All posts by Tim Marsh

Sheffield in Tudor and Stuart Times (1500–1700) — David Templeman — 25/11/13.

Another talk by David Templeman, a volun­teer Sheffield his­tor­ian and a Stumperlowe favour­ite, who peri­od­ic­ally visits us to keep us informed and enthused about the unfold­ing great unher­al­ded his­tory of Sheffield. This time he took us from 1296, when we were a small market town, and when our Tuesday market charter had just been gran­ted, along with an annual fair, and  which by the 1600s had 2000 inhab­it­ants, with only 100 being self-sufficient, and hardly any priv­ileged. The rest were ‘beg­ging poor’ or ‘chil­dren and ser­vants’.

The Church and Castle were the only stone build­ings, with the ordin­ary folk  living in wooden thatched ‘hovels’. Their leis­ure time included Archery using cross­bows (an essen­tial skill in times of war), cock fights, a free for all form of foot­ball, quoits, a form of ten pin bowls, cards, chess, and hunt­ing. The first men­tion of cut­lery was in 1297, but other work activ­it­ies included mining, farm­ing strips of land in the Park, work­ing for the Lord of the Manor, black­smiths to tend to the vast num­bers of horses and other vari­ous forms of smiths.

David showed us the earli­est known map of Sheffield dated 1650, with the streets and street names of today still relat­ing to their ori­ginal pur­pose and loc­a­tion. The town was not walled, only tolled, but covered a small area roughly bounded by the Don River, Sheaf River, West Bar, and The Moor. The sur­rounds included Orchards, fields, fish ponds, the great Park, and the Manor Lodge with an avenue of walnut trees down to the castle.

Sheffield was unique in san­it­a­tion, as the Barkers Pool fed by springs on West Bar, on 4 occa­sions each year was breached to allow all the rub­bish which had accu­mu­lated in the open streets to be washed away down­hill into the River Don. The people also used it to wash them­selves!

Life was hard! There was con­sid­er­able interest from the mem­bers when we were informed that wives could be sold for as little as 2 pints of beer as long as the same rules that per­tained to cattle auc­tions were upheld. Ducking stools were also fre­quently in oper­a­tion. Vagabonds from else­where, illegal up to 1550, were, in order of offences, firstly whipped, secondly had an ear cut off, then thirdly, hung. Stocks and pil­lor­ies were avail­able too.

A round up of some of the other remain­ing major struc­tures of the time included the Bishops House (1500s) in Meersbrook Park, Carbrook Hall (1600s), the Old Queens Head pub (1475) in the Bus Station, Ladys’ Bridge (1486), the Cathedral (1101) and the Shrewsbury Hospital (1616) off Norfolk St.

Poignantly, this very day, the exist­ing castle market built in 1927 was closed and opened in a new loc­a­tion on The Moor. Could this be the begin­ning of new excit­ing times as money is now avail­able for an Archaeological dig in 2014 on the old castle site.

Built ini­tially in 1270 and demol­ished around 1660 after a few punch ups in the Civil War, there are funds avail­able for the dig and depend­ing on what is found, there are plans for a pos­sible Heritage style layout!

Another enjoy­able Monday morn­ing with David inspir­ing us with his enthu­si­asm, to take pride in, and explore our great City and its his­tory.


Fairtrade Tea – James Pogson – 28th October 2013.

There are 165 mil­lion cups of tea drunk in the UK each day (!). We all tried a tasty sample from Kenya, prior to the present­a­tion, and if you thought wine-making was an art, then try tea (from the plant known as Camellia Sinensis).

Much trav­elled to many of the tea-producing coun­tries in the world, James impressed us with his in-depth know­ledge and enthu­si­asm, telling us how the influ­ence of alti­tude, solar energy, weather, and soil con­di­tions determ­ine taste and are key to a good end product, but also key, is how the new shoots on the bushes are selec­ted and picked. Up to 9 picks a year can be achieved (e.g. in Rwanda), sub­ject to weather, car­ried out by mainly women who are better than men.

Different coun­tries have vary­ing levels of organ­isa­tion with, for example, in an area the size of Wales, the Sri Lankan work­ers are col­lect­ively organ­ised and mil­it­ant, but in India on one estate the size of Middlesex with 800,000 pick­ers and 200,000 garden­ers and other sup­port staff, the wel­fare of the work­ers is taken very ser­i­ously from cradle to grave. The Fairtrade Foundation encour­ages whole­salers to sign up to an agree­ment to pay a levy of 50 cents (USA)/kg, over and above the pur­chase price which can range from £2.50 to £3.50/kg. About 80% of this goes back to the wel­fare of the work­ers, with 1.8% dir­ectly to the pick­ers, and the rest to the tea fact­ory. 1 to 3% of tea drunk is Fairtrade.

Once picked we were taken through the pro­cess of drying, using hot air at 45C then CTC (chopped, torn and crushed), fer­men­ted, after lumps removed, and finally dried at 350C trying to avoid over­heat­ing to pre­vent the burnt con­di­tion called ‘Joan of Arc’.

With the final leaves now look­ing like tea, they are sieved and graded into 8 cat­egor­ies of uni­form dens­ity, bagged in paper sacks and not put in tea chests any­more. Container loads then take 3 months to reach the UK where they are put in tea bags for us to drink.


Railways in the Yorkshire Landscape (Part 2) by Stephen Gay — 23/09/13.

Settle Station Stephen began his 13th present­a­tion to us since 2001 where he fin­ished off in Part 1 of the talk on the 28/1/13, near Leeds. The exact loc­a­tion being Kirkstall Abbey, built in the 11th cen­tury, which is situ­ated  on the Midland Railway line, Leeds to Carlisle sec­tion, opened in 1876. The line closed in the 1960s fol­low­ing the pub­lic­a­tion of the  Beeching report, just 50 years ago, but it re-opened in 1971.

With his faith­ful German shep­herd dog Wrawby for com­pany, and occa­sional pro­tec­tion, we were taken on an absorb­ing trip, won­der­fully illus­trated with genu­ine unen­hanced slides and accom­pa­ny­ing nar­rat­ive. We jour­neyed  through Shipley, along­side the Leeds to Liverpool canal, Keighley, Skipton, Gargrave, Hellifield (the gate­way to the Dales), Ingleton, Hawes, Settle, and Ribblehead, up to Dent sta­tion. This is the highest main­line sta­tion in England at 1150 feet above sea level, just across the Yorkshire border, in Cumbria.

We heard tales of Victorian tea rooms, a must to visit, and a Light Railway which had to be closed due to van­dal­ism. There was the Worth Valley Railway spur to Oxenhope from the main­line sta­tion at Keighley, with Demems signal box, that is gas lit and has a pot­bel­lied stove, at a request stop. The occa­sional steam engine passes by in front of the sta­tion­mas­ters house along­side the track which Stephen drooled over owning, and we saw Oakworth tunnel of ‘Railway Children’ fame.

Once out onto the bleak Moors, the slides became even more stun­ning, fur­ther appre­ci­ated when we heard tales of long treks in dif­fer­ent sea­sons, to get the right pic­ture. Trudging through snow, or walk­ing at night to get the sun­rise. There were pic­tures of the river Ribble, Ellwith Bridge, Ribblehead via­duct, the ‘3 Peaks’, Artengill via­duct and Dent Head via­duct. We heard a tale of a warm wel­come he received at the Blea Moor signal box near Ribblehead, where the water for the sig­nal­man was still delivered daily on the first train.

The engin­eer­ing feats and human sac­ri­fices made during the con­struc­tion of the line, coupled with Stephen’s ded­ic­a­tion, enthu­si­asm and love of rail­ways and great Yorkshire out­doors, were reflec­ted in the talk. We also heard examples of his poems which he read to us and were very much appre­ci­ated.

He knows we can’t resist invit­ing him again, as he left us in sus­pense part way through the next jour­ney. Watch this space!