Retro: Woods at heart of city

All Saints Church, Ecclesall, Sheffield
All Saints Church, Ecclesall, Sheffield
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Our Retro A to Z has reached the letter E and the ancient Sheffield area of Ecclesall.

Lying three miles south-west of Sheffield city centre, the name is thought to originate either from Heeksel-Hallr, meaning the witches’ hill, or Eccles halh – church hollow.

The Grave in memory of George Yardley, Woodcollier, who was burnt to death in his cabin on this place in 1786'The memorial is in Ecclesall Woods

The Grave in memory of George Yardley, Woodcollier, who was burnt to death in his cabin on this place in 1786'The memorial is in Ecclesall Woods

Ecclesall was originally a part of the manor of Hallam.

The name first occurs in records at the beginning of the 12th century when the knight Sir Ralphus De Ecclesall settled in the area and built a manor house.

The De Ecclesall family gave land to the monks at Beauchief and established a corn mill on the River Sheaf, which they subsequently also gave to Beauchief Abbey.

In payment for the mill the monks of Beauchief were to provide a canon to say prayers daily at the Ecclesall chapel, something that ended with the dissolution of the monastries by Henry VIII.

Ecclesall Male Voice Choir 9th December 1970

Ecclesall Male Voice Choir 9th December 1970

Ecclesall Parish Church was built in 1787 and in 1849 it became a parish in its own right. A transept and chancel were added in 1907-8 by the well-known Edwardian architect Temple Lushington Moore and the building was updated in 1964 and 1997.

Evidence of the earliest people in the area have been found at Ecclesall Woods, where there are three rocks with prehistoric ‘cup and ring’ markings on them, which probably date to the Bronze Age.

Until the 19th century the parish of Ecclesall Bierlow was sparsely populated. In 1801 there were just 5,362 people. Within 30 years the effects of the Industrial Revolution, turning Sheffield into a major city, had almost tripled this to to 14,239.

Earlier industry has also left its mark on the woods, which are dotted with up to 130 Q-pits.

Ecclesall Wood Sawmill'Brian Turton and John Royston'1987

Ecclesall Wood Sawmill'Brian Turton and John Royston'1987

These Q-shaped depressions in the ground were used as hearths to make white coal, a form of dried wood used in lead smelting.

A lease giving permission for white coal dates to 1649.

One worker who died in the woods is commemorated on the famous ‘wood collier’s grave’. The stone says that “George Yardley, wood collier, was burnt to death in his cabbin on this place Oct 11 1786” and lists the men who paid for the stone.

Wood collier was another name for charcoal burner.

Some of the shops at Ecclesall - 23rd February 1974

Some of the shops at Ecclesall - 23rd February 1974

In recent years Ecclesall Woods Sawmill has been extended with a woodlands discovery centre that is home to craft workers and a cafe.

These days the main route through the area, Ecclesall Road, has become known as one of the more upmarket eating and shopping areas of the city.