Retro- Broomhall: Rough justice of the boxing parson

Springfield Place, Broomhall
Springfield Place, Broomhall
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Today’s stroll through Sheffield fantastic past takes us back to Broomhall – 27 Wilkinson Street and beyond.

The WW II relic of an air raid shelter cover in the clue picture can be found at 27 Wilkinson Street, its twin can be seen set in the wall of the Needham Veal & Tyzack on Milton Street.

Wilkinson Street with the yellow arrow pointing to the air raid shelter

Wilkinson Street with the yellow arrow pointing to the air raid shelter

Today this fine old house is the home of the Cavendish Centre in Sheffield.

It provides free professional care and support for cancer patients, their families and those who care for them.

The aim is to help people find ways of coping so that they may enjoy the best possible quality of life whatever their circumstances.

The centre holds regular groups for carers and those who are bereaved, and provides support for children and young people whose lives are affected by cancer.

Reeves Charlesworth

Reeves Charlesworth

As per usual, they receive very little funding from NHS, so they have to rely on the good-hearted people who relentlessly raise funds for this oasis of help for sufferers of cancer, donations by the public and other sources help to raise £500,000 needed to run the centre every year, so I urge anyone with a few quid to spare to direct it to the Cavendish Centre, you really do make a difference.

The house at 27 Wilkinson Street was the home of Henry George Smith in the late 1800s when this area was a much-desired area to live, with its fantastic houses and green areas.

The street was named after James Wilkinson, who was the Vicar of Sheffield from 1754 to his death in 1805.

He was a magistrate who inherited the estate of Broom Hall from his mother’s side of the family, the Jessops.

He never married and he was notorious both for his blunt language and his prowess as a boxer.

In his earlier days he was on more than one occasion alleged to have stripped himself of his vestments to take up a challenge, from which he was accustomed to emerge victorious.

Perhaps if he had tied the marital knot his persona may have been different, as a good wife is a must.

He was unrelenting in some of the cases he heard.

In one case when called on to arbitrate between a quarrelsome couple, he ordered them both to be locked up in a cell until they could agree.

He wasn’t very popular with the people of the town, he was ridiculed in song and verse and it seems he had Parkinson’s Disease because his nickname was Old Niddlety Nodd, due to the constant shaking of his head.

In 1791 a mob rioted outside the Parish Church in protest at the vicar’s cruel justice, subsequently proceeding to Broom Hall, where they set fire to the vicarage library but little damage was done.

Parson Wilkinson had the leader of the mob who lit the fire sent to the assizes in York to be hanged.

In his memorial in Sheffield Cathedral, Rev James Wilkinson is shown with a hangman’s noose behind his head, a silent protest at the Parson’s inflexible preaching of God’s judgement and administration of the king’s justice.

In 1960 I was employed straight from school by builder Reeves Charlesworth, a firm which already employed my father, who was a foreman, and my brother, who was always miserable and never had a good word for anyone.

I started work as an apprentice plumber but when it came to having to go to night school and day release, that wasn’t for me.

I foolishly thought I’d done enough after 10 years at school and, so after a year, when building contracts were late coming in, I was sent to Wilkinson Street to do a pretty useless job of tidying up the accumulated tiles, fancy bricks etc in the cellar.

After around eight weeks I was sacked and I was off on my own to find a job, which I did, and wasn’t out of work for more than two weeks in 50 years.

My two protagonists Mr Dawson and Mr Sorsby may not have liked it in the cellar as Mr D would have to protect Mr S from spiders, as he’s so afraid of them.

His answer to spiders is his shoe!

In 1920 to 1933 Reeves Charlesworth was Liberal councillor for Walkley.

He served the ward well but he died on January 23, 1934.

His brother took over the company after his death. The company was very appreciative of my father as he never had a day off in all the time he worked for them.

On my father’s retirement ill health caught him, brought on by his diligence through working in all weathers when he should have been out of the rain.

When my father died in 1966, Reeves Charlesworth paid for his funeral. Charlesworth’s ceased to be in the late ’70s.

Back to Broomhall, while looking round this lovely area I was pleasantly surprised to come across two untouched remnants of Victorian architecture.

One was on Dorset Street, it’s simply a row of neat terraced houses but it has a raised footpath with original railing along its length. It’s most unusual that they survived.

On the gable end of the terrace, on the Broomspring Lane end, finely carved above is Springfield Place, fantastic.

The other terrace is on Peel Terrace, it’s brilliant.

On the gable end of the start of the terrace, you can still make out the painted name of the terrace.

That was the thing to do in the 1800s.

Several houses in and around Broomspring Lane and Collegiate Crescent have names at the best viewing point.

They always invoke an interest in me about who lived in these houses first.

If you go to look at the old air raid shelter please ask permission first. All you need to do is knock and ask.