Monthly Archives: November 2022

Mary Ann Rawson’s legacy

Upper Wincobank Chapel and Old School House, Sheffield

Photo: © Penny Rae

Mary Ann Rawson (1801-1887) was a celebrated campaigner for the anti-slavery movement, who corresponded with such luminaries as Frederick Douglass, Lord Shaftesbury and William Wilberforce and promoted social reforms of all kinds throughout her long life.

The daughter of a prosperous Sheffield refiner of precious metals and the widow of a Nottingham businessman who died young, she was in an extraordinary position, as a woman in early nineteenth-century England, to work to benefit humanity.

She bought back the family home, Wincobank Hall, which had been sold to cover her father’s business difficulties, and lived there with her sister Emily to the end of her life.

Her philanthropy ranged widely and her views were lifelong and determined.  James Montgomery, who had been editor of Sheffield’s radical newspaper, the Sheffield Iris, considered she held “such extreme notions – such extreme views” about total abstinence and the abolition of the death penalty.  She was one of the first, in 1839, to sign the teetotal Pledge.

Though she campaigned nationally and internationally, she also did good on her own doorstep, in particular by selling her silverware to found a school for local children in 1841, and she afterwards financed a school house that “would attract a good School Master”.  In 1880 she established a Charitable Trust to ensure that the building would continue to benefit the community beyond her lifetime.  Her Trust Deed specified that it could be used as a place of worship but must remain undenominational and totally in the control of the congregation.

When the school was superseded by a board school in 1905 the congregation extended it as a chapel, and Mary Ann Rawson’s legacy remains active in making Wincobank a better place.  The Grade II-listed Upper Wincobank Undenominational Chapel has services each Sunday and hosts social activities during the week:  What’s going on at Upper Wincobank Chapel – Upper Wincobank Undenominational Chapel.

The Chapel trustees, together with members of the Friends of Zion Graveyard, the Friends of Wincobank Hill and local residents are refurbishing the Old School House to provide a community hub and heritage centre, thanks to support from the Veolia Environmental Trust, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Town Trust, the J G Graves Charitable Trust, the Clothmakers Foundation and South Yorkshire Community Foundation.

Rising costs and increasingly urgent needs, including a warm hub this winter, mean that the working group needs additional funds to complete the scheme. 

If you’d like to contribute, please go to

The Friends of Zion Graveyard Annual General Meeting takes place at the Upper Wincobank Chapel, Wincobank Avenue, Sheffield, S5 6BB on Monday December 12th 2022 at 7.00pm.  It’s open to anyone who has connections with the Wincobank community or is interested in the Chapel, the Graveyard.

Benevolent despots

Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

Of the late-eighteenth century company settlements that distinguish the Derbyshire Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Cromford, Belper and Milford are well-known, but visitors tend to pass by Darley Abbey.

Thomas Evans, who had lead-mining interests in Bonsall and iron-slitting mills at The Holmes in Derby, founded a bank in Derby in 1771, the same year that Richard Arkwright, Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need began their cotton-spinning enterprise at Cromford. 

Arkwright banked with Evans, and in 1783 they began a partnership using Arkwright’s patent to run the Boar’s Head Mill – named after the Evans family crest – at Darley Abbey, where there had been a paper mill in 1700. 

Before his death in 1814 Thomas Evans had bought out all the partners who were not members of his immediate family.

The Boar’s Head Mill stood on the east bank of the Derwent, drawing its head of water from a magnificent six-foot-high weir stretching 360 feet across the river.  The original mill was burnt literally to the ground in 1788, but its replacement was back in production within a year. 

Apart from an abundant head of water, the site was near enough to Derby to provide connection with the Derby Canal and a supply of available labour, just as Cromford drew on the workers of the declining lead industry and Belper had an existing community of nailers and knitters. 

However, like Arkwright and Strutt, Evans saw the need to provide housing and community facilities to promote a stable workforce. 

On the opposite bank to the mills, connected by a bridge, grew a community of three-storey cottages,– Brick Row, Flat Square, Lavender Row, Mile Ash Lane, North Row and West Row,– until by 1830 over five hundred employees worked at the mills, the majority of them living in nearly two hundred cottages in the factory village.

The Evans family had a high reputation as enlightened employers and landlords.  Sir Richard Phillips (1767-1840) praised their “unwearied philanthropy” and remarked that their “kindness and rewards are constantly bestowed in promoting cleanliness and neatness, and in stimulating industry and good conduct”.

Of course, Evans’ mill and its adjuncts provided almost the only available employment in the village, and the housing belonged to the company, so workers’ discipline was firm.

Like the Arkwrights and the Strutts, the Evans family provided a full range of community facilities at Darley Abbey, largely financed by the disciplinary fines – a playing field, the parish church of St Matthew (1819) and the village school, hot dinners for the aged and infirm, medical treatment, convalescent opportunities, and when all else failed, burial and a free gravestone.

Brian Cooper in his book Transformation of a Valley:  the Derbyshire Derwent (1983;  Scarthin Books 1991) tells of the lock-up at the entrance to the village, where “a watchman was stationed…every night, whose task…was to arrest and imprison any boisterous revellers and enter in a book the names of all women returning from Derby later than ten o’clock.  According to legend, the girls were more successful at evasion than the men.  On seeing the watchman, they pulled their skirts high above their faces and ran for the village…”

Darley Abbey Mills remained in the hands of the Evans family until 1903, and continued as textile mills until 1970.

Since then diverse uses have kept the buildings intact and recognisable.

The mills and the village are connected by a bridge across the river, and are easily accessible from the A61/A6 intersection at Allestree, north of Derby city centre.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2016 The Derbyshire Derwent Valley tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

Mi Amigo

Mi Amigo memorial, Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

I’ve been aware for a long time that there was a memorial to the ten airmen who died when their USAAF B-17G Flying Fortress crashed in Sheffield’s western suburbs in 1944, but I mistakenly thought it was located somewhere in the depths of Ecclesall Woods.

Returning from a bombing mission over Denmark, the plane Mi Amigo was crippled by enemy gunfire and inexorably losing height as it limped towards the city.

David Harvey has extensively researched the story of Mi Amigo and its crew, which he wrote up and published in Mi Amigo’:  the story of Sheffield’s Flying Fortress (ALD Design & Print 1997).

Eye-witness accounts agree that the plane approached Endcliffe Park from the south-east, over Gleadless and Heeley, and circled looking for a place to land.  Eventually an engine died and the plane spun three times and plunged to the earth among the trees.

In 1969, when ten scarlet oak trees were planted to replace those that were destroyed or had to be felled after the wreckage was cleared, two memorial plaques were fixed to a large boulder, listing the ten airmen and dedicated to their memory:

Erected by

Sheffield RAF Association

in memory of

the ten crew of USAAF bomber

which crashed in this park


Per Ardua Ad Astra

Lt John Kriegshauser (pilot, from Missouri)

Lt Lyle Curtis (co-pilot, from Idaho)

Lt John Whicker Humphrey (navigator, from Illinois)

Lt Melchor Hernandez (bomb-aimer, from California)

Sgt Robert Mayfield (radio operator/log-keeper/photographer, from Illinois)

Sgt Harry Estabrooks (flight engineer/top-turret gunner, from Kansas)

Sgt Charles Tuttle (lower turret gunner, from Kentucky)

Sgt Maurice Robbins (rear-gunner, from Texas)

Sgt Vito Ambrosio (waist-gunner and assistant radio operator, from New York)

Sgt George Malcolm Williams (waist-gunner and assistant flight engineer, from Oklahoma)

An annual commemoration, supported by the Hallamshire Branch of the Royal British Legion, takes place on the Sunday nearest to the anniversary.

A group of schoolboys who saw the plane come down never forgot it, and one of them, Tony Faulds, aided by the BBC journalist Dan Walker, campaigned for a flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the incident.

On the morning of February 22nd 2019 ten RAF and USAAF aircraft flew over Endcliffe Park, watched by a crowd of thousands and broadcast live on BBC Breakfast.

Nuanced analyses in response to the 2019 commemoration suggest that the commonly accepted account has been repeatedly embellished:  Did Tony Foulds Lie About Mi Amigo? • The Sheffield Guide.

History is complicated.  Multiple witnesses see a sudden event from different viewpoints.  Seventy-five years is a long time to recollect facts accurately.  Journalists prioritise an eye-catching story over a forensic examination of facts.

What matters, surely, is that the supreme sacrifice of ten airmen is remembered and recognised by those of us who have lived after them.

Update: The eightieth anniversary of the Mi Amigo crash was marked by a further fly-past: Flypast to mark 80th anniversary of Mi Amigo US bomber crash (

Papplewick underground

Papplewick Pumping Station, Nottinghamshire: Reservoir

Visitors to the celebrated Papplewick Pumping Station in Nottinghamshire are always impressed by the elaborate engine house and the mighty engines in motion.

They tend not to notice that the site is oddly asymmetrical.

The ornate fountain in the centre of the cooling pond is aligned with the 120-foot-high chimney, but the engine house stands to one side.

This is because the original plan for the layout envisaged a second engine house which proved to be unnecessary because the two Boulton & Watt engines and six boilers could meet the maximum demand, lifting water from the Bunter Sandstone 202 feet below ground.  A second pair of engines would have depleted the source and simply wasted energy.

Pumping water to ground level was not all the engines did, however.

To understand the full power of Papplewick Pumping Station it’s necessary to book a visit to the Papplewick Reservoir, half a mile away. 

The reservoir was built by the engineer Thomas Hawksley in 1880, an impressive vaulted space that could hold 1,500,000 gallons – the amount that the engines could lift from the well each day.

The pumped water was pushed 137 feet higher than the pumping station to a covered brick tank.

When cracks appeared in the brickwork in 1906, probably caused by mining subsidence, the reservoir was emptied and abandoned, and water was sent directly to other reservoirs nearer Nottingham.  A replacement reservoir was eventually built in 1957 and serves the modern electric pumps that replaced steam in 1969.

Visiting the Papplewick Reservoir requires forethought.  It’s open to the public on steaming days, and access is by a bumpy trailer-ride up the unmade road which follows the line of the water main.  To secure a place it’s necessary to arrive soon after opening time:  Papplewick pumping station: Industrial museum and unique wedding venue in Nottinghamshire – Visit us.

Exploring this impressive space and admiring the craftsmanship of the brickwork is a memorable experience.  It has the sort of echo that might enable you to sing the Pearl Fishers’ Duet as a solo.

Outside, looking over the 1957 reservoir to the chimney of the Victorian pumping station in the distance indicates exactly how far the engines pushed the water that they had already lifted from the well. This is Victorian engineering at its most robust and ingenious, and its construction gave health and longer life to the people of Nottingham.