top of page

An Ancient Lane in Hunshelf

The Barracks, or Briar Cottage

At the Stocksbridge end of Bramall Lane, not far from where Bramall House stood, was a building called "The Barracks".  Janet Sanderson lived here in the 1960s, but her mother didn't like the name, and she re-named it Briar Cottage.  It was knocked down in  1967.  The Barracks is shown on an old map of 1810, but as yet we don't know when it was built. 


There was a well on the property - in fact, there were many ponds, pools, and springs in Hunshelf from which the inhabitants and their animals had always been able to access water.  When the land was enclosed, the people still had the right to fetch water, but animals were not to be taken onto the land if there was no path - this would constitute wilful trespass or damage.  This would have caused problems if someone had regularly led their animals to water.


The Barracks was originally a "poor house"[1], that is, somewhere provided by the parish to house those in need.  Ted Spencer, the late Hunshelf Historian, wrote that, "the parish poor house was below the Crimbles and housed two families - it was known as the Barracks." [2]  The name Barracks is usually associated with soldiers' accommodation, but the term was once widely used for other types of housing, typically that which housed workers.  One local example is the "New Haywoods" or "Haywoods Park" at Deepcar, which was nicknamed by the locals as "Sparrow Barracks". 


Until 1834, people who could not support themselves or their families, or who had no one  to support them, were looked after by the Church (in Hunshelf, this was the parish of  Penistone).  It was the job of parish officials called Overseers of the Poor, to administer this "parish relief", as it was called.  Money was collected from householders based on the value of their property, and would be doled out as the Overseer saw fit - usually in the form of handouts of cash, food, clothing, coal, and so on.  Some of the money could be used to house the elderly or the chronically sick.  Able-bodied claimants were expected to work for their handouts, often by mending roads and other heavy work. [3]


Wealthy people often left money in their wills for the benefit of the poor, and this too would be administered by the Church.  Some also chose to bequeath property, or stipulated that rents from property they had owned were to be used for the benefit of the poor. 


So what proof is there that The Barracks was ever a poor house?  This is where the Inclosure Award proves invaluable.  The Overseers of the Poor of Hunshelf were awarded a small parcel of land at the southern end of Bramall Lane, and one of its boundaries was "other premises belonging to" the Overseers.  By looking at the boundaries on the field map together with the printed award, it is clear that the Overseers already owned the land where the Barracks stood, and that by the Award they were able to tack an extra bit on. 


This confirms that the Barracks did indeed exist for the benefit of the poor of the parish.  Being provided for in this way meant people could escape being sent to the Workhouse.  Very often, those who had fallen on hard times and had no means of making a living ended up in one of these grim places.  A parliamentary report of 1777 noted that there were workhouses at Wortley, Bradfield and Ecclesfield. 


Other fields adjoining the Barracks belonged to Sarah Pearson, the assignees of T. Pearson [4] [Benjamin Grayson], Sarah Hirst and the Curate of Allestree in Derbyshire. This branch of the Pearsons were an old family from the Hunshelf and Snowden Hill area (and are not the same Pearsons who came to Stocksbridge from Bradwell to work for Samuel Fox).


There are many examples in the history books of parishes receiving money from rents for the benefit of the poor, or of them having dwellings in which to house the poor,[5] and the Barracks was one of them.  There could have been others; in his book, Mr. Spencer mentions that in 1838 John Pearson of Snowden Hill owned a cottage which was in the occupation of "Widow Torr"[6] and that she was in receipt of a parish relief payment of 2/6 a week, the cottage being rated at 1/-.  He believes that this cottage (at Snowden Hill) was being used as an additional poor house to the one at the Barracks.


One of the early curates of Wortley, Edmund Cundy (1592-1629), left a will in which he bequeathed land at Hunshelf from which the needy of the parish were still benefiting in 1950.[7]  This land was a field called Harris Croft, which had been subject to a rent-charge; that is, an annual payment was levied on it, to be paid to the vicar of Wortley who would  distributed the money as he saw fit.  This field was sold in 1892 by the Vicar of Allestree [8] and a Mr. Jeffcock, and was still liable to this rent-charge.  When the money had not been received by 1893, a letter was sent to the new owners, and the money duly paid.  The Vicar (when interviewed by the Charity Commissioners in 1893) stated that he distributed the "doles" to "deserving persons in want, of all classes".  


So it can be seen that the parish looked after its poor, either by providing money or accommodation.  What we don't know is whether The Barracks was purpose-built to house the poor, or whether it had been bequeathed to the Overseers of the Poor to be used for the needy.  It seems most likely that the property was bequeathed because the parish probably did not have the funds to finance the building of a house.


[1] Not a "Workhouse", which was a much larger institution housing many people and having strict rules.  The workhouse evolved in the 17th century as a way of reducing the cost of providing this relief, and to deter fraudulent claimants.  It really was a last resort, and people lived in fear of it.

[2] Spencer, W. E., Snowden Hill, Pearsons, Others and Cloth Hall, pub. 1999

[3] In 1834 this system of looking after the poor changed, and local Poor Law Unions were formed to administer the relief.  Hunshelf was part of the Wortley Poor Law Union, which was formed in 1838. 

[4] Thomas Pearson.  Had he died?  This land was later bought by Benjamin Grayson.

[5] For example: White's Gazetteer and Directory (1827) states that, "The poor of Penistone township have the rents of three cottages [at Castle Green], purchased with £25 left by Fras. Burdett, Wm. Sotwell and Joanna Swift" - i.e. the rent from these cottages went towards supporting the parish poor, who could not support themselves. 

[6] Catherine Virtin or Vinitor married William Torr in 1788.

[7] From an article in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 14th March 1950

[8] The Curacy of Allestree owned a lot of land adjacent to The Barracks.  Two fields belonging to Allestree of about 12 acres had been put up for sale back in 1868 (it isn't known whether they sold or not).  The advertisement read, "To be sold, the land and buildings, with the minerals, &c., in Hunshelf…belonging to the Incumbency [clergy] of Allestree".  Were the buildings Alice Lathe, marked on the old maps?  I can find no information about this place.

map showing the Barracks.JPG

Ordinance Survey map of 1894 showing the location of The Barracks. 

The house is shaded in red, and sits in the triangle of land owned by the Overseers.  The field above the house was awarded to the "assignees" of T. Pearson (who had presumably died, or could have gone bankrupt), and the new owner was Benjamin Grayson, who was then responsible for the upkeep of the boundaries shown in blue.  If you look today, you can see that he built dry-stone walls, and, as is customary, all the wall toppers face inwards towards his field, which is a way of showing who was responsible for the maintenance of the wall.


In the middle of this field was an enclosure of just over half an acre called Stark Croft, which belonged to Sarah Hirst.  She agreed to assign this to Benjamin Grayson in exchange for an area of land at Ponds Common (near Snowden Hill) of the same size.


The Barracks was said by Ted Spencer in his book on Hunshelf to have housed two families. The early census records bear this out, but at some point, perhaps around 1860 when it was sold, it became just one dwelling.  Originally "one-up, one-down" the house became "two-up, two-down", which is how Janet Sanderson remembers it, together with its extensive gardens and lean-to buildings attached to one side.  It faced towards Stocksbridge, and had no windows at the back.


The house was still owned by the Overseers of the Poor in the 1850s.  In 1841, Edward Elliott, an agricultural labourer, was one of its tenants.  His wife Sarah (nee Charlesworth) had died the previous month, leaving him a widower. His son Joseph lived in the adjoining cottage, and would presumably provide for him.  Joseph married Rebecca Royds or Rhodes (the spelling varies), and they had two children.  Edward was still in residence in 1851, but his son had died in 1841.[1] Rebecca was still next door, but in the intervening years she had given birth to two illegitimate children before marrying again, to Charles Broadhead in 1846. 


Edward appears several times in the Hunshelf Poor Records.  In 1817 the Overseers paid one Captain Wood 2s.6d. for setting Edward's shoulder, and in 1837 he received "relief by leeches" for which the bill was 2s.11d. 


In the years 1819-1820 he received £5.16.0. "casual relief" (i.e. occasional help in the form of money, food etc.) from the Overseers.  He also received 11s.10d for "clothes making".  The Overseers worked with other parish officials known as the Highway Surveyors, who would find manual work for the poor, to earn their keep as it were.  Joseph had been paid for stone breaking, probably for the repair of the roads.  He did 511/2 days' labour for which he was paid £5 and 3 shillings. In 1849, he received £9 and 15 shillings, but did not have to work for it this time, on account of being "aged and infirm" - he would have been about 87 years old.  This amount had been paid at 3 shillings a week.  Edward died in 1853 aged 89 years.[2]


The Leeds Times of November 1854 reported an unusual case which does not seem to have made the Sheffield newspapers.  Edward had been "a pauper upon [Hunshelf] township", and the Guardians[3] had found out, in about 1851, that he had sons who were able to maintain him - as a result, the relief ended and his sons were ordered to support him instead.  On the 7th May 1851, Edward had signed an acknowledgement to say that the house was the "property of the poor of Hunshelf", under whom he was a weekly tenant.  Either through ignorance or to flout the law, Edward made a will leaving the house he was living in (The Barracks) to his eldest son, Mark, who was a grocer in Sheffield.  After his father's death, Mark had claimed the house under the terms of the will, and installed a tenant called Thomas Beevors.  The Overseers of Hunshelf [4] thus applied to the court for warrant of ejectment (eviction) against Beevors, which was granted.  I can find no Thomas Beevors at Hunshelf, though there were Beevers on Hunshelf Bank. 


From about 1854 the Barracks was tenanted by John Dawson and Joseph Blake.  (Rebecca and her new husband Charles Broadhead had gone by 1860, to a house that Charles had built called "Brook Cottage" at Half Hall). 


Then in 1860 the property and land were advertised for sale.[5]  The sale was to take place at the Rock Inn at Green Moor - it was usual at that time to hold sales, auctions, even inquests, at public houses.  It isn't known if it was being sold by the parish, but it seems likely.  To be auctioned off in one or more lots were two freehold cottages, outbuildings and gardens covering an area of 2 roods and 2 perches.   This must include all the land that the Overseers had held from both before and after the Inclosure awards.













The census of 1861 tells us that Joseph Blake moved out of the Barracks to Hunshelf Bottom and John Dawson stayed on after it was sold.  It appears that it was between 1860 and 1861 that the two cottages were knocked into one, because the 1861 census records that the property The Barracks was "one house", and the only occupants were the Dawson family.  John was still living there in 1871, widowed, and living with his son and a housekeeper. 


By 1881 George and Martha Steward had moved in.  Ten years later the occupant was Eliza Steward, the widow of Richard Steward who had died in 1889 [6].  It isn't known if the two men were related, but it does seem likely.  Richard was born c1829 in Melbourne, Derbyshire, son of John, and George was born c1840 in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, son of John.  Eliza had been married to Aaron Booth, who died in 1868, and she had married Richard in 1871.  They lived at Market Weighton before moving back to this area to live at Hunshelf Bank.  Richard died in 1889 at Hunshelf Bank aged 60.  His widow proved his will, and his personal estate was just over £62.


When the census was taken in 1891, Eliza was living at the Barracks with her two sons Aaron and Fred Booth, together with Fred's wife Hannah and their young daughter Isa Alice.  The 1891 census was supposed to record the number of rooms in a house if there were less than five - no number has been  recorded for the Barracks, although we know it to have been "two up, two down".  The 1901 census tells us that it did indeed have four rooms. Aaron Booth died at the Barracks in July 1892 aged only 24 years. 


In 1889, Eliza's younger brother Charles Booth was visiting The Barracks from his home in Low Edges, Norton.  The London Evening Standard [7] carried a notice about the death of one Mary Ann Morton of Limehouse, Middlesex [London].  Charles was her lawful nephew and only next of kin and was a cattle drover, although in 1871 he was working in a quarry.  He and his uncle Charles Morton were boarders at the house of another quarry man, and Charles Morton, a former private in the 1st Royal Regiment of Foot, was living off a pension.  When Charles Morton died in 1872, Charles Booth was left as the sole heir to his aunt, but, like all the other men in his family, he too died at a young age (42) in 1872.


As an aside, it is interesting to note that Charles Morton almost didn't receive his pension. He had been in the army almost 24 years, and had served in Canada, Nova Scotia, the West Indies, Cephalonia, the Crimea, Malta, and Gibraltar.  Not a bad career for someone who was probably destined to be a farm labourer for the rest of his life.  He was discharged as medically unfit for service in 1858, "worn out from long service in various climates.  He has no bodily ailment but is unable to perform the duties of a soldier".  His conduct had been latterly good, but it was not always so!  He absconded in 1844, taking with him some stolen goods.  He was also habitually drunk.  He absconded again three years later, but was back in the ranks by 1848.  He obviously thought he had nothing much to lose because in 1850 he was in trouble again for "absence and disgraceful conduct".  This time he was sentenced to 50 lashes (later remitted), 168 days imprisonment, and it was recommended he be discharged "with ignominy" and forfeit all claim to additional pay while serving and to a pension on discharge.  This didn't happen though, and he stayed on - only to be convicted for neglect of duty in 1853.  Once again, he was confined (21 days) and forfeited two years of service because of a conviction of felony.  These repeated offences meant that these years of service, which counted towards a pension, were forfeited.  For some reason, all 23 years were restored by the War Office, and he did receive his pension.


This Booth family was still in residence when the 1901 census was taken ...  Fred Booth had been widowed by 1911, but he and his daughter Isa Alice, stayed on.  Isa was disabled, having suffered some kind of spinal disease when she was three years old.  Fred worked as a railway plate layer in Fox's pit and later in the coke ovens.  Fred and Isa were still at the barracks when the 1939 Register was taken on the eve of WWII.


After this there is a gap in knowledge as to who lived here until the Gregory family arrived early in 1961.  


[1] The census was taken on the 6th June and Joseph was buried on the 10th June at Penistone.

[2] He was buried at Penistone 20th July 1853, and his age was given as 89 years old. 

[3] They replaced the Overseers when the Poor Law was changed in the 1830s

[4] Did they still exist or does this mean Guardians? 

[5] Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 13 October 1860

[6] Eliza had been married Aaron Booth (1829-1868) in 1852.  Her maiden name was Day.  She married Richard Stewart at Penistone on 10 September 1871.  The name was spelt as both Stewart and Steward

[7] 20th April 1889

Barracks for sale 1860.JPG

Click on the PDF button to read Janet Sanderson's memories of growing up at The Barracks or Briar Cottage

bottom of page