'I''m backing Star campaign to honour green space pioneer Ethel Haythornthwaite' says Ethel's ex secretary, praising her for saving Longshaw estate

Jean Smart knows exactly what Ethel Haythornthwaite did to make Sheffield the green city it is today.

Monday, 30th August 2021, 7:58 am

And so she should – she worked with her.

Today, Jean adds her name to the campaign to acknowledge the work of the woman who played a major role in the formation of the Peak District National Park, by putting in place a blue plaque to mark the area where she lived and worked.

Jean was Ethel’s secretary in the 1960s.

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Ethel Haythornthwaite giving a speech

She said: I started working for Gerald and Ethel Haythornthwaite in 1963. I was only 19 and I certainly learned a lot from them both. Ethel was an amazing woman. At the time I first started she was probably about 70 years old but she had worked all her life, totally dedicated to looking after the Peak District and caring for the countryside around Sheffield.

"She initiated so many things, Sheffield greenbelt, particularly the Peak District National Park which was one of her main occupations. Both of them together worked very hard caring for the area, Ethel really deserves to be better known. It pains me that so few people have heard of her or know anything about her.

"This is probably partly because she was a very shy, retiring woman, although she had a steely determination and she could be quite strident.

She didn’t care t be interviewed very much. She shied away from a camera. There aren’t many photographs of her for that reason. But she knew exactly what she wanted to achieve and she almost always achieved it, and she was fantastic at raising money for her objectives.

Jean Smart was Ethel Haythornthwaite's secretary in the 1960s

"She knew most of the important people in Sheffield, and district. She wrote beautifully. She studied literature at the university. She wrote wonderful letters. If you received one of Ethel’s letters, I’d have defied you now to send a cheque.She was just amazing.

"I do think one of her greatest achievements was the purchase of the Longshaw estate in 1927 when... the Duke of Rutland decided he wanted to sell the estate to pay his death duties.

"The whole estate was put up for sale, no conditions attached. Anything could have happened there. There were proposals for golf courses, large housing estates, all kinds of things which would have distracted totally from the Longshaw estate.

"Longshaw estate was a very important estate, particularly in Sheffield in the 20s, because people had very few opportunities then. Working people worked in very harsh conditions at the steelworks, file shops, they had poor housing often, and poor food. So getting on the bus from town on a Sunday and going out to Longshaw was a really important thing, and Ethel found that they found it restorative. It helped them get through the next week, and so I think that is her greatest achievement.

Ethel and Gerald Haythornthwaite

She said she thought a blue plaque for Ethel would be wonderful, and deserved.

She said: “It astonishes me every time a see a blue plaque, as it reminds me that there isn’t one for Ethel.”

CPRE has created a crowdfunding appeal, https://gofund.me/9554fe8c, to finance the plaque. Click on the link to donate.

Local journalism holds the powerful to account and gives people a voice. Please take out a digital subscription or buy a paper. Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor