All posts by Andrew Shorthouse

Burma, a Fascinating Journey — David Hague — 11th June 2018

David showed us some nice hol­i­day slides, but they needed con­text and an accom­pa­ny­ing map to show us the loc­a­tion of the places vis­ited. Nor was there any men­tion of the Rohingya troubles. I have there­fore con­sul­ted the excel­lent DK Eyewitness Travel book on Myanmar to fill in some gaps, and par­tic­u­larly to cor­rect some of the spellings and decode some of my barely legible blog notes.


David Hague’s route going anti­clock­wise (just follow the arrows):
Yangon (Rangoon), flight to Helo for Inle Lake and Kalaw Hill Station. Mandalay then north to Mingun, Back to Mandalay then to Bagan via Ayeyarwady River. Manadalay flight to Yangon. Ellipse = Rakhine state (Rohingya troubles)


Myanmar (Burma) bor­ders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. It has tower­ing gilded pago­das, spec­tac­u­lar arche­olo­gical sites, great beaches, stun­ning moun­tains and tra­di­tional cul­ture. It was opened up to tour­ism in 2010 with San Suu Kyi’s suc­cess in the gen­eral elec­tion. My 2016 DK guide adds “the future finally looks bright …after dec­ades of civil war.” Maybe less so now.The Bamars (70 per cent) dom­in­ate a diverse minor­ity ethnic pop­u­la­tion includ­ing the Muslim Rohingya (30 per cent). Other con­stants are Buddhism, and sup­port for the sangha (monk­hood). Half a mil­lion in claret robes work part time in mon­as­ter­ies from the age of seven. There are some 75,000 nuns.

Tourism just about keeps the eco­nomy going.

First stop, Yangon. It’s a mix of (par­tially run­down) colo­nial charm and high rise chic five-star living. The Sule pagoda was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th cen­tur­ies and has a huge octa­gonal stupa (tower), covered in gold leaf with bamboo scaf­fold­ing.

Schwedagon pagoda is Myanmar’s most sacred shrine. The British van­dal­ised it (not unique) but it is now restored. The stupa’s ‘banana bud’ is covered by 13,000 solid gold plates. Just gold leaf below but a 76 carat dia­mond at the tip of the spire above (Sein Bu). King Tharrawaddy had an 80,000lb bell cast for it in 1841. The ceil­ing of its pavil­ion is superbly lacquered and inlaid with mosaic glass
Yangon’s traffic is chaotic, and get­ting to the other side of the road is a fairly risky busi­ness.

Next stop was Heho air­port for the Inle Lake. One hun­dred thou­sand Intha people live in stilt houses around the lake. Many of them fish with large con­ical nets, pro­pelling them­selves with one leg on the tail of the canoe using the other as a ful­crum on the oar behind. Some of this may be for the bene­fit of tour­ists and there­fore prof­it­able. Fruit and veg are pro­duced in float­ing gar­dens, anchored by bamboo poles. Fried tree ants and crick­ets are a must. Setting the scene are mul­tiple mon­as­ter­ies, stupas and pago­das (ladies some­times pro­hib­ited), hand-loom fabric and silk pro­duc­tion, cigar rolling, boat-building using simple hand tools, girls on motor­bikes, melons, sacred cows, mopeds and stray dogs (which don’t bite but rabies wasn’t men­tioned). I was puzzled by the lookalike Scots in tartan and the alle­gi­ance to Arsenal. I couldn’t quite work out where David had trav­elled by train apart from being on Nyaungshwe sta­tion where there were health and safety issues with exposed mains cables and a train fare hike for for­eign­ers.

You have to exper­i­ence at least one Burmese rail jour­ney, and the slow train from Shwe Nyaung to Aung Ban (Kalaw) is recom­men­ded. Initially built as a cen­tury hill sta­tion by the British as a summer retreat, it has an agree­able cli­mate and remains full of dilap­id­ated grandeur. Large Edwardian houses are remin­is­cent of S10. On one of the slides, there was a splen­did mock Tudor one that looked very famil­iar Trekking through ter­raced fields, tea plant­a­tions, forest and sub­sist­ence farm­ing com­munit­ies in the sur­round­ing hills is pop­u­lar and David clearly enjoyed this.

Overloaded top-heavy cars, fut-fut tract­ors, horses and carts, a para­sol fact­ory and English les­sons for would-be tour­ist guides were David’s first impres­sions of Mandalay city. The exquis­ite teak-built Schwenandaw Monastery is one of the few sur­viv­ing vestiges of the Konbaung Dynasty which pre­ceded the British inva­sion in 1885
On Mandalay Hill, Kuthodaw Pagoda has a mag­ni­fi­cent golden stupa and con­tains the entire text of the Tipitaka scrip­ture carved on stone tab­lets (as David put it, the world’s largest book). Amapura, on the out­skirts, has more pago­das and the famous U Bein’s teak bridge. It reminded me a bit of the bridge over the River Quai
A cart ride to Inwa saw ancient ruins, brick and gilded stupas, mul­tiple other intact stucco and teak mon­as­ter­ies, all in paddy fields and banana groves. An intact bit of a palace, almost com­pletely des­troyed in an earth­quake in1839, is Myanmar’s own lean­ing tower of Pisa.

The Ayeyarwady River runs south and gets increas­ingly silty (agri­cul­tural lifeblood) for 1,250 miles from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, mil­lions depend­ing on it for their live­li­hood and crop irrig­a­tion. Since ancient times it was a stra­tegic link between China and the Indian Ocean.

A gentle chug up-stream from Mandalay for an hour gets you to Mingun where the unfin­ished giant stupa built by King Bodawpaya is the most strik­ing monu­ment of the whole river.
Bagan is one of Myanmar’s greatest archae­olo­gical sites. There are numer­ous medi­eval city rem­nants from Bagan’s empire days from the 11th to 13th cen­tur­ies, with over 2,000 temples, stupas and mon­as­ter­ies, some of which were seen by David — a superb spec­tacle rising up from the dusty sand flats.

We saw an impress­ive aerial view from a great height in a hot air bal­loon in one of the slides, but shock horror — David con­fessed it was pinched from the inter­net.

Fields to Houses — Early History of Stumperlowe — Anne Marples — 12 March 2018


Ann’s interest is Victorian local his­tory and she was sourced via UC3A. She runs her own edu­ca­tion busi­ness, spe­cial­ising in train­ing mater­i­als design, open learn­ing advice and dis­tance coach­ing and ment­or­ing.

For this talk she needed no IT aids (prob­ably for­tu­nate as the micro­phone packed up). She gave a beau­ti­fully pre­pared talk, delivered clearly from her index card notes. Her sub­ject was the his­tory and devel­op­ment of our own Stumperlowe.

Stumperlowe was rural and unchanged from medi­eval times, and sparsely pop­u­lated, until the start of relo­ca­tion between 1830–60 (“west­ern drift”) of the wealthy mid-Victorian indus­tri­al­ists towards the health­ier west­ern fringes of Sheffield, where pol­lu­tion and san­it­a­tion prob­lems of the city could be avoided due to its upland situ­ation and the pre­vail­ing unpol­luted south west­erly winds. There was clean water run­ning off the moors.

Before then, the area was sparsely pop­u­lated with a field struc­ture that had remained largely unchanged for cen­tur­ies. There was mixed small-scale farm­ing to serve the local sur­round­ing com­munit­ies (milk, beef, animal feed, grain, includ­ing barley for brew­ing, poultry, pigs and bee-keeping). Butter and cheese for local con­sump­tion was big busi­ness.

There were four sig­ni­fic­ant prop­er­ties: Stumperlowe Hall*, at the junc­tion of Stumperlowe Hall Road and Slayleigh Lane, Stumperlowe Grange, Stumperlowe Grange Farm and the smal­ler less import­ant Stumperlowe View Farm nearby. Stumperlowe Grange gen­er­ated income for the Hall. The other build­ings of note were a corn mill, smithy and a pub.

Large houses with rear stables were built in the area. No other trans­port was avail­able other than by horse or walk­ing. Then from the 1860s onwards until 1900 there was a 12 seat chara­banc ser­vice giving ready access “for a day out” from the city to savour the clean air of Crookes, Crosspool and Fulwood. By this time cot­tage gar­dens had become well estab­lished in the area. Fruit, veget­able and jam pro­duc­tion was prof­it­able. Tea and coffee were sold at the Fulwood Coffee House and Inn.

Fulwood School was built in 1836 in School Green Lane but became a private house shortly after­wards in 1840, when a new school was needed for pop­u­la­tion expan­sion in the area.

There was a tunnel at the foot of Stumperlowe Lane for sewage run-off and this can still be seen. Problems arose with rain and then over­flow of sewage. Fresh water wells were sunk and pumps installed as there was no mains water supply. Contamination by sewage over­flow was a real risk.

In 1858 the more eco­nomic steam plough was intro­duced and led to major changes in farm­ing prac­tice. The engine sat in the middle of a field, ropes were attached and the plough pulled from the field edges to the centre by means of a pulley system. The machine was hired out to sur­round­ing farms. Farms expan­ded and the smal­ler ones became uneco­nomic. Threshing and bail­ing machines were intro­duced; fewer labour­ers were needed who then went the city where there was better paid work.

Subsidized American corn imports under­cut local wheat prices lead­ing to pro­gress­ive decim­a­tion of the local farm­ing eco­nomy.

The Corn Laws were enforced between 1815 and 1846. These were tar­iffs and restric­tions placed upon impor­ted food and grain, when the landown­ers, who dom­in­ated Parliament, sought to pro­tect their own profits by impos­ing a duty on impor­ted corn. Grain prices were kept high to favour domestic pro­duc­tion. This was sup­por­ted and per­petu­ated by Members of Parliament, who were the landown­ers them­selves. The urban poor became worse off and the eco­nomy as a whole was depressed. There was a knock on effect in man­u­fac­tur­ing. The Corn Law Rhymer Ebenezer Elliott, poet and fact­ory owner, led the fight to repeal the Corn Laws which were caus­ing great hard­ship.

The intro­duc­tion of steam powered roller mills along the east coast res­ul­ted in more effi­cient pro­duc­tion of better qual­ity flour for white bread from impor­ted grain. Poor trans­port infra­struc­ture had long been a major prob­lem for dis­tri­bu­tion of local pro­duce which was cheap to pro­duce but expens­ive to dis­trib­ute. Expansion of steam power, canals, rail­ways and local coal enabled impor­ted grain and other raw mater­i­als and man­u­fac­tured goods to be dis­trib­uted more cheaply. Local mills fell into decline and unem­ploy­ment rose, the unem­ployed moving to better paid jobs in industry and exacer­bat­ing the prob­lem for exist­ing farms with labour­ers demand­ing higher wages.

In the 1880s the value of land increased and was sold for hous­ing devel­op­ment. Standards of living rose and vac­cin­a­tion was intro­duced, along with better san­it­a­tion. Infant and child mor­tal­ity declined from 50% before the age of 5. Immigration rose with an influx of Russians, Poles, Italians and Germans. This was offset by increased emig­ra­tion, par­tic­u­larly to the USA. The rural way of life col­lapsed.

One entre­pren­eur who cashed in at the right moment on the build­ing boom was Henry Elliot Hoole who owned the Green Lane Works at Kelham island. He man­u­fac­tured cast iron domestic products such as fire grates and kit­chen ranges. Sales increased dra­mat­ic­ally when he offered easy terms. Traditional trades (black­smiths, wheel­wrights) dis­ap­peared due to fall­ing demand. Gas engin­eers prospered. They had high status, as Anne Marples put it, equi­val­ent to that of today’s IT geek!

The pro­fes­sions, aca­dem­ics and intel­lec­tu­als moved to the west­ern fringes of Sheffield for better hous­ing, clean air and san­it­a­tion, and where they con­sidered there was a more exclus­ive life­style.

Housing at the time was mostly rental and that meant the ten­ants had no voting rights. There was there­fore an incent­ive to own prop­erty but there was no mort­gage system in place. Walkley, then Crookes, were the first areas to be developed after the Land Reform Society (LRS) was set up by Robert Eden Leader in the 1870s, a rad­ical non-conformist who bought up large areas of farm­land in a con­sor­tium and split it into lots. Those wish­ing to join the LRS paid a join­ing fee to allow pur­chase of a parcel of land for build­ing. The new owner then split the plot and sub-sold to fund the build­ing work and to obtain a mort­gage as a new landowner. Renting out provided funds for addi­tional plot pur­chases.

Although all the land was sold, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the land was fully developed.

Large scale change in Stumperlowe was mul­ti­factorial. It is now part of the urban sprawl with no defin­able “vil­lage” centre. Farming and hor­ti­cul­ture have gone and skills have been lost. Overdevelopment has sat­ur­ated the area with ongo­ing split­ting of plots to max­im­ise profit. However, cur­rent maps of the area, when com­pared with earlier ones, still show the ori­ginal farm­lands, and some his­toric infra­struc­ture such as wells and sewage chan­nels.

Following Anne’s excel­lent talk, there were numer­ous ques­tions and lots of dis­cus­sion. The intriguing deriv­a­tion of Stumperlowe remains unknown. Perhaps it’s related to the early English word “Low” indic­at­ing a Neolithic burial ground. There is a “stump” struc­ture higher up so per­haps the area means “below the stump”. Earlier OS maps how­ever refer to the area as “Stomperlowe”.

Jacko had the final word: “when I was a kid, this was all fields – now I know why!”