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!”