Stocksbridge built under umbrella of steel

Today's stop on our Retro A to Z tour of Sheffield and neighbouring areas is, possibly more than anywhere else, a place made from steel.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 24th March 2016, 8:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2016, 8:27 pm
The Stocksbridge and District Mayor's Charity Parade moving along Manchester Road in October 1981
The Stocksbridge and District Mayor's Charity Parade moving along Manchester Road in October 1981

Stocksbridge as it stands today only really dates back to to the mid-19th century.

It was built on part of the ancient Manor of Bolsterstone.

An aerial view of Stocksbridge in 1982

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This article is deeply indebted to the excellent website of Stocksbridge and District History Society,

It describes how the valley between the Pennine hills of Hunshelf and Waldershelf would once have been thickly forested.

The town grew from a tiny hamlet at the crossing place of the Little Don river, better known as the River Porter, into a thriving industrial centre.

The bridge which forms part of the name was a mere wooden footbridge over the river. John Stocks, who owned a mill, was reputed to have built the bridge in the 1770s.

An aerial view of Stocksbridge in 1982

The present-day stone replacement was built in 1812 to cope with the traffic.

Another bridge at the bottom of Smithy Hill was built around 60 years later for the steelworks when the river was diverted and the eventual arrival of the railways.

The works was developed around 1842 from an old cotton mill on the Stocks land by Samuel Fox, from Bradwell.

Eventually the site grew to cover 28 acres

It was there that Samuel Fox patented the paragon frame umbrella, which was invented by his friend and employee Joseph Hayward in the 1850s.

More of Joseph later.

Business was booming by the 1870s, when a railway line was built to make the transport of steel to the main line easier.

The firm manufactured both iron and steel and took advantage of coal found locally.

In 1918 Samuel Fox and Co joined Rotherham firm Steel, Peech and Tozer, based at Templeborough, and several other concerns to form the United Steel Companies (USC).

Fox’s specialised in high-quality steels used in the motor and aviation industries.

In 1951 the firm was nationalised under the Iron and Steel Act and became part of the Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain.

Later the Stocksbridge works were denationalised and became part of the United Engineering Steels group, a joint venture between British Steel and GKN, called Stocksbridge Engineering Steels.

In latter years that proud tradition has been hit by job losses and a decline in the fortunes of the operation.

However, the history society points out that the firm known locally as Sammy’s was at one time an employer of families who stayed loyal to the company.

It also gave many benefits to the town, including housing, social activities and charities.

As well as steel, the town at one time produced pottery, using the clays and ganister mined in the area, and glass.

A new Fox Valley shopping centre on the old Samuel Fox site, next to the Tata Steelworks, will open in June .

One of the new buildings at Fox Valley will be named Joseph Hayward House and his famous umbrella frame has inspired the architecture of the new coffee shop at the town centre development.

As The Star reported last month, Philip Hayward, a former Stocksbridge steelworker, is descended from Joseph’s brother William.

Philip is the last member of the Hayward family to have worked at the steelworks and he retired in 2005.

The 68-year-old said: “It’s lovely for all the family to see that Joseph Hayward will be remembered in the name of one of the buildings. “

Joseph is his great, great, uncle on his father’s side.