Treeton Local History Group

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August meeting report

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The Suffragette, the Silverworker and the Sheik's Creator


Our speaker on Thursday 31st August was Ann Beedham, who rose well to the unexpected challenge of a powercut in the village that meant that she had both to deliver more than half of her talk without the benefit of slides, and for part of that time also in competition with the Reading Room's fire alarm!

Fortunately power was restored about two-thirds of the way in, just as the declining light was making it difficult for Ann to even read her speaker's notes!


Despite these unusual circumstances Ann kept all of those present interested with her talk 'The Suffragette, the Silverworker and the Sheik's Creator', on the lives of three local women who each made their mark on the last century in their own very distinctive ways: The first was Hannah Mitchell of Alport Castles near Hope, who worked for the cause of Women's Suffrage alongside Adela Pankhurst in Sheffield, including at the 'Suffrage Shop' that the movement held on Chapel Walk shortly after the first Word War. The second was a Silversmith, Joyce Himsworth, active in the 1930's, whose work can still be found on exhibition at the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield, while the last, and in some ways the least likely, was Edith Maude Winstanley (a.k.a. E. M. Hull), respectable middle class wife and mother who was also the author of the (by the standards of the time) racey 1919 novel 'The Sheik' which when turned into a film two year later made the career of Rudolph Valentino!

Last Updated on Monday, 10 September 2012 20:01

June meeting report

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On Thursday 28th June the History Group welcomed guest speaker Janina Derrick, who gave a talk entitled 'The Long Walk To Freedom'.  This was an unusual meeting in that Janina's subject was something that she had herself experienced, as a refugee from Poland in the last days of the second World War.

Janina gave us a fascinating first-hand account of the trials and tribulations of her family, who originally lived in Lvov, then in Poland, which was briefly held by the Germans before being re-taken by the USSR and, of course, is now in the Ukraine. She told us how her father, with an intrepid group of friends, escaped from Poland to Britain as his native land fell to the Nazis, and how he fought as a Spitfire pilot in one of the Free Polish Squadrons that took part in the Battle of Britain. Of course, this meant that his wife and his child Janina, then around 7 years old, were left with her grandmother to fend for themselves in war-torn Lvov. Having already lost a close family friend (who was Jewish) during the German occupation, the family found the block of apartments that they called home occupied by the Russian high command in the form of the well-known Marshall Zhukov' who was at the time leading the offensive that drove the Germans out of what was to become Soviet territory. The Russian occupation was little or no better for the Poles than the German, so seizing the last opportunity before the borders closed, the small family made their way on foot and by truck to Poznan in Western Poland.

Sheltering in cramped conditions with their extended family, a message somehow got through to them from her father, who was by now based with the RAF in Germany as the war drew to a close. With the help of a courier paid by her father, and desperately sad to leave her beloved grandmother behind, Janina set off with her mother to make the dangerous trek, largely on foot, from occupied Poland through devasted Germany to Berlin, and thence onwards through the divided city to the airbase to the South where her father was waiting for them.

Janina's account of their travels and the tribulations she and her mother went through, was fascinating, not least because her mother chose to take responsibility for a fellow traveller in the party who was epileptic, with all the additional burden that entailed. Eventually of course the family was reunited at the British airbase after a number of close scrapes at checkpoints on route. Even at the airbase the ordeal was not over, as Janina fell ill with Scarlet Fever and by the time she had recovered her father's squadron had been moved on, and they faced yet more red tape before the family was finally reunited in England. Sadly the reunion was to be short-lived as her father died relatively young in 1952, but Janina's story was both moving and inspirational.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 19:34

March meeting report

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‘Knives and Vicars’ or the Church and the Steel Industry, a talk by Trevor Page

Trevor gave a very interesting talk about the growth of Sheffield from a Borough of 2000 people – most of these living in poverty – in 1616, to a population of 250,000 plus in 1881.

This was down to the production of steel for which Sheffield became famous throughout the world.  Sheffield was well placed for this industry having water supply from two major rivers, iron ore and coal under the ground and grit stone for grinding.

He took us to the eighteenth century, when Barker’s Pool was a pool in the centre of Sheffield which was released periodically to wash the town’s streets clean of the filth that had built up in the open drains.

The vicar at that time was James Wilkinson; he became vicar at the age of 23 and was vicar for 51 years. He was a bit of a character, as he was a big strong man and thought nothing of using his strength to enforce law and order.

The steel industry at this time consisted of ‘Little Mesters’ self employed knife makers.

As the steel industry grew so did the church. The connections between them were particularly marked by the Master Cutler Company an organisation established to maintain the standards and quality of Sheffield cutlery, but grew to include all steel production. Trevor who was at one time Chaplin to the Master Cutler told us that, each year a new Master Cutler was installed and a great procession of dignitaries walked to the Parish Church to perform the religious ceremony. He told many stories of Sheffield people, the steel industry and the church; these were delivered with wit and humour making it a very enjoyable evening.



May meeting report

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May's monthly meeting, on Thursday 31st, saw the welcome return of Mel and Joan Jones, to give an illustrated talk on Wentworth Woodhouse, the historic seat and home of the Fitzwilliam family.

Wentworth Woodhouse is a Grade I listed country house which was built by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham (1693–1750), and added to by his heir.

In the nineteenth century it became the inherited family seat of the Earls Fitzwilliam, who exploited the coal reserves under their land to make the estate one of the wealthiest in the country, and yet the family took good care of their tenants, to the extent that their workers turned out in their hundreds for the funeral of the xxth xxxx and remained loyal after the coal board took over the family mines in the mid 20th century. The latter was a bleak time for both the house and family, as the estate was open-cast mined right up to the edge of the main lawn, allegedly at the instigation of Manny Shinwell, the then Labour Party's Minister of Fuel and Power. From 1949 to 1979, the house was home to a training college for female physical education teachers. In 1989 the family trustees sold the house, which is now owned by the Newbold family.

February meeting report

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Maureen Taylor -  ‘A Visitor from the 16th Century’

Maureen Taylor gave a talk entitled ‘A Visitor from the 16th Century’ She appeared, dressed as a Lady and talked about her wardrobe and life in general in Tudor England. This was a change from the advertised programme ‘An Elizabethan Wardrobe Revealed’ which could not go ahead due to various circumstances; it is hope that this may be held sometime in the future.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 April 2012 18:42

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