Category Archives: Talks

The building of Hardwick Hall — John Stubbs — 4th June 2018

These days John Stubbs is a volun­teer with Hardwick Hall; before retir­ing he was much involved with spe­cial needs chil­dren. To give a back­ground to the build­ing of the hall, he gave a descrip­tion of Bess of Hardwick’s life. In 1522 Bess was born to John and Elizabeth Hardwick, who lived in a modest manor house on the site of the Old Hardwick Hall. They were sheep farm­ers around Hardwick and mod­er­ately pros­per­ous. John died at about this time while in his forties. Elizabeth was obliged to sell off much of the estate to sur­vive while Bess grew up. At the age of 12 Bess left home to serve at the nearby Codnor Castle. There she met and mar­ried Robert Barlow, who was heir to a gentry family. She was 15 years old. Eighteen months later, Robert died and she gained an inher­it­ance.

Bess then went into ser­vice with the Grey family and found her­self at court in London as Lady in Waiting. Here she caught the eye of an older courtier, William Cavendish, Treasurer of the King’s Chamber. They mar­ried in 1547. Six of their chil­dren reached adult­hood and they bought land that became the Chatsworth Estate before William died in 1557.

Two years later Bess mar­ried again, this time to Sir William St Loe, Captain of the Queen’s Guard and Grand Butler of England. The mar­riage to St Loe was short-lived as he died in 1565, but again Bess man­aged to secure most of his great wealth for her­self. Secure at Chatsworth and very wealthy, Bess mar­ried for a final time, this time to George Talbot, sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, in 1567. He was a states­man high in royal favour, and Bess added the title of Countess to her great wealth.

Shrewsbury was made cus­todian of Mary Queen of Scots, who remained in his charge for the next 15 years, moving from one another of his many man­sions, includ­ing Chatsworth. The strains of the royal ‘guest’ put pres­sures on Bess’s mar­riage and after sev­eral years of bitter quar­rel­ling Bess left Chatsworth and came back to her child­hood home at Hardwick. For the next few years Bess star­ted to con­struct a new house around her old family home — the build­ing we now know as Hardwick Old Hall.

In 1590 Shrewsbury died, and work star­ted on Hardwick New Hall. A prom­in­ent archi­tect called Robert Smythson was com­mis­sioned and he intro­duced new ideas of sym­metry and of using vast areas of glass. The heights of each storey increased from the ground upwards with ser­vants at ground level, the family rooms on the first floor and the state rooms above. The archi­tect re-introduced the use of 50mm thick lime-ash floors over green tim­bers that hadn’t been used since Roman times.

A £25m refur­bish­ment of Hardwick Hall has recently been under­taken with large areas of glaz­ing replaced with east­ern European glass. The Hall has a full-time team of masons work­ing on the wall fabric. As vis­itor num­bers stead­ily grow there is a need to increase and improve the vis­itor facil­it­ies. The Stable Yard provides much of this area.

The smithy and cart shed now provides a build­ing to enter­tain school­chil­dren. The East Stables house the garden­ing depart­ment where there are plants for sale. The Coach House and the Ox House provide an exten­sion to the shop and offices. The West Cottages that pred­ate the Old Hall are used to accom­mod­ate a brew­ery, a dairy, a bakery and a chand­lery, and a slaughter­house now has a res­taur­ant at mezzan­ine level.

Hardwick Hall was taken by the State in 1956 in lieu of death duties and given to the National Trust, but is man­aged by English Heritage.

Mary Queen of Scots Revisited – David Templeman – 21st May 2018

David, a reg­u­lar speaker at our Probus, is an Elizabethan Historian, a nation­ally known speaker and Chair of The Friends of Sheffield Manor Lodge.

He became a guide at Manor Lodge in 2004, at which time he could find only a single chapter to read about Mary Queen of Scots and her 19 years of cap­tiv­ity in the Sheffield area. David chose to talk to us about this period of cap­tiv­ity, which he has since researched and writ­ten about in his new book “Mary Queen of Scots – The Captive Queen in England, 1568–87,’’ and which has been 12 years in the making.

Mary, born in 1542, became the right­ful Queen of Scotland when very young. She was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, both being related to Henry VIII. But Mary, the daugh­ter of the Scottish King James V, was a Catholic, and Queen Elizabeth of England was a Protestant.

Protestants gained con­trol of Scotland during Mary’s youth, so she escaped to France but returned to Scotland to reign in 1561, at the age of 18. Still a Catholic, she reigned as Queen and had a son James with her first hus­band, Lord Darnley.

This mar­riage and the sub­sequent one were con­tro­ver­sial and dis­astrous, neither of which had been sanc­tioned by Elizabeth as pro­tocol deman­ded. Mary’s right to reign was even­tu­ally chal­lenged and she ended up in a Scottish prison.

However, she escaped and sailed for England, land­ing at Workington on 16th May 1568 against all advice, and totally unan­nounced, in the hope that Elizabeth would help her to regain her Scottish throne as she had once pre­vi­ously prom­ised.

But Elizabeth now had a prob­lem with a Catholic Queen on Protestant English soil. Initially, Mary was held in Carlisle Castle, but within three or four months she was moved south to Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, away from the coast and the Scottish border for secur­ity. Elizabeth had con­cluded that she was a threat to her throne and could become a Catholic ral­ly­ing point for English revolts, or inva­sions from Spain, France or Scotland. For that reason, she could not release her and needed to keep her in the easi­est place to defend, should there be an attempt to rescue her.

To begin with, a con­fer­ence in York was con­vened to estab­lish the facts about her mar­riages, with a view to resolv­ing her pos­i­tion in Scotland, but this was incon­clus­ive. Mary was then moved fur­ther south, and fur­ther from the sea, to secure places cent­ring on Sheffield. The sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, at his own cost, was engaged by Elizabeth to be Mary’s ‘jailer.’ The main loc­a­tions used to hold Mary over the next 19 years were, Tutbury Castle, Wingfield Manor, Worksop Manor, Chatsworth, Sheffield Castle, and Sheffield Manor Lodge. The Earl’s wife, Bess of Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth, was a friend of Elizabeth and helped to look after Mary, as well as keep an eye on her.

Some of the places were unhealthy, so Marys’ health deteri­or­ated, even though she was per­mit­ted occa­sion­ally to take the waters at Buxton, when she stayed at what is now the Old Hall Hotel.

So we had Mary, on the one hand, involved in intrigues and plots, and Elizabeth, on the other, impris­on­ing Mary and thwart­ing any Catholic plots to under­mine her, or the estab­lished Protestant faith. Sir Francis Walsingham, the spy­mas­ter, and Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth’s main advisor, were strong advoc­ates for execut­ing Mary, to solve the prob­lem. However, mon­archs believe that they are chosen by God to reign, so Elizabeth couldn’t bring her­self to sign the death war­rant of another mon­arch.

The Duke of Norfolk, one of the most influ­en­tial per­sons in England, and a Catholic, plot­ted to marry Mary and take over the throne. He was even­tu­ally executed for treason, with Elizabeth sign­ing the death war­rant. A revolt (the only one during Elizabeth’s reign) came from the Northern earls in the Catholic North of England, but this petered out. Of the lead­ers, Northumberland was tracked down. Reprisals in the North, by Elizabeth’s army, were ruth­less, to dis­cour­age any other revolts. The other leader, Charles Neville, escaped to Spain but had all his prop­erty con­fis­cated.

Three attempts were made to escape from the Earl of Shrewsbury’s prop­er­ties and four attempts were made from Sheffield Castle. But there were spies every­where, who dis­covered all the plots, which came to noth­ing.

Relationships slowly deteri­or­ated between all the parties involved in Mary’s deten­tion. The Earl’s mar­riage fell apart as well as his health and fin­ances, and Mary’s health suffered because of the con­di­tions under which she was held. From being a sporty person used to hunt­ing, fal­conry, arch­ery and real tennis, her move­ments became very restric­ted as plots to rescue her came and went. So she spent her time doing embroid­ery, which is now on exhib­i­tion in Oxford, Norfolk and Edinburgh.

Finally, one of the plots — in which it was proved that Mary was implic­ated — was deemed to be treas­on­ous, so even­tu­ally Elizabeth reluct­antly signed Marys’ death war­rant and at the age of 44 she was executed. She died for her faith at Fotheringhay Castle. Elizabeth was said to have ‘won’ in life, but ‘lost’ in death, as iron­ic­ally, James VI of Scotland, Mary’s son, who was a Protestant, also became James I of England when Elizabeth died. This was the first time both coun­tries had had the same mon­arch.

We learnt that there is a film being made at a cost of £180m on this sub­ject, which is due to be released in January 2019. It was a very enlight­en­ing and enjoy­able hour. For more inform­a­tion, David’s book gives it all.

Admiral Lord Collingwood — Peter Stubbs — 30th April 2018.

Collingwood was born in Newcastle in 1748. He was named Cuthbert after the saint from Holy Island. His father was a Newcastle trader and not a wealthy man.
He began his naval career at the age of twelve on HMS Shannon under the com­mand of his uncle Richard Braithwaite. After five years he became a mid­ship­man and, after passing exams in seaman­ship and nav­ig­a­tion, he became a lieu­ten­ant.
He first met Nelson in 1777 when he was twenty five and Nelson was fif­teen. Whilst he was tall, robust and con­fid­ent, Nelson was smal­ler, frail and sickly. Their friend­ship lasted until Nelson’s death in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar..
Collingwood mar­ried Sarah Blackwell and, though he was at sea for most of the time, he man­aged to father two daugh­ters. Between 1761 and 1810 he only spent five years in England and, on one occa­sion, was not home for seven years.
His com­pan­ion whilst at sea was his Newfoundland dog called Bouncer. The dog went every­where with him, often swim­ming along­side the rowing boat which took him ashore.
In 1783 he was in com­mand of HMS Mediator and posted to the West Indies.Nelson was also there and together they pre­ven­ted American ships from trad­ing with the West Indies.
On the few occa­sions when he was at home, Collingwood walked on the north moors scat­ter­ing acorns to ensure the supply of oaks for ship­build­ing for many years to come.
He was a hard work­ing, con­sid­er­ate man who gained the respect of his crew by instilling dis­cip­line and abandon­ing cor­poral pun­ish­ment. Men, guilty of swear­ing or bul­ly­ing were pun­ished by having to clean out the prim­it­ive “loos” instead of being flogged. The pro­vi­sions on the ship were of great con­cern to him and he made sure that enough meat and food were taken aboard the ship.
His gun­nery crew were trained incess­antly and, in 1795, at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, his ship was cap­able of firing three full broad­sides in three and a half minutes.
In 1793 France declared war on Britain that lasted twenty two years. Now cap­tain of the Barfleur, Collingwood won vic­tory at the “Glorious First of June” battle. Six French ships were cap­tured and Collingwood was wounded. Though he was in the thick of the action, he was not men­tioned in dis­patches and did not receive a gold medal — this grieved him greatly.
During the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the French fleet was in the form of a cres­cent but the English fleet attacked them in two par­al­lel lines. Collingwood, at the head of one of the lines, was the first to engage the enemy and his ship fired broad­sides with such rapid­ity and pre­ci­sion that the Spanish flag ship, the Santa Anna almost sank. Nelson was killed during this battle and Collingwood assumed the title of Commander in Chief.
He was pro­moted to Vice Admiral and became Baron Collingwood. He was awar­ded gold medals for Trafalgar and Cape St. Vincent which he only accep­ted on the con­di­tion that he got one for the First of June Battle also.
In 1805 he was com­mander of the Mediterranean fleet and wished that he could return home. This was denied as the gov­ern­ment still required his ser­vices. His health declined rap­idly and he was forced to request retire­ment which was gran­ted but he died at sea on the 7th March 1810 on his way home. He was laid to rest in St. Paul’s Cathedral along­side Nelson’s tomb.
Peter was thanked for his inter­est­ing and inform­at­ive talk and he prom­ised to visit Probus again in the future when he has fin­ished his research into the Battle of Jutland.

Changes in Fashions of The Antiques Auction World. – Vivienne Milburn – 23rd April 2018.

Vivienne Milburn valu­ing a paint­ing

Vivienne is an inde­pend­ent antiques valuer and auc­tion­eer, based in Great Longstone, near Bakewell, Derbyshire. This means that she is not tied to one auc­tion house and will put client’s goods in the best auc­tion for its genre ensur­ing that the optimum price is obtained.

A lot of her work is for cli­ents who are ‘downs­iz­ing’, for insur­ance valu­ations and pro­bate pur­poses. She likes to think that her cli­ents can bene­fit from the true value of their pieces rather than the people spe­cial­iz­ing in house clear­ances. It is quite sur­pris­ing how some incon­sequen­tial look­ing pieces can have a very high value.

Apart from work­ing for private cli­ents she also gives talks to vari­ous organ­isa­tions includ­ing Probus and the U3A about the chan­ging fash­ions of the antiques auc­tion world, and invari­ably she asks that her audi­ence bring along their own pieces for valu­ation; a sort of private, ‘Antiques Road Show’. This was the format of her talk to us.

She star­ted by dis­play­ing a slide of a typ­ical 1960’s lounge con­tain­ing min­im­al­istic fur­niture, show­ing tubu­lar steel dining chairs and table, a ladder book­case, a simple stand­ard lamp and a high winged arm­chair.  Ten years ago, this type of fur­niture would have been vir­tu­ally worth­less. Before this period most fur­niture was made entirely from wood but in the 60s many more mater­i­als were intro­duced includ­ing steel and plastic and now young people can’t get enough of it caus­ing its value to go right up.

A wall unit man­u­fac­tured in the 60s sold for £750.00 a few weeks ago and a side­board, dining table and six chairs sold for £3,500.

She sells for cli­ents all over the coun­try because vari­ous parts of the UK have interests in dif­fer­ent styles. As an example, she said that G Plan fur­niture might fetch a few hun­dred pounds in Yorkshire but in Essex it would be more like thou­sands of pounds, simply because the style is desir­able there.

She talked about the effect of China on the market and espe­cially on Chinese goods and by that she was not refer­ring to Chinese goods made for export. During the Chinese cul­tural revolu­tion, the vast major­ity of the people suffered ter­ribly and were exceed­ingly poor. Now that the eco­nomy of China is becom­ing one of the lead­ing eco­nom­ies in the world people are want­ing to own Chinese arte­facts which have found their way into the Western world and their value has increased many times over. One mono glazed vase sold for £26,000 and a jade Tarchens thumb ring sold for £21,000.

A Jade Tarchen Thumb ring used by Chinese Archers.In the access­ory market goods fetch a high price as well provided that they have a designer label. Recently a Chanel hand­bag cost­ing between £12,000 to £15,000 when new sold recently for £2,500. A pair of black brogue Shoes made by John Lobb would cost about £4,000, because they be made to a model of the pur­chasers, foot would cost about £4,000 new, sold at auc­tion for £750.00

Silver and gold jew­ellery also can com­mand a high price. An amber neck­lace fetched £25,000 because of its Chinese intent. A single stone 3 carat Diamond ring sold for £11,000.

Northern art is also in demand. A small paint­ing by Arthur Delaney in the style of Lowry sold for £6,800.

Tin plate toys made by Mettoy of Northampton are also col­lect­ors’ items. The firm was star­ted in 1933 by the German, Philip Ullman who had a toy com­pany in Nuremburg called Tipp & Co. He fled Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power because he was a German Jew.

The last half an hour of the morn­ing was given over the valu­ation of some mem­bers items, like the ‘Antiques Road Show’. Some mem­bers were pleased with what they were told but I have no doubt that many were dis­ap­poin­ted.

The morn­ing was very edu­ca­tional, enter­tain­ing and very well presen­ted and the club mem­bers showed their interest and appre­ci­ation by the ques­tions they asked and the applause they gave  Vivienne at the end of the meet­ing.

My Early Years In The Merchant Navy — Brian Smith — 16th April 2018

Five months after he gave us a talk on part two of his career – as a sur­veyor for Lloyd’s Register – Brian Smith, a member of the Barrow upon Humber Probus Club, returned by pop­u­lar demand to give us part one, cov­er­ing his years as a ship’s engin­eer.

Brian’s career change was forced upon him when, after just over 18 years in the Merchant Navy, he was made redund­ant, largely as a result of con­tain­er­isa­tion. One con­tainer ship could replace half a dozen ordin­ary cargo ships in terms of load car­ry­ing capa­city, and today they are even bigger. One reason why Britain cannot com­pete in the build­ing of these huge ves­sels is that there is vir­tu­ally nowhere in UK waters where they can be launched.

Not that the ships Brian worked on were exactly tid­dlers. He sailed in 15 dif­fer­ent ves­sels, and at the peak of his first career he was chief engin­eer of a ship of 76,000 tonnes. He was away for up to nine months at a stretch, sail­ing the waters of the world with car­goes ran­ging from bana­nas to cars.

Brian, des­pite having no family sea­far­ing his­tory, was inspired to seek work in the marine world when, as a young boy being driven for days out at the sea­side with his par­ents to either Redcar or Saltburn, he would pass the large docks in Middlesbrough. He left school at the age of 15 in 1960 and obtained his first job as a mes­sen­ger boy at the local Furness shipyard.

An aerial view of Middlesbrough docks in the 1950s

As I walked around the docks area deliv­er­ing doc­u­ments I would see every aspect of the trade, from ship­wrights to port­ers, and being an inquis­it­ive type I would always ask them what they were doing.

I was soon inden­tured as an appren­tice, which involved two years in a fit­ting shop and three in a machine shop, oper­at­ing lathes and other equip­ment, and at 18 you were allowed to go out­side to work in the main­ten­ance depart­ment, work­ing on the ships.

One day I saw some­body who every­body was taking notice of – he was obvi­ously very import­ant – and I had it explained to me that he was the Lloyd’s sur­veyor inspect­ing the ship.”

Plucking up cour­age, Brian asked the man from Lloyd’s: “How do I get your job?” He replied: “Easy son, go to sea and get your qual­i­fic­a­tions,” and took a note of Brian’s name and address.

I didn’t really expect to hear any­thing, but one day I got a letter from the Board of Trade telling me that I would have to go to sea.” Brian told his man­ager that he wanted to leave his job ashore, and after ini­tially being refused because of his appren­tice­ship he was allowed to leave the fol­low­ing January to pursue his chosen career in what was then the world’s largest mer­chant navy.

He was told to report to his first ship at Avonmouth, and he star­ted work as a junior engin­eer in 1966.

Brian worked first for the Hain Steamship Company, which was estab­lished as a public com­pany in 1901 but could trace its roots back to 1816. The com­pany was acquired by the P&O Steam Navigation Company in 1917, con­tinu­ing to oper­ate as a sep­ar­ate entity, although Brian later worked for the P&O Tramp Company, based in London.

A ship engaged in the tramp trade is one which does not have a fixed sched­ule or pub­lished ports of call, as opposed to a freight liner.

After join­ing another ship sail­ing the North Atlantic, Brian came home on leave and went to col­lege to gain his Certificate of Competency as an engin­eer. He rejoined the ship as a fourth engin­eer, and cel­eb­rated his 21st birth­day off the coast of West Africa.

He returned to col­lege to gain his second engineer’s ticket and then joined the Tyne-built gen­eral cargo ship Trewidden, bound for the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean where, off the coast of South Africa, the cap­tain was mys­ter­i­ously lost over­board.

The Trewidden, which Brian joined as Second Engineer

Brian regaled us with col­our­ful stor­ies of his voy­ages around the world, ran­ging from the time a ship was left to pick up the tab when crew mem­bers vis­ited a house of ill repute in Mombasa, to his unwit­ting part in the so-called Great Grain Robbery of 1972 when the Soviet Union cov­ertly pur­chased 10 mil­lion tons of United States wheat and corn but were unable to use Russian ships to trans­port it.

Brian’s present­a­tion coin­cided with a very suc­cess­ful first meet­ing in our new tem­por­ary home at the Hallam Community and Youth Association hall while con­struc­tion work is due to get under way at the Fulwood Church Hall.

The Great Central Railway East Of Sheffield — Stephen Gay — 9th April 2018

Sheffield Victoria to Kiverton Park

It seems there is some­thing about rail­ways in the genes of gen­tle­men of our age group which is rather more than nos­tal­gia.  Our speaker this week, Stephen Gay, is a master of this vast sub­ject, coming on his nine­teenth visit.  Having taken us to far flung Cornwall only a few weeks ago, this time our excur­sion  was to be rather nearer to home and a jour­ney of rather shorter distance- about ten miles.

It is easy to focus on the west­ern side of our city with its obvi­ous attrac­tions; Stephen invited us look east where there is much of over­looked interest.  Opening up his usual cor­nu­copia of slides we were to be treated to scenes largely for­got­ten or neg­lected during a pho­toghrapic tour of a short part of the old Great Central Railway (GCR): Sheffield Victoria to Kiverton Park.  Most of the 36 slides came from unused mater­ial from his book “Through Kirton Tunnel”, pub­lished in 2004.  We were reminded that there was no ‘direct’ route into Sheffield until the Midland Railway provided this in 1870.  The GCR and its pre­de­cessors  ori­gin­ally ran ser­vices into King’s Cross via Retford but added, from 1899 Marylebone, the year it opened it’s ‘London exten­sion’ via Aylesbury and the Metropolitan line.  The Company sprang from the ambi­tious Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway which aspired not only to rival the Midland and Great Northern but to run ser­vices to Paris.  Hence its con­struc­tion to ‘Berne’ gauge and strict  align­ment and grad­ing stand­ards allow­ing, from 1903, a three-hour timing non-stop from Sheffield to London (163 miles).  Direct ser­vices were offered to sev­eral des­tin­a­tions to the East and South, includ­ing Bournemouth (via Banbury) and Harwich and Immingham/New Holland to con­nect with Continental boats.

Sheffield Victoria, as seen in 1957

The GCR system was to reach peak traffic in the 1950s, which at one point was so intens­ive (over 400 train move­ments per day) that elec­tri­fic­a­tion via a new Woodhead Tunnel was under­taken between Wath and Manchester.

Sheffield Victoria rail­way sta­tion, September 1969

A vast auto­matic mar­shalling yard was built at Tinsley.  Much of the track was quad­rupled and given multi aspect sig­nalling.  But the impact of the private car, lor­ries and motor­ways in the early 1960s rap­idly took their toll and this, with the later demise of the steel and coal indus­tries, removed its raison d’etre.  The later was ser­viced at Annersley, which provided a col­lec­tion hub for col­lier­ies in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Now only the stretch between Sheffield, Lincoln and Cleethorpes sur­vives Dr Beeching’s ration­al­isa­tions.

So what remains of this once busy and mod­ern­ised route?  We star­ted our jour­ney east­wards at Sheffield Victoria and the Wicker via­duct with its penny lift (opened 1851, finally closed 1983 when ser­vices to Huddersfield were diver­ted to start at Midland).  Engineered by Sir John Fowler of Forth Bridge fame, we pro­ceeded to view shots of the line and its adjoin­ing envir­on­ment.  These included the modern Nunnery Supertram depot, a June only weed-killing train in action, Bernard Road and Woodburn Road depots.  Parkway market sid­ings came next with a photo of the last rail deliv­ery van in 1983.  Then a shot of the now demol­ished Craven’s Engineering works which pro­duced everything from mil­it­ary equip­ment to the city’s ori­ginal trams.  Next stop was to inspect the unsightly and, at night, unsafe bus shel­ter at Darnall which replaced the ori­ginal four can­op­ied plat­form premises that more than once won the “best kept sta­tion” award.  A pit stop fol­lowed, where we were shown the remains of a sig­nal­mans’ toilet block –last flushed in 1971!

The lin­eside post-industrial coun­tryside was now begin­ning to open out. Slag heaps had now been removed and ‘greened’, inter­spersed with fields of yellow rape­seed.  We pro­ceeded via Orgreave of miners’ strike infame (1983).  We were pleased to learn that one of the few ‘double Pavilion’ style GCR sta­tions at Woodhouse has been restored, a sur­vival in a sea of destruc­tion. We con­tin­ued past the site of Beighton sta­tion (opened 1849 closed 1954) and its level cross­ing, the scene of a bad acci­dent involving a mil­it­ary train in 1942, when steel sheets, dis­lodged from wagon, caused derail­ment. (See poem at end)  Our next stop was the site of the Beighton track main­ten­ance yard built by German POWs in 1942. Stephen worked here as a yard­man between 1979 and 1992, when he was made redund­ant. He was thus able to take and share pic­tures of when the yard was oper­a­tional with its steam crane, piles of sleep­ers and 60ft lengths of track. There was a happy shot of a rotund Polish col­league ‘Ted’ and a sad one of 1920s wooden car­riages being des­troyed –how con­ser­va­tion­ists would have liked to have acquired those!

We were then shown an aerial photo of the area sur­round­ing what is now the Rother Valley Country Park with its lakes and river diver­sions.  A whole miss-mash of lines of com­pet­ing lines squeezed (and fre­quently cross­ing over each other) through the valley which in future will also take the HST2 ser­vice towards Leeds. The area also hosts Beighton Junction where the GCR divided east­wards towards Worksop and Southwards towards Annersley and the London Extension via Nottingham Victoria. The remain­ing rival  Midland Railway goods line is still used as a relief route.

Approaching the end of our jour­ney we still had sur­prises in store.  We were shown the remains of a buried tunnel, which had once provided a time saving short cut for Grimsby fish trains. Next came a recent nat­ural dis­aster: shots of the rail­way embank­ment col­lapse near Waleswood, due to a com­bin­a­tion of rabbit war­rens and flood pres­sure in 2007.  This left an unusual ‘sus­pen­sion’ bridge of track over a fifty foot gap which for­tu­nately was repor­ted by an alert driver. The line was out of action for six months.   And so to our final whistle stops: the ‘new’ (1929) sta­tion at Kiverton Bridge and Kiverton Park. By now at risk of run­ning late we regret­fully had to call a halt.

Stephen included examples of his own rail­way poems in  his most inter­est­ing and enjoy­able present­a­tion includ­ing:

 A Soldier Down The Line
(Click on the link to down­load the poem.)

Like a change from the Peak District?  Kiverton Park Station (with pub oppos­ite) is the start of a delight­ful three mile flat walk along the Chesterfield Canal to regain the rail­way at Shireoaks.  There is an hourly ser­vice to/from Sheffield which enables you to see many of the sites men­tioned in this blog.  It’s espe­cially pleas­ant during the blue­bell season.