Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Lost in the Past

January was a month that I spent very happily delving into the past hence the lack of both posts and comments from me. Towards the end of last year I joined the local history group that has recently started up in Totley and it has made me see my local area from a totally different perspective. We live right on the boundary of two parishes but I've always been drawn much more to Dore which is an attractive little village. Local history has always interested me as my version of family history research involves finding out about the places where my ancestors lived as well as lists of names and dates. Dore has an oral history group but there hasn't been a local history group in this area at all until last year. I've always thought of Totley as being rather dreary and boring with no real character to it. I'm now discovering how wrong I was to dismiss it so lightly. All the photographs will enlarge if you click on them.

We are fortunate to have Brian Edwards living in our area, he is a wonderful artist and also a local historian who has been publishing books filled with his drawings and all kinds of interesting information for many years. The Cricket Inn is still there at the end of a country lane, there are horses in the fields next door and a beautiful old farmhouse opposite.

The real catalyst has been the local history class that started in January and every Friday morning I've been turning up to this and getting more and more engrossed. The most recent session was about Census Returns which I've been familiar with for years but only from a family history point of view. I'm now beginning to realise that the information in them can be used in many other ways too. My plan is to print out the whole of the 1891 census for Totley and follow the Census enumerators route pinpointing exactly who lived where. Happily I have also made a new friend who shares my fascination with the subject and who also shares my enjoyment of walking and we are going to do this together once the weather gets better as it will certainly take at least one full day to do it. A picnic lunch has been mentioned :)
I've known P slightly for some time as her dog Bertie is a friend of B Baggins and we met occasionally in the woods or by the river. We were surprised to see each other at the November History Group meeting but that happened to be the night I put forward my idea of researching the names on the War Memorial and asked whether anyone would be interested in helping. P was one of two people who wanted to join me and hey presto! an acquaintance is now becoming a friend. We are attending the classes together and spent a happy evening last week pouring over local maps.

I've been doing a little more work on my soldiers too but there's a lot more to do yet before we can publish anything. It's proving to be very interesting and,in a couple of cases, not as straightforward as you'd think. The photograph above shows an image of the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval where Tom Brown Fisher is commemorated, he's one of those men who, sadly, have no known grave.

The first local history class was about old photographs and these two were among the examples our tutor gave us, the Cross Scythes still looks just the same apart from not having too many horses and carriages standing outside it these days. The other one shows Totley Rise, the cottages were originally built for the navvies working on building Totley Tunnel and the shop at the top began life as the Tally shop, now it's the local newsagents. When I first came to Totley over 30 years ago many of the cottages had been turned into shops including a butcher( in the same place as the one in the photo but minus the pig and cow carcases hanging outside!), a fresh fish shop, greengrocer,a cobblers, a little haberdashery where I bought all my knitting wool, a chemist, post office and several others. Only the greengrocer,cobbler, chemist and post office are left now. Today the greengrocer is the young lad who worked in the shop on Saturday mornings when my children were young, his mum and dad ran the shop in those days. As for the cottages - don't imagine one little family in each, there were twenty to thirty men living in each of these small houses, they worked 24 hours a day in shifts and as one lot got up and went to work the next lot tumbled into the same beds. The state of these places must have been appalling, there were certainly outbreaks of typhoid, diphtheria, smallpox and scarlet fever though these were partly due to the dreadful working conditions in the tunnel as well as the pretty much total lack of hygiene.

These pages are taken from two Trade Directories which are the equivalent of today's Yellow Pages in the UK, I'm sure there are equivalents in other parts of the world too. They are intriguing to dip into and as well as giving details of the trades and occupations in an area they eventually also listed the names and occupations of most of the heads of households in each street. There was also at the beginning of the entry for each town or village a little description of the area, times of the arrival and despatch of the post and when and where you could catch the carrier's cart or the stage coach along with other intriguing little snippets of information. I found it interesting that between 1833 and 1911 Totley changed from being 'a poor village' to being 'pleasantly situated' - which indeed it is. It might be worth trying to find out the reason behind these statements.

This is the 1876 Ordnance Survey map showing the village of Totley as it was then with the main orientation of the village running from north to south. Those roads are still country lanes and the orientation of Totley has changed completely with almost all the houses and shops now on either side of the road running from east to west. This is now a busy road and one of the main routes out of Sheffield into Derbyshire. It was originally opened in the early 1800s as the Greenhill to Baslow Turnpike. It's only in the last couple of years that I've discovered the layout of the original village.
The school to the left of the word 'Totley' is the one my children went to and it is still going strong. The original School built in 1824 still exists as a private house but the current school dates from 1877.

This map is from 1923 and the site of my house lies in the field numbered 702. The line of trees between the fields and the building plots is still there and three of those trees are in my garden. The single tree just above the line is the oak tree that is also still alive and well in my garden. This afternoon it had a greater spotted woodpecker, a treecreeper and two nuthatches running up and down it all at the same time. It shaded my baby daughter one hot summer when she had mumps and I made her a little makeshift bed outdoors, all my babies slept in their prams under it and then when they were older they all climbed in it and finally four years ago one of them got married under it so there is quite a lot of personal local history connected with that little dot on the map.

Family history hasn't been forgotten in all the excitement of local history, now that all the London Parish Registers are coming online on the site I've been having a lovely time delving further into my husband's family and have added a fair amount of information since Christmas. They lived in the City of London (the Square Mile) for several generations and I plan in the Spring to go and visit and photograph some of the churches where they were hatched, matched and despatched. St Botolph's, Bishopsgate has strong family connections and is an interesting church as well. The poet John Keats was christened there and another ancestor of my husband was christened in the church which Samuel Pepys attended and where he is buried - St
Olav Hart St. I think you'll be reading more about these later this year!


Lynda (Granny K) said...

What a wonderful project, just up your street.... (no pun intended!)

Wanda said...

I so related to your little dot on the map, Rowan. We have a similar Oak tree under which my husband played as a child then our children and now our grandchildren. My daughter lives on the property now. In my post before my last I posted a photo of it. History and the tracing of our ancestors back to England add to my interest of reading your blog.

Thimbleanna said...

Wow! How fun! What a wonderful hobby and how educational. You're so lucky to live in a place that has worked so hard to preserve it's history!

Morning's Minion said...

What an interesting project. Once the history/genealogy bug "bites", we are dedicated researchers.
I was able to buy copies of the upstate NY map of 1877--the area where my maternal families lived for many generations, also one of the same vintage for my hometown and J.'s. Before I had them framed I made tiny red ink dots at the points where our families had lived.
I look forward to reading more about your research.

Von said...

What fun you've been having!! It is rather addcitive don't you find?
My GGGrandparents lived for a time within the square mile and were married there at St Martin's

Bovey Belle said...

What fascinating projects you are involved with. I tried to get a Local History Society off the ground here, but was castigated for this because I was the despised English . . . When we move, I hope that K and I can be involved in similar projects to yours.

A really wonderful post, and I know just how much hard work has gone into creating it. Thank you.

Derrick said...

Hello Rowan,

So many facts and figures at your fingertips! I'm sure you'll enjoy discovering more and more. But I can imagine how time consuming it can become once you are gripped!

Rosie said...

Sounds a fascinating project and an interesting group to be a member of. I love looking at Census returns for whole villages and looking at the street names and the occupations of the householders. You are right about family history as it does lead to learning more about the local and social history of the time you are researching too. I have three of the books on your pile on my shelves too! Good luck with your census project and your war memorial one, too - I look forward to future posts about their progress:)

Diane said...

What a fascinating project and a great way to spend a few winters mornings. I know those little cottages across from the Cross Sythes - some of them don't look large enough for a very small family, let alone 20 or 30 men!!! It does make you look at where you live in a very different light!

Roy said...

This seems like a really interesting project Rowan and will certainly keep you out of mischief for a while.{:)

Gracie said...

It looks like a fascinating and interesting project! And you've found a new friend in the process, so it's already a good thing! I've wanted for a long time to search into my own family history, I guess it's time to get started....

butlersabroad said...

What a wonderful post. I love family history and spend many a happy hour immersed in a previous century or an occupation or place! It's great people still have an interest in the little villages and off the beaten track places, this is one of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog!


Moncha said...

History is great, isn't it. I will take my time to read up on your blog tomorrow.
We had a wonderful evening too, so it was a very nice day.
I hope you will have a great beginning of this weekend.

Pomona said...

It looks absolutely fascinating - how lovely to discover all of that! Plenty to keep you busy, I think!

Pomona x

Monique Elisabeth said...

Hi Rowan,
just wanted to let you know that I will stop writing on Amethystiana.
I have another blog: Cake and Cappuccino:

My day to day blog and I will be writing on that one ; )
I hope to see you there.
Have a great weekend.

Monique Elisabeth aka Moncha

Mary said...

This is just a marvelous story Rowan, especially finding old maps of your village and home site. I loved reading the history of the oak tree and what memories it holds for your entire family.

Good luck with learning more of old Totley - it sounds a very interesting place.

Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow. We had another snowfall overnight - very pretty outside today.

sally said...

Wow! So sorry not to have been in touch. Have been out of it for ages as both my brother and now my mother been v ill and my mum has now moved to Sheffield. Have been completely preoccupied with her care. But this all looks fab! So pleased you are getting so involved. Should be at next \History group meeting. By the way - Sue Scattergood may already have all the 1891 census returns bound.
Beautiful frost this morning...

Moncha said...

Hi Rowan , just don't look at the post about me stopping to write on Amethystiana. I will still write, but not as often. I hope you will come by now and then ; )
Have a great weekend.

~Sheila~ said...

What an addictive pasttime.
I love the story of the tree in your garden. Imagine the stories it could tell about the time before you even knew it about it.
I look forward to reading more about Totley in the days to come.
Hope you are well..?

Eli said...

The internet has given us so much in recent years (not all good of course) but the one thing that has completely absorbed me is research into my family's history and for that the internet has been invaluable. I find all history totally fascinally.

MoominMamma said...

Hello Rowan, just dropping by to say thank you for your comment regarding the tree!
Oh hehe, yes, our snowdrops were under snow again over the weekend - though it's rather typical weather for this time of year up here! It is interesting for me as this is the first year I've really paid attention to all the goings on in nature every day, and where everything fits as the wheel turns, it's a wonderful learning experience and I love sharing it with my daughter. :)
Gosh, I'd forgotten about Joan Hickson playing Miss Marple! Oh I shall have to see if I can get hold of the episodes on DVD - I aodred her when I was younger, and I always wanted a hat like hers! (I was an odd child!)
Kath xx

Mac n' Janet said...

Have always been interested in history, particularly English history and have recently started genealogy research on too. Some of my ancesters have been here in America since the 1600's while others arrived in the 1800's and my husbands family came in the early 1900's.

Eli said...

Me again Rowan! Thanks for calling by again. I sent you an email on Monday but it was returned as 'not able to deliver' (not sure why). So I'm using your comments page to let you know I've put a Santa pattern on Etsy if you want to take a look. I had also noted the number of common interests we have...Great minds think alike! Eli

Julie said...

Dorothy, This was such an interesting post to me, even though I know very little about your corner of the world. I especially loved the part about the 1923 map. How cool that it, and your tree, still exist. What a great January you had. That is an excellent way to spend a gloomy winter. I have recently been studying more Irish legends in order to post about them this month. We may get sun here tomorrow or Saturday. Yay!