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An Ancient Lane in Hunshelf

Or a Concise History of Bramall Lane

in the Township of Hunshelf

in the West Riding of Yorkshire


 This research began as a shared interest in an old lane on Hunshelf Bank, Stocksbridge.  I was researching my partner's family history, and because his surname is Bramall, I was interested in why Bramall Lane was so called.  It turned out that his family of Bramalls came from elsewhere in Sheffield, but in one of those strange coincidences that often happen in family history, it transpired that his mother's ancestors, the Walton family, actually lived on the lane, in Bramall House itself!  I was contacted in 2017 by Janet Sanderson, who spent her early years at a house called The Barracks on Bramall Lane, although she knew it by the rather more picturesque name of Briar Cottage, because that is what her mother re-named it.


We agreed that we should share our information and knowledge about the lane with a wider audience, before its history be forgotten forever.  This research isn't "finished" at all - I could carry on ad infinitum looking at old documents, but both Janet and I feel that it is important to present an article which can be read now, and will no doubt will be added to at a later date.  Our joint aim is to provide an account of one small lane in the beautiful area in which we live, as best we can.  For anyone interested in pursuing this further, I have provided information at the end of this document suggesting where more information can be found.


The amount of history I have uncovered has been astounding - and there is much more to uncover in Sheffield and Barnsley archives.  I'm only human, and I am not a professional historian, and you may spot errors and omissions - my email is included should you wish to correct me, share a memory, or have any further information that you would like to share.  I hope to publish a second version when I have had the time and the opportunity to visit the archives again.


Copies of this research have been donated to Hunshelf Parish Council, Sheffield Libraries and Stocksbridge & District History Society.


Thanks to Claire Williamson nee Broadhead for her input, and Basil Spooner of the Stocksbridge History Society.

© Claire Pearson 2018



Hunshelf is not a village, but a scattering of houses and farms that dot the hillside between Stocksbridge and Penistone in the old West Riding of Yorkshire.  It was originally in the parish of Penistone - the Little Don River[1] formed the boundary between the parish of Penistone and the old parish of Bradfield (which used to include Stocksbridge).   In 1895 the boundary was moved to the top of Hunshelf Bank, and Hunshelf was incorporated into the newly created Stocksbridge Urban District Council.  There is no actual "village" of Hunshelf, but the area does include the hamlets of Green Moor and Snowden Hill. 


There is an ancient lane running from Underbank Lane to the steelworks called Bramall Lane. There were only ever three dwellings on here; one at the Underbank Lane end called The Carr or Carr Bottom (later known as Cherry Tree Cottage), another, much older cottage called Bramall House, and at the Stocksbridge end an old building originally called The Barracks (which was later re-named Briar Cottage).  Bramall House and Barracks were built sometime before 1810[2], and the house at The Carr was more recent (it is not on the 1810 map, but makes an appearance on the census of 1851, and is marked on a map of 1854[3]).  All these dwellings are long gone now, but if you look closely, you can see the old driveway leading to where Cherry Tree Cottage was, and the remains of some outbuildings.  There are some foundations visible where Bramall House stood, and an old gateway still marks the entrance to The Barracks. 


This lane would have been very peaceful before the coming of the steelworks, which had its origins in 1842 when Samuel Fox came to Stocksbridge to begin his wire-drawing business further down the river.  The lane ran across the hillside, with fields and farmhouses above, whilst below there were only fields stretching down to the river, and beyond that, the road to Sheffield and Manchester (though this was not built until 1805)


[1] Also called the Porter, or Hunshelf Water, it arises on the Langsett Moors and now feeds the Langsett and Underbank reservoirs before running through Stocksbridge and joining the River Don at Deepcar.

[2] From a map of that date

[3] The Ordinance Survey map was published in 1854 but the land was surveyed in 1850-1851.

1854 map showing Bramall Lane.JPG

All this was to change as Fox's empire expanded and crept up the valley.  The Slag Mill and scrap yard were almost in the back garden of The Carr, and the view from The Barracks became one of melting shops, the "Chemi Lab" (Chemistry Laboratory) and an electricity substation. Acid rain and air pollution made life there pretty uncomfortable.  In fact one man, George Hobson, successfully obtained damages from the Fox company after alleging that poisonous dust from the slag mill had affected some cows he kept on nearby land. Post-mortems showed they had grit in their lungs, which ultimately proved fatal.[1]

All three houses are long gone now, but an air of peace has once again descended on the lane.  The melting shops stand idle, the sub-station has been de-commissioned, and the slag mill has been levelled and lies bare.  Nature has taken over and there are rabbits running across the fields, owls nesting in the trees, buzzards circling and wildflowers in abundance.  The lane is being managed by the Steel Valley Project and has been made into a track suitable for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.  The Stocksbridge bypass cuts across the hillside above, but a great many trees were planted when it was constructed, and over the years these have grown and helped to soften the noise. 

[1] The Sheffield Daily Independent, 27 January 1926

1948 map.JPG

Prior to 1810, much of this part of Hunshelf Bank was classed as "Common" or "Waste" land; this means that no one owned it, and it was not fenced or walled off into fields.  People living there had always been able to grow a few crops or pasture their animals on this land.  However in 1810 measures were taken to enable local landowners take over this land for their personal use, giving them the legal right to fence off this common land, making it private and thus depriving the local cottagers of their "Rights of Common".  This was known as "Inclosure"[1].  It was highly controversial (among the poor and landless at least) because it deprived them of land that had previously been available to them to eke out a better standard of living.


The Inclosure Acts were a series of Acts of Parliament that were passed, nationwide, over a number of years.  The Hunshelf Inclosure Act was passed in 1810, and the common land was parcelled out amongst the local landowners such as the Fentons of Underbank Hall and the Pearsons of Snowden Hill.  A portion of the Hunshelf Inclosure map is included at the end of this article; it shows some coloured areas (which detail the land awarded and the person it was awarded to), and some blank areas (which were already under ownership).  William Fenton of Underbank Hall owned much of the land surrounding the Hall, and he gained a lot more by the Act.  I will explain the Inclosures in more detail below because it is relevant to the history of Bramall Lane.


Hunshelf consisted of scattered farmsteads and larger houses, with a lot of Common or Waste land that wasn't being farmed.  Landowners (who already held land in Hunshelf) wanted to lay claim to these bits of land and incorporate them into their own holdings to  make the land "more efficient".  The Inclosures changed forever the ancient system of farming, which included open fields, common meadows, the right to pasture animals and so on. 

Every Inclosure application had to go through Parliament, who had the right to reject them - but of course they didn't; Parliament consisted of landowners who had a vested interest in such schemes - all while citing how it would benefit the common good. 

The Commissioners who carried out the Awards were to allot lands and also to sell some of the land to pay the expenses of the Inclosure.  Mr. Rimington, a wealthy landowner living at Broomhead Hall, purchased 640 acres of Common Land in Bradfield, paying less than 15 shillings an acre.  In Bradfield, 7,000 acres of Common land were allotted to the Duke of Norfolk, another wealthy landowner.


There was a clause in the Hunshelf Act stating that all persons who had taken land (encroached) on the Common lands within the last 60 years (i.e. without permission) should surrender it.  This was a common clause in all the Inclosure Acts; however, many Commissioners ignored this and let these people keep the land they had in effect stolen from the Commons.

The fault is great in man and woman

Who steals a goose from off the common

But what can plead man's excuse

Who steals a common from a goose [2]


How the Inclosure Bill was presented to Parliament:

"A petition of Several Owners of estates in the Manor and Township of Hunshelf….was presented and Read: Setting forth that there are …several Commons and Parcels of Waste Ground which might be improved if inclosed, and praying that leave may be given to bring in a Bill for the same." [3


They argued that the land, in its present state, was "incapable of improvement", and that it would be "of great advantage to all persons" if it was divided and enclosed.  This Bill was passed by Parliament and implemented by a Commissioner specially appointed to the task. 

The Lord of the Manor of Hunshelf, the Hon. James Archibald Stuart MacKenzie, was entitled to all the minerals which lay under the Common lands and open moors.  The Trustees of Sheffield Hospital, who had received an income out of the tithes paid by the inhabitants of Hunshelf, were to be given Allotments of land in lieu of these tithes.  They could then rent out this land in order to gain an income, to compensate them for the loss of income from the tithes.  They were awarded land at Snowden Hill and at Hunshelf Bank.[4]


In addition to apportioning land, the Commissioner also had a say in who was responsible for fencing the land, and looking after the roads and paths.  He could confirm existing roads and paths, or stipulate new ones which he judged "necessary to be made through or over the said open moors, commons and parcels of waste ground". 


Here is what the Commissioner had to say about Bramall Lane:

…"[a] Public Bridle and Private Carriage Road [5] of the Width of eighteen feet beginning at Midhope Road [6] at the North East Corner of the Allotment on the Carr containing three Acres  and twenty seven Perches hereinafter awarded to … William Fenton and leading Southwardsly over the said Carr to the North End of an ancient Lane called Brammall House Lane and from the South End of the same Lane over a part of Hunshelf Bank to the Allotment hereinafter awarded to Sarah Hirst, and the Alistree Fields which Road I distinguish by the name of the Brammall House Road."


The Inclosure map shows Bramall Lane terminating at Barracks.  The 1854 OS map shows a footpath skirting the Alistree fields and heading off to pass through Miry Bottom Farm to join up with the Hunshelf Road.  At some point, the lane was extended (probably by the steelworks) from Barracks to run across the Alistree Fields to meet the Hunshelf Road, and the whole of this longer route is now known by locals as Bramall Lane. 


[1] Inclose is the archaic spelling of Enclose, but because it was the spelling used at the time, this is the spelling I have chosen to use.  Both words mean the same thing.

[2] Anon, 1821.  Cottagers who kept geese often let them roam on the Commons to feed.  There are several variations of this rhyme.

[3] Hunshelf Inclosure Award.  House of Commons Journal, Vol. 65, 49 Geo III, 6 February 1810

[4] In 1549 the Crown sold the tithes of Penistone parish to the Earl of Shrewsbury at Sheffield Castle. (Two thirds of them - the vicar got the remaining third).  When Gilbert, the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, made his will in 1616, he gave the tithes of Penistone to the Shrewsbury Hospital that he had founded for the elderly poor of Sheffield.  A tithe was a payment of a tenth of annual produce or earnings.

[5] Carriage Road - one that will take wheeled vehicles

[6] The bottom of Underbank - now all the road is known as Underbank Lane.

1854 showing footpaths.JPG


I can find no opposition to the Hunshelf Inclosure Act, but there was plenty in the rest of the country.  Historian David Hey gives a local example.[1]  Between 1791 and 1805 the moors of Upper Hallam, Nether Hallam, Stannington, Storrs and Dungworth were enclosed.  The proposal was put by the Duke of Norfolk and other landowners, but met with opposition from other freeholders and inhabitants; however, they did not own enough land to defy those who wished to enclose.  (Acts of Parliament allowed enclosure when owners of about 3/4 of the land were in favour).  The enclosure of Crooksmoor on the edge of Sheffield in 1791 was resisted by a large crowd, and the army was called in to restore order.  The Sheffield Register noted that, "at noon there arrived here from Nottingham a detachment of Light Dragoons in consequence of application to Government for them.  The grounds…were…a violent repulse given to the Commissioners of Enclosure for Stannington and Hallam in this neighbourhood some days ago, on their attending to mark boundaries."  The enclosure went ahead, but the surveying, settling of claims and marking out of boundaries took 14 years before an award was made.

[1] Hey, D., Historic Hallamshire, Landmark Publishing 2002

1810 Inclsure Award.JPG

1810 map which accompanied the Inclosure Award, showing the location of the three properties that were once on Bramall Lane.  The lane began at the Underbank Lane end, and ran past Cherry Tree Cottage (originally a piece of land called Carr Bottom), then Bramall House and terminated at the Barracks (later known as Briar Cottage).  The lane was extended in later years.  

Cherry Tree Cottage2 2002.jpg

Click here for the history of Cherry Tree Cottage, also known as The Carr or Carr Bottom

Bramall House zoomed.JPG

Click here for the history of Bramall House

BARRACKS DRAWING 5.1 BnW 2.1.18 (2).jpg

Click here for the history of The Barracks, or Briar Cottage



Underbank Hall Muniments, ref. LD710-886

Four boxes of deeds - this has not been catalogued on the library's online catalogue; however there is a paper typescript list of the items within the collection together with a short summary.

Sheffield Archives


Smith Collection, ref. SC 1-1263

Deeds and some estate and other papers of the Smith family, and other families related by marriage. These include Walker of Hunshelf, Kirk, Healey of Roxby, and Bristow, all related to Walker. Deeds and papers of the Booths of Brush House and the related family of Kay, came to the Smiths as trustees. William Smith (d 1849), was a solicitor, and some few odd papers may have been acquired in a business connection.  Includes Surveys and Maps: Hunshelf, 1745

Sheffield Archives


Hunshelf Parish Council records, ref. A/273/P

Includes, for example, old parish officials' accounts, removal orders, bastardy orders, apprenticeship indentures, Wortley Poor Law records, etc.

Held at Barnsley Archives


Crossland, Phyllis, History in Hunshelf (2002)


Spencer, W. E., Snowden Hill, Pearsons, Others & Cloth Hall (1999)


British Newspaper Archive

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