How a former lawyer, businessman and soldier left a legacy of language in Sheffield

Modern foreign languages have been studied at university level in Sheffield for more than a century.

Wednesday, 19th April 2017, 4:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:02 pm

And this year the efforts of an eminent city politician, businessman and territorial soldier who championed their teaching are coming under the spotlight.

Colonel Herbert Hughes, who died 100 years ago, was acknowledged as an international authority on trademark law, with his expertise gaining him recognition and honours at home and abroad.

The esteem in which Hughes was held, and his passion for education, was reflected in the success of a public appeal launched in 1917 to commemorate his life with a memorial fund – £12,000 was raised, then a considerable sum, which was used to ensure Spanish became part of the Sheffield University curriculum.

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Later, in 1975, the terms of the Herbert Hughes Memorial Fund were amended to provide prizes and travel awards supporting the study of Hispanic languages in local schools, as well as in both of Sheffield’s universities.

Help is regularly given to drama productions and musical events, as well as to symposiums and conferences.

A scheme was recently introduced, with sponsorship from local businesses, offering special three-year bursaries to university students, and now the fund’s trustees are looking for extra sponsorship to expand the programme and make sure the bursary survives.

Students who have benefited from the money are forthcoming about the advantages the scheme has given them.

Simone Smith was awarded a scholarship from the fund to help support her BA Modern Languages degree at Sheffield University.

She said: “On my first year as a bursary holder, I travelled to Oviedo and Gijón in the north of Spain, an area of Spain which I have never been before. I was keen to discover the true, unspoilt Spain.

“On my year abroad I did a range of things, from travelling round the north of Spain, to enrolling on a Spanish language course, to having the opportunity to live and work with a family in Catalonia – none of this would have been possible without the fund.”

Simone added: “Languages are becoming more important in our constantly changing world, and it is fantastic to be part of a fund that recognises this and continues to see potential for students of Spanish.”

Simone made useful contacts through the scholarship and was recently offered a job to start after she graduates.

Meanwhile, Katrin Burrows, who is in her final year of a languages degree at the university, was awarded £220 funding to help cover the costs of a work experience placement as an English assistant at an academy in Salamanca, Spain.

“I was able to pay for my flights and part of my accommodation costs. As a result, I could afford to enjoy the Spanish lifestyle and immerse myself in cultural experiences, such as sampling local cuisine and travelling around the region.

“All in all, my time in Salamanca was a success, which provided me with some amazing memories and was a fantastic opportunity to build on the Spanish language skills that I obtained during my year abroad.”

As part of the centenary celebrations for the fund, Sheffield students are performing Sheffield Fusión Latina – a concert showcasing Latin music – on May 19 at the Octagon. There will also be an exhibition showcasing the fund’s work.

Philip Swanson, who holds the title of Hughes Professor of Spanish, set up in 1953 at Sheffield University, said the charity had produced ‘genuinely inspiring results’.

“It has helped students in Sheffield gain new insights, develop exciting links with local businesses and contribute to the wellbeing of others less fortunate than themselves both at home and abroad.”

And Cristina López-Moreno, senior lecturer in Spanish at Hallam University, said the bursaries increased students’ motivation, as well as raising their aspirations – ‘something which is simply invaluable’.

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A life and career

Herbert Hughes was the son of Alderman Hughes, the six times Lord Mayor of Oxford. In 1877, he came to Sheffield and joined law firm Younge, Wilson & Co, and was senior partner when he died. In 1902, he succeeded Charles Macro Wilson as law clerk to the Cutlers’ Company and became Lord Mayor in 1905.

He commanded Hallamshire Rifles in the Boer War and in 1908 became Brigadier of the Territorial Force, gaining command of the 3rd West Riding Infantry Brigade. He was first commander of the Sheffield City Battalion.

Hughes was also treasurer of the Sheffield University, president of the Chamber of Commerce and director of several companies and banks.

In January 1917, his funeral at Fulwood Church was attended by dignitaries from all over the country and streets were lined with hundreds of mourners.

The Hughes Memorial Fund are trying to trace his descendants – email [email protected] with information.