From Barracks to Burdall’s – Guns to Gravy

A guest blog post by George Proctor


Barracks Furniss
Photograph of Hillsborough Barracks taken by W. T. Furniss who is buried at Wardsend With thanks to Picture Sheffield

Hillsborough Barracks is a name long associated with Wardsend Cemetery, its military connection is well established with over four hundred soldiers, wives and children buried there. But after the army left the barracks then what? From 1930 to the present day the fortunes of the barracks have taken several turns. In 1930 the 29th Howitzers left the barracks ending eighty two years of active service that saw several well known regiments founded there including the Warwickshires who became the South Wales Borderers, who made history at Rourke’s drift winning 11 Victoria crosses in the Boer War.

The site was bought by Burdall’s Manufacturing Chemists

The years following start with two years unoccupied before in 1932 the site was put up for auction by the war office and auctioned by Eadon and Lockwood however when the bidding stopped it had reached only £12,000 and was withdrawn from sale. Later that year the site was bought by Burdall’s, manufacturing chemists, they were run by Herbert Moses Burdall and are best known for their gravy salt but made many other goods besides. Alongside him was his son Herbert Alonzo Burdall. They opened there in 1935 after a fire at the Gibraltar St. works. They let out other parts of the old barrack’s site to others  including Sheffield Insulations, the site became known as Burdall’s buildings and the housing section as Burdall’s tenements.

The man himself was born in Lincolnshire in 1857 and was described in Sheffield as a dry salter. Dry salting concerned the making of dyes, varnish, wallpaper paste, paint, soap and glue. In the same year he bought the barracks he was elected to the council representing Hallam where he served until the 1940’s. One habit of his was that he had two hats  a straw boater he wore in Spring and Summer and a more serious hat he wore in Autumn and Winter, changing from one to the other on certain dates each year regardless of the weather!

riding  school r, barracks store L.JPG
The later development of the site maintained the barrack’s character

The works was sold in 1976 and closed. After a spell where  the site was mainly empty the site was sold in the 1990’s to Morrison’s supermarkets and is now the thriving commercial centre that is part of Hillsborough’s fabric. Morrison’s used the old parade ground as their supermarket covering it over, inside the supermarket are the frontages of the buildings that once looked out on the open parade ground, the outside was now inside. Here we should mention that Morrisons have thoughtfully and genuinely kept the barrack’s character and history in a conserved state. The old Burdall’s door sign is still there behind the offices that run down to Morrisons from Llangsett Rd. on one of the turrets. Also by the Llangsett Rd. entrance is the old Burdalls painted sign on the stone wall by the car park.

Burdall’s best known product was gravy salt. It contained no gravy!

Herbert Alonzo took over after his father’s death and was in charge when the firm closed. Their best known product was gravy salt, it contained no gravy! It was caramel and salt combined! If you had a cough you could take their syrup of squills (sea hyacinths). Clean your teeth with their carbolic tooth powder or use their denture cleaner. Rhuematics, no problem they had salts for that and ointment for your chilblains. They supplied eczema and dermatitis paste, fuller’s earth ointment, Glauber’s salts (no idea what that was for!). You could if you wish clean your hair with soapless shampoo powder or use their hair cream on it. They made suntan oil and perfume. Your stomach could be eased by carbonate of magnesia or Dr Hugh Maclean stomach powders (does anyone remember trying the good doctor’s powders?)

They had products for making ginger wine, get rid of insects with DDT, use their bath bricks, bake with their bun flour mixture and if you are really in trouble use their Castorvims chocolate laxative. There were many more products they made, too many to mention. As one of Hillsborough’s biggest employers they hold a special place in our local history employing lots of local people, mainly female. They and Bassetts have had a big impact on the area’s commercial and personal outlook.How many of Hillsborough’s residents past and present have been employed there? How many ex workers are buried in Wardsend?

Hillsborough barracks have played a big part in our lives locally from 1849 when the army moved in up to Morrison’s supermarket its large and characterful edifice has overlooked the lives of many local people. What next? We shall see.

George Proctor

old jailhouse now pub.JPG
The Garrison Hotel which lies within the old barracks walls houses a memorial to George Lambert VC. He was awarded the the highest military honour for bravery during the Indian Rebellion in 1857. He collapsed and died on the parade ground (now Morrisons car park) and is buried at Warsdend Cemetery 

Barracks 2
Hillsborough Barracks, St Georges Day, 1913.  Another photograph taken by W.T. Furniss who is buried at Wardsend Cemetery

For more wonderful photographs from Sheffield’s past please visit Picture Sheffield

Picture Sheffield is provided by Sheffield City Council’s Archives and Local Studies Service.


One thought on “From Barracks to Burdall’s – Guns to Gravy

  1. I enjoyed your story of The Barracks.As a child I walked past there on the way to Hillsborough park.My mum’s friend fell into a drum of gravy salt when she was dangling her legs over the side and accidentally fell in.She was attempting to put some colour on her legs at a time when stockings were no longer available during the war.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s