TAKEN AT THE FLOOD – Joyce Barrass

 “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” – Shakespeare

Wardsend Cemetery taken by the author 12th August 2005

As we approach the anniversary of the tragic events of the night of 11th March 1864, I’ve been dipping my toe back into the tides and currents of my own family history. My maternal ancestors connect me to Sheffield, and it was with an awareness of the Great Sheffield Flood that I stepped off the beaten track to Wardsend one August morning in 2005.

I’d lost my great great great grandmother, you see. Careless, I hear you say! I’d lost her behind one of those brick walls so notorious to family historians. I’d chased her through history, through census returns, certificates and directories, record offices and repositories. But as to her grave site, I’d lost her completely. Now I’d come to Wardsend, one last hit and hope chance to find her final resting place and run her, quite literally, to ground.

Her name was Elizabeth, born in 1788 into the Davenport dynasty of Sheffield saw makers. Their premises were situated along Rockingham Street, manufacturing ‘circular and all other saws’ as well as those saucy-sounding staples of the nineteenth century lady’s wardrobe, ‘elastic steel busks’ among other specialist steel items.


Davenport’s saws of Rockingham Street advertisement from an 1834 Sheffield Trade Directory

An incident at the Davenport factory was even reported in the Illustrated London News in 1851, when a horrific steam-engine accident occurred, involving a faulty bolt that gave way and fatally scalded engine tenter Richard Robertshaw and his co-worker Daniel Wilkins, and left a third man, John Crookes, with life-threatening injuries from the blistering hot steam. Bizarrely, Robertshaw’s four-year-old son had also died on the Davenport site, by drowning in a reservoir used for the steam-engine machinery. Just over a decade later, the power of water unleashed, not as steam but as spate, was to prove fatal to at least 240 souls in Sheffield, and the shadow of corporate culpability, amid an outpouring of grief and outrage, would fall more widely across the whole city.

When I came looking for Elizabeth at Wardsend, though, I had no idea that another distant relative had been directly caught up in the fate of the Dale Dyke Dam, and that he too was laid to rest at Wardsend. I was travelling in hope of finding Elizabeth’s grave after sniffing up several blind alleys. Her husband, a cutler called James Wallace, had died young of liver disease in 1840, leaving Elizabeth a widow with eight sons. She can be seen on successive censuses, moving from the family home in Garden Street, first to Wheeldon Street, then to the slum housing of Pea Croft where her eldest son, Joseph, was cutler and publican at “The Barrel.” Later, Elizabeth moved in with another son, Henry, in Edward Street, where she eventually died of ‘old age’ in her early seventies.

I had read somewhere that the overflow of burials from St Philip’s, Shalesmoor, might mean that Elizabeth, who died on the third day of 1862, could be among the earliest burials at Wardsend. Her interment would have been only two short years before the flood surged past the gates of the cemetery itself. It was this haunting image that led me there in search of answers. As with so much that touches us deeply, I found myself with even more questions and some surprising answers I hadn’t been looking for!

Wardsend pathway taken by the author 12th August 2005

Now, as an Owl, I’m no stranger to the Hillsborough side of town, but when I travelled from the far side of Rotherham, by bus, train and Supertram, discovering Wardsend was like coming across a little unsung plot of paradise. It has an atmosphere all its own. Some of the monumental inscriptions seemed so crisp, as if the stonemason’s chisel had not long left off chipping away the lettering of cherished names and the symbols of remembrance. I never did find Elizabeth’s plot, but I was reluctant to leave, wandering up and down the paths, marvelling at the beauty of the spot on the hillside, catching glimpses on every gravestone of the lives of many strangers and neighbours who might have touched fingertips with my own ancestors.

It was only years later, when to my delight I discovered the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery was a ‘thing’ via Facebook, that I finally had proof from the kindly expertise of Howard Bayley that Elizabeth Wallace is indeed buried at Wardsend, in Plot S230, exactly where I’d hoped she’d be. Armed with this knowledge, I hope to make a return trip one day!

Elizabeth’s grandson, my great grandfather James Wallace was, according to those who knew him, ‘a bit of a lad.’ From the merry dance he led me over the decades of playing genealogical hide-and-seek with him, I learned that ‘bit of a lad’ was a polite family euphemism for a bigamist, an incorrigible player and a bloke who was, by any standards, pathologically economical with the truth – a rogue, albeit a loveable one.

James had a colourful childhood, touring the hostelries and music venues of the Victorian North of England with his father Charles, a professional vocalist and sometime cutler, another of Elizabeth’s brood of boys. James was trained, in true Davenport family tradition, as a saw maker. After a stretch in the Army in India, where he seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time in hospital with malaria and the after-effects of being knocked out by a cricket ball, back in Yorkshire he had almost as many jobs as he did extra-marital moments. From engineer’s tool fitter to bicycle maker, from invoice clerk to spade and shovel maker, Lucky Jim Wallace, all six foot something of him, couldn’t or wouldn’t be pinned down.

My great grandfather James Wallace (1859-1952)
in his (slightly!) mellower twilight years

James kept the law off his scent, not to mention myself as his baffled descendent, by bailing out from Sheffield to Halifax, knocking a few years off his age, naming his uncle Henry as father of the groom and giving himself the middle name “Maitland” on his bigamous marriage certificate in 1924. ‘Maitland’ was a false moniker which stuck with him till his peaceful demise at the age of 92. But it was James’ first and only legal marriage, to my great grandmother Alice Jane Seagrave, that had me shinning back up that parallel branch of my family tree towards the Great Sheffield Flood itself.

Alice Jane’s father was William Seagrave, a circular wood sawyer and earthenware dealer living on Thomas Street and then on Portobello in the shadow of St George’s Church. He had moved from Mansfield as a youngster with his eldest brother Solomon, a seedsman, nurseryman, florist, fruiterer and market gardener who founded the famous Seagrave Nurseries, was a leading light in the Gleadless Land Society, and who has several roads in Gleadless named after him, including the road where he once lived, Seagrave Road.

Seagrave Road Gleadless
Seagrave Road, Gleadless, named after my twice great granduncle Solomon Seagrave (1824-1892) Sheffield nurseryman and market gardener

Alice Jane herself was a shy, long-suffering lady who, it’s said, “wouldn’t say boo to a goose,” – even when that goose was her serial adulterer husband. She was a buffer girl and sang in the choir of the renowned Dr Henry Coward, the pioneer chorus-master, while going home to the house on Gleadless Road she shared with James, their three children (including my grandmother Elsie), James’ mistress Annie, who was also their landlady, Annie’s grandmother, Annie’s best friend and the child James had fathered with Annie right under Alice Jane’s nose. After Annie’s early death from tuberculosis, Alice Jane adopted the child, always fondly loved by his step-sisters, if not by his step-brother, who emigrated to America soon afterwards, following a violent showdown with his father. Alice Jane continued to care for all James’ children even after he disappeared into the sunset to commit bigamy with another unwitting lass, also called Alice. Oh, to have been a fly on their wall!

Alice Jane Seagrave Wallace and her son James Victor c 1922
Alice Jane (Seagrave) Wallace (1856-1933) pictured with her son James Victor c1922

Alice Jane’s mother was Emma Goddard, born in 1833 to table knife cutler Charles Goddard and Mary Bartholomew. Six days before Emma’s sixth birthday, on the 11th of May 1839 at their home in Green Square on Charles Street, her elder sister Mary, just nine at the time, was helping to make the fire by wafting the flames with her petticoat. As was upsettingly common in the days of open hearths, the material caught fire and Mary was so severely burned that she died shortly afterwards. The inquest brought in a verdict of accidental death. This had a profound effect on Emma and stayed in her mind all her life. I know it did, as although the incident was never spoken of, the tight tucking in of skirts around the calves became a precaution passed down through the maternal line for five generations in our family, to prevent such accidents with naked flames in future. This preventative hem-hitching was passed from Emma to Alice Jane, from Alice Jane to Elsie, and on down to my own mother and to me.

It didn’t always quite do the trick, however. My grandmother Elsie worked as a young woman in a Sheffield corset factory where glue was heated over a fire. Elsie once briefly set her skirt alight, thankfully without the same fatal consequences as befell her great aunt Mary! So, fire brought tragedy to my Goddard ancestors. But it was the force of water that was to claim another member of the clan.

Joseph Goddard, a third great granduncle of mine, was a plumber, glazier and painter who travelled around for work. In 1841 he was in Arundel Lane and ten years later he had moved to the aptly named “Putty Cottage” in Swinton. But by the night of the census in 1861, he was living back in Sheffield with his son Edwin in Howard Hill, before his final fatal move to Malin Bridge. Edwin was a son from Joseph’s first marriage and worked as an engine tenter or stationary engine driver.

Joseph had remarried in 1856 to Sarah Bettany, a widowed pauper potter, as she is described on the census before their marriage. She had previously been married to a man called Samuel Edwards, by whom she had a daughter Mary who was with Joseph and Sarah when the Dale Dyke Dam burst in the bleak darkness above their cottage.

That March night, the sliver of waxing crescent Moon had already set, and the rain was lashing down in a south-westerly gale-force wind, so the darkness was deep indeed when the embankment cracked, and the dam finally breached. Dale Dyke flung its deadly torrent across the countryside, from the broad plains and meadows where the Loxley meets the deeper Don, along valleys, over fields, mills, grinding wheels, inns, gardens, homes containing sleeping families, pets and livestock, licking at the gates of Wardsend Cemetery with its grisly flotsam of masonry and machinery, churning with drowned souls and the corpses of stricken animals, to lap at the walls of Hillsborough Barracks and onward towards the town.

As it approached the row of twelve cottages known locally as Bower’s Buildings in Malin Bridge, Joseph was about to have a rude and terrible awakening. He had been in bed with Sarah, or, judging by what followed, perhaps scrambling to dress in the chaotic darkness. Also caught in the nightmare were Sarah’s daughter Mary, plus Sarah’s infant grandchildren, Mary’s youngest children, Rosina Yeardley, aged three, and John, aged two.   All were swept away as the flood raged on, destroying the Stag Inn and ripping open the “The Cleakum” as the Malin Bridge Inn was known to locals.

Just below Hillsborough Bridge, the tide of horror burst through the village of Owlerton, where, as paper mills and public houses dissolved into the seething maelstrom of filthy water, a lodger in a nearby cottage was confronted by Joseph’s naked corpse, his sodden and ragged shirt still attached to his wrist by the cuff, helplessly buffeted at the mercy of the deluge.

In the following days, amid grief, shock and the inevitable recriminations, came the frantic attempts to locate missing loved ones, to identify the deceased, some swept into the debris against Lady’s Bridge or washed away as far as Mexborough in the Dearne Valley. Once the bodies of Joseph and Sarah were identified at Owlerton on the day after the flood, son Edwin had the death mask made from his father’s face and from that a memorial bust, viewable online here on Mick Armitage’s excellent website: http://www.mick-armitage.staff.shef.ac.uk/sheffield/photogal/artefact.html

Joseph and Sarah were buried at Wardsend, a fact I have only recently confirmed through the invaluable knowledge and help of the F.O.W.C. I understand the Yeardley family is buried at Moorgate Cemetery in Rotherham, where Mary’s husband Alfred lived. There is also a memorial stone for some of the flood victims in the churchyard of St John the Baptist’s far downstream at Mexborough, where I took this photo while searching for some of my ancestors from my father’s side, who were blacksmiths, farriers and wharfingers there.

Mexborough Monument to victims of Great Flood
Memorial to three unknown victims of the Great Sheffield Flood, a man of 60, a woman of 45 and a 2-year-old male child,  in Mexborough St John the Baptist Churchyard (author’s photo)

You can take Sheffielders out of Sheffield, but you can never take Sheffield out of their hearts. My maternal ancestors didn’t leave Sheffield by choice, but by necessity. Tragedies and trials were witnessed and weathered until the Great War broke out and left their world unutterably changed.

My mum’s dad, Christopher Mamwell, had married Elsie Wallace, youngest daughter of ‘bit of a lad’ James and Alice Jane, in 1920 after the war ended. Granddad tramped nearly thirty miles northeast, all the way from 143 Derbyshire Lane in the days following the 1926 General Strike, to find work and a home for his growing family in Bolton-upon-Dearne. In the lamp room at Wath Main Pit, the acid used for cleaning damaged his skilled craftsman’s hands and fingertips, and this came to symbolise for him the loss of dignity and hope tied up with all he held dear in his life as a young man around Meersbrook, Heeley and Norton Hammer. Before the move away from Sheffield, he had been an artist and silver chaser who loved to walk out into the Peak District with its stunning views and clear horizons. Chris and Elsie always carried their Sheffield roots in their memory and in their hearts. The endless tributaries, meanderings and torrents of our family history lead us to where we are today.

My maternal grandparents, Elsie Wallace and Christopher Mamwell pose together before Chris went away to the Great War with the Northumberland Fusiliers c1914

So where do I fit in? I grew up as a railway child, in the Station Cottages of Bolton-on-Dearne on the LNER line from Sheffield to York at the start of the swinging sixties, a Dearne Valley lass born and bred. I love weaving echoes of the lives of my ancestors into my writing, including my first novel “Goatsucker Harvest” which was inspired by the lives of my dad’s waterway & railway ancestors, canals and Humber keels and the wilderness of lost fenland around Thorne and Hatfield Moors. Not surprisingly, Sheffield features in my second novel, a work in progress set again in the mid nineteenth century when shooting parties travelled from the inland cities to the Yorkshire Coast to bag seabirds and the “climmers” swung from the North Sea cliffs to gather eggs. Not without opposition, of course, or it would be a very short story! Sheffield sings in my blood – even though I’ll not plead that as an excuse for being a die-hard Owl – there are Blades too among my kin and ancestors for balance!

Over the years, I’ve walked most of Sheffield’s highways and byways in search of the places my ancestors lived and loved, mooching round cemeteries and records offices every chance I could snatch on the odd day off from my life as a Methodist minister. Two months after my unforgettable visit to Wardsend, I collapsed with a severe bout of autoimmune illness that left me bedridden and housebound. It abruptly ended that chapter of my gadabout genealogical adventures forever, but as one door closed, another opened, as my life was forced to slow down, on opportunities of sharing my lifelong passion, expressing my love for Yorkshire and its people, history, wildlife and wonders in writing, in poetry, prose, and fiction, and capturing it with my lens.

Yours truly at Solomon Seagrave’s headstone, Christ Church, Gleadless

For those who lost their lives, homes and dreams when the Dale Dyke Dam burst its banks, whose blood runs through our veins, I think it’s so important to share their stories on this anniversary of the Great Sheffield Flood and on into the future. Let’s never stop celebrating them and telling their interconnected tales and tragedies. For as long as we do, they can never be forgotten.

Wardsend cemetery on the hillside 12th August 2005 (author’s photo)




Don Catchment Rivers Trust Blog post about the Bioblitz event at Wardsend last August (2018)

Please follow the link:


You can find a downloadable file containing the full species list on our Facebook page here:


‘Greater love hath no man’ – Who was William Fish Groves? A guest blog post by Nathan Staniforth


Nathan Staniforth, picking up the trail in America. confirms William’s identity and his tragic end.

William Fish Groves, was born on the 11th December 1850 to Samuel Groves, a saw manufacturer, and Eliza Fish. Strangely enough, his baptism isn’t recorded at St. Philips until the 29th September 1872. Due to his baptism occurring when he was already an adult, his occupation is also included, he is an Engraver living at Watery Street, Sheffield.

A few years later William Fish Groves set sail on the S.S. City of Chester bound for New York in the United States, the immigration record states that he paid for himself, and the immigration date is 13th September 1875.

The next time we find mention of William, is two years following his immigration date when tragedy strikes in the town of Concord, New Hampshire. On August 5th 1877 it was first reported in the Burlington Daily Hawk Eye Gazette:

‘Henry Groves of Concord, New Hampshire while assisting in saving goods at a fire at Straw’s Point, on Saturday, was overcome by smoke and burned to death’

Henry Groves? This surely wasn’t Sheffield’s own William Fish Groves?

A few days later on August 8th 1877, the New Hampshire Patriot and Gazette featured an in-depth article on the event:

‘Fire At Straw’s Point

Distressing Fatality:

On Saturday night news reached the city that the cottage of B.A. Kimball, Esq. of this city and Dr. E.M. Tubbs of Manchester, at Straw’s Point, had been destroyed by fire during the afternoon of that day, and that Mr. W.F. Groves had been burned while endeavoring to rescue from the flames some of the contents of Mr. Kimball’s house. The sad news quickly circulated through the city and expressions of sorrow were heard from all lips. The dispatch stated that Mr B.A. Kimball had been seriously burned, but have meagre information of the matter. There was a universal hope among the community that the report might be wrong or exaggerated, but the telegraph on Sunday morning brought more details, confirmatory of the first melancholy tidings.

Various stories regarding the fire and fatality were reported during the day, but on Monday reliable information was obtained from the papers and from Mr. W.G.C. Kimball who came up from Rye Beach on the morning train. The circumstances in brief, were as follows: At Straw’s Point, one end of the great beach, a mile from the cottages and main settlement of Rye Beach proper, is a group of handsome cottages owned by gentlemen from Manchester and Concord. The ocean cable telegraph is near. Gov. Straw also has fine buildings here; then, on the other side of the road, which ends in a few rods at the seaside are the cottages of Dr. Tubbs of Manchester, Mr B.A. Kimball of Concord and others. The Tubbs cottage this season was occupied by Mr. W. G. Ladd’s family of Portland, Oregon.

At a quarter after two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, fire broke out in the stable of Dr. Stubbs’ cottage with a fresh breeze blowing; the house adjoining with Mr Kimball’s across the yard, were soon in a blaze, and all the three structures were wholly consumed. The cottage and barn of Mr. B.F. Martin of Manchester was in the greatest peril. The entire side toward the fire was charred like charcoal. Probably the force of the wind swept the flames from long contact with the wood, feeling mostly the intense heat. As soon as the alarm of fire was given a crowd collected, but nothing could be done beyond saving the furniture and apparel, most of which was got out.

Mr. William F. Groves of this city, who lost his life in the flames, had for some weeks past been staying at Fosa’s Beach. Saturday morning he went from the hotel where he was living to St. Andrew’s Espicospal Church, in the musical exercises at which, he had during his stay at the seaside taken an active interest, to assist in the rehearsal of the choir. He had previously composed a musical score for the Litany responses which was to be sung on the following Sunday. On returning from the church he stopped at the house of Governor Straw to dine, in accordance with an invitation received. At the cry of fire, he rushed out and worked assiduously to rescue the contents of the houses from the flames. After most of the goods had been removed from the cottage of Mr. B. A. Kimball, he, with Hon. John Kimball of this city went into one of the upper rooms. Here they became alarmed for their safety and went into one of the lower rooms. The flames had made such rapid progress that they at once saw that their lives were in danger. They were entirely surrounded by the fire and Mr. Groves excitedly asked how they could get out. Mr. Kimball replied he was going out “this way” and immediately rushed out through a door, across the piazza, on the side from which the wind was blowing, and escaped into the air. His face was badly burned, his whiskers scorched nearly off and his hands were seriously burned. Mr. Groves did not follow Mr. Kimball, but instead attempted to escape over the piazza on the opposite side of the cottage. He jumped out of a window through which Mrs. B.A. Kimball who was ill had been taken. On this side of the house the flames were blowing and raging with great violence and it is probable that Mr. Groves was overcome and fell to the ground, as where he was found after the fire was some ten feet from the house and about two feet from the piazza.

About the time that he attempted to escape a lady saw the flames part for an instant when a black form, which she thought to be a bundle thrown from the window, shot across the piazza. That so horrible an accident had occurred was not known till all was over, when at the place on the lawn stated above, something thought to be the remains of a human body was seen. This was taken out by some gentlemen present, and by a watch in the pocket was identified as the remains of the unfortunate Groves. His arms were burned off, one at the elbow and the other between the wrist and elbow. The legs were burned off at the knees and the body and head were shockingly burned and charred. The remains were brought to this city on the morning train on Monday and were interred with funeral services at the First Baptist Church by Rev. Dr. Eames at 12 on Tuesday.

Mr. Groves was a member of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, this city, but the Baptist Church was kindly offered for the funeral, as St. Paul’s is undergoing repairs. The church was largely filled with people to pay their last sad tribute to the memory of their late friend and companion. A delegation from Straw’s Point came up on the morning express, and were present in a body, among whom were Capt. William Walker, Phinehas Adams, Wm Webster, B.A. Kimball, J.C.A. Hill, Harry Parker and Mr. Green. The Carwen Harmonic Society of this city, which was organized last January by the deceased, also attended in a body, as did the employees of W.B. Durgin’s silverware manufactory, where Mr. Groves was employed as an engraver. The floral tributes were very beautiful and profuse. The pulpit as well as the platform, contained elegant and choice bouquets of flowers, and the casket bore a great many wreaths and bouquets, placed there by loving hands. One of the most beautiful floral devices was a lyre, composed principally of white roses and green, and on a green background in letters of white were C.H.S. This was a gift from the Carwen Harmonic Society.

The service consisted of the beautiful and impressive burial service of the Epicospal Church. Mr. G. Prescott, the organist of the Baptist Church, officiated at the organ, and a select choir consisting of Messrs. Howard and Andrews and Mrs. W.G.C. Kimball and Miss Georgia Morse, sang, finely, “I heard a voice from Heaven” and “Dear Father, bear my prayers” during the services.

At the conclusion of the burial services, Rev Dr. J.H Eames who officiated, made some very beautiful and touching remarks in memory of the deceased. He briefly mentioned his introduction in this country and this city, the many and true friends he made by his gentlemanly bearing and affable manner, the connection existing between employer and employed, his musical ability and endowments and the peculiar tact which he had for imparting his musical knowledge to his pupils. Dr. Eames mentioned his dignified and pleasant address and genial conversation in society and his willingness to instruct and elevate his fellows. He spoke of his moral and religious character and pointed to his past life as one for young men to follow. Dr Eames said that prior to the advent of Mr. Groves in this country he was a member of the English Church and when he first came to our city he immediately took an active interest in the affairs of St. Paul’s as being the nearest approach of the English Church in the country. He remarked of his musical connection with the church. The last time communion was administered to him at St. Paul’s and his last meeting with him on the street. Dr Eames then graphically described the fire at Straw’s Point, the heroic and generous conduct of Groves, his sad and lamentable death and the effect that it would likely produce on his kind and devoted mother and grandmother. At the conclusion of these remarks the dead march from Saul was played and the remains were borne from the church.

As the funeral procession passed through the streets the dead march was played on the bells of St. Paul’s, the remains were taken to the old cemetery and deposited in a tomb with the usual committal services. The funeral was conducted by Horace A. Brown Esq. and the bearers were Messrs. F. Reed, F.W. Smith, F.E. Knight, W.J. Green, J.R. Saye and T. Woodward.

The home of the deceased, Mr. Groves, was in Sheffield, England, where he has a mother, grandmother and uncle living. He would have been 27 years old in December next. He came to this city four years ago last winter, and during his residence was employed as an engraver at Durgin’s on School Street. He was a man of exceedingly upright character, affable and agreeable in manner, of passing presence and always a thorough gentleman. His pleasant and gentle ways, charitable heart and generous impulses had gained for him large circles of warm friends in this and other places in the state. He was possessed of fine musical taste and ability and the many entertainments in the city of which he was the author will be a pleasant memory to many in this city who are called upon to deplore his terrible fate. His relatives abroad, particularly his mother, who is nevermore to look upon the face of her tenderly loved son, but must henceforth bear this great burden of sorrow, with no anticipation of a reunion on earth, will receive the heartfelt sympathy of our entire community.’

Finally, word must have reached home, as on August the 25th, 1877 the Sheffield Daily Telegraph posted the following report:


A promising citizen, Mr. Willie Fish Groves (nephew of townsman, Mr. John Fish), has lost his life in New Hampshire, Concord, under very shocking circumstances. Mr. Willie F. Groves was native of Sheffield, and worked as an engraver at the silver-plate manufactory of Messrs. Bradbury, Eyre-street. About four years ago he went to America, going directly to Concord, and commenced work at Mr. W. B. Durgin’s Silver-ware Manufactory, where, New Hampshire newspaper informs us, “he was a genial young gentleman, ever ready to lend a helping hand to every good enterprise, and made many warm friends.” Mr. Willie Groves’ death occurred in this manner; — On the 8th inst. fire occurred at a villa at Straw’s Point, owned by Dr. Tubbs, Manchester. A stable connected with the house took fire, and communicated with ex-Mayor Kimball’s house. Mr. Kimball and Mr. Groves went into the second story of the house to get something that remained, and descended to a room on the lower floor, where they encountered sheet of flame. Mr. Kimball escaped creeping on his hands and knees: Mr. Groves made his way to a window, through which he had assisted to save the sick wife of Mr. B. A. Kimball. Mr. Groves then got through the window safely and struggled across tho verandah, where ha sank down from exhaustion and perished near to the house, which was burned down in about twenty minutes. The deceased was distinguished not only in commerce but in music. At the County Hall exhibitions on two occasions he obtained the gold medal for engraving on gold and silver ware. But it was as a musician (according to the lengthy notices which appear in the New Hampshire papers) that Mr. Groves excelled. It appears he was one of the finest tenor singers in Concord, and also a composer. He had recently composed an invocation to use in St. Andrew’s Chapel; on the Saturday he attended the rehearsal, on the Sunday assisted the service, which was conducted by Bishop Cox (who has since paid fitting tribute to his memory), and on the Wednesday following he was no more. The deceased was leader of the choir of the Universalist Society for a number of years; he formed a class for the study of music on the Curwen system, and was also a Sunday school teacher, in all of which offices was very popular. Mr. Willie Groves was accorded a public funeral, which was largely attended by leading local citizens, who formed in procession to the First Baptist (Episcopal) Church, where the service was conducted by Dr. Eames. The coffin was covered with an elegant floral cross, wreaths, lyre, and harp, and the platform and pulpit were adorned with flowers. Mr. G. D. Prescott presided at the organ, and the service was very impressive. Dr. Eames alluded in a touching manner to the character of the deceased—of his advent to the city and the useful and upright life he had lived there, of his love of music and devotion to it as an art, of his method of teaching it, his social qualities, his prominent moral characteristics, his fidelity to religions duties, and his readiness to assist in church singing. In his efforts in that direction at the little chapel by the sea-side where he was seeking rest, his chivalric soul (said Dr. Eames) was sent home to Heaven in chariot fire. The learned doctor concluded by expressing sympathy for deceased’s relatives and friends in England, and the remains were then convoyed to the Old Cemetery, where the service was concluded.’

In conclusion, researching this gentleman was a privilege despite the fact he met such a tragic end, the headstone in Wardsend Cemetery still remains in great shape, with the inscription:

‘William Fish Groves

Who died August 4th 1877

At Concord U.S. Of America

Aged 26 Years’

Although it was difficult to find mention of this man online, I felt like I was bringing a forgotten figure back to the forefront, and I am proud to be able to put this man’s story into words, one of many Sheffielders that travelled across the ocean and touched many lives.

The Friends of Wardsend Cemetery would like to thank Nathan for his assistance in following up this story from the other side of the Atlantic and for writing this blog post. He is currently making enquires about William’s last resting place in the old cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire.

Photo Hugh Waterhouse

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at Wardsend

RSPB and FOWC committee member Elton Beale spent an hour at Wardsend Cemetery today as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch. Here’s what he found.

This weekend has been the RSPB’s Garden Birdwatch. The idea is you record the largest number of each species of bird seen in a 1 hour window. So for instance if you see 2 blackbirds, then 10 minutes later you see 1 and then a group of 3 a few minutes later you would record the total as 3. Anyway, I decided to monitor not just my own garden, but also spend an hour at Wardsend (half an hour bordering the river, the other half hour in the old part of the cemetery up to the railway line. The list of species/ numbers seen within the hour were as follows:-

3 Magpie,

2 Carrion Crows

1 Blue Tit

7 Long tailed Tit

2 Mallard

2 Wood Pigeon

3 Greater Black Backed Gulls

1 Peregrine Falcon

1 Grey Wagtail

2 Great Tit

2 Robin

1 Blackbird

2 Moorhen

1 Buzzard

Elton’s sightings of a wide variety of birds in just one hour along with recent sightings of kingfishers, dippers, cormorants, heron woodpecker and starling murmurations is further confirmation of Wardsend Cemetery’s role as a haven for wildlife. Look out for this year’s nature events and guided walks on our website, Facebook and twitter.

Don Network Grant

The Friends of Wardsend Cemetery are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a grant by The Don Network.

With Wardsend located on the banks of the Don the river is an integral part of the area’s cultural and natural heritage and this is reflected in the varied and increasingly popular events which make up our annual programme.

We are very grateful to the Don Network for their generous grant which will be used to purchase equipment and resources that will enable us to carry out volunteer days, events and guided walks, to promote the natural heritage of the area. Our diary of events will be released shortly.

You can read more about the Don Network here:



Don Network logo

Respect for a Great Sheffield Wednesday Fan of Days Gone By

Tom Wharton

A  guest blog post by Wednesday fan Glenn Poulton.  Sincere thanks for your support from FOWC 

Having been lucky enough myself to have be selected by Jason Dickinson to be in The Owls 150th anniversary book, ‘WAWAW fans memories through the generation’, I was quite fascinated to read the first person mentioned was of a Mr Tom Wharton….

(Mr. T. Wharton from Jason Dickinson’s book)

It seems fitting that the first supporter profile should actually be a dedicated fan called Tom Wharton, who passed away in 1933 after devoting his life to Wednesday. The following is an interview with Tom in the Sheffield mail in 1926:

Surely old Tom Wharton is The Wednesday’s most enthusiastic supporter. And incidentally the most happiest man in Sheffield. He is no ordinary supporter, but a supporter who sticks to Wednesday thick and thin. For 46 years he has attended every home match except one The Wednesday have played. The exception was caused through a somewhat severe illness but Tom will let no ordinary illness interfere with his visits to see his team play. He has been ill in bed of Saturday mornings and has got up in the afternoon to get to Hillsborough. But it is not only home matches he has seen. He has been on every ground in England except three with The Wednesday. And he has a pile of programmes three feet high at least, issued in connection with the Wednesday club in different towns. The three grounds he has yet to visit are Stoke, Burnley and Newcastle. 

Old Tom lives at 26 Burnt Tree Lane, Sheffield and for many of a great year was a glass cutter. He has made some thousands of glass tumblers, and decanters, but is now retired and spends most of his time telling tales of derring-do in connection with The Wednesday and at the Sheffield Arms Hotel, Meadow Street, where he is now employed. He organised a party from the hotel to see the cup final on Saturday. The party went down by the Sheffield mail special train, but old Tom had not got a stadium ticket and did not get to see the match. But he has already seen 27 English Cup Finals. His first was in 1890 when The Wednesday played Blackburn Rovers and was beaten by six goals to one. That is a memorable occasion in old Tom’s life. It was his first visit to London, and the one he still talks about, in spite of having seen The Wednesday play over 1,500 times, before and since. His delight in the party played by Hayden Morley, one of The Wednesday backs, has not yet subsided. He stills talks of the enthusiasm with which the crowd carried off Morley shoulder high after the struggle. 

In the early days of his support for The Wednesday a party of about 40 or 50 enthusiasts, including himself, always banded together to see the team play. These enthusiasts have gradually dwindled in number until there are only eight or nine of them left. Some of them assemble in one corner of the Kop each Saturday when The Wednesday are playing a home match. They stand on the Penistone Road end of the ‘new stand’. But Mr. Wharton is doubtless the most consistent and oldest supporter of the lot. He has yelled himself hoarse times without number and has argued in the ground with men twice as big as himself. He will hear nothing against his The Wednesday and when they are down he says they will soon be up. Mr. Wharton is 72 years-old. Recently he and two other supporters had their photographs taken. His friends are George Wood, aged 69, and Mr. J. S. Redfern, aged 74. These three men had followed the fortunes of the team through thick and thin, their ages are total 215 years. Mr. Wood is a lamplighter and Mr. Redfern has lived at ‘the old black pudding shop’ in Meadow Street 

Tom Wharton 2.jpg

Having reading this I later found out via Twitter he is buried in an unmarked grave at Wardsend Cemetery which is located at the end of the seemingly never ending Livesey Street, behind Owlerton Stadium. So over the Christmas period with a bit of spare time I thought I’d seek out this once forgotten hidden cemetery and check it out for myself.

As soon as you cross over the river Don via the blue bridge you can see many of the head stones of the people who are buried there, right in  front of you. All being overgrown by nature. Nearly 30,000 men, woman and children have their final resting place here. As you walk along the path to the top of the incline you begin to see how big this place actually is and with all the trees that now stand there you cannot see the end whichever way you look. It’s also worth noting that Wardsend is 1 of only 2 cemeteries in England that has a railway line running right through the middle of it, so you have to cross a 2nd foot bridge to the top side where you find the resting place of Mr. Wharton.

I spent a good hour looking and walking through this fascinating woodland and taking various pictures including some of Hillsborough Stadium, which is only a stones throw away and can been seen if you follow the River Don up stream and then up to Scraith Wood near Herries Road, which I use to make the rest of my walk home to Parson Cross.

The long term goal of all this is not only to bring publicity to The Wardsend Cemetery and its friends, but also us Wednesdayite’s can give whatever we can and hopefully get Mr. Wharton the head stone or at least the recognition I feel a fellow Wednesdayite deserves. Hopefully we can maybe start a crowd funding page? For just £5 a year membership you can also become a friend of the cemetery which will also go towards the general up keep of Wardsend plus other benefits for you. You can find the application form on the website.

Up The Owls and Friends of Wardsend.

Glenn Poulton. (@PoultonOwl).

The Mystery of the Photo in the Attic – A guest blog post by Sue Pierce

It was only 2 years ago, in January 2016, that I discovered who the couple in the photograph were. It had been sitting in my parents in law’s attic for many years, and then came into our possession, where it sat in a box for 3 decades, until I finally unraveled the mystery surrounding the photograph.
Let me start with why I have an interest in Kate [nee Hattersley] and William Townsend.
William Townsend is my husband, Tony’s great, great, great uncle.
I have always been fascinated in family history and started researching Tony’s family tree in the late 80’s/early 90’s.Going back to 1980, when I was pregnant with our first child, my late mother in law [whose first grandchild it was to be], always expressed a particular interest in my pregnancy regarding the size of the baby. Every time I had an ante natal appointment she would ask if the baby was growing normally, and seemed more concerned than you would expect. When we asked her why she was so concerned, she just looked at us and raised one eyebrow, which she always did if she didn’t want to say/tell us anything! The same thing happened in subsequent pregnancies, and with the pregnancies of her other daughter in law. We never discovered the reason behind her concern during her lifetime.
My mother in law passed away in 1986, aged only 60. It was when my father in law passed away in 1993, that things gradually began to become clearer.As we started sorting through their possessions, we found quite a few photos, and other family memorabilia. We knew these would belong to Tony’s mother, rather than his father, as he didn’t have any family keepsakes at all. We took a box of bits and pieces home with us to sort through, and that is where we found the photograph. It was the original photograph, not a copy, and was at the bottom of a box of assorted old papers. There was nothing at all to indicate who the couple were, and thereby began a mystery that lasted over 3 decades! Clearly it was a family photo, and now I began to understand a little, my mother in laws concerns.

I continued to research Tony’s family tree. Over the years, I had managed to do a lot of research and knew that if the mystery couple were related to Tony, then somewhere, I would have their name in the family tree. I spent many years trying to discover who the mystery couple were. It was so frustrating as I didn’t know whether they were man and wife, siblings, or completely unrelated. I didn’t know whether it was the gentleman or the lady who I was supposed to be looking for as the family member, to give me a starting point. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Then, just 2 years ago, in January 2016, on a cold grey Sunday, I decided I would pull out all the stops to unravel the mystery once and for all. My firstborn, who started all the concerns of his Grandmother, was by then 35!! I just had to discover their identities.

I belong to various family history groups and started posting the photograph on a few of them, asking [almost begging!] for help or suggestions. I hoped there would be an expert out there somewhere who knew just where to look.

The back of the photograph indicates it was taken in Plymouth, Devon. Tony’s family history had never lead me to Devon, so that in itself was a mystery. I didn’t know where else to look.
As you can probably imagine, the photograph generated a lot of interest. Lots and lots of kind people started searching. We all agreed they were probably performers, and some kind folk knew where to look for clues. Within hours, possible names and other information were being sent to me, but none of them tied in with Tony’s family tree. I knew, that one or both of them had their names on the tree, but couldn’t narrow it down any further.
That same evening, a wonderful lady posted another name suggestion – William Townsend, aka Mr. Tommy Dodd! I knew for sure the name Townsend was in Tony’s family tree, so checked for a William. I found him, and the dates and ages all tied up. I checked a few records, finding he was an ‘exhibitor’ in the 1881 census, and found his Will too, which also confirmed details, including leaving his estate to his younger brother, giving the brothers name and slightly unusual occupation, which confirmed I had the correct Will. After a few more checks on old records, it all tied up, and finally, after 35 frustrating years, the mystery of their identity was solved.

The interest of other people didn’t end there, and I was sent the pictures of the programmes and newspaper articles. To say I was over the moon was an understatement.

In 1876 Kate and William became parents of a son, William Hartshill Townsend. His Staffordshire baptism shows their abode as ”travelling” and Williams occupation as ”show dwarf”. Tragically, their only child died in 1877.

I have tried to put ‘flesh on their bones’ so to speak and find out more about them as people. Other than singing and performing [which I like to think they actually enjoyed],  the couple were partial to a drink, and were both apparently fond of whisky.
They sounded very colourful, and certainly seem to have been popular and successful, even travelling outside of the UK to perform abroad.
I think I would have liked Tony’s great, great, great Uncle William and Aunt Kate.

Huge thanks to Sue for sharing this story and the remarkable photograph. 

Kate Townsend is buried at Wardsend Cemetery. You can read more about her here:  Kate Townsend (Mrs. Tommy Dodd)

World War One and Wardsend

The Friends of Wardsend Cemetery newsletter of November 2015 contained details of  Wardsend’s connections with World War One. It included information about those who died in the war zones who are buried elsewhere and whose names are mentioned on memorials at Wardsend, those who lived in the parish of St Philip’s and those mentioned on the Wardsend War Memorial in City Road Cemetery.

Below, in alphabetical order, is a list of names and some information about each individual compiled by co founder of the original Friends of Wardsend Cemetery George Proctor. It is with great thanks to George that I have shared this information here.

It is our intention that this website will one day include a Remembrance section so that this information, as well as that relating to the cemetery’s connections to WW2, will be easily accessible while also serving as an online memorial to those who gave their lives in the service of their country.

We recognise that there is more work to be done here not only from a historical perspective but also so that these individuals may be properly and permanently remembered.


Alcock Arthur Frederick

Service No 2278, private aged 21 Yorks & Lancs (4th Hallamshire) (T.F.) batt killed in action France 16/6/1915. NP 1237.


Alcock William Charles

Service No 11874, aged 21 corporal Kings own Yorks Light Infantry  7th Batt died of wounds 20/9/1917  NP 1237.


Andrews Henry

Service No 17, Rifleman, 19th (Western battalion) (Territorial), Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own), born in Ecclesall, died 09/09/1916 in Egypt. He was formerly service No 262 West Riding N. R., Formed in accordance with an Army Council Instruction on 29 Nov 1915.  The Bns were made up of supernumerary TF Companies formed from National Reservists who were used for guarding vulnerable points in Great Britain. The Bns were posted for Garrison duty overseas in 1916. The 18th, 23rd and 24th went to India; 19th and 20th to Egypt. The 21st went to India via Egypt, and the 22nd Salonika via Egypt. The latter was attached to the 228th Brigade in 28th Division. N.R. NP 1285.


Ashton George William

Service No 405319, Private in the Labour Corp,, he was 42 and lived in Brough Street, Owlerton he died on 12/10/1919 having also served in the Yorks & Lancs, Service No 27934.


Barnett Henry James

Service No 3/1877, private, 2nd battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, died 26/10/1914, aged 33.  August 1914 : in Dublin. Part of 13th Brigade in 5th Division. 16 August 1914 : landed at Le Havre. NP 1367


Bell George Henry

Service No 18916, private, 2nd battalion, Prince of Wales own (West Yorkshire Rgt, died 27/03/1918,  August 1914 : in Malta. Returned to England and landed at Southampton on 25 September 1914. 25 September 1914 : came under orders of 23rd Brigade, 8th Division, forming up at Hursley Park near Winchester. Landed at Le Havre 5 November 1914.  Military Medal, Sheffield Council Roll of Honour. NP 1102


Dolphin John

Service No R/4084, corporal, 13th battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Died of wounds 26/08/1918,  Formed at Winchester on 7 October 1914 as part of K3 and attached as Army Troops to 21st Division. Moved to Halton Park, going on in November 1914 to billets in Amersham and Great Missenden. Moved to Windmill Hill (Salisbury Plain) in April 1915 and transferred to 111th Brigade in 37th Division. 31 July 1915 : landed at Boulogne.  MM NP 752


Foster William

Service No 65926, private, 126th Protection Co, Royal Defence Corps, died 01/12/1918, formerly 27934 king’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry


Grundy Albert L.

Service No 350343, private, 12th (service) battalion, city of Glasgow Rgt, Highland Light Infantry, formerly 42402 royal Scots Fusiliers, died 28/03/1918,In 1917 they were in action in The First and Second Battle of the Scarpe, including the capture of Guemappe during the Arras Offensive. On the 3rd of February 1918 they transferred to 106th Brigade, 35th Division. They were in action in The Battle of Courtrai and The action of Tieghem during the Final Advance in Flanders. Pozieries Memorial, panel 72, L 236


Helliwell Clarence

Service No 18811, private, 10th battalion, King’s own Yorkshire Light Infantry, died of wounds 07/12/1916, aged 23, Formed at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under command of 64th Brigade in 21st Division. Moved to Berkhamsted and then to Halton Park (Tring) in October 1914, going on to billets in Maidenhead in November. returned to Halton Park in April 1915 and went on to Witley in August.. September 1915 : landed in France. 13 February 1918 : disbanded in France, with at least some of the men going to 20th Entrenching Battalion.  Sheffield Council Roll of Honour.


Hides Ernest

Service no 499, private, 4th battalion AIF killed in action in Gallipoli at Lone Pine 6th  –  9th 1915 buried at Johnstons Jolly war cemetery in Gallopoli. Remembered on Australian national war memorial, Fulwood memorial and family grave at Wardsend. L 57


Hill William

Service No 203288, 1/4th (Hallamshire) (T.F.) battalion, Yorks & Lance Rgt, died 30/06/1917, aged 37, The 14th was formed in Sheffield in 1914 and stationed there as part of the 3rd W R Brigade of the W R division. After time at Doncaster, Gainsborough and York  landed at Boulogne in April 1915 becoming 148th brigade of the 49th division. Fought at Aubers Bridge 1915, Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Poziieres Ridge, Flers-Courcelette 1916, Flanders coast Poelcapelle 1917.


Hudson Edwin

Service No 3/2577, private, 2nd battalion,  King’s own Yorkshire Light Infantry, died of wounds 11/10/1918, aged 39, August 1914 : in Dublin. Part of 13th Brigade in 5th Division. 16 August 1914 : landed at Le Havre. 28 December 1915 : transferred to 97th Brigade in 32nd Division.


Jubb Herbert

Service No 30657, private, 7th battalion, Border Rgt, formerly 24167 South Wales Borderers, formerly 24197 Royal Welsh Fusiliers, died 03/1/1918, aged 2,1 Formed at Carlisle on 7 September 1914 as part of K2 and came under orders of 51st Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. Moved to Andover and on to Bovington in January 1915. Moved to Winchester in June 1915. Landed at Boulogne 15 July 1915. 22 September 1917 : absorbed the dismounted Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry and renamed 7th (Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry) Bn. Died either at Bertincourt or Moevres.


Lodge Walter

Service No 40376, gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery, died of wounds 17/07/1916, Sheffield Council Roll of Honour. NP 717


Maltby Oliver

Service No 73563, 3rd battalion, Durham Light Infantry, died 19/02/1918, aged 31,


Middleton Thomas Reginald

Service No 29701, private, 7th battalion, King’s own Yorkshire Light Infantry, died of wounds 03/10/1917,  Formed at Pontefract on 12 September 1914 as part of K2 and came under command of 61st Brigade in 20th (Light) Division. Moved to Woking and thenn to Witley in February 1915, going on to Salisbury Plain in May. 24 July 1915 : landed at Boulogne. 20 February 1918 : disbanded in France. Sheffield Council Roll of Honour.


Mills Albert Frederick Schwabe

Service no 37480, Lance Corporal, Yorks & Lancs Rgt, died 1917, buried Arras Memorial bay 8. NP 700


Plant William Bailey

Service No 3321, corporal, 8th (City of London) Battalion (Post Office Rifles, London Rgt, died 15/09/1916, It was also the only regiment in the army that did not have a regimental badge – each battalion having its own individual cap badge. L 409


Redfern Joseph Spencer

Service No 10520, private, 14th battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, died 02/11/1916 aged 42, Formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3 and came under orders of 21st Division as Army Troops. January 1915 : converted into Pioneer Battalion. Landed in France September 1915. 1916 Somme.


Richardson Joseph

Service No 19505, private, 3rd (reserve) battalion, Yorks & Lancs Rgt, died 10/09/1915, aged 21, K 268


Rippon Thomas

Service No 795849, Gunner, Territorial Force, Royal Horse Artillery and  Royal Field Artillery, died 02/02/1917, aged 28, Hannescamps New Military Cemetery


Smout William Thompson

Service No 12/1854, private, 8th (service) battalion, Yorks & Lancs Rgt, died 01/07/1916, aged 30,  Thiepval Memorial pier and face 14A & 14B,  originally with Sheffield City Battalion. A 451


Speight Horace

Service No 201787, corporal, 6th (service) battalion, Yorks & Lancs Rgt, died 10/10/1917, aged 24, Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Formed at Pontefract in August 1914 as part of K1 and came under orders of 32nd Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division. Moved initially to Grantham. Moved to Witley in April 1915. 3 July 1915 : sailed from Liverpool for Gallipoli, landing at Suvla Bay 6 August 1915. Evacuated from Gallipoli December 1915, moved to Egypt via Imbros. Moved to France in July 1916. grave ref XI. J. 16.     I 256


Spye John

Service No 3/3860, private, Depot battalion, Yorks & Lancs Rgt, died 16/06/1918, Sheffield Council Roll of Honour. NP 1285


Thorpe William

Service No 3/7125, private, 2nd battalion, East Yorks & Lancs Rgt, , died of wounds, 14/05/1915, aged 42, aged 42, Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Grave Ref VIII,  C. 40. L 130


Wales William

Service No Tyneside Z/8298, Drake battalion, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, enlisted 05/11/1915, draft for BEF 27/03/1918, joined Drake battalion 07/04/1918 until 05/07/1918 (influenza), rejoined Drake Battalion 05/09/1918, died 28/09/1918, missing later reported killed in action or died of wounds. L 130


Wall Arthur

Service No 285156, private, 26th battalion (Tyneside Irish), Northumberland Fusiliers, died 14/10/1917, formerly 6167 Yorks & Lancs Rgt. Tynecot Memorial, panel 19 to 23 and 162, Formed at Newcastle, November 1914, by the Lord Mayor and City. June 1915 : came under orders of 103rd Brigade, 34th Division. Landed in France in January 1916. 3 February 1918 : disbanded in France. Died first battle of Passschendale. I 234


Woodhouse David

Service No 13542, corporal, Depot battalion,  Yorks & Lancs Rgt, died 28/10/ 1918. NP 1079


Cramp Frank

Service No 7368091, corporal, Royal Army Medical Corps, died 04/08/1940, died while guarding an ambulance.  NP 422