The Remains of Britain’s Largest Prisoner of War Camp.

Lodge Moor, Sheffield, July 05 2020.

Hi, welcome to my blog if you are new here. If you are returning, welcome back.

This location has been on my to visit list for a while, but I never knew much history about it until I started doing research for this post. It is another one of the forgotten historically important places of Sheffield, that the council choose not to acknowledge.

There isn’t much left of the camp, as you can see from the pictures below, it is very overgrown and only foundations remain. The former camp is located in some public woodland off Redmires Road in Lodge Moor. The woodland gets a lot of foot traffic from walkers, runners and cyclists. If you did not know what these ruins were beforehand, there is no way of knowing as there is absolutely no interpretation or memorials on the site.

According to the book, Sheffield’s Great War and Beyond: 1916-1918 by Peter Warr, Redmires was initially used to accommodate the Sheffield City Battalion (Sheffield PALS), I believe from December 1914 until May of 1915. After this it was used for the the Royal Engineers until 1918. In 1918, it was opened as a prisoner of war camp, housing German prisoners until 1919. Peter also notes that the camp was used in 1920 by parties of school children, this would make sense as on some old maps the area near the camp is labelled “Redmires Special School”.

Sometime between 1918 and 1919, Hitlers chosen successor, Karl Dönitz was held at Redmires. When Dönitz was released from the camp and returned to Germany, he was made commander of the German U-boats, before becoming head of the German Navy. Eventually succeeding Hitler to become president of the German Reich.

The camp was also used in the Second World War, firstly for Italian prisoners, who were put to work on local farms and then after D-Day, it was used to house Germans. It is said that the camp housed between 10,000 to 12,000 inmates at its peak.

In 2019, archaeology students from the University of Sheffield excavated the site. Their report can be found here.

The former Lodge Moor hospital next to the camp, now apartments was once used as a fever isolation hospital. From what I have read online, during the First World War, there was an air landing strip next to the camp that was used to defend Sheffield against Zeppelin raids. However it was only used until 1916. In his book, Redmires – Tales From the Ridge, Keith Baker notes that the airfield was ceased due to protests that it would disturb patients at the hospital.

During the Victorian times, there was also a racecourse near to the site. However it was not in operation long, possibly due to it’s remote location from the city centre.

If you have anymore information, or anything I have written is incorrect, please leave me a note in the comments as some of the information that I have read has been contradictory.

If you intend to visit, there is parking on the road or there is a car park next to the recreation ground just past the Sportsman pub. Just be careful If you are walking, running, cycling or riding a horse, it seems to be a place frequented by quad bikers and off road motorcyclists.

Thank you for reading. Watch my video below for a more in depth look.

This is the only sign that references the camp.
Sheffield’s only Prisoner of War camp, once known as “Redmires” or the Lodge Moor Camp.

Sources and further reading:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-48869080

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/lodge-moor-pow-camp-ruins

https://darkyorkshire.wordpress.com/tag/redmires/

Sheffield’s Great War and Beyond: 1916-1918 by Peter Warr

Hitler’s Hangmen: The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill December 1944 by Brian Lett

Thurgoland Tunnels

Barnsley, England, July 5th 2020.

After doing some searching online for unusual free things in my area, I came across the Thurgoland Tunnels.

The 924ft long tunnels are located along the Trans Pennine Trail, a walking/ cycling path which runs along the old Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester railway line. The line opened in 1845 but closed in 1983.

Only one of the two tunnels is open, the other is blocked off. If you clap your hands or make sound whilst in the tunnel, you will hear an unusual reverberating sound due to the acoustics in the tunnel.

If you intend just to visit the tunnel, I would suggest parking under the bridge on Cote Lane if you travel by car. The entrance to the trail is marked and is located at the side of the bridge.

The tunnels are along the Upper Don Trail
The tunnels are along the Upper Don Trail
The second tunnel
The second tunnel

Catcliffe Glass Kiln, Rotherham, England.

The Grade I Listed Catcliffe Glass Cone in Rotherham was built in about 1740 and is the oldest remaining structure of its kind in Western Europe. It is one of 4 similar structures that remain in the UK.

Sorry for the dull picture, the weather was terrible when I visited.

The cone formed part of Catcliffe glass works, which was established by William Fenney in the eighteenth century. The works passed into the possession of Henry Blunn (date unknown) before being closed sometime between 1884 and 1887.

It is said that prisoners of war were housed here during the First World War and during the 1926 industrial disputes, the cone was used as a canteen for feeding children.

Glass making is an ancient craft and can be dated back to ancient Egypt. The industry increased in Western Europe around the 16th century when Industrialisation was on the increase.

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were dozens of glass cones in the industrial areas of England. The unusual cone shaped buildings were developed due to shortages of timber fuels and so glass factories had to use coal to power their furnaces. The buildings would have a furnace in the centre and an underground flue. Fumes would be expelled through the apex of the tapering shell. The structure and the underground flue system was to increase the draft.

Glass cones fell into disuse when the Pilkingtons factory in St Helens, with it’s modern production techniques concentrated the industry, becoming the centre of the glass industry in Britain.

Other glass kilns in the UK are: Alloa in Scotland, Leamington and Stourbridge.

Thanks for reading. Have a look at my video below for a look inside.

Sources:

New Scientist, 4 Jul 1974.

http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/graphics/Visiting/Family%2BAttractions/EDSCatcliffeGlassCone.htm

Conservation and Restoration of Glass, Sandra Davison, R.G. Newton

Seldom Seen Engine House in Sheffield, England.

Hidden away in the Moss Valley lies the remains of Seldom Seen Engine House. The engine house was once part of Plumbley Colliery. According to the publication North Derbyshire Collieries, Plumbley Colliery was sunk in about 1860 and closed in 1901.

There are two theories about how the engine house got it’s name. One is that the engine house was so hidden away it was ‘seldom seen’. The other theory is that the engine house was haunted and the ghost was seldom seen. I think the first is the more logical explanation as Plumbley Colliery was also known as the Seldom Seen Colliery. However, I prefer the latter.

Today the engine house is a Scheduled Ancient Monument as it is an unusually large and rare example of an engine house. There isn’t much left of the interior, it looks like the council have just used the inside to dump old signs, which is a shame. Some interpretation would be nice, it’s another one of Sheffield’s forgotten places sadly.

On the 16th of March in 1895, Percey Riley, 9, Esther Ann Riley, 11, and Rebecca Godson, 9, were playing on a cooling pond belonging to the colliery that had frozen over. The ice broke and the children fell into the freezing water.  A 24-year-old engine man Alfred Williamson heard the children screaming and jumped into the pond to rescue them. Alfred and the children sadly drowned as they were unable to swim.  Alfred’s headstone, which is also engraved with the names of the children resides in Eckington Churchyard.

At the time of the children’s death, their families could not afford headstones. In 2020, a local fundraising campaign by Natural Eckington raised enough money to place a headstone for each child in Eckington churchyard, there was also a service to remember the children and Alfred.

There doesn’t appear to be much more information about the colliery online, if you have any more info, please leave a note in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Grade I listed St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Eckington
War memorial

Sources and further reading:

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1017746

https://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/people/forgotten-children-who-died-eckington-colliery-accident-be-remembered-125-years-later-1887992

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.