March of time that brought changes to city barracks

Burdall's bottling alley staff at Christmas in the 1940s
Burdall's bottling alley staff at Christmas in the 1940s

Hillsborough Barracks is a name long associated with Wardsend Cemetery, its military connection is well established with over 400 soldiers, wives and children buried there.

But after the army left the barracks, then what? From 1930 to the present day the fortunes of the barracks have taken several turns.

An advertisement for Burdall's gravy salt from The Star in 1945

An advertisement for Burdall's gravy salt from The Star in 1945

In 1930 the 29th Howitzers left the barracks, ending 82 years of active service that saw several well-known regiments founded there including the Warwickshires who became the South Wales Borderers. They made history at Rourke’s Drift, winning 11 Victoria Crosses in the Boer War.

The years following start with two years unoccupied before in 1932 the site was put up for auction by the war office and auctioned by Eadon and Lockwood. However, when the bidding stopped it had reached only £12,000 and the lot was withdrawn from sale.

Later that year the site was bought by Burdall’s, manufacturing chemists, they were run by Herbert Moses Burdall and are best known for their gravy salt but made many other goods besides. Alongside him was his son Herbert Alonzo Burdall.

They opened there in 1935 after a fire at the Gibraltar Street works. They let out other parts of the old barracks site to others including Sheffield Insulations.

A  sign to the Burdall's factory preserved on a wall at Hillsborough Barracks

A sign to the Burdall's factory preserved on a wall at Hillsborough Barracks

The man himself was born in Lincolnshire in 1857 and was described in Sheffield as a dry salter. Dry salting concerned the making of dyes, varnish, wallpaper paste, paint, soap and glue. In the same year he bought the barracks he was elected to the council, representing Hallam, where he served until the 1940s.

One habit of his was that he had two hats - a straw boater he wore in spring andsSummer and a more serious hat he wore in autumn and winter, changing from one to the other on certain dates each year regardless of the weather!

The works was sold in 1976 and closed. After a spell where  the site was mainly empty the site was sold in the 1990’s to Morrison’s supermarkets and is now the thriving commercial centre that is part of Hillsborough’s fabric. Morrison’s used the old parade ground as their supermarket covering it over, inside the supermarket are the frontages of the buildings that once looked out on the open parade ground, the outside was now inside.

Morrison’s have thoughtfully and genuinely kept the barrack’s character and history in a conserved state. The old Burdall’s door sign is still there behind the offices that run down to Morrison’s from Langsett Road on one of the turrets. Also by the Langsett Road entrance is the old Burdall’s painted sign on the stone wall by the car park.

How the Hillsborough Barracks site looked in 1986

How the Hillsborough Barracks site looked in 1986

Herbert Alonzo took over after his father’s death and was in charge when the firm closed. Their best-known product was gravy salt, it contained no gravy! It was caramel and salt combined! If you had a cough you could take their syrup of squills (sea hyacinths). Clean your teeth with their carbolic tooth powder or use their denture cleaner. Rhuematics, no problem they had salts for that and ointment for your chilblains, plus many more products.

The Garrison Hotel which lies within the old barracks walls houses a memorial to George Lambert VC. He was awarded the the highest military honour for bravery during the Indian Rebellion in 1857. He collapsed and died on the parade ground (now Morrisons car park) and is buried at Wardsend Cemetery 

Hillsborough Barracks have seen lots of changes over the years

Hillsborough Barracks have seen lots of changes over the years