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No. 18: April 1990

  1. Heeley's First Sunday Schools Part 8......................................................................................p.1
  2. Rural Heeley and Rushdale.....................................................................................................p.2
  3. Extracts from our Postbage....................................................................................................p.3, 4 & 5
  4. How the Docker got it's na.....................................................................................................p.6
  5. Tender-handed stroke a nettle...............................................................................................p.7 & 8
  6. Donald Ross............................................................................................................................p.5
  7. Did you ever! & Did you know?...............................................................................................p.6 & 8


This is our eighteenth booklet since we first went into print in Spring 1986. Demand for our leaflets continues and each new edition is eagerly awaited.

Heeley's History Workshop continues to meet on Monday afternoons at Heeley Bank School in term time We still have a few copies of some of our earlier leaflets available, but numbers one to four, also Meersbrook Park supplement and Milestones in the Emergence of a City are out of print. We still have a few copies of the Meersbrook Park Centenary booklet left.

For the benefit of new readers, some of our material comes from the hundred plus hours of memories collected at the weekly meetings at Heeley Bank School. This is organised by Norton College and meets on Monday afternoons -newcomers are always welcome. Increasingly some of our material is being written by our readers and either sent or brought to us.

In this leaflet our series on Heeley's first Sunday Schools deals with the building of St. Wilfrids Roman Catholic Sunday School and additions to Oak Street Chapel. We have had several interesting letters sent to us, from which extracts are given of many fascinating memories. Two of our members have been busy writing again, Alan Montgomery has been finding more information of Heeley's rural past and Lilian Haywood reminds us of the value of the stinging nettle to our forefathers. A regular reader of our booklets asked all his workmates who live or used to live in Heeley if they knew how the Docker got its nave. Three weeks later one of them came to him with something told him by his grandmother and the information was passed on to us when he got the last booklet from a member. We think that it sounds the most probable origin of all the suggestions we have been given - does it strike a chord of memory in any of our readers? We also again acknowledge a debt of gratitude for many contributions from Don Ross, who died just before Christmas.

If you are Spring cleaning, or turning out your attic, we would be pleased to give a home to any photographs, magazines, letters, books or other memorabilia of the Heeley district.

We are always concerned to see that the information we publish is as correct and accurate as possible. As can be expected, when people are recalling memories from as much as fifty, sixty, seventy or even eighty years ago some differences of recollection are bound to crop up from time to time. Usually it turns out that both people's memories were correct on most points, but that they were talking about different dates or places.

We are always on the lookout for anything that you can add to what we print, so please keep the information flooding in. Don't keep it to yourself, either tell one of our regular members, or write, or telephone the group at the number below. Best of all, come along to Heeley Bank and share our recollections about old Heeley.


Meetings: Heeley Bank School, Heeley Bank Road at the junction with Myrtle Road, Sheffield, 2. Every Monday 1.15 to 3.15 (except school holidays), open to anyone, newcomers are always welcome.

Extra copies and back numbers: Heeley History Group (as above).

Enquiries and messages: Joan Palfreyman, telephone Sheffield 550027

Heeley's First Sunday Schools (part eight)

All our previous articles about Sunday Schools in Heeley have been about the non-conformists or Church of England. The Roman Catholics do not seem to have had any place of worship in the early years. In the 1870's the then Duke of Norfolk gave a plot of land upwards of half an acre at the junction of Queens Road and Shoreham Street and commissioned the building of a presbytery and school to cater for eight hundred children. When the building was completed late in 1879 the Duke gave all the necessary furniture, also a further piece of land which was to be the site for a new church. The church was named St. Wilfrid's and became part of the diocese of Leeds which had recently been formed.

It was decided that the boy's classroom should serve temporarily as a chapel and this was opened on November the 15th by the bishop, the Right Reverend Dr. Cornthwaite, who presided at High Mass, the sermon was preached by Father Lawson, S.J. The newly appointed parish priest was Father De Baere.

The headteacher was Miss McCrea and the school was opened on November the 17th. At first the infants classroom only was used, but as the numbers increased it was found necessary also to use the large room.

In 1890 Canon J. Glover replaced Father De Baere and the parish boundaries were established. Intake Road, Granville Road, Norfolk Park Road, Duchess Road, Clough Road, Sheldon Street, Lansdowne Road, Grange Crescent, Sharrowvale Road and Ecclesall Road. Later these boundaries were extended to cover Valley Road to Beauchief,the Abbey Lane - Whirlowdale crossroads, along Whirlowdale Road to Button Hill.

The schoolchildren on Whit Mondays had breakfast at school and then rode on drays to a treat and games in Norfolk Park. On sports days and days of national celebration the children joined in races and Morris dancing at the Bramall Lane football ground.

Two cottage homes were opened, one in Edmund Road and another in Heeley Bank Road, though we do not know at what date and the school had strong links with the Little Sisters of the Poors home in Heeley Bank Road.

Oak Street Chapel

In 1871 after the opening of the Chapel, more land was bought and again in 1887 and 1903, so that finally, the total area was 3,512 square yards. The old farmhouse which stood above the site of the original chapel was converted into two classrooms called the "Primary" and the "Lecture Hall". The doorway of the latter still retained its large lintel with the inscription "I.S. 1658".

Rural Heeley and Rushdale - researched by Alun Montgomery.

Mr. Petch retired in 1914, when the Heeley Wesley Day School closed, he had opened the school in 1870 and was it's only master.

Many are the stories told about this school and its head. A former pupil recalls the day of the annual inspection. Aroused very early from his sleep, he found to his horror that his mother had taken upon herself to ensure that he was suitably scrubbed and attired for the occasion. A sharp bristle brush was used t9 plaster down his hair and that telltale tide mark round his neck, called the "Sheffield necklace" by Barnsley folk, which showed that only his face had had been previously touched by soap and water was unceremoniously washed away.

He remembered a young pupil teacher, Charles Dixon, who later became a celebrated ornithologist and travelled world-wide. Apparently he devoted his attention not to the study of the subjects prescribed by the Education Department, but rather to that of wild birds. One day as our informant was crossing the little wooden bridge which then spanned the Meersbrook at the western end of Rushdale, he was greeted by Dixon who was lying along a bough high up a tree, reading a book which had nothing at all to do with algebra or latin.

In later life Dixon referred to the destruction of Rushdale and Meersbrook and lamented the loss of his "ruined aviary". "I knew every tree and bush, bird and beast within it and loved them all. Fortunately all wild life was respected. It was a sanctuary, a place of refuge for all birds and no gun was ever fired."

Those who remembered the quaint old village of Heeley in the days before the railway, when the mail coach passed through twice a day and caused the only commotion, when the old flour mill, driven by water, with its tree-surrounded dam, stood where the railway station does now, would perhaps recall that matchless rural scene, the sheer beauty of Meersbrook and Rushdale.

Dixon, whose memory went back to the days before the advent of the railway, remembered when gipsies camped in fields off Thirwell Road, when an old countryman ware a smock-frock, knee breeches and blue stockings. In his early years there was a toll-bar in Well Road and the well-head was green with ferns. A directory of 1864 refers to Well Road as Townwell Street.

An amusing character, old Naylor,kept the Post Office near the bottom of Well Road and used to go down to London Road to take and receive letters when the coach went past. The said operation was expertly performed without .any stopping. of the coach, for Naylor caught the letters that were thrown out and threw in the letters which were going away, much to the amusement and admiration of those who gathered to watch the performance.

Opposite the bottom of Well Road was a dam and flour mill, its site now occupied by the Midland Railway. An old fashioned little shop at the southern corner of Well Road was occupied by Joe Lancaster who displayed his goods in his spacious window and yet found time to speculate in the purchase in the purchase of the carcase of a horse whose hide he would tan in his "spare time". For one process he used the dam just across London Road.

Over the Sheaf, at the bottom of what used to be called Sheaf Street (present Gleadless Road) was a store bridge where the traveller would linger and take in the view of cornfields, meadows and woodlands.

Extracts From Our Postbag

(a) I have enjoyed reading the booklets on Old Heeley very much and would like to air my memory.

My Father used to keep the coal yard at 36, Boyton Street and later moved to 67, Well Road, where the original well was, in the corner of the cellar covered over faith a stone slab.

I also remember Mr. Nicholl's pawn shop at the corner of Wilson Place and Gleadless Road, he also had another shop at the bottom of Gleadless Road, opposite the old church which I believe was run by the Salvation an Army before they moved to Kent Road and Nicholson Road. Above Nicholl's was a fruit shop either Hingley's or Hincliffe's and next door was Pemberton's tobacco shop, also Hudson's hardware shop where my late wife purchased her first electric iron for her bottom drawer. I still possess it and it is still working.

The hairdressers above the Gleadless Road shop past Gower's was run by Nick Carter and next door was, I believe, another coal yard. Further up Gleadless Road was Dobbie's (Dobb's) scrap metal yard at the bottom of the big yard and still higher was I believe Pearce's chip shop. Nearer the Heeley Green Theatre was Hopkinson's fruit (pork?) shop.

At the Heeley Church hall they used to run dances price 4d or 6d (old money) I believe on Friday nights.

I hope this information helps and I can relate even more in time. I am seventyfive years old.

from Mr. B. Croft of Woodseats

(b) Extract from a letter by A.W. Storey who spent his boyhood in Heeley.

"Thankvou for the Heeley Notes, again fascinating. You certainly come up with some interesting titbits, and names like Frank Wornes - gone almost beyond recall. Like you, I should welcome an explanation of the name Docker. I have often wondered why the little Docker was yellow clay and the big Docker was grey/blue. Presumably they were part of the same "mountain" range originally, and I don't remember them before the "Cutting". The photos of Heeley Green Cinema bring back memories of going to see cowboy films (Tom Mix) on Saturday afternoons and sometimes having a penny Vimto in the drinks shop opposite with Doug Everitt and Jack Barringham. Or sometimes we went to the Heeley Palace or the coliseum. I think we would have been in our teens before we ventured as far as the Abbeydale, yet we went as far as Heeley Baths, 2d. with a scholar's ticket on a Saturday morning, but George (his brother) and I often used to get up at 6:30 a.m. (in the dark) in order to be first In the bath when it opened at 7 a.m, 3d. then. I believe Saturday was a "mucky watter" day in those days before continuous filtration."

The Organwhich used to be in Heeley Palace

(c) About fifteen years ago, at the time when I was the church organist at the Carlton Road United Reformed Church at Wadsley (now known as the United Reform Church). I was approached by the Sheffield Theatre Organ Enthusiasts about an electric organ in which they were particularly interested. That organ was the one which I played every Sunday in the church.

I received a telephone call from the secretary of the society, asking me if they could come to the church and take photographs and a recording of the organ, as they believed that it had a v very unusual history. They believed that this particular organ had, many years ago, been the one which was in the old Heeley Cinema.

As I had not been the organist at the church for many years, I did not know the history of the organ and I could neither confirm nor deny this. I must admit that it came as quite a surprise, as I could not believe that that particular organ could produce anything like a theatre organ affect. However, I told them that I would ring them back after I had done some research of my own into this. After much discussion with the Church Secretary and delving into the archives, we did find the documents relating to the organ and proof that this had indeed once been in Heeley Palace.

I immediately rang the theatre organ enthusiasts back to confirm this. They told me that the organ, which had two full manuals and a full range pedal board, had been built in a tank in the cinema. The reason for this was because the road outside the cinema (London Road) often flooded and the water used to run into it. The actual site in the cinema where the organ was situated was one of the areas which was affected by the floodwater and it was because of this that the tank was constructed for the organ to be placed in, so that the water could not get anywhere near it.

I presume that at that time the Church was looking for an organ. How they came to buy that particular one, or how much was paid for it I do not know.

The Theatre Organ Enthusiasts were impressed by what they saw and by the tone of the organ and after taking several recordings they offered to buy the organ from the Church and restore it. Unfortunately, at that time, the Church would not sell to them.

About a year after that the Church, which was situated in the upstairs of the building, was moved to a downstairs room and a small electronic organ was bought and the old organ was never played after that.

Out of curiosity I have again contacted the Church and I have been told that the organ was dismantled and bought some time ago by a man who was writing a book about theatre organs. Unfortunately, there is no record of who this person was, only of the amount which he paid for it. He may have been from the Sheffield Theatre Organ Enthusiasts, or he may just have been an enthusiast himself. If anything else comes to light about this, they have promised to contact me.

This letter came from the future daughter-in-law of a member of Heeley History Workshop. Can anyone else add any more information about this organ?

Days in the Country from Heeley Station

(d) Heeley Station brings back happy memories of outings into Derbyshire during the 1930' s. There were Sunday School outings from Heeley Wesley. On one occasion we t the train at Heeley Station about 2 o'clock to go to Hathersage. The train journey itself was quite an adventure, especially through the Totley tunnel to Grindleford, in the dark. We played games in a field which surrounds the present open-air swimming pool. There was a pool there in which we could paddle, but it was just a large stretch of water in a field. We had a picnic tea, bread, fillings and buns bought from J.W. Collins, confectioners and bakers of West Street. Mr. and Mrs. Collins with their family of eight or nine children (Iris, Daisy, Pansy, Myrtle and the boys) were members of the Church.

On another occasion we went to Grindleford, where we played in the field beside the Methodist Chapel (on the left hand side before the bridge over the river, I think it is still there). It was a glorious summer's day. The train hone was packed with day trippers from Hope and Hathersage when it arrived at Grindleford station. We pushed the children in, then two of we young teachers pretended we couldn't get in and enjoyed a lovely walk home over Padley Wood, through Longshaw, then over the moors past the smoke outlets from the tunnel, to the bus at Cross Scythes, Totley.

In 1927 I had a friend staying with me, it was her first visit to Sheffield, so two other mutual friends and I decided we would take her out to see the sights of Derbyshire. We planned to catch the 8.30 train to Hope, to walk to Castleton, this was on Whit-Saturday. One of the party did not turn up. By waiting for her we three missed the train. As the next train was 12.45, we decided to walk "over the tops" as we called it, to Grindleford. On arrival there we had time to spare before the 12.45 was due. We had taken .sandwiches and called at a house which advertised "Tea and Coffee" opposite the end of Station Road. Whilst we were eating and drinking, the lady of the house came in and said "Did you want that train? because it's there!", and we saw the train going past on the line. The next train was not until late afternoon, so we walked on - and on - and on, through Hathersage, Bamford and Hope to Castleton. There we met up with a party just being taken by the guide into the Peak Cavern. This was what we had come for, so, despite tired legs, we went with then. The cavern has been closed to the public for many years, it was about a mile in length. There were no lights then, as there were later, so we were each given a candle. The path, of solid rock, was often slippery. Often we had to bend low to get under the rocks. From time to tithe we had to stride across the river because the path was sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other. At the end was a huge cavern very similar to the one we can still visit by boat at the Speedwell Cavern. We felt almost blinded by daylight when we cane out. At that time there were men working at the entrance at rope-making. The only way to get to the train at Hope was to walk, when we left the train at Heeley Station we were so tired that we did not know how to walk home. The next morning we set out for Sunday morning service at Heeley Wesley. As we stood at the top of Meersbrook Park our legs were so stiff and aching that we didn't know has to start down - except by sheer determination. Then we had the Whit-Monday procession and fines in the park to face on the next day, but we survived!

A.E. Knight

An apology

In an earlier issue we stated that the Sheffield V.C. coiled Loosemore was buried in Heeley Church-yard. There is actually a grave of someone called Loosemore there, but not the V.C.'s. We have beer, told that he was buried after a military funeral, in Ecclesall Church-yard during the 1920s.

Donald Ross B.E.M.

Our readers will be to learn of the death of Donald Ross at the age of seventy-six last December. Don has been a regular contributor to our leaflets for some time, he contributed all the articles on the Albert Road district and many of the "Did you know?" items, he also researched and collated the "Milestones in the Emergence of a City". At the tires of his death he was researching the history of Shirebrook Road. We shall miss Don and his contributions very much.

How the docker got it's name!!!

The name of the Docker came about because of the way in which the men who worked there were treated by their employers. At the Northcote end of the Docker, before ever the Cutting was made, there used to be a quarry and some of the men working in it were giver. the job of quarrying slates for roofs, these would be the old fashioned stone slates which were used on cottage roofs. Each day they were given a certain stretch of the quarry to work, for which they were given an agreed amount in payment. However when pay day came, if they hadn't completed their stretches, their pay was docked so much was deducted from the agreed amount. The employers were crafty, since it was a difficult lob to get slate of the right size and they always made the stretch to be worked bigger than the men could finish in the time available. In this way they were always able to dock the wages. Eventually the men realised this and always referred to it as "Goin' to work on t' docker."

Did you ever!


Extract from Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life - by Canon Odom.

Mr. Jones was an excellent scholar, well versed in Greek, with a thorough knowledge of Holy Scripture. He was noted for his long discourses, and some of his interpretations of the Word.' were deemed peculiar. Mr. Thomas Asline Ward (Asline Road?), a well known Sheffield magistrate, Master Cutler in 1816, resided at Park House, Olive Grove, a resort of the literary circle of his day. In a letter dated 5th September 1849, to the Rev. H.H. Piper, a Unitarian minister, of Norton, he said "There is a nice little church at Heeley, lately built. My neighbour Stacey has a son who is a great mechanic and has constructed an organ. The congregation at Heeley have given him 100 for it - the supposed cost and he is going to play on it on the Sundays for a year. I went to the opening and it was much admired. The clergyman, Mr. Jones, preached on the Fall. He told us that Adam ate the apple that he might share the fate of Eve, prefering death to separation. There was a gallant example to his sons!".

Tender-handed stroke a nettle

The stinging nettle is today regarded as a common weed and unpleasant pest - as anyone who has ever suffered from nettle stings will know! However in days gone by the nettle plant was very useful and ordinary people as well as farmers would gather and use it as a food or drink for man or beast, as a medicine, or as fertiliser or compost matter. It was even used cosmetically and in spinning to make nettle flax.

As a child I well remember that in early Spring my father would gather handfuls of the young nettle tops as he was walking from our home in Heeley to our allotment and he would tell mother to make them into nettle soup or nettle tea, or cook them to be used as a green vegetable for a meal. He believed that at least one meal including iron-rich nettles and a weekend of drinking fresh nettle tea, would help to 'purify the blood', an ancient belief noted even by Culpepper in his "Complete Herbal".

To make nettle tea:- place one to two teaspoonsful of chopped leaves in a pan with a cupfull of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for one minute, then allow to stand for fifteen minutes. If required it can tie left until cold and when strained taken as a cooling drink. Young nettle tops can be dried and stored in a screw-top jar and a tea made from these. If used while fairly hot as a gargle it has a soothing effect on a sore throat.

To cook as a vegetable:- the young nettle tops are barely covered by boiling water and boiled for five minutes, then immediately drained and finely chopped with a small knob of butter and served. The drained liquid can be used for making gravy and if drunk helps to get rid of skin spots and blemishes.

To make nettle soup:- boil the young tops as a vegetable and drain, then rub through a sieve, melt a knob of butter in a pan, add the sieved nettles and sprinkle one ounce of flour and a drop of milk over them, stir and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for five minutes (add a drop more milk if becoming too thick), if seasoning is needed, add a little salt and pepper and serve with croutons of bread. However the nettles are so rich in mineral salts and vitamins that many people do not need to add any seasoning and they were always recommended in the old days for people on a salt-free diet.

The nettle tea, like the vegetable water, is said to be good for the complexion if taken regularly and the cold liquid is also able to be used as a soothing lotion on the skin where there is sunburn, or a rash, or irritation. Another cosmetic use is as a hair rinse or conditioner when washing the hair - it improves the natural colour of the hair and gives it body. Gathering the flower "strings" as well as leaves makes a decoction which will get rid of dandruff if used over a period of time.

People suffering from rheumatic and arthritic pains in their joints are said to get much relief if they are badly stung by nettles over the affected parts. This remedy goes back to ancient times and there is an illustration in an ancient Greek herbal of a patient being "beaten" with nettle stems. Most people know that applying a bruised dock leaf to a nettle sting will bring relief, also bring relief and act as an antidote to its own sting.

The nettle grows most luxuriantly in soils with a high nitrogen content and so can be found in large clumps round house and farm rubbish dumps and near farm middens and muck heaps. Some of the sites of old stables in Heeley are still marked by clumps of stinging nettles and they are very common along the edges of Cat Lane - an old trackway going back to ancient times. Although cattle and sheep will not eat growing nettles, farmers of old would mow the nettles down with their scythes and after two to three days the animals would eat them with relish and would also benefit from the rich iron, chlorophyll and protein content of the stems and leaves. Added to a compost heap, mown nettles will enrich the nutrient value of the compost and if stems and leaves are left to soak in rainwater for a couple of weeks an excellent liquid plant food is formed. The strained liquid from soaked nettles was used by my father on his allotment as an insect repellent against blackfly and greenfly. He had an old copper balanced on bricks by the side of the compost heap, in which he left the nettles soaking in rainwater which ran off the shed roof.

During the last war many tons of nettles were collected and dried, some of this was used as a dressing to remove or reduce the bad odour from heavily infected war wounds. Some was used for the extraction of chlorophyll to camouflage battledress uniforms or covers for troop convey vehicles. The chlorophyll tablets and toothpastes which came into vogue some years ago to clear bad breath and body odours were derived from nettles.

At one time paper was produced from nettle stems - perhaps we ought to revive this custom in order to save more trees! Another old use of nettle stems was to use the fibres to prepare nettle flax which was used to make household linen before large scale cotton imports were made. I had thought that this use had died out completely, but when the Sheffield Spinners and Weavers Guild had a working weekend at Bishops House last Summer (1989), I was amazed to learn from one of the members that she was using nettle fibres on her spinning wheel to produce nettle flax and she said that she intended to weave a cushion cover with it. I was also able to feel a hank of the nettle flax and it had a lovely soft silky texture and was a creamy colour. No wonder the traveller Campbell wrote "I have slept in nettle sheets and I have dined off a nettle tablecloth, I have eaten the young tender nettle which is an excellent potherb and have drunk nettle beer, the stalks of old nettles are as good as flax for making cloth."

Perhaps as the world tries to "think green" we ought to revive some of the old uses of the despised "stinging nettle" plant.

Lilian Haywood

Did you know?

that polythene was accidently discovered in March 1933, when an experiment at I.C.I. went wrong.

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