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 Ancestry.com 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!