The last of the summer brown ale in a 1960s Sheffield village

As the light at the end of the tunnel flickers and I prepare to scuff my memories like a bored school boy scuffs his shoes, I think back to the mid and late sixties in that evocative rather ramshackle Wadsley Village.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 2:00 pm
A view of Luke Lane, Wadsley Village, July 5, 1967

I recall it with its Anderson Shelters, brambles, whitewashed cottages, corner shops, the Top Field - or Toppy now known as Spider Park which was a magnet for the youth of S6.

It’s a long time ago, back last century, and the world has moved on.

Now I wasn't born in that doomed and rather remarkable community that straggled all the way up to that adventure playground that was Wadsley Common nor I am an expert on its history or the folks that lived there - there are people who know far more about it that I, a mere interloper from Hillsborough who moved up to Ben Lane on the Sutton Estate, when again it was a very special place, for my health.

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Coal Pit Lane, Wadsley, free from the encroaching urbanisation which has swallowed up neighbouring sites, May 1962

Yet it remains a place and time in my heart and for many others of that era.

1966, I left behind cricket in the yard of Wisewood Secondary with Hodgy and the archery club run by Major Kaye and the wary awe we felt for Charlie Haydock. I also bonded with Sheffield Wednesday FC.

In the four aimless years I spent before leaving the CTS/Ashleigh School for another aimless 37 years in what was then a Civil Service, I bonded with Wadsley its scorned history lost due to the lack of imagination of beaurocrats planners and local authorities.

It was a profound shock to the system that something that admittedly couldn't have survived much longer but yet was something so dear to folks’ hearts in S6 and deserved some TLC was demolished despite widespread public outrage.

Seen through a bower of trees are the old stone cottages in Stour Lane, Wadsley, in 1967

Wadsley Church with its churchyard remains a remarkable place, the confined dark pews long since gone but it’s open for business.

Sunday night church attendance was required as a requisite part of membership of the youth club across in the former school. The Nissen hut that was the HQ of the Scout Troop (I didn't join because of me flat feet), long gone and replaced by something more scenic.

Roy Hattersley knew it well. His lovely memoir, A Yorkshire Boyhood, tells much about his formative days in Wadsley yet little about the village itself.

After church we would pop into Cec Dore's off licence on Worrall Road for five Woodbine and small tins of Forest Brown Ale at 50p a tin and trek off up to the changing huts on the sloping football and cricket pitch.

The Horse & Jockey public house, Wadsley, in 1975

They vanished like lost Roman Villas, without even a trace.

Wadsley Feast with its waltzer, lights, candy floss and straw on what was an open field didn't last much longer.

Now its site is a place of 'des reses' ice pops from Beech's Post Office, the Spartan character of the Top House when Ted Catlin kept it, and the smell of Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday lunch.

The Wadsley Jack is still the star. Then there’s Loxley House and its Elizabethan figurehead from a 19th century Royal Navy Gunboat that a Petty Officer told the cadets to lose, so they burnt it.

The Wadsley Jack public house pictured in 1977

The Bofors or Oerlikon gun which stood outside TS Ship Sheffield – the official name for Loxley House – has probably fared better but I haven't seen any trace of it down the Wicker where the Cadets and Marines have now moved to.

Is Loxley House still haunted by the Irish ghost called Mick? One remembers a wonderful marble fire place and tales of Dr Payne whose recommended cure for all ills was a hot blanket. Now the cadets would charge down Ben Lane in the bleak mid winter and the dull thuds of snow balls would rattle the windows.

Dial House Social Club has gone with an archive, memories probably second to none and dating before mine. That too was a great hub of the S6 area. Oh Britain's Got Talent all right but there was far more of it in those days. On stage you could hear a pin drop when they were calling out the numbers and when the coaches lined up down the road for the annual evacution of the kids to the east coast - with labels attached to their coats saying; 'if found please keep'. Across the road was Mr Jack Beckworth's shop and behind it Rose Cottage with its attendant well further up the slope.

Oh, for the days when the local pubs reflected that community spirit that seems lost … the Horse and Jockey with Robert Sabine and later Henry and Murie and of course the legendary Phil Mulvaney in the Sportsman.

There's a lot more besides and others have written about it, so many names and memories of those days when we played commandos in the bomb craters on the top field and where you found broken pieces of clay pipe stem in the back garden and used them as pavement chalk.

Wadsley Hall is still there though Miss Longden and her collection of garden ornaments are long gone along with the stone dog kennel. It’s amazingly an ancient enclave though its barns have found other functions. The memorial shed across from what was probably the village green that's been situated at Worrall Road for donkey’s years is going to make way for a dwelling.

There is so much in the windows of your memory, as me dad did with the one armed bandit in Dial House.

Too much perhaps, and I doubt whether they still make Brown Ale these days. Instead it is all craft beer for the hipsters, but there again they were trousers back last century.

As Frank Carson (ex Para), would say 'And there's more'. Did he ever pay the Dial?