Blue plaque unveiled for Sheffield countryside pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite as Star campaign a success

She gave Sheffield access to some of the most beautiful countryside in the world – now we’ve given her recognition she deserved.

Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 6:13 pm

After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Sheffield woman who fought for our access to the Peak District and our green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour.

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It was unveiled today (Wednesday May 25) at the site of the house where she was born and brought up, before it was demolished in the 1950s, on Endcliffe Crescent, near Broomhill.

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After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour

Last summer, we launched a campaign to raise money for the plaque and raise awareness of what Ethel did, working alongside one of the organisations she founded, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England Peak District and South Yorkshire (CPRE PDSY). Sheffield MP Olivia Blake and Coun Anne Murphy also backed the campaign.

Supporters gathered at the site where the plaque has been unveiled, mounted on a piece of Peak District stone, next to a village green within the site, also close to her former office.

Despite her major role in bringing access to the countryside to generations of Sheffielders, Ethel's name is largely unknown in the city where she lived and worked.

Born Ethel Mary Bassett Ward in Sheffield in 1894, Ethel began to take walks in the countryside around Sheffield for the sake of her health after the death of her first husband in the First World War.

After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire president Dame Fiona Reynolds is pictured with the plaque

Developing a love of the countryside, she established a charity in 1924 – now known as CPRE PDSY – and dedicated the rest of her life to protecting local countryside.

Marrying Gerald Haythornthwaite in 1937, she helped start the first National Park (the Peak District), creating and protecting the green belt around Sheffield, and campaigned to save the Longshaw Estate.

Endcliffe Student Village

Unveiling the plaque, Dame Fiona Reynolds, president of the CPRE PDSY, described Ethel as a heroine of hers and the CPRE movement, who she met in the 1980s. She said it was a joy that she would be remembered forever at the site of her former home, now part of Endcliffe Student Village.

After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, pictured, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt, finally has a blue plaque in her honour.

She added: “There were many more, but the big two campaigns were the green belt – Sheffield would not have a green belt without Ethel and Gerald.

"And similarly, the national park would not have happened without Ethel campaigning at national level and being part of the national lobby for national parks, and also Gerald’s map making and drawing the boundaries, until in 1955 the first National Park was established. It really is a moment to celebrate Ethel’s life and make sure she is always remembered.

She thanked the University of Sheffield for helping make it happen and promising to look after it, and The Star for its work on the campaign, as well as Stoneface stonemasons for providing the Peak District stone base for the plaque, CPRE staff and the public who had donated.

"It’s a fitting tribute to a truly remarkable woman,” she said.

After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour. PIctured with the plaque is her great nephew, Ben Haggarty

She later added: “The Sheffield Star has been brilliant, because, first of all just getting people excited about doing this is helping us to raise money for the plaque, but also raising the profile of Ethel and her work.”

Peak District

The new plaque carries the words: “Ethel Haythornethwaite 1894 – 1986. Countryside champion and Peak District pioneer was born at Endcliffe Vale House on this site, where CPRE was founded.”

Among those at the unveiling was Ethel's great nephew, Ben Haggarty.

He said: “It’s wonderful to see this plaque being unveiled and to remember Ethel, who we knew as Aunty Eppie, and her sister, Auntie Gag as we knew her, Gertrude Ward, and Ethel’s husband, Gerald.

“We as children used to come to Sheffield regularly in the summer holidays, and particularly Auntie Gag would drive us out to all manner of wonderful places to walk. They were wonderful philanthropists, the whole family.

After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green, belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour. Pictured are Dame Fiona Reynolds and Jean Smart.

"I think she would be proud, but she was also a very modest woman. I think in her heart of hearts she would be very proud. I’m just delighted she’s remembered. She was a very spirited, kind, intelligent, strong and determined woman. Who doesn’t respect that?”

Jean Smart, who worked as Ethel’s secretary from the early 1960s, attended the ceremony, and described the plaque being put in place as ‘absolutely marvelous’.

She said: "Ethel was an amazing woman. She loved the Sheffield countryside and fought very hard for it. She lobbied parliament, she brought everyone she could in to support her cause. She spent her whole life working to protect Sheffield’s countryside. Not many people in Sheffield know about Ethel or have heard of her – this blue plaque is being placed in an excellent position. I’m hoping the students that come here and walk past her name might just look into her history and realise what she has done for Sheffield.”

Star editor Nancy Fielder was delighted that the plaque is now in place.

She said: “Ethel's story is far too inspirational for it not to be widely known and for Sheffield not to celebrate a woman who made such a huge difference, not only in her own lifetime but still to our lives and those who live in and around Sheffield today.

"That is why The Star campaigned for this plaque. Ethel Haythornthwaite gave Sheffielders access to some of the most beautiful countryside in the World. We have now helped repay her with some recognition that she has so long deserved.

“I have to admit, I hadn't heard of Ethel until a recent anniversary. As I read her story I knew we had to do something special.

“I immediately contacted Olivia Blake, Anne Murphy and CPRE to ask for help getting a campaign up and running. They were all delighted to work together with The Star to make sure it happened.”

After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour
After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour. PIctured are people who attended the unveiling
After a campaign run by The Star and Campaign to Protect Rural England, Ethel Haythornthwaite, who fought for our access to the Peak District and Sheffield's green belt finally has a blue plaque in her honour. Dame Fiona Reynolds unveils the plaque