George Eric TAYLOR

George Eric TAYLOR was born in 1919 into a family that was living at Netherthorpe. His father, Frederick, was a successful Pork Butcher. With branches at Upperthorpe, Hillsborough, Firth Park and London Road, the family business which included pig breeding was, by 1939, jointly owned between Frederick and Edith and their two elder sons. Frederick, Jnr worked in the business, the second son, Jack Andrew was a doctor based at the Royal Hospital and whilst George, the third and youngest child, would have been too young to be a company director.

George was a pupil at King Edward VII school between 1929 and 1936. He had been in the reserves as a volunteer with the 123rd Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery for a few years and by 1940 had been promoted to Lance Bombardier.

George died at home, so his death in April 1940 was more likely to have been illness than injury. George is buried in Fulwood Graveyard in the family plot which has a Commonwealth War Grave headstone.

Why Hopes Are Crushed and Castles Fall

This is a quote from a late 19th century hymn that expresses the hope that ‘in the coming years … we’ll read the meaning of our tears.” Chosen by his parents these words expressed for them their anguish at the death of their youngest son.

Samuel Danks – School master

Samuel Danks – a man who was integral part of the community for nearly 70 years, knowing everybody and known by everybody.

Origins

Born in Dudley in September 1841, Danks was the son of Joseph and Harriet who took the infant Samuel to the town church a week before Christmas to be baptised. Life was tough for the family as around the time of Samuel’s birth, his elder brother had died, aged three. By the time Samuel was nine his mother was involved with education in some way as she is recorded on the census of 1851 as a School Mistress. She may well have been keeping a ’dame school’ in the family house and as Samuel grew up, he began to help his mother.  By 1861, Samuel was an assistant School master at Kingswinford, five miles from Dudley. Joseph died in 1856, so Samuel was supporting his mother and two sisters. Their accommodation in Kingswinford was not salubrious as it was sandwiched between two inns and there was a couple living in the same house.

Fulwood School

In 1865, Samuel moved to Fulwood, probably in the summer ready for the autumn term. As the master of the National School, he would be expected to attend the church regularly. He was evidently homesick as he described to reporter when he retired some 45 years later sending a letter back to his friends saying that he would be back within a month. Having travelled from his home to Sheffield by railway, he got a horse omnibus to Brooomhill, then another to Ranmoor and then walked to Fulwood. To post that letter, he would have needed to get to Broomhill.

Family

When he first moved to Fulwood, Danks may well have lodged with the family of George and Harriet Mills who were living at Stumperlowe, a term that includes the area either side of Fulwood Road, just east of the church. Henry was a table blade forger and father of four children, the two eldest being Eliza, a dress maker, and Joseph who was working alongside his father also a table blade forger. Now Eliza was the same age as Samuel so it was no surprise to the Mills that Samuel proposed to her and they were married on New Year’s Eve in 1867. Their child, George Arthur was born in June 1869 but tragically Eliza died two months later. Samuel was able to afford a plot in the churchyard for Eliza that became the final resting place for his family and descendants.

Samuel and George were living next door to the Mills family on Goole Green. On visits to his family back in Staffordshire, Samuel met Anna Hughes whom he married in the summer of 1871 and they returned to the Fulwood. Over the next years, five children were born to Samuel and Anna.

A Community Man

Samuel became well-known figure in the local community with much of his involvement being centred on the parish church. He was also in the background of local politics. In 1876 Samuel Danks and Alfred Dearman were appointed as Pinders at the Court Leet of the Duke of Norfolk. There is something incongruous about the local school master and a banker (as Dearman was described in the marriage register for 1865) being responsible for dealing with stray animals. But this time, Courts Leet originally a medieval court were waning so perhaps these posts were mainly nominal.

In the summer of 1881, Danks won first prize for his cottage flower garden at the Hallamshire Floral and Horticultural Society. He was at the annual dinner early in September alongside his neighbour Daniel Coupe who occupied the chair and Captain J W Dixon of the Hallamshire Rifles.

Danks was a regular attendee at meetings of the Upper Hallam Conservative Association and his name is amongst the landowners and industrialists who lived in the area. He was at the committee dinner in September 1883 when John Bingham, later Colonel Sir John occupied the chair along with the recently promoted Major J W Dixon and Daniel Coupe.

In the 1890s the perceived threat to National Schools which were run by the Church of England from the newly created School Boards exercised the minds of Danks and his fellow conservatives. They held meetings to support sympathetic candidates to the Board, one of which took place in November 1894. Chaired by Col John Bingham, those at the meeting bemoaned the potential cost if Board schools took on the pupils of National Schools but more significantly the secular nature of these schools. Henry Ashington, a Fulwood resident and one of the candidates, pointed to ‘the absurdity of talking about teaching religion without doctrine’ commenting that ‘they might as well try to make apple dumplings without apples.’ These views have echoed down the years and are still raised regularly today.

Danks was elected a churchwarden, a position from which he retired in 1899 when he was appointed a sidesman.

Retirement

Samuel Danks on his Retirement

When Danks retired as headmaster in 1909, the Telegraph printed a ‘Special’ article This began by stating that during 44 years at the school he had taught the young how to shoot! Danks, wrote the journalist, had seen mischievous boys and angelic girls grow to be men and women and had taught their children the same lessons. He had also taught ‘less useful lessons imposed by the whim of educational authorities and fads of inspectors.’ One example of the latter type was ‘lectures given by peripatetic scientists to a mixed class on their insides and how to feed and dress a baby’ which had the boys grinning up their sleeves and afterwards laughing and talking about it to the girls. Danks dismissed such teaching as ‘a shear waste of time’ and would be, no doubt, be turning in his grave if he heard about sex and relationship education of today. He bemoaned the change in examinations from individual to collective which he claimed destroyed the competitive rivalry among children and made a teacher’s life more difficult.

The Special ended by Danks was compared to Goldsmith’s Schoolmaster – the man who is an integral part of the community who knows everybody and who is known by everybody. His retirement home would be that which he and Mrs Danks had occupied since their marriage where he tended his numerous roses when not traversing the Derbyshire Hills.

He was, thought the reporter, ‘good for a century’ a thought that was not far off the mark as he celebrated his 90th birthday, still living at Goole Green Cottage.

Reading the article prompted Urban Swift to write to the paper. Swift was an old pupil, along with William Parnell, W Brightmore and William Wall.

Thomas Wilson of the snuff mill family and son in Law of Henry Dixon of Stumperlowe Hall, alerted readers of the Telegraph to the desire of the school managers to mark Dank’s retirement with a testimonial. Was this the result of Sift’s letter? Wilson invited people to attend a meeting to appoint a committee to carry out the idea. However the event was organised, it was a great success. A ‘great many old scholars, some past the prime of life’ were present along with the ‘leading members of the community’ (my emphasis) such as Laycock, Dixon, Wynn and Wilson. The speakers took a ‘pop’ at the unreasonableness of requiring a man of 67 years to retire and Danks himself expressed again his views on the state of education.

Danks was clearly held in great esteem. He was presented with a cheque for a substantial amount which had been collected by the committee. The evening concluded with a concert programme.

After retiring, perhaps not surprisingly, Samuel Danks almost disappears from the records. He maintained a connection with education through his role a trustee of the Fulwood Education Endowment. He represented the ratepayers of the district, a role he relinquished in 1930.

The final two mentions in the Telegraph were on his diamond wedding anniversary 1931 and on his death just under a year later. Both articles rely heavily on the one published back in 1909. Towards the end of the article in 1932, there is mention of Samuel’s children and a brief survey of the records shows their history.

The Next Generation

George Arthur, whose mother was Elizabeth, was a blade forger in 1891 but 20 years later he was an engine driver with the Grand Central railway. He married Clara Fletcher in 1909 and there were four children of the marriage. All the other children were the offspring of Samuel’s second marriage. Charles Edward was a cutlery works manager when he married Edith Clarke at Woodhouse in 1908 and there were three children. Their home was in Nethergreen Road. Laura married Arthur Schofield, a ‘car conductor,’ of Crookes in August 1906 and there were five boys, two being born before the first world war and two afterwards.

The other children were all married at Fulwood in 1920. Helena was 36 when she married Ernest Horatio Jones, a widower, on 5th April, followed three days later by her brother John Ashton who married Annie Mason of South Grove Farm. Then, in early September, Thomas Reginald (born 1883) married Hilda Lee who was 15 years his junior. Thomas was the only child of Samuel to stay in Fulwood. In 1939, he and Hilda were living in ‘White Cottage’ on Brookhouse Hill.

Fulwood Guildhall

Origins

Where Fulwood Road broadens out before it ends at the junction with Canterbury Avenue is a large rectangular building with a forbidding façade. This substantial building had begun life in 1824 as a barn for Goole Green Farm so entrances and windows faced away from the road.

Date stone on south wall

On the track at the east of the Guildhall there are some kerbstones and it is possible to detect a curving path into the yard at the front of the building.

The Guildhall from the south (1950s)

None of the lower windows were part of the original building and it is likely that the round apertures were originally unglazed. There are ventilation slits in the upper parts of the wall. The original entrance is to the left of the down pipe.

The barn was part of Goole Green Farm which had been in existence when the barn was built. Neville Flavell in his book “From Goole Green to Nether Green” (2005) says that “in 1756, Sarah Woodhouse a farmer’s wife heard a Methodist preacher at Ranmoor and issued an open invitation to him to make Goole Green Farm the home of an emergent Society. The farm which was also an alehouse remained the Society’s home for nearly 30 years.

Flavell tells us that Sarah Moore, a young woman who was living in Fargate at the time, was tasked with establishing the Society. Moore and John Wesley corresponded and in 1791 he wrote of his intention to visit Sheffield, staying with the Moores, and that ‘probably I may see Hallam too’ but there is no record of his visiting Hallam.

When the 1851 census was taken, Thomas Andrew(s), a widower aged 60, was recorded as being a farmer of 11 acres at Gold Green (the name was spelt in many ways over the years) whilst most of his neighbours were cutlers. Thomas was still farming at Gool Green ten years later, sharing his house with 22 year old Horatio Lyden. Lyden was a monumental engraver probably working for the Hancocks, a family who for many generations were the local sextons and suppliers of gravestones, as well as builders. Thomas Andrew died in March 1871 a month before the census was taken so we don’t know when he stopped farming but we do know from the census that the farm was in the hands of Cornelius Hudson and his family.

Location

Cornelius probably wasn’t cut out for farming as by 1881 he had been replaced by William Watson, a ‘Cowkeeper, grazing 12 Acres emp a boy’ as recorded in the census. Watson was in turn replaced by Charles Spittlehouse 10 years later. Spittlehouse was the last person to be described as farmer on a census as in 1901 Joseph Westby and his extended family were living there. Westby, a cutlery manufacturer, had moved to the farm in 1905 and remained there until his death in 1929, his wife, Charlotte, continued living there until her death in 1936.

Ownership

From the Land Tax Assessments completed in the early C20th we know that the land (9088) was owned by Thomas Kingsford Wilson who was the son-in-law of Henry Dixon of Stumperlowe Hall. Wilson also owned the field below (9089). Henry Isaac Dixon owned much of the land in Fulwood and had sold the two fields to Wilson in 1907. As we shall see, Wilson was a key player in the conversion of the Guildhall. The Assessment also tells us that Westby leased both fields 9088 and 9089 and he may well have sub-let the field for grazing.

Land Tax Assessment 1912. The numbers in red show the reference in the LTA Field Book

Conversion to a Guild Hall.

The majority of the rest of this article is based on newspaper ‘snippets’ which may well have been provided by the Guild. The other source is Tom Dakin’s account of the Fulwood Sports Club written for its centenary in 2010. Dakin (born about 1930) is clearly speaking from personal knowledge and experience, although he is not always correct.

The barn was transformed into the home of the Fulwood Social Guild early in the C20th. The local newspapers first printed reports of the Guild in 1908 – an evening of song, sketches and a cinematograph show. Dakin says the Guild was a ‘farmer’s guild’ but from its first report the Telegraph refers to it as the Fulwood Social Guild’. A year later the Fulwood Musical Society was inaugurated with C D Leng (owner of the Sheffield Telegraph) as one of the vice presidents. Meanwhile, work to transform the building from a barn to a suitable venue was underway, funded, according to Dakin, by Wilson. This was to be more than a simple room and there is still evidence of the transformation the final layout.

At the western end a stage was erected with steps up from the floor. Below the stage was a space for storing scenery and props and behind the stage were dressing rooms on an upper floor. At the eastern end a balcony was erected with tiered seating. The door at the eastern end of the north wall and the one on the eastern wall gave access to the balcony and both opened outwards. The present owners told me that the lifting gear for the flats and scenery were still present when they bought the place in the 1970s. It was possibly at this time that the small rectangular extension at the eastern end was built. This had a simple urinal consisting of a cemented wall and gulley and was open to the sky. This basic provision was still in evidence when the present owners moved in but evidence of further provision was not. The conversion included catering facilities behind the stage at ground level.

The Guildhall was opened in November 1909 (Dakin gave 1912). Finance for the conversion had come from Thomas Kingsford Wilson. Dakin says Wilson gave the barn to the Social Guild but this is not corroborated by the newspapers, so it is likely that the Guild came to an arrangement with Wilson, possibly a rent of £20 per year. The newspaper report said Wilson presented the Guild with £20 which paid the first year’s rent. The conversion was not complete as there was still about £200 of furnishings but there was only £78 in the bank. Thereafter concerts were a regular feature along with children’s parties at Christmas and dancing classes. Occasionally the Guildhall was the venue for a wedding reception.

At some point (Dakin suggests the start of WW1) it was upgraded to act as a cinema. The projectionist accessed the projectors via a door at the eastern end of the southern wall. Unfortunately, the newspapers do not have any references to a Fulwood Cinema but Dakin says there were film shows during the winter months. The development of sound films in the late 1920s led to the demise of the cinema in Fulwood.

World War 1

When the first World War broke out, the Guildhall became the location for a massive effort to supply comforts to the troops and funds to support the Belgium refugees who had arrived in the City. The Army and Navy Aid Society was able to send nearly 100 garments to the Sheffield organisation by April of the following year. The members knitted, altered existing garments and created new ones from scratch. To fund this activity, they held jumble sales and concerts and at their first general meeting for ‘subscribers and workers’ they could report that over 2,500 garments had been made and £195 raised. The range of garments made were for the wounded who probably did not pack pyjamas, dressing gowns or slippers when embarking for France. The Annual meeting in 1915 heard that the Society had despatched 4700 garments since it began work, a feat that allowed them to top the chart for the number of garments produced by a Society in Sheffield.

After the war, the Guildhall returned to its usual function of being a venue for social activities. Dakin says the Guild itself seemed to lose its impetus after 1930 which may have been a result of easier access to transport from Fulwood where the trams now terminated and bus routes to the city were being planned. Car ownership was increasing and of course there were alternatives such as the Fulwood Sports Club.

World War 2

During WW2 the Guildhall was used as a Civil Defence First Aid post until the building was damaged by fire; fortunately the ARP wardens had a fire engine stationed on the land where the Scout Group has its HQ. After the War the Guild does not feature in the papers which supports Dakin’s comments about the lack of impetus.

After the War

The Guildhall became the base for many social activities based on the church. It was used by the Mothers’ Union and newly re-established Scout Group in 1949 and many will recall cub and scout meetings held there. In 1968 the Scout Group was able to build its present meeting place on land leased from the Church.

The Guild Hall as a private home

I haven’t established whether the church acquired the title to the Guildhall, though this has been suggested by others. A lady who joined the History Walk in September 2011 said that she was a member of the Church when the Guidlhall was sold in 1974 and confirmed that the Church was indeed the vendor.

In 1958 the Medical Officer for Sheffield surveyed the farm and other buildings in the area. The farm was condemned as unfit for habitation and demolished 10 years later.

Nethergreen Infant School was built and the school attached to church closed which enabled the church to consolidate its activities on one site. The Guildhall and the land where the farmhouse had stood were sold to the present owners in 1974. Since the they moved in, they have created a fascinating and unique home, retaining many of the features they found such as the tiered balcony and the stage.

The Guildhall was listed as a Grade II building in 1976.