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

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.

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. 

Broomhead Hall, Sheffield.

Copyright © Sheffield City Council.

I remember as a child going on a walk around the Wilson Family estate at Broomhead near to our home in Sheffield. I recall very clearly seeing a stone outline visible though the grass where Broomhead Hall once stood. I also remember seeing what was left of the lavish gardens that once surrounded the house.  I Recall feeling a sense of sadness that such a beautiful house had been demolished and an important part of local history removed. 

There is not much information on Broomhead, what I managed to find, I got from Sheffield library, most of which has been written by local historians rather than academics. Not to say that it is not correct, but information about Broomhead does not seem to appear in any academic literature on the Lost Heritage of Britain, which there is a lot of.

Broomhead Hall was built in 1831, after the previous house had been destroyed by fire.[1]  The Broomhead estate was (and still is) the home of the Wilson family, however, the main hall was demolished in 1980.  Prior to the hall being demolished, it was used to house farm workers and to store potatoes.  It had then been an office for an insurance company as well as being requisitioned by the army during World War II[2] as many other grand houses were. The rumour locally was that the entire house was shipped over to America.  However, from my research I could only locate a staircase[3], a carved oak sideboard dated 1601, and a long oak table dated 1588, all Wilson family heirlooms, that were shipped to America.[4] Some other items from the house are now on display at Bishops’ House in Norton Lees in Sheffield.[5]  As for the fate of the stone, that still remains a mystery, but local forums say that it was used locally. 

Broomhead was not alone in it’s fate, over 1200 country houses have been demolished in England since the year 1900 and in the period between the two world wars, over five percent of country houses were demolished. [6] Looking back on this now, this is hard to believe. Imagine demolishing Chatswoth, it would be unthinkable. Prior to the 1960s, attitudes were different towards country houses and the aristocracy in general. The public felt little or no empathy for the struggles of the landed elite and the sales and demolishment of country houses was not of great public concern. I think now we generally feel very different towards country houses, regardless to attitudes towards the aristocracy, I think most can appreciate that country houses are an important part of the history and heritage of our nation.

If you are interested, the ruins of Sutton Scardsale Hall and Errwood Hall can be seen up close.


[1] Booth, J., Bygones of Bradfield Volume 2, 1988. Sheffield: Hilltop Press, p 54.

[2] Booth, J., 1988,p 55.

[3] Branston, J., Pennine People & Places – Stocksbridge & District War Memorial History of Stocksbridge – Volume Two, 1980. N.P. PP25.         

[4] Branston, J., 1980.

[5] Bishops’ House. Available Online: https://www.bishopshouse.org.uk/

[6] Hunter, M., Preserving the past: the rise of heritage in modern Britain (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1996) p 99.

Angel Island State Park, California.

Angel Island is located in the San Francisco Bay area, just across the water from it’ more famous neighbour, Alcatraz. There is a lot to see on Angel Island, and one day is definitely not enough time, especially if you are on foot.

Getting There

Angel Island is accessed by boat from either Tiburon https://angelislandferry.com/ or Pier 41 https://www.blueandgoldfleet.com/ferry/angel-island/ . We got the ferry from Tiburon as we were staying in Sausalito. There is plenty of parking in the little town, we paid $5 for the day.

Getting Around the Island

Obviously you can not take your car on Angel Island, but you can take a bike, or hire one there. We were on foot but the next time I visit, I will definitely hire a bike as there is not enough time in a day to see everything if you are walking. There are also segway and tram tours that you can take https://angelisland.com/ .

Flora and Fauna

Angel Island has a lot to see and there are things for people with a variety of different interests. For starters, the scenery on the island is incredible, with views of the whole bay area. You can see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco on a clear day. As well as the beautiful scenery, Angel Island has an array of birds, Canadian Geese, hummingbirds, juncos and scooters to name but a few. There are also many other species of wildlife that inhabit the island, including, raccoons and deer. The island is also home to native and non-native plants. The military planted various trees and shrubs during their time on the island, including Monterey cypress and eucalyptus. Plants native to the island include; Coyote brush and elderberry.

Military

In 1863, the federal government established Camp Reynolds (West Garrison, named after the first officer to fall at Gettysburg) on the island.

In 1899, a quarantine station was established at Fort McDowell in order to isolate troops who had been exposed to contagious diseases while serving overseas.

Immigration

Angel Island was home to one of 19 immigration stations that were established in the early 20th century. Angel Island was the main station for immigrants arriving from the Pacific, mostly Asian, especially Chinese. However, some non-Asian immigrants did pass through (see my post on Ellis Island for immigration from the Atlantic).

Below are a few images that I took whilst on the island. You are free to walk around and have a look at most of the buildings. You cannot go inside a lot of them due to health and safety. There are some buildings that are used to house staff, signposting is not always clear and they tend to shout at people if they get too close. In my personal opinion, the interpretation could be greatly improved. There are interpretation boards dotted around but I think there could be loads more done in terms of telling the story of the island. There is a museum which tells you a lot about the island, but it would be nice for more of the buildings to be open for visitors to look around and to learn about what purpose they served.

Abandoned Military Hospital
Camp Reynolds (West Garrison)

Manzanar War Relocation Center.

I have visited the Owens Valley on Vacation a number of times. My first visit was back in 2012. However, it was not until 2017, that I finally visited Manzanar, after driving past it numerous times.

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the U.S. government began making plans for the incarceration of Japanese-Americans. On the 19th of February, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers. The order resulted in over 100,000 Japanese-Americans being removed from their homes and placed in internment camps.

The camps were located in isolated areas where the weather could be burning hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. People had to leave behind their businesses and possessions, taking only what they could carry.

After my visit to Manzanar, I seemed to come across lots of information relating to the persecution of Japanese Americans during World War II. I think after visiting Manzanar and the emotional effect that it had on me, things just caught my eye more. For example, I was watching a documentary on art in San Francisco, and I learnt about the photographs that Dorothea Lange captured of Japanese-Americans, in the early 1940s. Then whilst doing some research for a paper that I was writing for my MA on the California Water Wars, I came across a fascinating book by Karen Piper called Left in the Dust: How Race and Politics Created a Human and Environmental Tragedy in L.A. In short, the book tells the story about how the people and environment of the Owens Valley have suffered since the Los Angeles Aqueduct was built to divert the course of the Owens River in 1913. The fugitive dust from the drying of the Owens Lake caused toxic dust storms in the valley where Manzanar is located, meaning Manzanar detainees were subject to this dust. The dust has been known to cause disease and death among the people that inhaled it. Not only were these poor people forcefully removed from their homes, but they were also subject to toxic dust, from which they could not escape (n.b. at the time Manzanar was in operation, no-one knew the dust was toxic).

By November of 1945, Manzanar was deserted, the war had ended and the Japanese-Americans returned home. However, some people had no home to go back to. It took another 44 years for the US government to apologise to those interned at Manzanar. Camp survivors were given $20,000 by president Ronald Reagan.

Monument marking the cemetery. It was built by internees in 1943.

Prior to the drying of the Owens Lake, the area where Manzanar is located was full of beautiful fruit orchards. The Owens River provided ample irrigation for the growing of produce and the area was named after the Spanish word for apple, ‘manzana’.

Guard Tower
Basketball Court

After the war ended, Manzanar was razed. However, many of the buildings were sold to local residents of the Owens Valley. When Manzanar was preparing to be opened to the public, the NPS attempted to relocate the original buildings. However, they did not have much luck. They did manage to reclaim a building that was at Bishop airport, but many of the buildings that are there today are replicas.

Thanks for reading :).