Robert Hamnett was the first chronicler of the town’s history. He was born on March 9th 1855 in Stockport, the son of Edward Hamnett, a painting and decorating Contractor. His mother died before his 3rd birthday and Robert went to live with his Uncle, James Hamnett, a watch and clockmaker, firstly in Mottram and then moving to 14a High Street East, Glossop, and taking up the trade as his apprentice. He was not an academic but from an early age he took great interest in collecting as much information on the history of Glossop, at a time when there were no history books but many of the important documents concerning it were still in the town. The Glossop Parish records and Vestry minutes were still available as were the many documents held in the Spire Hollin Offices of Lord Howard’s Glossop Dale Estate.
Robert Hamnett

Hamnett was born 11 years before the Town became a Borough and the Town Hall and Municipal Offices held all the documents since the 1866 Borough Charter and probably many from before. He was also able to talk to many people who remembered the early years of the 19th century and no doubt there were venerable old locals who were born before 1800 and saw the valley fill with mills and houses and the great building schemes of the Duke’s of Norfolk that moved the centre of government from ‘Old’ Glossop to the 1838 Town Hall and the market from the Old Cross to the new market building in 1844. The new town, which grew up at Bridge End in an area only fairly recently named Howardtown and only 10 years before Hamnett’s birth, was put on the British railway network with the building of the Duke’s Railway Branch Line from Dinting and the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire main line up the Longdendale valley.

Melandra Finds He was also the first local to take an interest in the Roman fort down the valley, close to the county boundary. It had only been noticed in 1771 and mentioned in antiquarian circles in 1772 [Archaeologia vol. iii p236]. According to the book “Melandra Castle” [R.S. Conway Manchester and District Branch of the Classical Association 1906], “no effort was made to examine the site from an archaeological point of view till August 1899 when after some preliminary excavations inspired by Mr Robert Hamnett, Mr John Garstang was asked by a local committee to supervise the work of excavation.” Subsequently Hamnett and a small team of locals carried on and Conway states that “Mr Hamnett’s work is beyond praise” and “he has been the originator and guiding spirit of the work of exploration. He has himself unearthed some of the most valuable relics the site has yielded.” Conway’s book [p 111] also states that “remains in the custody of Mr R Hamnett are shortly to be placed in cases provided by Lord Howard of Glossop in the Public Library in the Victoria Hall.”

Robert Hamnett turned his research into lectures for the people of Glossop which in turn no doubt brought further information from locals with access to documents about leases and buildings and countless other subjects. He took guided walks around the town pointing out places of historical interest. He also used his notes to provide frequent articles in the local paper until 1914 and these have formed the basis for many books and articles on local history produced ever since. His ‘Glossop, a Sketch from the Earliest Period’ was a book published by the firm of Jenkinson and Hamnett which can still be found in many local households as well as libraries and apart from being the first printed and illustrated history of the town, it contains many photographs of the main shops of the town and their beautiful art nouveau period style adverts.

It is recorded that when the Glossop Tramway system service opened in August 1903, Robert bought the first 12 tickets.

Conservative Club In addition to his work on local history, Hamnett was an early member of the local Conservative Association and when it held meetings at the Railway Inn on the corner of Norfolk St and Station Street he and his wife were appointed Steward and Stewardess. In the 1901 census he is described as the Conservative Club Steward living on site at 24 Norfolk Street and held the post for about 11 years. When the Inn was bought and demolished the Conservative Club was built on the same plot and opened in 1910. His obituary relates that in about 1884 he was the Conservative Municipal Registration Agent for St James Ward of the Borough of Glossop and then took up the position of Municipal Registration Agent for the three wards of the Borough and Sub-Agent for Parliamentary work. By the 1911 census, he and his family were living at 43 High Street East and he had become the Conservative Registration Agent.

He was also a member of the 625 Devonshire Masonic Lodge, joining on April 26th 1906 when he was 50 and described as an ‘Agent’. He was also a member of the R.A.O.B and Trustee of the ‘Britain’s Glory’ Lodge of the Oddfellows M. U. and a member of the Glossop Board of Guardians. He was a member of St James Parish Church and led a class of Young Men at the parish George Street Mission. He was said to have a large and valuable collection of coins including some from the local area and a splendid library and numerous historical documents. He would receive letters from all over the world asking for or giving information on local families.

He was secretary for the ‘Glossop Tuesday’ Football team in the early 1900s, so called because they were all shopkeepers and shop workers who had Tuesday afternoons free as it was ‘Half day’ for the town’s shops.
Glossop Tuesday’ Football team
Pictured above, left to right, Back row- J C Cutler, J W Hill, W Bradbury, H Thornley, J W Hamnett, T Jackson, Counc. G Wharmby, A Fielding, R Hamnett, S Shoebridge.
Middle row (players) – J A Cooper, J Ridgeway, J Higginbottom, J Cuthbert, E Lamb.
Front row – W Knott, T Townend, W Kidd, W Kennington, J Lester, J Cairnie.

TA Unit One of his very detailed history articles which ran in the local paper was on the history of the local Territorial Army unit, the Glossop Detachment of the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the 22nd, Cheshire Regiment. Hamnett rose through the ranks to be Colour Sergeant. He seems to have been a proficient rifle man according to the local shooting competition results in the Volunteer News in the local paper and he appears to have been in the team of Samuel Hill Wood that went to National Shooting Competitions. His history of the unit chronicles its foundation as part of the 23rd Derbyshire Rifle Volunteers in 1875 and its fairly rapid change in 1880 to become part of the Cheshire Regiment, as it was easier for administration purposes to be organised from the Cheshire’s Regiment depot at Stockport. The 22nd [ Cheshire] Regiment had been founded by Henry Howard, Duke of Norfolk in 1689 and in 1875 Lord Howard of Glossop gave one third of the Market Hall to the Glossop Volunteer unit as a Drill Hall. In the period just before his death at the start of WW1, he put great effort in the preparing the local men who volunteered for the National Reserves and accompanied the men to Hyde, Stockport and Chester to join their regiments.

He died aged 59 years, and it is said he became ill due to his political work canvassing in the poor weather at the end of 1914. His funeral was a military one, with the coffin covered in the Union Jack and bearing his hat, belt, sash and side arms plus his Masonic apron. The cortege was followed, through great crowds lining the route from High Street East and up Victoria Street, not only by representatives of many local organisations but also 100 men in army uniform from many of the area’s Territorial Units. After the service in the Whitfield Parish Church his burial in the churchyard was concluded by the playing of the Last Post and a volley was fired over the grave

His full page obituary was published in the “Glossop Chronicle and Advertiser” on December 25th 1914.

Details of the unveiling of the Blue Plaque for Robert Hamnett are available here.

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Page last updated: 25 January 2018.
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