Golf-lover's paradise with links to unholy killing - spotlight on Beauchief

Beauchief Abbey
Beauchief Abbey
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Once a monastic powerhouse, with a smattering of political intrigue, Beauchief is today a haven for golfers and dog walkers.

The village - pronounced 'bee chiff' - takes its name from the 12th century Beauchief Abbey, which was a powerful religious and industrial centre.

Beauchief Golf Course

Beauchief Golf Course

Today only the western tower of the abbey remains, but the imposing stone building flanked by arched gates gives an indication of its former grandeur.

As well as extensive farming, the abbey controlled local iron smelting and mineral extraction along with mills on the River Sheaf.

It was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537 and stones from the ruins were reputedly used to construct nearby Beauchief Hall, built in 1671 by the former Sheriff of Derbyshire Edward Pegge.

What remains of the abbey - bestowed to the people of Sheffield in 1932 - is today an Anglican church run by the congregation, with no appointed priests, ministers or clergy, and with services led by volunteers.

Andos takeaway in Hutcliffe Wood Road, Beauchief

Andos takeaway in Hutcliffe Wood Road, Beauchief

It is nestled between the picturesque fairways of Beauchief Golf Course, which along with Abbeydale and Dore and Totley is one of three golf clubs close at hand for residents.

Beauchief Abbey was founded by Robert Fitz-Ranulf de Alfreton and dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Thomas Becket.

It has been suggested this was an attempt to assuage the guilt he felt over his hand in the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, who was killed by four knights in 1170 after being branded a 'meddlesome priest' by Henry II.

But the prevailing view, shared by the abbey's current occupiers, is that he was unfairly implicated in the assassination.

John Hudson

John Hudson

Whatever the truth, it is the only bit of dirt - historical or otherwise - in what is today an immaculately preserved neighbourhood on Sheffield's southern fringes.

The streets are spotless, the houses perfectly maintained and even the air is clean in this leafy village, commanding impressive views of the surrounding countryside.

The small parade of shops in Hutcliffe Wood Road, including a couple of cafés, a florist and a convenience store, is largely deserted when I visit on a Wednesday afternoon, with much of the population of this commuter belt area presumably at work in the city centre.

But I get chatting to Demir - whose name fittingly means steel in Turkish and is a nod to his ancestors' trade as blacksmiths - at the Andos takeaway which he owns.

Peter Hughes

Peter Hughes

Having lived in Beauchief for 17 years, he decided a couple of years to move his business from its former city centre location beside the now demolished Grosvenor Hotel to his home village.

"I like it here. There's so much greenery and it's much quieter than the city, which suits me as I'm getting on," says the dad-of-three.

As well as its proximity to the Peak District and to Millhouses Park and Ecclesall Woods, he adds that the good local schools attracted him to the area.

The eerily empty shopping parade is in sharp contrast to the grounds of Beauchief Golf Club and the surrounding woodland, which are teeming with dog walkers.

Among them is John Hudson, a 61-year-old milkman, who has called Beauchief home for 30 years.

"It's excellent for walking my dog and for running, with these woods and Ecclesall Woods so close, and in five minutes you're out into the Peaks," he says.

Shaun O'Connor and Frank McShane

Shaun O'Connor and Frank McShane

"It's a quiet but very friendly community. You meet lots of people out walking their dogs and get chatting with them."

When I ask Peter Hughes what attracted him to the area, he initially tells me it was his wife June, a native Sheffielder, before explaining why he is so grateful to her for luring him here.

"I'm from Pembrokeshire and for someone from a rural background you have everything you need here," says the 57-year-old marine surveyor.

"I like off-road cycling so its great having the Peak District so close, and the city with its great theatres and restaurants isn't far away.

"It's a very close-knit community here and everyone's friendly, which as an outsider I think is true of the city as a whole."

Shaun O'Connor and Frank McShane, who both teach history at Notre Dame High School, kindly let me interrupt their round of golf for a quick word.

They are regular visitors to the course, they tell me, drawn by its rich history as much as the challenge of the 18 holes.

"It's a lovely course and there's so much history here. You can see all the different furrows where the monks used to plough the fields," they say.

Asked whether they believe the abbey's founder had blood on his hands over Becket's killing, they tell me there might be some truth to the tale.

I meet Michael Lunt, a 67-year-old funeral director who has lived in Beauchief all his life, strolling beside the pond where he fondly recalls collecting tadpoles as a young lad.

"I love the open space here. We're so fortunate to be in a city with all this beautiful natural woodland," he says.

"It's steeped in history and there's a real village atmosphere, with everyone knowing one another."

Abbey Lane, Beauchief, with its far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside

Abbey Lane, Beauchief, with its far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside