Category Archives: Talks


This was John Taylor’s fourth visit to Stumperlowe Probus Club, but this time it felt more as though we were the vis­it­ors and he was lead­ing us on a fas­cin­at­ing day out, vir­tu­ally in our own back­yard.

It’s amaz­ing what undis­covered treas­ures there are on one’s own door­step, and John’s talk took us on a  guided tour either side of the bound­ary between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

That wavy line has of course been changed many times over the years. The Sheffield suburb of Dore, which once stood on the border of the Anglo-Saxon king­doms of Northumbria and Mercia, was in the county of Derbyshire until 1934, and neigh­bour­ing Norton was trans­ferred to Sheffield in two tranches, in 1901 and 1934.

John’s present­a­tion could have been sub-titled Connected Jottings, but in fact there wasn’t a jot­ting in sight as he took us through an eclectic mix of local his­tory without a single note in front of him. John is a pro­fes­sional his­tor­ian with a broad know­ledge of his sub­ject. He is a writer, his­tor­ical con­sult­ant and researcher, and often acts as a guide for English Heritage and other public bodies.

More import­antly to us, per­haps, he also believes that his­tory should be a fun sub­ject appeal­ing to all tastes and back­grounds.

I like to look beneath the sur­face and link things together, so that the talk has con­tinu­ity,” he told us in his intro­duc­tion. “Horace Walpole coined the term ‘serendip­ity’ [mean­ing a for­tu­nate hap­pen­stance or a pleas­ant sur­prise], but the dif­fer­ence with me is that I actu­ally look for serendip­ity.”

Our meander star­ted in Norton, birth­place (in 1781) of Sir Francis Chantrey, the lead­ing por­trait sculptor of Regency era Britain. Chantrey, who died at the age of 60 and is buried in the church­yard at Norton, was a friend of the Bagshawe family, which gave us a link to Oakes Park, home of the Bagshawes for almost 300 years until 1987.

Sir Francis Chantrey, sculptor

Francis Chantrey designed the ter­race in front of the house, but Sir John Nash laid out the grounds of Oakes Park and the lake there was dug by Napoleonic pris­on­ers between 1803 and 1804. So on now to Dronfield, where the Lucas Arch marks the site of Lucas’s steel foundry which pro­duced can­non­balls which were used in the Napoleonic Wars and, in all prob­ab­il­ity, at the decis­ive Battle of Waterloo.

The Napoleonic link then took us on to Chesterfield, where French officers who were pris­on­ers of war were bil­leted at the Falcon Inn, now a branch of the Yorkshire Building Society.

Chesterfield’s crooked spire.

The town is prob­ably most famous for its crooked spire, and in the church­yard of St Mary and All Saints is a memorial stone to a French pris­oner who was cap­tured in Sardinia, imprisoned on a float­ing hulk ship and then offered parole in Chesterfield.



Tapton House

We went, appro­pri­ately, via the only remain­ing build­ing which made up the ori­ginal Chesterfield rail­way sta­tion to Tapton House, which was the home of rail­way pion­eer George Stephenson for the last ten years of his life. The house was then bought by the Markham family of engin­eers and col­li­ery owners and it was the birth­place in 1872 of the prom­in­ent suf­fra­gette Violet Markham.


George Stephenson, engin­eer and inventor

George Stephenson, whose statue stands out­side the present Chesterfield sta­tion, is best known as the father of the rail­ways, but he also designed a miner’s safety lamp and even a glass cucum­ber straight­ener, an example of which is on dis­play at the town’s museum. Not a lot of people know that.



At Ashover we saw the Crispin Inn, dating back to the time of Agincourt, and — next door to it — All Saints’ Church which houses a lead font dating back to 1150 which the rector, Emanuel Vaughan, buried in his garden for five years during the Civil War.


The wind­ing house for the former Matlock tram­way

Hold tight! Our next stop was Matlock, and what was pre­vi­ously the wind­ing house for the steep­est road­way tram system in the world, beat­ing even San Francisco. Smedley’s Hydro in the town became a School of Military Intelligence during World War Two, when Dirk Bogarde (who would end his ser­vice as a major) was among its stu­dents.


The former Rowsley sta­tion

Rowsley Retail Park was built as the sixth    Duke of Devonshire’s rail­way sta­tion. No doubt Chatsworth’s garden designer Joseph Paxton used the sta­tion in later years, but his first jour­ney to Chatsworth had been via the Chesterfield coach and a long walk over the moors. Paxton, who coin­cid­ent­ally was the mater­nal grand­father of Violet Markham, of Tapton House, is buried in the family tomb in the church­yard at Edensor.


The Rutland Inn, Bakewell

Who knew that Jane Austen wrote, or at least revised the manu­script of, her novel Pride and Prejudice while stay­ing at the Rutland Arms in Bakewell, where the first eponym­ous pud­ding was made by an Ann Wheeldon?


Frederic Barker, Archbishop of Sydney from 1854 to 1882, was born in Baslow and is buried in the church­yard there.


The Round House, Ringinglow

Almost back in Sheffield now, and the Round House at Ringinglow, built in 1893 at the con­ver­gence of two turn­pikes, isn’t round at all but octa­gonal. Totley Tunnel, which cuts beneath the Derbyshire-Yorkshire bound­ary, was opened in the same year but the memorial to the nav­vies killed during its con­struc­tion is in the cemetery at Crookes, tra­di­tional centre of the Irish com­munity in Sheffield.


Our run-in to the centre of Sheffield was via the city’s first tram shed at Heeley, built in 1878, and the Botanical Gardens, to the Wicker Arches, designed by Sir John Fowler, of Wadsley Hall, whose later work included the Forth rail­way bridge.

After a diver­sion to Ecclesfield, where Nelson’s per­sonal chap­lain Alexander John Scott is buried (he was the father-in-law of the vicar), we ended up in para­dise. Well, Paradise Square to be pre­cise.

The afore­men­tioned Francis Chantrey had his first studio at No 24, and other occu­pants of the square included the phys­i­cian David Daniel Davis, who was present at the birth of Queen Victoria in 1819 and was later appoin­ted first Professor of Midwifery at the University of London.

Never again need we be short of ideas for a local day out!


Lloyd’s Register – Brian Smith C. Eng, C. Mar. Eng, F.I. Mar. Est. – 13th November 2017

For most of us, the unini­ti­ated, Lloyd’s imme­di­ately con­jures up vis­ions of the vast insur­ance giant. The other aspect of Lloyd’s is the part known as Lloyd’s Register. Brian has worked for LR which is a well-respected con­glom­er­ate derived from the same ori­gins.
It is owned by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, a UK char­ity ded­ic­ated to research, edu­ca­tion and sci­ence. In par­tic­u­lar, they pride them­selves on know­ledge, integ­rity and tech­nical excel­lence. Their cli­ents are given con­fid­ence that their assets and busi­nesses are safe and depend on LR’s com­pli­ance and tech­nical know-how.

LR’s turnover is £1.3 bil­lion, and they employ 9,000 staff. It star­ted from the ori­ginal coffee house concept as Lloyd’s Insurance in 1688. LR was the first, in 1760, to ensure that ships were built and main­tained to an appro­pri­ate stand­ard for safety and effi­ciency. John Angerstern, a mech­anic and engin­eer, was appoin­ted the first Chairman of LR, and 16 sur­vey­ors – either master mar­iners or ship­wrights – were employed for inform­a­tion and advice. The first register of ships was soon pro­duced, con­tain­ing inform­a­tion on 4,118 ships from 16 dif­fer­ent ports.
Thomas Chapman was appoin­ted the first sec­ret­ary of LR in 1834, estab­lish­ing new sys­tems which are still in use today, such as for­eign bases around the world which were estab­lished with dis­cip­line and cred­ib­il­ity.
Suirius was an early iron steam­ship cer­tki­fied by LR. Lizzie Leslie was the first iron sail­ing ship clas­si­fied as ‘100 A1’ in 1870. The 19th cen­tury saw the intro­duc­tion of com­pos­ite mater­i­als for ships such as the Cutty Sark, and A. Cornish was a sur­veyor between 1900 and 1909 who con­duc­ted research for the Cunard Line on the Mauritania and Lusitania.

An excerpt from Lloyd’s Register of 1874–75, with details (the last vessel shown) of the SS Princess Royal, owned and oper­ated by Capt John Husband, great great uncle of our sec­ret­ary Graham Snowdon!


The Mirex, a tanker for trans­port­ing crude oil from the Black Sea to the UK, was registered for Shell Oil in 1892, and the Bakin was the first modern oil tanker.
From 1920, LR began inspec­tion of oil stor­age tanks, built for use in the Middle East. The inspec­tion of elec­trical gen­er­at­ing plants, par­tic­u­larly boil­ers, came within LR’s remit .
Also in 1920, Joseph Isherwood over­saw the con­struc­tion of SS Fullgar, the first all-welded seago­ing tanker to be registered 100 A!. The Beldis, built in 1924 by Armstrongs for the Norwegians, was the first heavy-lift ship.
LR were appoin­ted inspect­ors of the Americas Cup yachts in the 19th cen­tury, and they still inspect luxury yachts. In the 1930s they were the inspect­ing author­ity for air­craft, although this work was later taken over by the Civil Aviation Authority.
During World War II, LR assisted ship­build­ers in recon­struct­ing their mer­chant fleet after many losses during the con­flict They were also involved in the invest­ig­a­tion into many marine dis­asters, such as explo­sions on bulk car­ri­ers, and their scope now also covers the design and inspec­tion of oil rigs.
Our speaker, Brian Smith, con­tin­ues his involve­ment today to re-establish mer­chant navy appren­tice­ships in Hull. This, hope­fully, will re-establish Great Britain’s place in the naut­ical world. It was an excel­lent present­a­tion, by a gen­tle­man who knows his busi­ness.

Sheffield Street Names — David Templeman — 6th November 2017.

Our Speaker this week, David Templeman, has given us sev­eral most inter­est­ing talks on the local his­tory of our city and this was to be no excep­tion.  His present­a­tion was to cover a broader pic­ture than its title.  As we were to dis­cover, Sheffield’s street names encap­su­late and bring us into touch with so much of our city’s his­tory.

If you click here a map of Sheffield in 1771 will appear on a sep­ar­ate tab and you will be able to flip to and from the map using your tabs at the top of your browser.

David began his talk by sketch­ing out the ori­gins of our street names.  In many instances these are obscure but are thought to be adap­tions of earlier names.  While Sheffield does not share (with example, York) Roman influ­ences or a defin­ing sur­round­ing wall it did share Viking (eg ‘thorpe’ and ‘toft’ Danish names for farm­stead and out­build­ings), Norman and medi­eval aspects includ­ing a castle (at four acres the fourth largest site in England), narrow streets and over­hanging build­ings.   Some his­tor­i­ans think there must at some time been set­tle­ment from the Celtic fringes as some street names have Gallic deriv­a­tion includ­ing Fargate (Fuaran) and Balm Green (Beum).   In common with many towns, Sheffield has its fair share of names derived from local prom­in­ent people (Eyre, Fitzwilliam, Matilda, Norfolk, Howard) from its sur­round­ing coun­tryside and agri­cul­ture products (green, field, mill, pond, pool, nurs­ery, orch­ards, hay, milk, peas, sheaf) all fea­ture.  The cur­rent con­tro­versy over remov­ing trees reminded us that Sheffield has a his­tory of parks and tree lined streets planted to beau­tify, to combat pol­lu­tion and to com­mem­or­ate the fallen in wars (eg Western Road). Did we know that off the High Street there were once tree lined ‘crofts’ sur­round­ing fine houses? While there is no lime street (the most common street tree (eg Rivelin Valley Road has a two mile avenue) our arboreal friends are rep­res­en­ted by the humble holly, syca­more, fig and mul­berry.

Our speaker moved on to take us on a tour of “old” pre 1700 Sheffield. This was a com­pact area bounded by the Don and castle on the north-east, the Sheaf and ponds to the east, Moorhead to the south, the (now demol­ished) cross at the junc­tion of Townhead and Church Streets to the west and West Bar to the north. The town was to soon out­grow this area with the pop­u­la­tion rising from around 1500 people in 1600 over 500,000 by 1900 with most of the growth after 1850 as the steel industry (now ser­viced by rail­ways and steam power) expan­ded from the con­fined (water powered) val­leys to the flat East End.

We com­menced our tour at Barker’s pool, a reser­voir fed by one of the many fresh water springs to be found in cent­ral Sheffield.  This facil­ity, much safer than a pol­luted well, provided drink­ing water and a supply in the event of fire. Every quarter, water was released to flush the streets clear of animal drop­pings and detritus. The depos­its were flushed down the hill formed by what is now the High Street (the best area to live) via the Castle and into the Don near Lady’s Bridge-the poorest area.  We were shown photos of some of the narrow streets nearby includ­ing Balm Green with small cot­tages still in place as late as 1900.  We then moved along Coal Pit Lane ( since 1857 named Cambridge street after a Crimean War General). Coal was once dug to a depth of 60 feet in this loc­a­tion.  Progressing via Holly Street where there was graz­ing, Pinfold Street (animal com­pound), Trippet Lane (with another water source named after a local family) to Paradise Square  (mean­ing ‘enclosed place’) the home to a pros­per­ous, pro­fes­sional com­munity with access to fresh air. We looked at pic­tures of old Fig Lane, narrow as today, Hartshead with its deer hunt­ing con­nec­tions and Sheffield from Kelham Island show­ing orch­ards in the fore­ground and bucolic  hedge-rowed coun­tryside behind now covered by hous­ing around Manor.

The Wicker (Viking Viker) area, once much more the centre of grav­ity than today, Waingate and site of Castle market were the next points of interest.  Apparently there has been a cross­ing at Lady’s Bridge since 1486 (named after the chapel of Our Lady demol­ished in 1760) the bridge being widened in that year and 1864 and 1909. The ori­ginal bridge is still there.  This was also the site of a duck­ing stool for unruly women as well as a bear bait­ing pit. Moving past the site of Sheffield Castle (also demol­ished in 1760) and Market (demol­ished 2015) we traced the now under­ground River Sheaf to Ponds Forge where the was another bridge across a fre­quently flooded area (now Midland Station) lead­ing up to avenue of walnut trees towards what became Norfolk Park.

The Duke of Norfolk was to become, and remains, the largest landowner in the Sheffield area having been gran­ted land rights by James Ist in 1617. His suc­cessors  began develop the area (known as Allsopp’s fields) to the south east of what is now the Moor from 1771 onwards, set­ting the grid pat­tern of streets we see today and bequeath­ing many street and pub names.  We returned to the city centre via the romantic sound­ing Truelove’s Gutter (now Castle street) Tudor Square and Chapel Walk.  Our last port of call was Cutlers’ Hall of which there have been three, the cur­rent build­ing dating from 1852. The Cathedral, oppos­ite, deserves a talk in its own right.

In con­clu­sion, our Chairman warmly thanked David Templeman for another fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion leav­ing us much better informed on our city’s his­tory and nomen­clature.  What better way for work­ing up an appet­ite for our annual lunch which was to follow!



The True Story Of Burke And Hare — Prof. Christopher Dorries OBE. — 30th October 2017.

Prof. Christopher Dorries OBE.

The true story of Burke and Hare was nar­rated to us in a most riv­et­ing way by Christopher Dorries  and this precis does not do it justice.  The title con­tains the word,“True” because there have been many stor­ies about them which are largely inac­cur­ate.  Firstly they all say that Burke and Hare were grave rob­bers, which they weren’t. They just com­mit­ted murder for a busi­ness. Secondly the stor­ies do not include Dr Knox who played a key role in the whole sordid affair.

Burke and Hare

The story starts in Edinburgh in 1828, not among the fine build­ings of Princess Street but in the slums around West Gate. Burke and Hare lived in a lodging house run by Mrs Hare, which was, in itself, a very seedy place. One night, a tenant known as ‘Old Donald’ died in bed owing Mrs Hare £4.00 which was most unfor­tu­nate.

Now Edinburgh was famous for the study of ana­tomy and emin­ent sur­geons demon­strated their skills to stu­dents, who had paid the required fee, cash in hand in oper­at­ing theatres at the uni­ver­sity, using human corpses. As one can ima­gine these were hard to come by legit­im­ately and sur­geons would pay a high price for one,

Dr Knox.

Old Donald’ was an itin­er­ant with no known rel­at­ives, so Burke and Hare decided to sell his body to the uni­ver­sity to recoup some of the money. As it turned out a Dr Knox was very pleased to pay between £7.50 and £10.00 for the body and said that if they came across any­more lying about in the gutter he would gladly have them.

Burke and Hare saw this as a busi­ness oppor­tun­ity and rather than go grave rob­bing and risk get­ting beaten up they decided to simply murder their vic­tims without mark­ing their bodies. They did this by get­ting their chosen prey drunk and then taking them back to the lodging house where they dis­patched them by suf­foc­a­tion or burk­ing as it became known.

Two of their vic­tims were Mary Patterson, only 18 years old and James Wilson, again only 18 years old but known as being men­tally sub­nor­mal and called ‘Daft Jamie’. Mary was strik­ingly beau­ti­ful and so ini­tially Dr Knox pre­served her body in whisky and kept her for  artists and stu­dents as a model“for the best illus­tra­tion of female form and mus­cu­lar devel­op­ment”. Mary was recog­nised almost straight away by the male stu­dents because she earned her living by pros­ti­tu­tion and doubt­less sev­eral had used her ser­vices.

Daft Jamie’ was murdered in the usual way but when his body was unpacked at the uni­ver­sity he also was recog­nised straight away so Dr Knox instruc­ted one of his assist­ants to remove the head and feet to hide his iden­tity, which was some­thing unheard of.

By this time Dr Knox Knew that Burke and Hare weren’t just lucky in find­ing bodies but he turned a blind eye so that he could have a steady supply. They murdered between 16 and 20 people over a period  of 10 months, February  to November in 1828 but this has been exag­ger­ated to 30. They finally came unstuck when they murdered an Irish beggar known as Mary Docherty.

A new coupled arrived at the lodging house and found her body under the bed. They went to the police but when they returned the body had gone. The police were sus­pi­cious of Dr Knox and so they went to his ana­tomy premises and found Dr Knox, Burke, Hare and the body of Mary Docherty.

Dr Knox denied that he had any know­ledge that the body was a murder victim and the police accep­ted this but Burke, Hare and their wives were locked up. However suf­foc­a­tion in those days was dif­fi­cult to prove and evid­ence was flimsy, so the police did a deal with Hare who turned King’s evid­ence for his free­dom. Hare and his wife test­i­fied against Burke  and his ‘wife’, Helen McDougal. Burke was found guilty and sen­tenced to the gal­lows but the ver­dict for Helen McDougal was ‘not proven’ and she was released.

The Public Hanging Of Burke.

He was hanged in public at the end of January 1829 when a crowd of many thou­sands watched. He had a slow death, whether by design or acci­dent because the hang­man moved the knot and his neck wasn’t broken, he just strangled on the rope.

Among the crowd was a woman called Maria Grotzholz, known to us as Madam Tussaud and a wax­work of Burke was on show in Liverpool within two weeks of his exe­cu­tion.


The mem­bers of Stumperlowe Probus were enthralled by the talk and asked many ques­tions. Unfortunately some of detail has been left out but I hope you have been given an insight into the excel­lent present­a­tion by Prof. Christopher Dorries OBE.

Hull City of Culture 2017 — James McGuire — 23th October 2017

City of Culture” is an event held every four years high­light­ing one loc­a­tion in the UK and pro­mot­ing arts and cul­ture as a means of cel­eb­ra­tion and regen­er­a­tion.  In 2013 Kingston upon Hull was one of sev­eral cities to submit a bid for the event  Their sub­mis­sion was suc­cess­ful based on the pro­posed use of thou­sands of volun­teers and a budget of £12m.  They man­aged to recruit Martin Green as the CEO and Director of a new inde­pend­ent com­pany and char­it­able trust named “Hull UK City of Culture 2017”.  He has exper­i­ence of organ­ising large events includ­ing parts of the London Olympic Games.  He at an early stage set the budget for the event at £18m and set about rais­ing the money.  In the event over £30m was raised.

James McGuire was born and edu­cated in Hull and is employed for 2017 by the new Company as the Audience Engagement Manager.

He explained how the City was extens­ively bombed during WW2 to be fol­lowed by the loss of its fish­ing industry to Iceland.  The main long stand­ing indus­tries include Smith & Nephew, Armco, BP and pre­fab­ric­ated build­ings and cara­vans.  Despite its well regarded uni­ver­sity and its motor­way con­nec­tion, there was a feel­ing in 2013 of a com­munity in decline.  A local joke at the time was “you’ll find more cul­ture in a yogurt pot than in the whole of Hull”.  The present Hull is very dif­fer­ent.  It has a grow­ing off shore wind tur­bine industry, its tour­ism industry is expand­ing with a new hotel in the city center and a pro­posed pas­sen­ger liner ter­minal planned to aug­ment the ferry ter­minal.  By attract­ing 2,500 local volun­teers and refur­bish­ing city center build­ings there is a wel­com­ing buzz and a belief in the future of the city.

Although the city of cul­ture is a 12 month event, the impetus gained will con­tinue into the years ahead.  In 2017 the activ­it­ies were centered on four sea­sons. The 1st (January to March) was “Made in Hull” and chal­lenged pre­con­cep­tions and showed what Hull is really made of.  The 2nd (April to June) was “Roots and routes” and explored Hull’s place in a con­stantly chan­ging world.  The 3rd (July to September) was “Freedom” where it cel­eb­rated its rebel­li­ous streak and its free­dom of thought, unboun­ded by con­ven­tion.  The 4th (October to December) will look to the future and “Tell the world”.  It will look at how Hull is rede­fin­ing itself as a key city within the North.

The talk was a wake up call to embrace a city on Sheffield’s door­step that has been ignored for too long.  Useful addresses for Hull City of Culture are listed below:

Turner Prize 2017 (Ferens Art Gallery, on until Sunday 7 January 2018)

Walking Tours (Hull’s Old Town)

Hull New Theatre and Hull City Hall

Hull Truck Theatre

Thoughts on the History of Crime, the Courts and Capital Punishment — Peter Stubbs — 16th October 2017.

Peter attemp­ted to sum­mar­ise 900 years of legal his­tory in just over an hour , cov­er­ing the quirks and wisdom of English law. –no mean chal­lenge  .  Today, we have trial by jury , no death sen­tence and our jails are full includ­ing over 300 inmates on life sen­tences alone.  No longer are  the guilty flogged, hung, immersed in boil­ing oil or burnt at the stake.  Clearly, justice and the pen­al­ties for crime have moved on a great deal since the medi­eval ages although many offences are very sim­ilar.

Before Trial by Jury, we had the pleas­ant­ries of Trial by Water, Trial by Fire and Trial by Battle.  

Trial by Water would see the accused  immersed in a pond if they sur­vived they were guilty, if they didn’t they were not guilty !!!    Trial by Fire con­sisted of put­ting a piece of red hot iron into the clench fist of the accused , whilst Trial by Battle was settled in a 60 foot square where the accuser and the accused would fight to the last man stand­ing to settle the ver­dict. All very prim­it­ive stuff.  Trial by Battle is hardly a modern way of set­tling legal mat­ters but this didn’t stop an aggrieved motor­ist who had received a fixed pen­alty notice from asking the DVLA for the name of their cham­pion to resolve the dis­pute.  Needless to say the DVLA did not respond and the motor­ist was still fined.

Up to, and includ­ing the 12th cen­tury, the power­ful clergy were involved in admin­is­ter­ing the law, but they were often cor­rupt and in 1215 they were for­bid­den from involve­ment in legal mat­ters.   The concept of Trial by Jury was estab­lished in the 14th cen­tury and is now enshrined in our laws.  Peter emphas­ised the point that once a jury has given its ver­dict this must not be changed.  He went on to illus­trate this point by giving us examples of some high pro­file cases where the juries decisions were unex­pec­ted. In 1380 a law was passed making it illegal to con­tact jurors during the trial.  Trial by Jury may have its crit­ics but is largely favoured by ex- jury mem­bers as the  best way of admin­is­ter­ing justice.

The death pen­alty has caused a great deal of dis­cus­sion and con­tro­versy with many in favour and many against , quot­ing mis­car­riages of justice.  In the 50’s and 60’s moves were made towards abol­ish­ing the death pen­alty.  In 1957, the Homicide Act was passed which removed the death sen­tence for domestic murders leav­ing the sen­tence for the murder of police­men . In 1969, the death sen­tence was abol­ished for all murders.

Peter gave us a most inter­est­ing and pol­ished present­a­tion as he raced through 900 years of legal his­tory, prompt­ing a whole host of ques­tions from a very attent­ive audi­ence.