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An Ancient Lane in Hunshelf

Bramall House

Main photograph: an undated photograph of Bramall House.  The woman by the door is probably Mrs. Emma Workman who lived there until about 1943


We don't yet know when Bramall House was built or indeed why it got its name.  Both "an ancient lane" called Brammall House Lane and a Brammall House Road (they are now both called Bramall Lane) were mentioned in the 1810 Inclosure Act.  There was also a field called Bramald [sic] Great Close mentioned in an earlier document of 1730.[1]


The lane would have been named after the house, and it is probable that the house would have been named after whoever lived in it - Bramall was a common surname on Hunshelf Bank and at Green Moor.  The house stood half way along Bramall Lane, in a parcel of land called Bramall Croft - the word Croft means a small enclosed field usually adjoining a house.


The Inclosure Award mentions a footpath which ran from the Hunshelf Bank Road near  Avice Royd Farm (which was spelt Eaves Royd ) to a stile in "an ancient Inclosure called Brammall House Croft belonging to William Fenton".  This path still exists.  The stile is mentioned in the will of Joshua Broadhead of Avis Royd, who died in 1821 aged 79.  He leaves, among other things, “2 acres of Common Land adjoining to Brammer Stile" to his son, also Joshua Broadhead, of Avis Royd.


So we know from this that Fenton, who lived at nearby Underbank Hall, owned the land on which Bramall House stood, and must have owned the house as well. By the Inclosure Awards he annexed two small pieces of adjoining land (shown in red here). 


[1] L.D. 858, 1729/30.  Joseph Broadhead of Hunshelf, yeoman, settled on Matthew Wilson of Wortley Forge and George Walker of Hunshelf, "a messuage [house] in Hunshelf wherein Joseph Broadhead dwells"; one of its closes [fields] was called Bramald Great Close.

Bramall Lane Hunshelf Inclosure 1810 Properties marked.jpg

A section of the map which accompanied the Inclosure Award of 1810 showing Bramall House sitting within the plot of land called Bramall Croft.  The name W. Fenton can be seen written on the plot of land on which the house stood.

1854 map showing Bramall Lane.JPG

Ordnance Survey map showing the location of Bramall House. Published in 1854 (surveyed 1850-1851)

Records relating to the earliest occupants of Bramall House will entail a search through the documents from the Fenton estate in Sheffield Archives.  Until that happens, the story of the house's occupants starts with the 1841 census, which records a George Walton living there (Walton is another old Hunshelf surname).  He was born at Hunshelf in about 1775, the illegitimate son of Elisabeth Walton, and in 1803 he married Hannah Eastwood.  They had thirteen children, but they weren't all crammed into this tiny house!  At first, they lived at Holling Busk (their eldest child was born there in 1804) before moving to Unsliven Bridge (a daughter was born at there in 1812).  Their youngest son Joseph was born at Bramall House in 1826. 


When his wife died in 1840, George continued to live at Bramall House; in 1841 his daughter Harriet was with him, and when the census was taken in March 1851 his daughter Alice, a school mistress, was living with him.  She may well have worked at nearby Carr Head, at the top of Underbank Lane, where a Mary Broadhead ran a "Ladies Boarding School."  George was 77 years old when he died in September 1841, and a month or so afterwards Alice married Joshua Illingworth.  She and her husband continued to live at the house on Bramall Lane - they were there ten years later in 1861 - but by 1871 they had moved to Green Moor.  Joshua was a quarryman and would have worked at the quarry there.  They don't appear to have had any children. 


When the 1871 census was taken, Bramall House was being occupied by another quarry man, John Hirst.  He and his wife Martha were living there with 5 children. 


The next family recorded in the house were the Shaws, in 1881.  There could of course have been other occupants in the years between the census returns, but that must be found out from other records.  Mary Ann Shaw was recorded as head of household, and married, so her husband must have been staying elsewhere on the night the census was taken.  She was originally from Macclesfield and was living there with her four children. 


Ten years later, in 1891, the house was occupied by a young married couple, Elijah Hellewell, a coal miner, and his wife Mary Hannah (nee Mate).  They had a young child boarding with them, 3 year old Lily Turner.  The census for this year is a bit more detailed than the previous ones, and it is recorded that Bramall House had 4 rooms, presumably “two up and two down.” There was no bathroom; in fact, the remains of the outside toilets (privies) can still be seen.


The Helliwells had moved to Thurstonland by 1901 and in the intervening years a family called Booth were living there when the house was reported to the council in 1898 as being overcrowded and not adequately supplied with water.  The matter was referred to the Medical Officer, who reported back to the Council at the next monthly meeting.  He agreed that the overcrowding was “a fact beyond doubt,” but that he did not recommend “closing” the house because of the overall housing shortage in the district.  He said that the house should, however, be provided with a better and more constant supply of water.  In the end Mr. Booth dealt with the issue himself by moving out.  The Council sent the owner of the house, Mr. Fenton De Wend [1], a letter, but he refused to spend any money on the old house and said that if it really was unfit for habitation then it must be closed.  Meanwhile a “small” family was said to have moved in, and a better supply of water was found to be obtainable nearby.  The Medical Officer was instructed to review the matter after three months, although I can find no subsequent report.  The 1901 census, however, recorded that a Mr. Isaac Spooner was living in the house with his wife and six children, which seems to be a blatant case of overcrowding in what was a very small cottage (it had 4 rooms according to the 1891 census and three according to the 1901 census).  Isaac was originally from Essex, and his wife from Liverpool.  He worked as a silica brick maker.

[1] The Fentons lived at Underbank Hall and owned a lot of land locally.  In 1839 Jessey Fenton married Major James Douglas de Wend and their son William de Wend added his mother’s maiden name to his own and the de Wend Fenton line was born.


When we reach 1911, those with an interest in local history may well recognise the names of the house's occupants, Edward and Emma Workman.  Edward came from London, and worked in the steel works as a general labourer and also repairing the furnaces.  Emma (nee Dane) was born in Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire.  Again, the house was recorded as having three rooms.  Edward's father was Frederick Workman, and the 1851 census tells us that he was a "Traveller Artist Flowers," which sounds interesting!  Before moving to Bramall House, Edward Workman had been living at Mortimer Road, Midhope, working as a navvy on the construction of the reservoir. 


Edward died in 1926 aged 76 and Emma stayed on in the little house on Bramall Lane.  The 1939 Register [1] shows her living at "Bramall Cottage" along with one Thomas Cattell, a retired steelworker.  This would have been her lodger, and therein lies a tale ...


In his book on the history of Stocksbridge, Jack Branston tells a tale of Mrs. Workman of Bramall House, who was known as "Old Mother Workman":


"This dear soul lived on Bramall Lane, perhaps better known as "Mucky Lane", this is the road which turns off the Underbank Road, past Cherry Tree Cottage [now demolished], then runs right through into the Hunshelf Road near to where Brownhill Row once stood.[2] 

"Before she came along with her husband to live in the Don Valley she had always worked in Gentlemen's Service.

"Her husband found work at Fox’s, so they moved into the little cottage on Mucky Lane.  In her habits she was at first very neat and tidy, always wearing her nice white out of service aprons, small in stature, her voice was rather high pitched or as we sometimes say 'light coloured'.  It is reported that when her husband died he lay in that cottage for three days before anyone was notified of his passing.

"Now she was on her own, stuck in this tiny dwelling in an out of the way place, so after a while she decided to take a lodger to help and break the loneliness.  Old Tom was his name, but most Stocksbridgers knew him as Mrs. Workman's cock lodger,[3] he was himself a teetotaller, but not her ladyship, for she seemed to take to the bottle after losing her husband.

"Every Friday evening she would come into the village to do her shopping.  She would come into the Co-op shop at precisely 7.45 p.m. and ask for her 'lucky bag' which contained all the pairings which fell off our bacon machine blade, fat, bone, rind, string etc.  for this she paid sixpence, we saved all this from one visit to the next.  Once she had got this 'lucky bag', that signalled her shopping was over.  Next port of call was Tom Batty's at the Friendship Hotel.  Once in the hotel she would stay until five minutes to ten, ten o'clock was turning out time in those days, this just gave her time to catch the Sheffield bus at Victoria Street for Half Hall.  Nine times out of ten she got 'tipsy' and had to be helped on the bus.

"When the bus arrived at the Half Hall terminus, she was assisted off the bus by the bus crew and handed over to old Tom who was there with his wheelbarrow.  On one occasion Tom got the barrow and her ladyship too near the deep gutter which runs down the roadside in the Underbank, with the result that she lay there for quite some time underneath the barrow, old Tom shouting for help for he could not get her free.  Help did eventually come when a workman who had knocked-off the ten o'clock shift, removed the barrow off Mrs. Workman, then lifting her back into it, left the rest to old Tom to get her safely home."


Emma died in 1943 at the age of 79 at Netherfield Buildings in Thurlstone, Penistone (her address was given as Bramall Cottage, Bramall Lane, Stocksbridge).  She had no relatives, and Administration of her effects (£67 4s. 6d.) was granted to H. M. Treasury.   Netherfield Buildings was the workhouse (which opened in 1861).  At the time Emma was there, it was being run by the West Riding County Council who had taken over in 1930.[4]

The house fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished.  The ruins can still be seen today.  The land adjoining it was bought from the Fentons in 1950 by the steelworks. 


[1] A kind of census taken on the eve of WWII

[2] This is not officially called Mucky Lane, though it may well have been called so by the locals.  The official Mucky Lane is further up Hunshelf Bank and runs from the Hunshelf Road up to Hunshelf Hall Lane (it was marked as Dirty Lane on the 1810 map).

[3] Jack seems to be implying that there was some kind of relationship going on there, and that Old Tom did not pay her any rent for living there.  This is unsubstantiated.

[4] An initial report at the time of the take-over drew attention "to the home-like atmosphere that pervades this Institution and to the excellent manner in which the Institution is arranged and maintained so as to ensure the maximum comfort of the inmates."  In 1949 the Institution became Netherfield Aged Persons Home.  The inmates became "residents" with the main block housing males and the old infirmary block housing females.

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