branson still has eyes on the place.

Penistone Station used to be very busy with 7 plat­forms and 100 employ­ees in its heyday. The Trans Pennine Trail lies behind the sta­tion where there are now small busi­nesses.

Thunder, Stephen’s German shep­herd, found a sink hole where an unspoilt old sta­tion subway went, sealed up since Jan 1970 with wooden hand­rail and green glazed tile work. A local came by as Stephen was coming out of the hole. Only Barnsley could quip “Thars missed last train then?”

Penistone single line. The signal box is high where the double goes into a single track but was des­troyed by van­dals. Originally there were 100 levers reduced to 6 by the time it closed. Camel Laird steel works was nearby. A rail­way tunnel ran under the steel­works, the main line and sid­ings. It’s obscured by hous­ing and an indus­trial estate now, amaz­ingly called “The Sidings”. This area used to be Huddersfield Junction, but was renamed Penistone. Occasionally there are trains. Interesting Victorian iron work can be found.

Rail work­ers were buried at Penistone, includ­ing a sta­tion porter who fell off the plat­form with his barrow and killed by an express.

Romtickle via­duct (won­der­ful name). This is iconic and exquis­itely beau­ti­ful, stretch­ing high above the Don and Cheese Bottom (won­der­ful again!) Valley.

A stone block once hit a navvy below — one William Crawshaw. His stone- carved epi­taph, dis­covered in the 1980s, was then embed­ded within the bridge stone­work. A cherry picker checks it and the rest of the via­duct from time to time. There’s a sign about it on top of the via­duct for walk­ers.

Thurgoland Tunnel Electrification for twin tracks was impossible so a new tunnel was built for the down line. A retired rail worker used to check the tunnel each morn­ing (alone!); “when I heard rails singin’, get thee-sen intut recess… were I glad to get t’ t’other end so I could get ta light me wood­bine”. It was 370 yards long, built by LNER in 1947 and fin­ished off by BR in 1948 and is almost unique in being built by two com­pan­ies.

Wortley Station dis­ap­peared in 1955. The Earl of Wharncliffe had own private wait­ing room. Stocksbridge bypass was built in the 1980s dis­turb­ing a burial ground so it’s haunted around there. The line to the steel­works sur­vives, passing Wharnecliffe Crags. The old signal box at Stocksbridge became a main­ten­ance office but van­dals wrecked it. Deepcar plat­form is still there.

Oughty Bridge sta­tion (cor­rect spelling) is now a grade 2 listed grit­stone house but without its plat­form coping stones. Stephen ori­gin­ally wit­nessed white van men trying to steal them. They scattered down the track unaware a 60mph train was about to meet them. The stones dis­ap­peared per­man­ently later on. What about the poor old train driver? They do react dif­fer­ently after fatal­ity. Some carry on work­ing, others can’t cope.

Wadsley Bridge Station saw the last foot­ball spe­cial in 1984 when Notts Forest were play­ing Sheffield Wednesday, which was a great way to end a great talk

As a post script, if I’ve got this right, Stephen met a Wheel Tapper, who’d been doing it for 30 years but had no idea why he was doing it. How did he manage only being able to tap one side with the train in the sta­tion? Simple! Wait for it to come back then do the other side.

(The embed­ded links are cour­tesy of Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Redifining Carbon in a Circular Economy – Prof Peter Styring — 2nd Dec 2019

John Laurie said, and it was said again by Peter Jackson at our meet­ing, “We’re doomed, we’re all doomed!” Here in Sheffield it’s really scary with a pre­dic­tion that Millhouses Park, as well as East Anglia, Lincolnshire, north­ern Germany, the Low Countries and many other low lying lands around the world will be part of the sea bed by 2100. Stumperlowe should escape, how­ever.

So some­thing drastic needs to be done. There’s a lot of elec­tion noise here at the moment, and indeed at a much higher level at the immin­ent G20 about tack­ling carbon emis­sions. Do our politi­cians have a handle on the scale of the prob­lem and what to do about it?

Peter Styring, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, is such an inter­na­tional author­ity on the sub­ject that politi­cians and industry are taking him and others in the field very ser­i­ously. Peter is Director of the UK Centre for Carbon Dioxide Utilisation and has his own com­pany (CO2Chem Media & Publishing) and has estab­lished the Styring Group. He is look­ing to set up a Brussels office. He has pub­lished the influ­en­tial “Carbon Capture and Utilisation in the Green Economy” and “Carbon Dioxide Utilisation: clos­ing the carbon cycle”. He delivered a stun­ning lec­ture to us, but at a cost of a met­eoric rise in carbon diox­ide (CO2) in the room and con­firmed by the num­bers on his pocket gas­o­meter at the end. Despite wor­ry­ing levels of such a narcolepsy-inducing gas-filled air, every­one stayed awake.

Global warm­ing is asso­ci­ated with increas­ing carbon diox­ide levels. Coral reefs are dis­ap­pear­ing. Fisheries at low lat­it­ude around the world are being lost. Arctic regions are melt­ing. There’s more water and heat in the atmo­sphere caus­ing weather extremes. Rising water levels lead to coastal flood­ing. Here in Sheffield, there’s already sig­ni­fic­ant heat related mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity res­ult­ing in 500 to 700 deaths, largely from par­tic­u­late matter in the air.

We’re now at the tip­ping point, so every­one needs to be acutely envir­on­ment­ally and eco­nom­ic­ally aware. To avoid cata­strophe, at cur­rent emis­sion rates, and to limit a global warm­ing rise of 1.5 degrees C by 2055, global carbon diox­ide emis­sions must by then have reached net zero, start­ing now. Radiative factors such as meth­ane, nitrous oxide (not a laugh­ing gas matter) and aer­o­sols need to reduce by 2030.

Perversely, wind tur­bines are not low carbon at all, emit­ting five per cent of the SF6 (sul­phurhex­a­flu­or­ide) which leaks from its casing and is dan­ger­ous! SF6 from tur­bines emit 24000x carbon equi­val­ent of CO2. It’s used as an insu­lator which pre­vents arcing.

Internationally (and many coun­tries are drag­ging their feet), industry must be will­ing to engage. Carbon cap­ture util­isa­tion (CCU) and stor­age (CCS) is the only solu­tion. A global carbon price is essen­tial there­fore it must be taxed. CCU must be prop­erly sub­sid­ised on a level play­ing field. Vast sub­sidies to pro­tect jobs are already made to the oil and gas indus­tries. The same is true for CCS pro­jects, yet CCU does not yet attract sub­sidies. There will need to be a gradual (rather than sudden) trans­ition as a “calmer” to the pet­ro­chem­ical industry.

It was encour­aging to hear from Peter that Unilever is now taking CCU all very ser­i­ously, with home care products ini­tially but now with a ripple effect on their whole industry.

So what exactly is CCU? This is carbon cap­ture without the need for geo­lo­gical stor­age. Carbon diox­ide from power sta­tions, factor­ies and the atmo­sphere can be used for the pro­duc­tion of fossil oil sub­sti­tutes, feed­stock for farm anim­als, plastics, sur­fact­ants, con­crete, bio­fuel, and avi­ation fuel. The whole pro­cess is carbon neut­ral and depends on algal pho­to­syn­thesis (energy from light). Drax use it with their waste water. Another method is con­ver­sion into hydro­car­bons which can be stored as energy or con­ver­ted into fuel or plastics. Chemical inter­me­di­ates from CCU can be pro­cessed into phar­ma­ceut­ic­als, health care and con­sumer products.

The gov­ern­ment claims it is com­mit­ted to deploy­ing CCU, cap­tur­ing carbon and stor­age on a long-term basis, but any delay after 2030 will not achieve its aim of com­ply­ing to a limit of a 1.5 degrees C rise by 2050.

© co2chem

Government plan­ning is short on detail about removal of green­house gases and action on CCU and CCS. Neither adequate private invest­ment nor research fund­ing is in place. Clarity is needed. Brexit takes pri­or­ity at the moment, at the expense of social justice and account­ab­il­ity. For instance, Manchester has prom­ised CO2 emis­sion reduc­tion of 49% by 2025 by means of a Clean Air Zone, more elec­tric vehicles (EV) and CCS. The prob­lem is that EVs are not zero emis­sion and their plans for CCS facil­it­ies are unclear. Biomass is not the pan­acea. It is not carbon neut­ral. The UK energy mix cur­rently falls far short of the ideal (com­bined cycle gas tur­bines 56.2%, open cycle gas tur­bines 0%, oil 0%, coal 5.9%, nuc­lear 16.7%, wind 9.7%, pumped stor­age hydro 0%). If we’re not at net zero by 2029 it will be the tip­ping point, so the politi­cians need real policies to back up their polit­ical state­ments. This is a long term game, so ser­i­ous cross party think­ing and decisions are urgently needed. “The world will not evolve past its cur­rent crisis by the same think­ing that cre­ated it” (Einstein — para­phrased)

The Lansing tri­angle sums up where we need to be — in the green bit at the top, avoid­ing fossil fuels unless care­fully man­aged. Worst of all is CCS and land­fill. Sheffield’s pro­posed Clean Air Charge is flawed. It cleans up the city centre but defers the prob­lem to the sub­urbs. The worst emis­sions are cur­rently already owned by the Station, Abbeydale Road, Ecclesall Road and Broomhill. These will get worse. Other examples of our City Council’s wisdom are the diesel gen­er­ator for the Ferris wheel at ground level, pois­on­ing all the kids around. Old pol­lut­ing diesel taxis and buses are a major prob­lem. The solu­tion is an urgent need to “reduce and reuse”. We were advised to hang onto our old dies­els as tech­no­logy is on the way to make them carbon friendly. In the mean­time, get a bike.

 

For the future, e-fuels from CCU are per­haps the most import­ant. CCU isn’t new. The first CCU plant was built by Joseph Priestley at the Leeds brew­ery in 1772. He inven­ted fizzy drinks (as well as other things).

Carbon found in any­thing can be extrac­ted as CO2 to util­ise it and make it carbon neut­ral, for instance in extrac­tion of iron from its ore. There are count­less syn­thetic sub­stances which con­tain carbon. Any of these can be sourced from CCU.

Sustainable agro­chem­ic­als can feed the world. Blue urea pro­duc­tion has excit­ing poten­tial as a fer­til­iser and is truly carbon neg­at­ive. Furthermore, there are plans to pro­duce it in ship­ping con­tain­ers on site at farms where it’s needed. This is a great example of CCU as a renew­able commodity-based tech­no­logy with the capa­city to use carbon diox­ide emis­sions in remote loc­a­tions where there is no oppor­tun­ity for geo­lo­gical stor­age.

In the Footsteps of Shackleton — Martin Thomas — 9th September 2019

Martin Thomas is a retired vas­cu­lar and thyroid sur­geon, keen sailor and a very old friend. He came all the way to Sheffield from where he lives in Bosham, Sussex, espe­cially to deliver this talk. He was a com­modore of the Ocean Cruising Club. He has sailed to the Antarctic twice and then seven years ago, with a group of retired sur­gical col­leagues from St Thomas’ Hospital, he sailed across the Southern Ocean from the Falklands to South Georgia and back, tra­cing the exact route of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic “Traverse” in 1916 across the massive, unex­plored and uncharted moun­tains and gla­ciers from Peggotty Bluff in King Haarkon Bay to the other side of South Georgia at Stromness. There Shackleton knew he could summon help from the Norwegians in the White House at the whal­ing sta­tion to save the other mem­bers of his Endurance crew marooned on Elephant Island and at King Haarkon Bay

In the first part of this fant­astic, superbly delivered (not one um or ah!) and beau­ti­fully illus­trated talk with dra­matic video clips, Martin gave an account of Shackleton’s exploits com­par­ing them with those of Amundsen and Scott, in order to give a detailed insight into the very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters of each.

While Roald Amundsen was hugely suc­cess­ful, and the first to reach both Poles, he was so driven and force­ful in achiev­ing his ambi­tions but at the expense of the well­being of his men and dogs, slaughter­ing the latter for food. Scott believed in naval dis­cip­line, was irrit­able and not the best man man­ager, but his rel­at­ive fail­ing, in con­trast to Amundsen, was his reluct­ance to use dogs and skis, rely­ing on less effi­cient man­power to drive the sleds along, and using up 7000 instead of 4000 cals/day. Shackleton (Fig 1), on the other hand, led his men by example, was much less formal, knew how to get the best out of them.

Sir Raymond Priestley in 1956 said of Shackleton “Scott for sci­entific method, Amundsen for speed and effi­ciency but when dis­aster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton”. He became a role model as one who, in extreme cir­cum­stances, kept his team together by incred­ible lead­er­ship. One of many examples was Shackleton’s fixing of the lots drawn for the better fur-lined sleep­ing bags, making sure his men got them instead of him­self.

His first exped­i­tion was with Scott and Wilson to a record lat­it­ude of 82 degrees South in 1901–4, fol­lowed by Nimrod in 1907–9 to 88 degrees South  just 97 miles from the South Pole. Amundsen won the race to reach the South Pole in 1911. Shackleton then raised funds for a coast to coast cross­ing of Antarctica via the South Pole. Disaster struck when Endurance was trapped, drift­ing for months in the ice flows and even­tu­ally crushed in pack ice in the Weddell Sea (Fig 2). Martin showed Hurley’s dra­matic video of Endurance dis­in­teg­rat­ing and sink­ing. The crew escaped (Fig 3) with pro­vi­sions, even­tu­ally reach­ing Elephant Island, 346 miles from where Endurance was lost, and where they were marooned. It was the first time in 497 days that they could stand on solid ground but the chances of rescue from here were zero. Shelter was made by upturn­ing two of the three boats and con­struct­ing upper and lower floors – the “Snuggery”. They sur­vived on ele­phant seal, pen­guin meat and albatross. The chicks were a real del­ic­acy.

Notables amongst the crew were Frank Worsley (cap­tain), Frank Wild (second-in-command), Hussey (met­eor­o­lo­gist), McIlroy (head sci­ent­ist), Tom Crean (head dog hand­ler), McNish (car­penter), Frank Hurley (pho­to­grapher), Alexander Macklin (one of the two sur­geons), Marston the artist and Mrs Chippy, the cat, who was shot (act of com­pas­sion as she could not sur­vive the con­di­tions and needed feed­ing).

The only course of action for sur­vival was to risk a 720 mile open-boat jour­ney to South Georgia. The James Caird (Fig 4) was adap­ted by Harry McNIsh the car­penter to raise its sides to allow rock bal­last for sta­bil­ity, strengthen the keel, seal the joints with a mix­ture of artist’s oil paint and seal’s blood and to create a deck. Those chosen to make the jour­ney with Shackleton were Frank Worsley (nav­ig­ator), Tom Crean, two strong ABSs McCarthy and Crean and the car­penter McNish. The latter had been insub­or­din­ate and mutin­ous when stran­ded on the ice flow (see the excel­lent 2002 film “Shackleton” with Kenneth Branagh) and it was a stroke of man-management genius on Shackleton’s part to take along McNish, in order to sep­ar­ate him from Vincent, all for the good of those left behind on Elephant Island. McNish was trouble but if he declined to come, Shackleton threatened to shoot him. In any case, McNish’s car­pentry would prove indis­pens­able.

They trav­elled light, with pro­vi­sions for just four weeks. Success came from Shackleton’s lead­er­ship, Worsley’s mag­ni­fi­cent nav­ig­a­tional skills, much of it by dead reck­on­ing, sex­tant, naut­ical almanac (which was almost des­troyed, “shed­ding its pages so fast” from the ele­ments), a  chro­no­meter, only an occa­sional glimpse of the sun and stars in the extremes of appalling weather and the prob­lem of get­ting bear­ings, and the need to be con­stantly baling out. The ever-optimistic McCarthy was a huge sup­port to Shackleton and the others: “it’s a grand day sir”. They were very cold, inad­equately clothed and con­stantly wet. Thirst and exhaus­tion was very ser­i­ous prob­lems, but all over­come by the sheer will to sur­vive. It was endur­ance to the extreme, through superb seaman­ship and dis­cip­line.

After defer­ring land­fall to avoid the real risk of destruc­tion on the South Georgian rocks in a gale, they back­tracked, then entered King Haarkon Sound (Fig 5) the next day but faced a gruelling 51km trek across the moun­tain range (Fig 6), scal­ing 9000ft and totally inad­equately kitted out. Screws were inser­ted into their boots (which leaked) to act as make­shift cram­pons. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean made the jour­ney armed with min­imal tackle such as rope, rations, tobacco and primus, to travel “light”. Picking fair weather to set off, there were trial ascents into a series of moun­tain gaps and forced des­cents and re-ascents before finally reach­ing a pre­cip­ice… and over they went, blindly and roped together, as there was no altern­at­ive. “I was never more scared in my life than for the first thirty seconds…the speed was terrific…that hair-raising shoot into the dark­ness” (Frank Worsley: Shackleton’s Boat Journey. 1940. Hodder & Stoughton – an abso­lute must-read for Probus). And so to Grytviken and rescue.

They turned up totally filthy and unre­cog­nis­able in Stromness (Figs 7 and 8), unwashed and unshaven for months. The Norwegians were very hos­pit­able, offered baths and food, and they returned to pick up the other sur­viv­ors. Elephant Island was a chal­lenge with four attempts over four months and in four ships before they could be evac­u­ated and repat­ri­ated

Martin’s voyage on Pelargic Australis (Fig 9) and tra­verse of South Georgia in Shackleton’s foot­steps was cer­tainly a chal­lenge for men in their 60s. There was fit­ness train­ing and cre­vasse man­age­ment in the Alps. Mountaineering and skiing exper­i­ence was vital. They were all old like-minded med­ical friends who got on together and they had to be in peak con­di­tion. There was also the risk factor: no emer­gency facil­it­ies in South Georgia! Evidence of life lost in more recent times was seen with a heli­copter wreck en route from an attemp­ted SAS rescue during the Falklands War. Martin fell 600ft and, as he put it, “a very silly thing to do”, thank­fully with only minor scrapes. But, at worst, they risked not sur­viv­ing. Extremely unpre­dict­able severe weather (Fig 10), which changes quickly, makes for a very hos­tile envir­on­ment. But what a hol­i­day!

Fig 1. Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO OBE FRGS FRSGS1874–1922 aged 47.  Born County Kildare. Educated Dulwich College. Died GrytvikenSouth Georgia

Fig 2. Endurance trapped in pack ice

Fig 3. Across the ice flows after Endurance sank

Fig 4. Launching the James Caird from Elephant Island 1916

Fig 5 King Haarkon Bay, South Georgia

Fig 6 South Georgia moun­tains – the chal­lenge for Martin’s group

Fig 7. Grytviken whal­ing sta­tion (by Frank Hurley)

Fig 8 Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken

Fig 9. Martin’s chartered yacht Pelargic Australis

Fig 10. Martin and co. pitch­ing camp at Trident Ridge

A Palace by a River — Mike Ogden — 24th June 2019

This was a detailed and fas­cin­at­ing talk about the his­tory of Westminster Palace. A mem­or­ised (rather than read) deliv­ery using the beau­ti­fully pre­pared slides as prompts would have been for me the icing on the cake. I par­tic­u­larly liked the Dennis Skinner quotes; there are a few extra ones slot­ted in at the end.

Thorn Island at the con­flu­ence of the Tyburn with the Thames was marsh­land where the Saxon St Peter’s Monastery was built, then demol­ished later in the 11th cen­tury by Edward the Confessor, repla­cing it with the larger Benedictine West Minster abbey and its adja­cent palace. William the Conqueror was crowned there in 1066. William II added Westminster Hall, the largest cere­mo­nial centre in Europe. Henry III replaced the abbey in the 13th cen­tury with today’s much altered build­ing, adding the adja­cent St Stephen’s Chapel (which had a vital role in the his­tory and devel­op­ment of Parliament as we now know it), the Lesser Hall, King’s (“Painted Chamber”) and Queen’s Chambers and Queen’s chapel. This was a tur­bu­lent time in our his­tory. Henry III attemp­ted to regain lost Magna Carta powers from the barons, led by Simon de Montfort who called a series of Parliaments to sup­press the king and estab­lish the need for Parliament’s approval to col­lect taxes, thus extend­ing Magna Carta’s powers. A Parliament of barons, the clergy together with untitled cit­izens and bur­gers met in the Queen’s Chamber. After 1341 they met sep­ar­ately in the fore­run­ners of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

It was still a royal palace. In the reign of Henry VIII a fire in 1512 caused sub­stan­tial damage, Henry moved to Whitehall Palace and gran­ted Westminster to the gov­ern­ment. The Commons then moved into St Stephen’s Chapel next to Great Hall (with its mag­ni­fi­cent hammer beamed roof) and stayed there for the next 300 years. The prayer stalls each side of the aisle were the ori­gins of the two-party system of gov­ern­ment and oppos­i­tion. The screen’s right and left doors became the sym­bolic portals for the present day “ayes” and the “no’s”.

During Henry VIII’s moment­ous reign, laws affect­ing every aspect of national life, espe­cially reli­gion, were intro­duced. Parliamentary author­ity was every­where.

Guy Fawkes was a Catholic con­vert after the reform­a­tion. At the state open­ing of Parliament his plan to des­troy the prot­est­ant Parliament was uncovered and he was tor­tured before reveal­ing this fellow con­spir­at­ors. On his way to behead­ing Fawkes jumped from the ladder to the scaf­fold and broke his neck – a much better way to go?

When Charles 1 tried unsuc­cess­fully to impose his author­ity, Cromwell assumed power and Charles was executed for treason and since that time no sub­sequent mon­arch has entered the House of Commons apart from state occa­sions.

Your blog­ger was aston­ished to hear that a mere single Prime Minister has ever been assas­sin­ated (Spencer Perceval in 1812).

In 1801, the Union with Ireland cre­ated 100 more MPs. More space was needed. James Wyatt removed the medi­eval fur­nish­ings in St Stephen’s Chapel. The Queen’s Chamber proved too small for the Lords after 500 years and they moved to the much grander Lesser Hall.

An unat­tract­ive hotch-potch of medi­aeval timber-framed build­ings was a real fire risk. Storage of huge num­bers of tally sticks (ancient memory device for those who don’t remem­ber) proved incen­di­ary in 1834. Fire des­troyed most of the palace. Only Westminster hall, the Jewel Tower and chapel under the House of Commons sur­vived.

The Burning of the Houses of Parliament JMW Turner (Tate)

Britain was then the most power­ful nation on earth and a new Parliament build­ing was built in the neogothic style. Anston was chosen to quarry 35,000 tonnes of mag­nesium lime­stone quar­ried for its warm appear­ance. Half a mil­lion tons were taken along the Chesterfield canal via the Trent, Humber and Thames to London. Charles Berry enlis­ted Pugin’s help, whose river­side design adja­cent to the old medi­eval build­ings was part of London’s massive embank­ment scheme. An estim­ated cost was £725000. The actual cost was >£2 mil­lion and took over 30 years to build.

Vertical instead of hori­zontal vents were used res­ult­ing in ongo­ing erosion and decay from the ele­ments. Rutland stone was used for res­tor­a­tion in the 1930s.

In 1941 an unex­plored bomb fell into the Lords. A new cham­ber was built in1950. They elec­ted to keep the adversarial cross bench arrange­ment of seat­ing instead of adopt­ing the more modern semi-circular system. Churchill quipped “We shape our par­lia­ment and par­lia­ment shapes us”

Mike Ogden gave a detailed illus­trated account of the cur­rent layout and fur­nish­ings of Parliament. Currently there is a £4 bil­lion plan for res­tor­a­tion and tem­por­ary relo­ca­tion.

Here are some par­lia­ment­ary anec­dotes and quotes to finish off:

Labour MP Emrys Hughes nick­named Sir Hartley Shawcross, “Sir Shortly Floorcross” for his con­ser­vat­ive sym­path­ies during the Cold War.

The hon­our­able Member is living proof that a pig’s blad­der on a stick can be elec­ted to Parliament.” —Tony Banks (Labour) on Terry Dicks (Tory)

She prob­ably thinks ‘Sinai’ is the plural of ‘sinus.’” —Jonathan Aitken on Margaret Thatcher 

The house has noticed the Prime Minister’s remark­able trans­form­a­tion in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr. Bean.” —Vince Cable on Gordon Brown.

The right hon­our­able and learned gen­tle­man has twice crossed the floor of this House, each time leav­ing behind a trail of slime.” —David Lloyd George.

He occa­sion­ally stumbled over the truth, but hast­ily picked him­self up and hur­ried on as if noth­ing had happened.” —Winston Churchill.

Our local hero Dennis Skinner has the sharpest wit of all, best attend­ance, lowest expenses, never accepts drinks from journ­al­ists and has often been thrown out of Parliament for pro­tocol breaches. His Black Rod quips are famous and per­en­nial:

”Half the Tory mem­bers oppos­ite are crooks”. The Speaker told him to with­draw. “OK, half the Tory mem­bers aren’t crooks”.

Tell her to sell up” – a ref­er­ence to how the Queen could help the reces­sion.

Hey up, here comes Puss-in-Boots!”

I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.”

Tell her to pay her taxes!”

Tell her to read the Guardian!” (run­ning a repub­lican cam­paign at the time).

Has she brought Camilla with her?”

Is Helen Mirren on standby?”

Any Tory moles at the Palace?”

Royal Expenses are on the way.” – after the expenses scan­dal

Royal Mail for sale. Queen’s head privat­ised.”

To Roy Jenkins  (mixing up his Rs and Ws): I leave this party without ran­cour – to which Dennis replied: I thought you were taking Marquand with you “Every now and then you see the arrog­ance of Cameron, and that comes through every so often. It is the Bullingdon Club. When they were sat down, him and Gideon, and he says: ‘You know what we really want, Gideon? Every week­end, after we’ve roughed up one of those hotels, we need an army of volun­teers to come in and clean it all up.’ And Gideon says: ‘Yeah, we could call it the Big Society’” Dennis to Dodgy Dave

Tell the House of Lords to go to hell.”

He’s lining his pock­ets” — an import­ant quote, Skinner said what nobody else would but what they many thought about Tebbit in a non-exec pos­i­tion at privat­ised BT.

Finally per­haps the best of the lot, Skinner call­ing an MP a pom­pous sod:

Speaker: “You’d better with­draw that”

Skinner: “I with­draw the word pom­pous”

Speaker: “That’s not the word I’m look­ing for”

Skinner: “I can’t with­draw both”

 

Andrew Shorthouse 24 June 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Suburbs of Sheffield — David Templeman — 8th April 2019

David Templeman’s excel­lent talk was about the his­tory of a hand­ful of the mul­tiple ancient sub­urbs of Sheffield which, prior to the indus­trial revolu­tion, had remained tran­quil agri­cul­tural set­tle­ments, and of some of sig­ni­fic­ant beauty – dif­fi­cult to ima­gine today.

John Speed’s map of Sheffield

Speed’s map of Sheffield 1645 shows some of these places already estab­lished cen­tur­ies before. Place names were recor­ded phon­et­ic­ally, with dif­fer­ent spellings, and some had Viking (e.g. –thorpe is an addi­tional set­tle­ment in a vil­lage) and Saxon ori­gins. For instance –ley is a forest clear­ing, -ton an enclosed farm. Examples are Hackenthorpe, Owlerton and Tinsley.

Curiosities on the map led to debate over the unknown Westbury. According to Joseph Hunter (Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield), the Don was bridged at Washford at the Sheffield end of Attercliffe, where Speed rein­ven­ted it as Westbury vil­lage. Attercliffe was men­tioned in the Domesday Book as Ateclive, Attercliffe grew on an escarp­ment on the Don. Christ Church, des­troyed in World War II, was at the top of it and the escarp­ment is no longer vis­ible. The first church there was Attercliffe Chapel 1629

Christ Church, Attercliffe

Even in 1860, apart from small artisan work­shops (e.g. pen and pocket knife makers), there were farms, small shops, and the canal. It was an isol­ated rural com­munity with some large houses (Old Hall, New Hall, Carlton House and a wind­mill, and “no pret­tier place for miles around”. New Hall was con­ver­ted into pleas­ure gar­dens in the 19th cen­tury with a cricket ground, race­course, maze and lake, and was well known for its fire­works and con­certs. Carbrook Hall has under­gone extens­ive renov­a­tion recently and Starbucks have moved in. There was a bear bait­ing pit from Tudor times and cock fight­ing.

A turn­pike through Attercliffe provided access between Sheffield and the Don ter­minus at Tinsley. The Sheffield canal skir­ted the south side; a pity that pro­pos­als to widen it to form the Sheffield Ship Canal failed (Manchester’s gain!). Benjamin Huntsman, inventor of cru­cible steel, had a cot­tage, now demol­ished, along the Handsworth Road. In recent times another lack of city coun­cil foresight was fail­ure to con­vert the Don Valley into a massively impress­ive aes­thetic cor­ridor into the city. If anyone’s been to Stuttgart recently (a city of sim­ilar size with seven hills as Sheffield but with a lot more cash – Bosch, Mercedes, Porsche) they’ll under­stand.

The Don was a rich food source before indus­trial times. But good news! Salmon are back after a major river clean-up. This fish was caught recently at Salmon Pastures in Attercliffe (just behind the City Sauna).

Attercliffe had mixed memor­ies for David Templeman: he grew up there with the daily din of steel­works ham­mers but after his father won the treble chance the family moved up in the world to Woodhouse.

Your non-Yorkshire blogger’s only long term memory of Attercliffe was the Attercliffe Palace where his father once played alto sax in the Bobbie Gray orches­tra in the 50s. A bit later, the band audi­tioned Gerry Dorsey aka Englebert Humperdinck and turned him down!

Richmond was a small set­tle­ment with a few cot­tages together with Hall Farm, built in 1668 and demol­ished in the Sheffield bru­tal­ist period. The farm gate­posts, pre­vi­ously mark­ing the entrance to Sheffield Deer Park (hence the name Richmond?), sur­vive within a hous­ing estate.

Hackenthorpe craf­ted 30,000 sickles a year in the mid-19th cen­tury. Thomas Staniforth was its largest employer. Birley Spa was the site of a min­eral water spring, built by Earl Manvers in 1843. The dilap­id­ated Grade II listed bath house and grounds are cur­rently up for sale by the city coun­cil. Full res­tor­a­tion is planned once again if (ever) funds become avail­able.

Tinsley was ori­gin­ally “Tingas-Leah”, mean­ing Field of Council. The Domesday Book refers to it as “Tirneslawe and Tinelawe”, at the time owned by Roger de Busli but even­tu­ally part of the Wentworth Estate. The church, built in 1125 and rebuilt in 1878, houses Arthur Dyson’s remains after his murder by Sheffield’s Charles Peace, who was then executed in Leeds. After the Don became nav­ig­able in the 1730s with a turn­pike con­nec­ted to Lady’s Bridge in 1764, mines, steel and wire took over and its rural charm was gone forever. When the river was linked to the canal in 1819, the event was cel­eb­rated “with unbridled feast­ing” at the Tontine Inn in the city centre. All the ship­ping hype soon faded as rail took over.

Darnall Hall

Darnall, ori­gin­ally a hamlet, was ori­gin­ally “Derne Halh” (a secluded nook). Landowners were the De Darnall family in the reign of Henry III. William Walker, a res­id­ent, is reputed to have been Charles I’s exe­cu­tioner. Darnall Hall, built by the Staniforth family in 1723, became a lun­atic asylum. Staniforth and Chappell were the main local employ­ers involved in coal mining.

A cricket ground was ini­tially owned by a Mr Steer from 1821 and the fol­low­ing year the stand col­lapsed killing two spec­tat­ors. A larger ground was ready by 1824, and con­sidered to be the “second finest after Lords”, with ter­ra­cing for 8000 spec­tat­ors. Its claim to fame is that over­arm bowl­ing was intro­duced here.

Map of Heeley

Heeley, ori­gin­ally “Heah Leah” (wood­land clear­ing), was first doc­u­mented in 1343 and developed from three vil­lages: Top, Middle and Lower.

Heeley Tilt Mill, ini­tially known as Holm Wheels in 1747, was a cutler’s wheel and wire mill. It was then con­ver­ted into a tilt forge. A rolling mill was installed in 1875. The dam and build­ings, shown towards bottom right on the map, were even­tu­ally demol­ished and built over. The A61 was the turn­pike (foot of map) to Derby in 1757. A Toll Bar was built over the Meers brook at the bottom of Albert Road on the Yorkshire/Derbyshire bound­ary. The 15th cen­tury Heeley Hall, behind Ye Olde Shakespeare Inn, was demol­ished years ago.

Heeley Toll House

Crookes was a Viking set­tle­ment “Krkur”, foun­ded 980AD, and recor­ded in the Domesday book as “Crokkiss”. It lies near the Roman Templeborough-Brough course. There were medi­eval fields “in remark­able state” until the 1790s, when a turn­pike was opened. It was a day out in clean air for city centre res­id­ents. In 1887 a bronze age Cinerary urn with human bones and a knife were found at the Rivelin end of Crookes. In the 1700s Sheffield was sup­plied with fresh(ish) water chan­nelled through wooden, and later iron pipes, from reser­voirs at Crookesmoor down to Division Street. From there it was wheeled around town in 50 gallon casks and sold by the pail. From 1830 the new 5.5 acre Hadfield Service reser­voir kept pace with pop­u­la­tion expan­sion.

Route of the old race­course

The best view of Sheffield Races (1711–1781), with cups and prize money, was from a 34 x 54ft grand­stand at Lawson Road. The races were an attempt to divert interest from cock fight­ing and bear bait­ing. The course ran between Crookes and Endcliffe, and almost through our back garden, as shown on the map.

 

Bennet Grange

Fulwood was an Anglo-Saxon set­tle­ment “Ful Wuda” (wet marsh­land), part of the massive estate of Earl Waltheof. After the Norman inva­sion it passed to Roger de Busli. In 1297 Thomas de Furnival estab­lished the Burgery of Sheffield; the inhab­it­ants of “Folewood” to be gran­ted herb­age and foliage through­out Rivelin Chase. There was a pop­u­lar min­eral spa near Whiteley Lane in the 17th cen­tury. 15th cen­tury Fulwood hall was built by the Fox family. The first Stumperlowe Hall was built by the Mitchells in 1397, then rebuilt in 1854 by Henry Isaac Dixon. Whiteley Wood Hall in Common Lane was built in 1662 and bought by Thomas Boulsover, inventor of Sheffield plate. The hall was demol­ished in 1959 and the out­build­ings remain as an out­ward bound centre. Bennet Grange, in Harrison Lane from 1580, ini­tially belonged to Helen Hall, passed to the Hinds and then to Mary Bennet. It’s now under­go­ing extens­ive and expens­ive renov­a­tion.

Sir Nathaniel Creswick (1831–1917) was a Sheffield soli­citor who, as a member of Sheffield Cricket Club, joined other crick­eters in informal foot­ball matches from 1855. He co-founded Sheffield FC in 1857 and estab­lished the Sheffield Rules. Sheffield FC is recog­nised by FIFA as the oldest foot­ball club in the world

David Templeman’s talk was a feast of local interest and beau­ti­fully seasoned with spicy blood-curdling anec­dotes. The past was not a good time to live unless of course you were very rich and disease-free.