Birley Spa Bath House, Sheffield, England.

In a Sheffield suburb, on some common land lies a Victorian bath house called Birley Spa.  The building dates back to 1842-3, when 2nd Earl of Manvers, Charles Herbert Pierrepoint opened the spa house.

A spring high in mineral content feeds the bath house, what locals have been bathing in for years, looking to benefit from the healing properties of the water.

The building is Grade II listed and is complete with plunge pool inside.  It is the last remaining Victorian bath house still set in its original grounds in South Yorkshire.

In 1998, the spa received money from the National Lottery Heritage fund to restore the building. Typical of Sheffield Council, they attempted to sell the building and in 2018, putting it up for auction without any public consultation.  Fortunately, the sale was postponed after local opposition. I believe that further talks with the community are ongoing.  At the moment, the future of the bath house is still unknown. 

The bath house is accessible down a small lane, there isn’t much to see and you cannot go inside or see inside of the building. Fingers crossed the building can be saved and some more interpretation can be added as it is a great local asset.

If you would like to help save the bath house, the Friends of Birley Spa welcome donations and support.

https://www.friendsofbirleyspa.org/

https://www.birleyspa.co.uk/

This is the only interpretation board near the bath house, surely the council could replace it with a new one?

Tea Party at Boston Castle, Rotherham, England.

Visit date – 3rd July 2020.

As I write this post it is the 4th of July so happy Independence Day.

I think the only positive outcome of the COVID-19 lockdown, for me anyway is that I have discovered many places in my local area that I never knew existed. As my educational background is in American studies, I was super excited when I discovered Boston Castle and the connection that it has with America.

The castle is not a castle as such, it was built as a hunting lodge for Thomas Howard, the 3rd Earl of Effingham in the late eighteenth century.

The castle got its name from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when colonists protested against the British crown for unfair taxation, throwing cases of tea into the sea.

Thomas served in the Coldstream Guards (the oldest continuously serving regiment in the British Army) and supported protests by the colonists in the USA. When Thomas’s regiment was ordered to America on active service, he resigned rather than support something that he did not believe in.

The castle today is managed by Rotherham Council, according to boards at the castle, they are looking for volunteers. I will link the website for the castle below should anyone be interested in helping out. I don’t want to put anyone off, but whilst I was doing my MA, I offered to volunteer with Rotherham Council heritage services as they were advertising for help and It was a requirement for my degree. They completely messed me about and I also found them to be incredibly unprofessional. However, considering that Rotherham council are one of the worst local authorities in the country, I should not have been so surprised.

The council also run tours of the castle (subject to change due to COVID).

There has been an ugly extension built on the side of the castle, I assume this was due to tight budgets not allowing something more in keeping with the original architecture.

There is a lovely view from the castle towards Sheffield and the grounds of Boston Park are nice to take a walk around.

Thanks for reading.

http://bostoncastle-rotherham.co.uk/index.html

Tupholme Abbey, Lincolnshire, England.

Tupholme Abbey was a Premonstratensian monastery, founded between 1155-65.  It was relatively small, of up to 12 canons and had limited endowments in the county of Lincolnshire. Along with other Lincolnshire monastic sites, Tupholme was involved in the wool export trade.

From the time of St Augustine’s mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597, to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England.

The abbey was dissolved in 1536, after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The property was granted to Sir Thomas Heneage of Hainton. Thereafter the site was occupied by a country house, demolished around the beginning of the 18th century and replaced in the 19th century by cottages and a farmhouse, which were also dismantled in 1986.

What remains today is a mixture of the abbey and the post-medieval buildings.

The English Seaside Town of Skegness in Lincolnshire.

Visit date, June 22 2020.

Skegness is the first of many British seaside towns that I intend to visit over the next year or so. I have not taken a holiday in my home country for many years. Even though there are some beautiful coastal areas, I usually like to travel overseas to spend my vacation time. However, as we can not travel at the moment, I decided to rediscover my own country and the many incredible and interesting places that it has to offer.

I decided on British seaside towns as they remind me of my childhood, but they are also something that is distinctly British. Most of us Brits have had fish and chips and ice cream during a day out at the coast. For me, the seaside represents nostalgia, family, being young and carefree. If you have seaside memories, please leave them in the comments as I would love to hear them. Anyway, a little bit about Skegness.

The name Skegness comes from the old Norse words ‘skegg’ meaning beard and ‘nes’ meaning a headland or promontory. The area is one of the places where the Vikings landed in the 9th century. The town developed as a harbour, trading in timber and other merchandise.

By the 1850s the village still had less than 400 inhabitants. Most residents worked as fishermen or farm labourers as the surrounding Lincolnshire land was some of the richest grazing lands in the country (and still is).

In the 19th century, the local gentry used to take their families to Skegness to indulge in the fashionable practice of sea-bathing during the summer months, but it was not until the railway reached Skegness in 1873, that working-class leisure trippers started to visit the town in large numbers.

Most of the land around Skegness belonged to the Earl of Scarbrough. He envisaged that the seaside would become a popular leisure pursuit and so he employed an architect to plan a model Victorian ‘watering place’ as they were known back then. A park, pier, shopping street, church, gardens and tree-lined streets promenades were all built in the late 1870s.

In 1881, a new pier was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. At the time, it was the fourth-longest in Britain. In 1919, the pier was damaged by the schooner Europa. It was repaired and survived until 1978 when another storm damaged a large part of it. The 1000 seat theatre survived but was burnt down in a fire in 1985. The modern pier was built in the 1990s, the deck was refurbished in the early 2000s, and further improvements were made in 2016–17.

In the 1920s and ’30s, Skegness was popular with caravan camps, but after the war, they expanded on a huge scale to make making the East Coast of England the most popular caravan coast in the country. In 1929, Billy Butlins opened a large amusement park by the pier and in 1935–6, he opened the Butlins Holiday Camp, boasting that it was the “largest hotel in the world”, containing around 20,000 beds.

Through the Edwardian years, Skegness continued to grow, attracting more and more visitors. In 1938, Parliament passed the Holidays with Pay Act. However, the implementation was delayed until the late 1940s due to the war. During the war years, Skegness suffered heavy bombing, it was also used to house the armed forces. In the late 1940s, the wartime damage was repaired and extra housing was constructed for the newly returned servicemen, and an industrial estate was built to attract year-round jobs.

In the 1950s, car ownership increased, which meant that visitors flocked to the coast under their own power instead of on the train. An improved road system was built to facilitate the increasing volume of motor vehicles.

There doesn’t seem to be much info regarding the 1960s onward, I presume it continued to develop as a seaside town. I do know that caravan ownership increased significantly in the area, If you visit today, you cannot miss the thousands of static caravans that are scattered across the landscape. I remember visiting Skegness in the 1980s as a child, usually for day trips as it was only a 2 or so hour drive from our home.

When I visited, in June of 2020, the UK was just emerging from the lockdown and many of the businesses were still closed. There were a few tourists about, nothing like the normal numbers that you would usually see in June. Hopefully, small seaside towns like Skegness can recover from the issued caused by Coronavirus, I believe many businesses are able to re-open with safety measures in place from the 4th of July 2020.

Thanks for reading. Please share your memories of Skegness in the comments.

Bolingbroke Castle, Lincolnshire, England.

Bolingbroke Castle was one of three castles built by Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester and Lincoln, in the 1220s after his return from the Crusades (the others being Beeston Castle, Cheshire, and Chartley, Staffordshire). After Blundeville’s death, the castle remained in the ownership of the Earls of Lincoln and was later inherited through marriage by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

During the English Civil War (1642–8), the castle became a defensible base for a Royalist garrison and was surrounded by armed Parliamentarian forces in 1643. The Royalists surrendered that winter, and the entire castle was destroyed. The remains of the castle gradually deteriorated and in 1815 the last remaining structure fell. The site was a bumpy field until archaeologists excavated the site in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, the castle is managed by English Heritage, entry is free and it is open year round and is easily accessible from the road. There isn’t much parking as it is located in a small village.

Kirkstead Abbey, Lincolnshire, England.

The Cistercian Abbey at Kirkstead was founded in 1139 by Hugh Brito (Hugh son of Eudo), lord of Tattershall. Cistercian monks and nuns were founded in 1098 and followed the rules of St Benedict (obedience, poverty and chastity). They are often referred to as the ‘White Monks’ because of the light coloured robes that they wore, as opposed to the Benedictines who wore black robes.

In 1536, 17 of the monks were involved in the Lincolnshire Rising. A protest against Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the monasteries. The abbot supported the insurgents and as a consequence, he and 3 monks were executed, and the abbey destroyed.

Little remains of the Abbey, below are a few images from my visit.

The abbey is about 100 meters from the road, I parked at the gate and walked down the dirt track to the abbey.

Barlings Abbey, Lincolnshire

Barlings Abbey in Lincolnshire is the remains of a Premonstratensian Abbey. It was founded in around 1154 by a local landowner named Ralph de Haya, with the first canons coming from Newsham Abbey near Grimsby.

After the Lincolnshire Rising of 1536, the abbot and 6 of the canons were executed. The Lincolnshire Rising was a protest against Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the monasteries.  At the time, Barlings was classed as one of the greater abbeys as it had an income of over £200 and was one of the wealthiest houses in Lincolnshire.

The abbey was suppressed in 1537, lead was stripped from the roof and the Abbots books and other possessions were removed and sold.  The abbey fell into ruin with much of the stonework being used to build local farm houses.

Today, not much remains, below are a few images from my recent visit.

RAF Norton Aerodrome

This site is very overgrown, there is a lot of rubbish; an old van, broken caravan and litter. It looks like people have used it as a dumping ground. There are some buildings left but they are pretty trashed and are covered in graffiti. I do not know what the future of the site is. Earlier this year the Sheffield Star published as story which stated that the buildings are to be demolished. However, the future of the site is currently unknown.

It would be nice if the council converted into a park as the site is huge and there are some lovely wildflowers. However, it is prime real estate and I would have thought that Sheffield Council will put houses on it, or sell it for housing eventually. It is in a Green Belt area so maybe that will have some say on what the site will be used for in the future.

There is not a great deal of information online about the site. I assume that the local archive will have more, but with COVID, it is currently closed. The air base began as the No 16 Balloon Training Centre in 1939, and was the home of three squadrons of barrage balloons to fend off attacks.

In 1943, the balloons were transferred to London and Norton was used as a station in the in the Royal Auxiliary Air force Signals Group, concerned mainly with radar & radio equipment, becoming the n°3 Ground Radio Servicing Squadron. This continued until 1965, when under an RAF reorganisation the Squadron was moved to Rutland. RAF Norton officially closed in January 1965.

In the 1970s, the site was owned by the NHS. There were plans to build a third big hospital for Sheffield on the site. However, for whatever reason, this did not happen. I remember learning to drive here as a teenager, I think it was £5 and parents used to take their kids there to practice along the runways. That was in the early 2000s. I believe this ceased as the council felt there were too many health and safety issues. However, as you can see from the pictures, the site is very easily accessible and there were a lot of people milling around, some people on quad bikes, motorbikes, etc. I think it is more of a health and safety hazard now than when it was used as learner driver training.

Thanks for reading.

Barnsley Main Colliery

May 2020.

As the lock down has now eased slightly, it is nice to be able to get out a little more. Many places are still closed, but there are a few places that are un-manned that you are free to walk around, maintaining social distancing of course. My trip out took me to Barnsley Main Colliery. In 1862, the colliery was producing 180,000 tons of coal. The pit closed in 1991, the site was cleared apart from the headgear and buildings, which were to be preserved as a memory of the history and heritage of the areas mining past. As well as a way to remember men that tragically lost their lives in the Oaks Colliery disaster.

The Oaks Colliery at Hoyle Mill suffered a series of explosions in December of 1866, where 361 people, including rescue workers were killed. However, researchers today suggest that number is closer to 380. It is still to this day the worst mining disaster in England.

The colliery is cared for by the Barnsley Main Heritage group. https://barnsleymainheritagegroup.com/ There is a small car park but it is not always open if there are no volunteers on site. I recommend parking at the nearby Abbey Lane car park and walking to the colliery from there.

Hoober Stand

My first post lockdown trip took me to Hoober Stand near Wentworth in Rotherham. I’ve driven past this many times and never looked into what it was until now. The tower is Grade II* listed and was built between 1746 and 1748 by English architect Henry Flitcroft. The purpose of the tower was to celebrate the role that Whig aristocrat Thomas Watson-Wentworth, Earl of Malton (later the 1st Marquess of Rockingham) played during the quashing of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. The tower’s name, Hoober Stand, comes from the nearby settlement of Hoober.

You can go up the tower, there is a small fee of £2.50 and it is open 2–5 pm on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays from the spring bank holiday weekend until the last Sunday in September.