MossValley: Chap 4/Pt 1, Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life 1866-1916, by Rev William Odom
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Continuing the transcript of

Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life

The Rev. W. Odom

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Hon. Canon of Sheffield

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Chapter IV - Part 1


Grave on thy heart each past "red letter day!"
Forget not all the sunshine of the way
By which the Lord hath led thee; answered prayers,
And joys unasked; strange blessings, lifted cares,
Grand promise echoes. Thus thy life shall be
One record of His love and faithfulness to thee.

In August, 1888, whilst taking holiday duty at St. Thomas's, Rhyl, for my friend Canon Richardson, I received a very kind letter from the Archbishop of York, Dr. Thomson, in which he said, "I write to ask whether it will be agreeable to you to accept the living of Heeley, vacant by the resignation of Mr. Jones. I think you would easily learn all particulars from Archdeacon Blakeney. I have only to say that I feel sure that the parish would fare well in your hands." It was not easy to part from a large and loyal congregation, which had gathered round me during my ministry at St. Simon's, but I felt it my duty to accept the Archbishop's offer, and to face the work and difficulties which awaited me.

The name Heeley, applied to a somewhat extensive district, has been spelt in various ways. It appears to signify "High Leys", that is "high meadows".

The earliest mention of Heeley I have been able to trace appears in a 'Catalogue of Ancient Charters' (1913) prepared by Mr. T. W. Hall, which gives a Charter dated 1343-4, Sunday next after the Feast of Saint Cuthbert the Bishop (20th March), confirming a grant by John Ryle of Heghlegh to his son Thomas, of a messuage with two crofts of arable land in Heghlegh, Sheffield. Another Charter bearing date 1348 - Wednesday next after the Feast of All Saints (1st November), confirming a grant to John Alayn of Hymelsworth (Hemsworth, Norton), "of a toft* and a half with a building, in Heghelegh" (Heeley).

[ * Footnote – Toft, a homestead. ]

In a "Book of Feudal Aids", made for the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1451, a notice of which, edited by Mr. S. O. Addy, appears in the Transactions of The Hunter Archaeological Society, we find mentioned "Hamelet de Heyle", a place identical with Heeley. In a grant of Queen Mary, A.D. 1553, by which the Church Burgesses were first appointed, and their income and office prescribed, amongst the lands vested in that body are mentioned "two crofts called Malkin Croftes in Heeley in the parish of Sheffield in the several tenures of Thomas Blythe and James Tayler".

In 'Catalogue of Charters and Documents', compiled by Mr. T. Walter Hall (1916) the wills are mentioned of Thomas Roose the elder, of "Helaye Sheffelde", and James Tailior, of Helay, both dated July, 1554. In December, 1555, the Church Burgesses granted a lease to one Rycharde Crooke of two cottages and a close called "ye ladye sprynge" in "Helaye", and in 1595 leased to Robert Garlicke, of Heeley, a "barn or lath house" – "one dole (?) lying in a certain close called Parkefeild in Heely".

Mr. R. E. Leader, in his 'History of the Cutlers' Company' (1905) says that a list of the Earl of Shrewsbury's Sheffield rents, about three hundred years earlier, gives twenty-five water wheels as in existence, one being the "Heylie wheel on the Sheaf". In a Burial Register of Norton Church as far back as the reign of James I, in 1610, is the entry "Thomas Milnes, of Hielay Brigghouse, Milner of the Mylne thear".

Mr. Leader also tells us that "in 1727 the Capital Burgesses put up a Cross in Lady Spring, Heeley, a wood from which they derived much timber, presumably as a mark of ownership". From time immemorial a never-failing spring supplied the villagers with drinking water. Its locality is indicated by the present street names, Springwood Road, Well Head, and Well Road.

We read that not one of the existing main highways out of Sheffield was made before the nineteenth century, and that before the eighteenth century all visitors to Sheffield came by pack-horse tracks and bridle roads. We learn from Mr. Leader that until the Park was broken up into farms early in the eighteenth century, there was no way out of Sheffield southwards except by an almost impassable road by Heeley and Newfield Green to Gleadless Moor. The road to London

"ran across the gorse-clad swampy common called Sheffield Moor, forded the Porter Brook, over which there was only a foot-bridge; thence up a sharp rise to Highfield, and so down Goose Green to Heeley. There the steep old lane had to be climbed to Newfield Green".

Ebenezer Rhodes, friend of Chantrey, in his 'Peak Scenery', published in 1818, thus describes the beauties of Smithy Wood, about half a mile from Heeley on the Chesterfield Road, looking towards Abbeydale:

"The walk from Heeley to Norton, by way of Woodseats and Bole Hill, commands a series of delightful views over the adjacent country. In one direction the hills and woods of Beauchief and Ecclesall enrich the middle distance of the prospect. In another, Banner Cross and the luxuriantly-wooded hills about Sheffield, extending from Wincobank to Grenoside, and from thence to Wentworth and Wharncliffe, are noble features in the extensive and beautifully-diversified landscapes which this walk in its progress presents."

Mrs. Barbara Hoole, who resided at Attercliffe, author of a volume of poems, who became the wife of Hofland the painter, was, like Ebenezer Rhodes, much struck with the beauty of the Smithy Wood as seen from "the Chesterfield Road, a little above Heeley", where

"an amphitheatre is open to the eye comprehending an expanse of rustic and sylvan scenery which delights not only the senses but the heart; wide farms backed by distant moors, springing coppice, green lawns, neat cottages, comfortable houses, ancient mansions, the simple church of Ecclesall Bierlow, and the shining reservoirs of water in the valley beneath you, altogether give a scene so gay, various, and interesting that I cannot help preferring it to every other around us."

In my possession is a fine lithographic print, published in 1857, and drawn by William Ibbitt, entitled "The Valley of the Sheaf", which represents Brincliffe Edge, Banner Cross, Ecclesall Church, fields, woods, waters, and mansions, with the moorlands beyond, attractive and beautiful. Those who now travel in the tramcar to Woodseats, as they pass what was once the top of the lovely Smithy Wood, and gaze upon the wide expanse, the moors in the distance, will have little difficulty in picturing the scene before it was invaded by the Midland Railway. The distant moors remain, but the once loved valley is covered by large works, factory chimneys, and miles of monotonous streets of small brick houses.

In the Sheffield Directory of 1833, Heeley is described as "the populous village of Upper and Nether Heeley, nearly two miles south of Sheffield". The directory gives sixty-four names of residents, of whom eighteen were pocket-knife makers. In those days there was no church, and in the Church Registers, which began in 1847, the residences of the inhabitants are given simply as of Lower Heeley, Middle Heeley, and Upper Heeley. The total number of inhabitants would be between 400 and 500.  What a contrast to after days!

Pleasant glimpses of old Heeley and its neighbours appear in that most interesting book, 'Chantrey Land', by Harold Armitage, a native of Heeley, so fully and delightfully illustrated by Charles Ashmore, a resident. Before the advent of the Midland Railway

"there was a toll-bar in Well Road, and the well-head was green with ferns and moss.* Old Naylor kept the post office near the bottom of Well Road, and used to go down to London Road to take and receive letters when the coach went past. This operation was performed deftly without any stopping of the coach, for Naylor caught the letters that were thrown out, and threw in the letters that were going away, to the admiration of the boys who assembled to watch the performance. Opposite the bottom of Well Road was a dam and a flour mill, its site now occupied by the Midland Railway. ... Over the Sheaf, at the bottom of what until recent years was Sheaf Street, and is now Gleadless Road, was a stone bridge whence the loiterer might see pleasing views of cornfields and wooded hills, meadows, and under alders enchanting pools where the trout leapt for the May-fly."

[ * Footnote – A directory of 1864 calls this Townwell Street. ]

Not very long ago an old Heeley resident told me that when a girl she delivered all the letters throughout the Heeley and Norton districts.

Some twenty yeas ago, "T.W.", an old parishioner and member of my congregation, gave in the Sheffield Telegraph interesting "Reminiscences" of Heeley, from which I gladly quote. He said:

"Forty years since, or less, there were two miles of green fields between Sheffield and Heeley, where now not a blade of grass is to be seen. At that time the town ended in a southerly direction, where the Highfield Coffee House now stands, opposite to which was a low-built, old-fashioned public house called the Crown Inn. It was also called the Half-way House, but this title refers to a still earlier date, when the town only reached as far as the top of Sheffield Moor, at which time the Crown Inn would be half way between Sheffield and Heeley, and indeed we should only need to go back to the early part of the nineteenth century to find that we should still have to take a country walk from the Crown Inn before reaching Sheffield.

"Starting from the Crown Inn on the London or Chesterfield Road was a cluster of old cottage houses, known to Heeley people as the Iron Railings, from the fact that the footpath, being three or four feet higher than the road, was fenced off with iron railings, which are now doing duty on the edge of the footpath which runs under the Midland Railway Bridge at Heeley. To the left of these houses was Highfield Terrace, which had an unobstructed view of what was then the beautiful valley of the Sheaf, with the Cutler Wood in the distance on the right bank of the river. The river here was then a pretty stream, with shoals of minnows to be seen in it in the summer time, with the river bank opposite the wood edged with golden-coloured meadow saffron. From Highfield Terrace to Heeley were open fields of grass, corn and potatoes. The large, flat field of about thirteen acres at the bottom of the hill, upon part of which now stands the Lowfield Schools, was in the winter season the ground of the Heeley Football Club. ...

"Immediately before crossing Heeley Bridge, on the right hand side, was the entrance to Mr. Fisher Godwin's extensive nurseries. Opposite the foot of Well Road, where the Midland Station now stands, was Bagshawe's flour mill, worked by water power, the mill-dam only protected from the turnpike road by a hedge of hazel and rose bushes, with an opening in the centre for the purpose of watering horses. ... If one may judge from the fine old stone buildings* which formerly stood in Middle Heeley it has at one time been a place of some importance.

"At the time this narrative refers to, the inhabitants of each division of Upper, Middle, and Lower Heeley were very clannish, and rarely associated one with the other, but kept themselves as much apart as if there were miles of space between each division."

[ * Footnote – An example may still be seen in the large house in ruins still standing in Gleadless Road, just above the top of Oak Street. ]

Sixty or seventy years ago the lonely part by Heeley Bridge was the location of frequent highway robberies. The isolated walks from Sheffield to Upper Heeley by way of Bramall Lane or by Leadmill Road and Strawberry Lane, were extremely perilous, the river Sheaf at the west end of Cutler Wood being crossed by a single plank. The locality was the scene of more than one murder. Cutler Wood is now occupied by the extensive works of Messrs. Skelton and the too-closely-packed houses of Prospect Road.

Methodism appears to have gained an early footing in Heeley. David Taylor, who lived at Fulwood, "a pious butler of considerable intelligence and great Evangelistic gifts", one of the earliest Methodists, preached (1740-42) very frequently in a house at Heeley, where, it is stated, the first Methodist Society was commenced in Sheffield. He is named more than once by John Wesley in his Journal, and described as "a workman that needed not to be ashamed". He travelled about on a pony which he kept for the purpose, preaching in houses, barns, and the open air. Subsequently he split off, and became the leader of "a few Inghamite Moravians" *.

[ * Footnote – The Rev. Benjamin Ingham was one of the "Oxford Methodists". See Norfolk Street Chapel and Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield, Rev. T. A. Seed, 1907. ]

My first visit to Heeley, about the close of the 'sixties, is well remembered. It was then a small village, a great contrast to the long and crowded streets of to-day. From Sharrow Lane on the right, fine lofty trees reared their heads; a little below Abbeydale Road was Fieldhead House and grounds, and inviting villas. The railway had not been built, and tramways were not dreamed of. The Heeley 'bus ran to and from Sheffield several times daily, driven by "Old George", who in his later years was a member of my Men's Bible Class. On the left from Highfield Terrace, with its long gardens, were green fields reaching up to the Sheaf, beyond which, on the wooded hillside, was the small village, with its church, nursery grounds, cornfields, and pleasant surroundings. A lady friend from the country wished to hear the Rev. John Guttridge, a noted Free Methodist minister, who was announced to preach in the old chapel (now used as a clubroom) by the corner of the churchyard. On my undertaking to be her guide, we went up a narrow lane with old farm buildings at the top (now Oak Street) until we reached Gleadless Road, where all was open country and gardens. As I sat in the small crowded Bethel, little did I dream that the day would come when I should be the vicar of the adjoining church, privileged to minister amidst a population of nearly 18,000 souls.

The area of the parish is now about 305 acres. When first formed it was much larger, extending from the Derbyshire border to Harmer Lane, including part of Granville Street, reaching up to Bungay Street and Talbot Street in the Park, then round by Arbourthorne Lodge across country to Newfield, below which it again touched the Meers Brook. The very scattered population would not exceed 3,000. A large portion of the old parish now form parts of the Sale Memorial, St. Barnabas, and St. Peter's (Abbeydale) parishes. The present area of 305 acres, with its 18,000 inhabitants, will, it is expected, soon be divided, the new district proposed being the Eastbank portion between Myrtle Road and Granville Road. Heeley Bank Road would be an excellent position for church and schools.

In 1881 Heeley contained a population of 7,197, which in 1891 had grown to 12,921, with 2,640 inhabited houses. In 1901 the population had increased to 16,499, and in 1911 to 17,885, with 3,763 families. The present boundaries are London Road from Heeley Bridge to the Meers Brook which divides Yorkshire from Derbyshire (behind Albert Road), then following the stream to the foot of the Newfield grounds, thence across the fields beyond Arbourthorne to City Road (formerly Intake Road), then down to Granville Road, along the Sheaf by Queen's Road up to Heeley Bridge.

The greater part of the soil belongs to the Norfolk Estate. In the early part of my Heeley ministry, having an extensive scheme of church extension and school building on hand, I ventured to write to the late Duke of Norfolk, a Roman Catholic, expressing the hope that as he owned most of the land, and had his Sheffield residence in the parish, he would give some assistance. In his reply, very kind and sympathetic, he expressed regret that my request was one he could not comply with, adding: "Being a Catholic, I only subscribe in religious matters to those connected with the religion I believe to be the truth."

Heeley, from time to time, has been the abode of several landscape painters of merit, many of whose pictures may be seen in the neighbourhood. Amongst those were:

Miss A. E. Seaton;
C. T. Dixon (several examples of whose work are in the High Hazels Museum);
Joshua Fletcher;
Ernest Linney;
F. W. Topham;
W. Petch.
Another resident, Colin G. Roe, was well known as a painter of horses and dogs.
Read Turner, who was regarded as one of the best of the Sheffield artists, lived just outside;
Charles Dixon, naturalist, the author of several books on Birds and Bird Life, is the son of the above-named C. T. Dixon.

The first known map of Sheffield, published in 1732, was by Ralph Gosling, schoolmaster and surveyor, who, born at Bradway, lived awhile at Heeley.

Robert Murray Gilchrist, the novelist, who died recently at Holmesfield, was for some years a Heeley resident.

Mr. Charles Green, who died in April, 1916, at the age of eighty, and who lived in Shrewsbury Road (once a part of Heeley parish), was one of Sheffield's most skilled art-craftsmen, and a contemporary of Young Mitchell, Alfred Stevens, and Godfrey Sykes. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, and at art exhibitions was awarded several medals and diplomas. Amongst many examples of his skill to be found in the city may be named the Mayor's chain of office (1856), and the font in the Cathedral, presented by the Freemasons of Sheffield (1881). As a sculptor, modeller, and designer he had few equals.

In the church are memorial windows to Mr. Young Mitchell, and a son who was buried at sea. Mr. Mitchell, who was several years head master of the Sheffield School of Art, and an attendant at Heeley Church, lived at Trout House, on this side of the Shire Brook. Godfrey Sykes, a designer of the first rank, was a teacher at the School of Art with Mr. Mitchell, and a constant visitor at his home. In after years Sykes executed important work in London, notably at the South Kensington Museum. In 1860 he designed the attractive cover which the Cornhill Magazine still bears, representing ploughing, sowing, reaping and threshing. It is said that the sower was drawn from nature, "in a cornfield at Heeley"* He is commemorated by a monument in Weston Park.

[ * Footnote – "Godfrey Sykes", by Harold Armitage, Cornhill Magazine, April, 1912. ]

Another frequent visitor to Heeley at the house of Mr. Mitchell was Alfred Stevens, a friend of Sykes, who designed for several Sheffield firms during the few years he was resident in Sheffield. He is celebrated as the designer of the noble Wellington Monument in St. Paul's Cathedral, now happily completed.

Miss Jean Mitchell, daughter of Mr. Young Mitchell, is widely known for her excellent artistic work. Her pictures have been exhibited at the Royal Academy, and she has painted the portraits of several Sheffield citizens.

What a transformation has since taken place. The nursery gardens and cornfields gone, the woods with their fine old oak trees gone, the gipsies no longer camp in fields near Thirlwell Road; the rooks no longer build in Thirlwell Place, the trout no longer leap in the Shire Brook. But, fortunately, all is not lost. Close by is Meersbrook Park of thirty-seven acres, in which stands the Ruskin Museum, with its priceless treasures; and Norfolk Park, of more than fifty acres, richly wooded, now belonging to the City, owing to the munificence of the late Duke of Norfolk. Other pleasant parts are East Bank, with its mansions, including Queen's Tower; Newfield Green, so long the home of the Brownells, one of whom, Peter Brownell, was in 1807 the Master Cutler. On the border of the parish are the extensive ruins of the old Manor House, where in November, 1530, for eighteen days, the Fourth Earl of Shrewsbury entertained the fallen Cardinal Wolsey; and the restored Manor Lodge, for some time the prison home of the captive Queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart.*

[ * Footnote – See Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots: Her Friends and Her Foes, by the present writer. George Bell & Sons, 1894. ]

Within two miles of Heeley Church is the pleasant and picturesque Derbyshire village of Norton, with its memories of the great sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey, once a milk boy between Norton and Sheffield. Within recent times this ancient rural parish has had two new parishes carved out of it – St. Paul's, Norton Lees, and St. Chad's, Norton Woodseats, both included in the city and diocese of Sheffield, with an aggregate population now exceeding 20,000.

Prior to the formation of the parish, Heeley was a part of St. Mary's, and for many years under the supervision of the Rev. Henry Farish, the incumbent of that parish. During the years 1844-5-6 the Rev. George Sandford, Vice-Principal of the Sheffield Collegiate School, held two weekly services on Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening in the Gleadless Road Schoolroom.

The contributions to the Building Fund of Heeley Church included the following:

£200 Mr. Henry Wilson, of Westbrook;
£100 His mother, Mrs. Wilson, of Clifford;
£100 Mr. James Wilson, Brincliffe Tower;
£100 Mr. Samuel Roberts, Queen's Tower;
£100 Rev. W. Bagshawe, Banner Cross;
£100 Mrs. Brownell, Newfield;
£100 Mr. Robert Younge, Greystones.

The church, of which Mr. James Mitchell was the architect, was consecrated in August, 1848, by the Archbishop of York (Dr. Musgrave). Its surroundings then were entirely rural. The site for the church, and also for the vicarage house, erected later, was the gift of the Sheffield Church Burgesses. The plan is cruciform, with a tower about sixty feet high over the north transept, upon which it was intended to add a spire, which, however, was never done. The church accommodated about 450 adults, and remained unaltered until 1889, when it was much enlarged, as hereafter stated. The beautiful oak sedilia which were there at the opening were probably a gift, but by whom cannot be ascertained. The tracery of the east and west windows is considered very fine. Before me is an interesting list of those present at the consecration, including:

Archdeacon Creyke
Archdeacon Hill
Dr. Sutton, Vicar of Sheffield
Rev. H. Farish, St. Mary's
Rev. Dr. Gatty, Ecclesfield
Rev. J. Livesey, St. Philip's
Rev. S. Earnshaw
Rev. J. Knight, St. Paul's
Rev. William Bruce, Holy Trinity, Wicker
Rev. William Mercer, St. George's
Rev. G. Sandford, St. Jude's, Eldon
Rev. H. Barlow, Pitsmoor
Rev. E. B. Chalmer, Fulwood
Rev. L. Gibson, Darnall
Rev. E. G. Kelly, St. John's, Park
Rev. R. H. Deane, St. Luke's, Hollis Croft
Rev. J. Gill, Stannington
Rev. W. Smith, Stoney Middleton
Rev. W. Howard, Whiston
Rev. J. Hand, Handsworth
Rev. H. D. Jones, the Vicar

Amongst well-known laymen present, we note the names of:

James Montgomery
T. A. Ward
T. B. Holy
H. Newbould
S. Knight
R. R. Brownell
T. W. Rodgers
Henry Wilson
James Wilson
Samuel Younge

The sermon preached by the Rev. Henry Farish, was on the text: "Come, for all things are now ready." The collection amounted to £66. 17s. 6d.

Afterwards a cold collation was served in St. Mary's Hermitage Street Schools, when 200 leading townsmen, including Mr. Wilson Overend, the Mayor, were present. The Rev. H. Farish presided, and congratulatory addresses were given by the Archbishop and others. Thus ended what I suppose was the first "Red Letter" day of the Church in Heeley.

The substantial vicarage house, on the ample site just above the church, was built in 1862, at a cost of £1,500.

The patronage of the living was first vested in the Crown and the Archbishop of York alternately, but in 1899 an arrangement was made by Archbishop Maclagan by which it is now solely in the gift of the Crown.

On the formation in 1846 of Heeley parish, the Rev. Henry Denson Jones, B.A., of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Chaplain of the Sheffield Infirmary, was appointed the first vicar, and continued as such until his resignation in 1888, for the long period of forty-two years, during which the parish had changed from a small rural village with a few hundred people to one with a population of some 15,000.

Mr. Jones was an excellent scholar, well versed in Greek, with a thorough knowledge of Holy Scripture. He was noted for his long discourses, and some of his interpretations of the Word were deemed peculiar. Mr. Thomas Asline Ward, a well-known Sheffield magistrate, Master Cutler in 1816, resided at Park House, Olive Grove, a resort of the literary circle of his day. In a letter dated 5th September, 1849, to the Rev. H. H. Piper, a Unitarian minister, of Norton, he said –

"There is a nice little church at Heeley, lately built. My neighbour Stacey has a son who is a great mechanic, and has constructed an organ. The congregation at Heeley have given him £100 for it – the supposed cost – and he is going to play upon it on the Sundays for a year. I went to the opening, and it was much admired. The clergyman, Mr. Jones, preached on the Fall. He told us that Adam ate the apple that he might share the fate of Eve, preferring death to separation. There was a gallant example to his sons!"

[ Footnote – Passages from the Diary of Thomas Asline Ward, page 311. ]

Notwithstanding the changed condition of its surroundings, Heeley churchyard, with its banks and hedgerows, and the spacious vicarage grounds above, still retains its rural aspect. Amongst the tombs are those of the Brownells of Newfield, the Creswicks of Norton, and Henry Denson Jones, first vicar of the parish. A noticeable feature is the lofty obelisk resting on an immense block of granite (which took upwards of 20 horses to draw it up the hill) to the memory of John Shortridge, of Chipping House, who was the contractor amongst other enterprises for the railway from Sheffield to Manchester, including the erection of the massive Wicker Arch.

Near the chancel is a memorial stone which forms a link between Heeley and the Brontë family. It is to the memory of Thomas Wooler, a surgeon, formerly of Dewsbury, who died in 1895 at the great age of 92. For several years this gentleman lived in retirement at Heeley, and I was practically the only one he received as a visitor. Despite his peculiarities it was evident that he was highly educated. He was the brother of Margaret Wooler, friend and schoolmistress of Charlotte Brontë, and had been intimately acquainted with the Bronte family, concerning the members of which we had interesting talks. It is a matter for regret that I did not take notes of what he said on this very interesting subject.

The day and Sunday schools are amongst the oldest in Sheffield. A building which stood on common land at Upper Heeley was in the year 1801 used as a day school for the children of the district, the inhabitants of which were few and scattered. In 1807 there was paid a legacy of £150, left by Thomas Chapman, the interest to be applied for the instruction of children, which sum, augmented by subscriptions, was invested in consols. The site of the present school buildings, with adjoining land (5,208 square yards), was purchased from the lord of the manor by subscription. In 1809 a minute in the manager's book directs the schoolmaster to teach the Church catechism. A parliamentary report in 1841 states that in addition to "pay scholars", eighteen children were taught free.

In February, 1838, there were eleven trustees, namely:

Rev. W. H. Vale, Ecclesall Vicarage
Rev. Henry Farish, Vicar of St. Mary's
Mr. Offley Shore
Mr. Robert Brownell
Mr. James Smith
Mr. Joseph Wilson
Mr. Peter Spurr
Mr. Henry Wilson
Mr. Thomas Creswick
Mr. Henry Newbould
Mr. Samuel Roberts.

In 1853 the Rev. H. D. Jones, Vicar of Heeley, and Mr. Edward Hudson, churchwarden, were also trustees. The schools were rebuilt in 1833 by subscriptions mainly contributed by the trustees, and in 1868 were again enlarged, a house also being built for the master. Considerable sums have since been spent on improvements.

A member of my congregation who attended the school in 1843 gave me a copy of the printed rules, which I think of special interest. It may be said that Heeley then formed part of St. Mary's district, and the church referred to is St. Mary's Church, there being no church in Heeley at that time.


I. Each child on first coming to school is to pay twopence, which sum is to be paid regularly in advance every Monday morning. For this will be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic; and to the girls needlework.

II. The school hours are – From Lady Day to Michaelmas, in the morning from 9 to 12, and in the afternoon from 2 to 5. From Michaelmas to Lady Day, in the morning from 9 to 12, and in the afternoon from half-past 1 to 4. On Sundays, throughout the year, at 9 in the morning, and at 2 in the afternoon.

III. The children are to be sent neat and clean; and the girls without necklaces, feathers, or finery.

IV. It is expected that no child be kept from school without leave being granted the day before. Children whose attendance is irregular after repeated admonitions will be dismissed. If any child be detained at home by illness the parents are expected to acquaint the master.

V. If any children behave ill at school, or be idle and careless in doing what is set them, they will be detained after school hours.

VI. Parents who intend to withdraw their children are expected to give previous notice to the master of the school.

VII. Work will be provided for the girls two days in the week. On the other days they may bring their own work, only fancy work will not be allowed.

VIII. The presence of the children on Sundays is required, in order that they may receive religious instruction and attend church.

IX. Any child living in Upper or Lower Heeley may be admitted, provided the parents agree to conform to the above rules.

X. When a child is brought for the first time one of the parents or guardians of the child is required to come and consent to the rules and receive a copy of them, after which the child's name may be enrolled.

XI. Children attending the Sunday school and not the day school are required in all respects to submit to the discipline of the school, and to attend church under the conduct and guidance of the master.

An old scholar told me that in 1842 the scholars and teachers attending Heeley School would walk down to Hermitage Street School on the morning of each Whit-Monday; both schools would attend the service at St. Mary's, and in the afternoon meet for sports, &c., in a field at Heeley Bank.

On my appointment to Heeley Church matters were in a most depressing condition, the congregation numbering from twelve to twenty persons only. My predecessor, nearly eighty years of age, who had seen the population increase from a few hundreds to several thousands, was physically and mentally incapable. There was neither curate nor paid lay-helper; a handful of worthy people had kept the church and Sunday schools going. The total amount raised for parochial and missionary objects for the year ended Easter before my appointment was only £56. The church was extremely bare, possessing not even a bell to call worshippers together; the hymn book used was Psalms and Hymns, strongly Calvinistic in tone.

An earnest layman, Mr. Charles Crute, assisted by several friends, had some years before commenced a mission in temporary buildings, almost under the shadow of the parish church, with the intention of handing over the work to a new vicar.  A large congregation had been gathered, with a Sunday school largely attended.  The mission, known as St. Peter's, attracted many earnest workers, several of whom were Nonconformists.  All seats were free;  there were no collections.  Entertainments and other attractions had drawn together a large number of young people.  Such was the state of matters when I entered upon my ministry in Heeley, and it is hardly surprising under the circumstances that difficulties arose.

For a considerable time I was single-handed. Happily the church soon proved too small for the attendance, and I had the great joy of being supported by a united and loyal congregation. I intimated to the conductor of the mission that my first duty was to the church to which I had been appointed, and that as soon as a clerical colleague could be secured I should be prepared to undertake the responsibility of the mission. There was, however, notwithstanding Mr. Crute's earnest desire to hand over the mission to the vicar, considerable opposition to this, owing, doubtless, to the large Nonconformist element, who appeared wishful that the mission should go on as in the past, independently of the vicar's direction.

In the autumn of 1892, after considerable negotiation, I consented somewhat reluctantly, at the wish of the late Archdeacon Blakeney, to take over the additional burden of the mission, the temporary buildings of which, as already stated, were close to the parish church. Still, as £100 per annum for an additional clergyman was guaranteed for two years by friends of the mission, and I had the strong hope that the arrangement might soon lead to the formation of a new district, I undertook the responsibility, which meant the raising of an additional £320 a year – no light task for a working-class parish. The Rev. J. Turton Parkin, curate of St. Philip's, was appointed to the charge of the mission, and on his preferment to the Vicarage of Wadsley, the Rev. W. Norton Wright, now Vicar of St. Stephen's, took his place. Both were earnest, loyal, tactful men, of whom any congregation might be proud, and their loyalty to me and the Parish Church was beyond reproach. The work of the mission was carried on, not without difficulties, until 1896. At the close of three years the contributions of the guarantors to the Curacy Fund ceased, and the matter of raising the needed funds for the carrying on of the mission had become urgent. After consulting with Archdeacon Favell and other friends, and with the approval and goodwill of the wardens and council of the parish church, it was decided to apply to the Church Burgesses for an endowment with a view to the removal of the mission church and the formation of a new ecclesiastical district on the Olive Grove side of the parish, to which proposal the council of the mission church had agreed. A site on the Heeley Bank Road had been provisionally arranged by me with the agent of the Duke of Norfolk, and an estimate obtained for the removal of the iron mission church at a cost (including the site) of £1,200.

At the same time the Church Burgesses were asked, in addition to the endowment, for a grant towards the proposed new church and site. On the 26th of March, 1896, I received with keen regret from Mr. Wheat, clerk to the Church Burgesses Trust, the following communication, in reply to my application:

"The Capital Burgess [Sir Henry Stephenson] and Mr. Samuel Roberts reported that they had had an interview with the Rev. W. Odom relative to his application, &c.: it was resolved – that the Church Burgesses, having carefully considered Mr. Odom's application, it does not appear to them that the proposal for the division of the parish of Heeley is at present desirable, and although they approve the plan for enlarging the parish church they regret that they are not empowered to contribute to that object."

One course only seemed now open for me. Whichever way I might act I foresaw difficulty.  My action, taken after consultation with Archbishop Thomson, was approved by many, censured by others, and fiercely condemned by anonymous writers in the Press. Much as I regret the result, I have the conviction that I took the only wise course open to me.

After five and a half years of earnest and loyal work at the parish church and the mission church, Mr. Wright left for another sphere of labour, with the high esteem of all who knew him. This was in 1896, and the sequel is best told in my letter which appeared in the Heeley Parish Magazine for July, 1896:

"With regard to the mission church I have to say that my connection with it has now ceased. Some time ago the mission council unanimously resolved that in consequence of the lack of funds the mission could not be continued on its present lines. I foresaw this difficulty three and a half years ago, when I was prevailed upon to take over the mission, but hoped that it would be solved by a division of the parish. It should be remembered that the temporary buildings of the mission do not belong to the Church. Had I been willing to become responsible for the future heavy expenses of the mission I might have retained the connection; but the whole circumstances are peculiar and difficult, and it could not reasonably be expected that with my already heavy responsibilities I should undertake what the mission council shrank from.

"My offer to carry on the mission Sunday schools, mothers' meeting, a Sunday evening service, &c., as part of the parish church work has not been accepted. A section of the mission church leaders with strong Nonconformist sympathies desire that the mission shall be free and independent, and to this end negotiations are, I understand, being carried on with the minister of a small dissenting body known as the Free Church of England. The proposal to bring a new religious community to Sheffield – where, alas, our divisions are already too apparent – involves grave responsibility, and will be a painful surprise to honest Nonconformists and loyal Churchmen alike.

"Church work in Heeley will now be centred at the parish church, and as one who loves the dear old Church of England – the Church of our martyred forefathers – I make no apology for giving an affectionate invitation to loyal Churchmen and Churchwomen who have hitherto worshipped at the mission church, and who regard schism as sin, to work and worship with us at our parish church, soon to be enlarged and greatly improved. Notwithstanding all difficulties we intend to go forward. I have faith in God's promise and faith in the future of our Church in this great parish. During the seven years of my ministry God has greatly blessed us and enabled us to overcome many difficulties. Having put our hands to the plough we do not intend to look back. We will sow – those who come after will reap. Ever striving to be loyal to the Catholic and Protestant principles of our Church – speaking the truth in love – fulfilling our ministry, not as time-servers but as servants of Christ – we will labour on, amid evil report and good report, seeking to do God's will, preaching the Gospel of grace, following the divine leadings, and resting on the unfailing promise, 'All things work together for good to them that love God'."

The year 1889 was an eventful one in parochial matters. Although only the first year of my vicariate, and some protests notwithstanding, I felt the time had come for a venture of faith. The population was rapidly increasing, and at a meeting of the congregation it was unanimously decided (1) to enlarge the church by building a north aisle, vestry, and organ chambers, and (2) to erect a church room for parochial gatherings, Bible classes, mothers' meeting, &c. Nearly £200 had already been expended in renovating the church, providing a heating apparatus, and other improvements. A bell, for which the Sunday scholars and young people collected, had been fixed in the tower at a cost of £30, and it was now felt that the greater effort must be made. I had faith in the cause, in my many friends, and, above all, in God. The sum required was £2,000. The Church Burgesses, who owned considerable property in the parish, whilst ready to contribute towards the cost of a new church, were unable to assist in the enlargement, although the sitting accommodation was to be nearly doubled. This was disappointing, but we had made up our minds to carry the matter through, and the people had a mind to work. Contributions were invited, and arrangements made for a bazaar.

Continue to the second part of Chapter 4

Return to
Beginning of this chapter: Part 1 of Chapter 4

or browse the chapter contents and illustrations below

Full Contents


Sheffield in the 'Sixties
The author's reminiscences of 'Old Sheffield' and its inhabitants.


The Church in Sheffield, 1866-1916
Brief history of the church in Sheffield and its development, timetable of subjects and tutors from an Educational Institute Class List of 1866, clergy names, benefactors, details of churches/parishes, etc — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Memories of St. Simon's, 1877-1888
Details of this parish in one of the most densely-populated areas of Sheffield, anecdotes, names, etc.


THIS PAGE: Christ Church, Heeley, 1888-1916 - Part 1 (Part 2 is here).


Heeley and the War
Names of congregation members fallen in the Great War, including one VC (Sgt-Maj J C Raynes, Royal Artillery, with citation given), together with extracts from letters written by servicemen giving accounts of conditions at the front (France, Belgium, Egypt), their experiences in battle, and thoughts of home; also an account from a survivor of the sinking of the hospital ship 'Anglia' in the Channel.


Recollections – Men and Things
Many names and anecdotes of clergy, laymen and others known and befriended during the author's ministry — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.


Books and Travel
Author's favourite reading, details and a bibliography of other published work, and travel.


In Memoriam – Mary Odom
A very personal tribute from the author to his wife, Mary, who died in 1913.


"God and Cæsar." A Sermon preached before the Mayor and Corporation.
Text of a sermon preached at Sheffield Parish Church in 1887.


"Public Worship – its Methods." A Paper read at the Islington Clerical Meeting, London, 1903.
Text includes the author's observations on the principles established at the time of the Reformation, the dangers of a return to 'mediaevalism', and public worship as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer.

Names of Subscribers
(the names of over 250 subscribers listed alphabetically by surname, of interest to those who may be "ancestor hunting" (in many cases only initials are given, not christian names).
Please note these are only the names of pre-publication subscribers as printed in the book, but many more individuals are mentioned in the text whose names have not been indexed. Throughout this transcript most names have been highlighted in bold at least once (not necessarily if they are repeated). If searching for specific surnames, place names or any other information through the various chapters, make use of the Find or Search facility in your browser while on each page.

Illustrations from the book — click thumbnails for enlargement in a new window
(for chapters and contents, see list above)

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral - click for enlargement

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral Church
(St Peter & St Paul)

Leonard Hedley Burrows, Bishop of Sheffield - click for enlargement

The Bishop of Sheffield, Leonard Hedley Burrows, D.D.,
to whom the book is dedicated

St Simon's Church, Sheffield - click for enlargement

St. Simon's Church, Sheffield (covered in Chapter III)

Exterior of Christ Church, Heeley - click for enlargement

Christ Church, Heeley: exterior
(the author's time at Heeley is covered in Chapter IV, on this page and the next)

Interior of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Heeley Church: Interior

Floor plan of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Floor plan of Heeley Church,
dating the various extensions

Whit-Monday at Heeley - click for enlargement

Whit-Monday at Heeley
(no date given, but possibly ca. 1916/1917)

Heeley Vicarage - click for enlargement

Heeley Vicarage
The individuals are not named, but could well be Rev and Mrs Odom

Rev. Canon William Odom - click for enlargement

The author,
Rev. Canon William Odom

Memorial Cross, Heeley Churchyard - click for enlargement

Memorial Cross for Mary Odom,
Heeley Churchyard (see Chapter VIII)

Memorial Window, Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Memorial and Commemoration Window, Heeley Church

Dedication - click for enlargement

This copy of the book includes a handwritten dedication
from the author to the Bishop of Sheffield, 1917

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