Glossop Heritage Trust

Theo Walter Ellison's Glossop Dale Reminiscences.


The Ownership and Development of the Glossop Dale Estates by the Dukes of Norfolk, continuation (published 28 December 1934).

The report in 1855 of Michael Ellison of the succession of the Earl of Arundel and Surrey to the Dukedom contains a comprehensive survey of the development of the Sheffield Estates. The Glossop Dale Estates are not specially mentioned in the report, being then the property of the first Lord Howard of Glossop, a brother of Duke Bernard Edward, but they had been developed on similar lines during the previous half century with the Sheffield Estates, and had derived great benefit from the new road and especially the new railway from Sheffield.

Preceding the report was the following letter which merits reproduction: ‘My Lord. The Sheffield Estate, by which title it has long been distinguished, forms, as it is well known, a prominent feature in the possessions of your Lordship’s family. Its importance, always considerable, has however increased so rapidly during the last twenty years, as to render it difficult for any one excepting those, who on the spot have watched from year to year the growth of those influences which produced it, to estimate the effect of this remarkable change, or to acquire an accurate knowledge of the improved conditions and future prospects of this property. Your Lordship, from one cause or another, has had but few opportunities to become acquainted with this valuable portion of your family inheritance. It is therefore with a view to supply, before you shall enter into possession of this estate, some data upon which to ground a knowledge of its improved and improving circumstances that the following report has been prepared.

Having taken an active part in the management of this estate for upwards of 35 years, and having during that period participated in the carrying out of various public measures, which have exercised a powerful influence in promoting and accomplishing its improved position, I may perhaps without fearing to encounter an imputation of self complacency deem myself, so far at least as a knowledge of details is involved, competent to the duty of drawing up such a report as will put your Lordship in possession of the circumstances to which I have referred. It will not, perhaps, be regarded by your Lordship either as irrelevant or impertinent if I venture to observe, that the responsible situation which I have filled, has been marked by peculiarities which in ordinary instances do not attach to the person or affect the duties of a local agent. In my case these duties have neither been simply administrative nor exclusively executive of the instructions or designs of those whom I have served and over whose interests I have presided. Your Lordship’s father and grandfather have seldom visited this estate, and when they have, the time dedicated to that object has been too limited for a minute examination of its advantages, its wants or its capabilities. Suggestions or propositions in details for the guidance of the Agent could not, for this reason, be looked for at head quarters. A general principle or policy was all that could be calculated upon and this was laid down with as little reserve or restriction as possible. The creating and perfecting of a system to be pursued in the management of this Estate, based on such general principle, has necessarily developed on the Agent. It has endeavoured to be so framed that it should inspire confidence and induce enterprise, leading to the outlay of additional capital upon the ducal estate without injuring the rights or property of an existing tenantry. How far these objects have been obtained and this policy been successful does not rest with me for decision. The fact will perhaps on slight investigation establish itself. A comparison of the actual position at this moment of the Sheffield Estate as to tenantry rental and prospects with what it was at the time it passed into the possession of your Lordship’s family upon the demise of Charles Duke of Norfolk, may possibly afford the clearest and most satisfactory illustration of the policy that has guided the management of it. In aid of such comparison it is hoped that the succeeding report may furnish ample material to conduct your Lordship upon that point to a safe and correct conclusion. I have the honour to remain, My Lord, Yours most faithfully, Michl. Ellison

In the report Mr Ellison the character and extent of the estates, criticises severely the policy of development previously adopted ‘during the reign of Duke Charles’, who died in 1787, and emphasises the prominent advantage of the immediate neighbourhood of an extensive coal field, and the difficulties of communication for the conveyance of goods, which was then only by water to Hull and London. As Liverpool was the great port for the shipment of the manufactures of Sheffield, this water communication was of small benefit. To reach the latter port goods were obliged to be sent by land to Manchester or conveyed thither partly by land and partly by the Peak Forest Canal and thence to Liverpool by water. The difficulties in the development of the collieries are explained and the report continues :- ‘In 1821 a new road was opened between Sheffield and Glossop, which considerably reduced the distance between the former place and Manchester, and to some extent facilitated the communication therewith and consequently with Liverpool. The road, however, was imprudently undertaken and the promoters of it became involved in an enormous unforeseen expenditure, which had chiefly to be borne by the Dukes of Norfolk and Devonshire, through whose estates it passed for the distance of 15 or 16 miles, or about two thirds of the whole length. Although the road traversed a mountainous district abounding in stone, the latter, unfortunately, was not of such quality to form good material for the construction of roads. The result was that this road soon got out of repair and so far as the carriage of goods for Liverpool was concerned became, after a few years wholly disused. A remedy, however, for the defective communication with this was some years later furnished by the introduction of the Railway system’.

Then follows an account of several costly improvements made by the Dukes in Sheffield at the Corn Exchange, Market, Hospital, and the Bridge over the Don, and especially the ‘Norfolk Park’ of which he remarks: ‘The operative classes for whom it was more particularly designed resorted to it at their leisure hours for general relaxation as well as for practice in crisis etc etc. It is delightful to be able to record that the privilege of such enjoyment is not abused, the people availing themselves of it having observed great propriety of conduct and refrained from the committal of damage to the plantations, fences, and other properties of the Park’.

Upon the all important question of the railway system it is narrated that the railways opened in 1838-9 and consolidated into the Midland Railway did not produce the benefit calculated upon, as they did not materially improve the connection with Liverpool, and in 1837 an Act was obtained for the railway from Sheffield to Manchester, between which latter place and Liverpool the means of transit by water and rail were perfect. This railway was commenced in 1838 and completed in 1844, and of this he remarks: ‘In the course of its construction it was beset by every means of adverse circumstances and every species of difficulty physical and pecuniary. All these impediments, though of a magnitude most appalling and at times apparently insurmountable were in the end, however, overcome and a measure accomplished which, though ruinous to the shareholders, has been productive of an amount of benefit to Sheffield and to the Ducal estate that cannot be too highly appreciated. The completion of this railway led to a further extension eastwards and ultimately placed Sheffield on a direct line from Liverpool to Grimsby, opening to its manufactures the great port of the Atlantic on the one side and those of the German Ocean on the other, and what was perhaps more remarkable than creditable the accomplishment of these undertakings having been effected not only without the cordial co-operation of the majority of its inhabitants, but in the face of a most determined and defiant opposition, although difficult of belief, yet such was the fact, and when various schemes of railway were before the public, the one not only least encouraged but most violently and recklessly opposed was that which placed Sheffield on a direct line from the western to the eastern ocean. The railway system of Sheffield may now be regarded as perfected, and the results were mainly through the influence of the present Duke and his predecessor, for without the vigorous and unqualified support given by them to the undertaking just described there is no doubt the opposition would have prevailed and Sheffield been left worse provided with railway accommodation than any town on a parity with it in commercial importance, and this through folly or cupidity of a section of its inhabitants. In the above mentioned beneficial results the ducal property has largely participated from the circumstances of situation. A tribute is paid to those who had assisted in the development of the Estates, including an able and experienced Architect, Mr M.E. Hadfield in the erection of the new Market Hall etc.

Passing from this report, I may here observe that Glossop Dale fortunately commanded, as also did Sheffield, abundant sources of supply of water, most excellent in quality, suitable alike for man and beast and for manufacturing purposes. Reservoirs were constructed and water wheels, which provided the motive power for driving the machinery in the mills. The proprietors were able to obtain supplies of coal direct from South Yorkshire and to supersede the water wheels by steam engines.

The cloth manufactured at the cotton mills was exported by shipment from Liverpool to other countries and the facilities of transport by rail helped to expand the trade, the Dale flourished remarkably until the sad setback in the years of the 'Cotton Panic'. I shall attempt later a description of the ownership of the principal mills and works and offer some observations upon the ‘decline and fall’ of the staple industry. Mention may here be made that the construction of the branch railway from Glossop to Dinting was attributed to the influence and financial support of the Duke of Norfolk at that time.

Michael Joseph Ellison, the last of the ‘Ellison’ agents, highly esteemed in Sheffield held many important positions, and was an active and liberal supporter of the County Cricket team. He resided for many years at the Duke’s agent’s house, Beech Hill, Sheffield, where the Duchess of York recently stayed one night as the guest of the Duke of Norfolk, on the occasion of a civil function. His funeral in 1898 was attended by the Duke of Norfolk, the Duke of Rutland, Lord Hawke and Lord Effingham, in person, as well as by representatives of the principal institutions and public bodies. It would be remiss not to also mention Thomas Ellison (a son of Michael Ellison), who was appointed by the Duke of Norfolk as Judge of the County Courts of Sheffield, Rotherham and Glossop, which positions he held from 1863 to 1896. He lived at Barbot Hall, Rotherham, and married Miss Ann Dalton, of Hollingworth. Mr William Wake, Solicitor, of Sheffield, who married Miss Eliza Ellison, was associated with the Glossop Gas Company, as also was his son, Mr P.K. Wake who died recently (1853-1933).

Matthew Ellison Hadfield, the before mentioned architect, was the son of Joseph Hadfield of Lees Hall, who married Miss Mary Ellison (a daughter of Matthew Ellison). He was at one time in the Duke’s Estate office at Sheffield and kept a diary in 1830 from which by way of illustration of the mode of life and travel in those days I append accounts of an election outing and a trip on the ‘Duke of Wellington’, the first train from Manchester to Liverpool.

1 August 6th 1830. Set out with the coach full of freemen to East Retford to Vote for Vernon, took the old people from the hospitals, went off in capital Style with flying colours and arrived in Worksop in time to set out with the Earl of Surrey, who exerted himself wonderfully. We set out after voting, to Worksop about ½ past four, and arrived there by 6, got refreshment at the Crown and set out for Sheffield all as merry as could be, arrived at Sheffield about ½ past nine in the evening, had travelled about 60 miles. Two of our party so overcome by Mr Vernon’s good cheer that they were near falling off the coach, they lost their hats, which was no wonder since their heads were rather heavy.

2 31st December 1830. Set out with W Frith on a party excursion to Liverpool, took place on Wellington coach, having on board a part of the ‘corps dramatique’ who were emigrating to Manchester for the season. All went well until we got to Whaley Bridge when owing to the weight of our theatrical companions’ wardrobe, the coach broke down and delayed us two hours. After passing through Bullock Smithy and Stockport we found ourselves in the vicinity of Manchester. About four o’clock we were set down in Market Street. I had scarcely set foot on ‘terra firma’ when a cad very politely took up my trunk and told me if I wished to reach Liverpool by train I had no time to lose, set off full gallop bearing my trunk in triumph. I, not liking the rapid pace it was travelling at, ran after it and overtook him. However, all was right and after about an hour employed in looking with astonishment at the arrangement of everything connected with the railway, we stepped into the ‘Duke of Wellington’ and off we went as fast as fire and smoke to carry us, arriving in Liverpool in less than two hours after leaving Manchester. Put up at the Castle Inn, got tea, went to the theatre and got to bed about 12 o’clock. Slept soundly, took a walk by the docks before breakfast next morning, went to Copperas Hill Chapel, and finally all night at Manchester. Heard High Mass for Pius 8th at Mulberry Street. Returned to Glossop on Wednesday per Umpire Coach and remained at home until Monday, when I once more arrived in Sheffield much pleased with my fortnight’s fun, and set to work as usual.

All Saints’ R.C. Chapel Old Glossop, was erected by Bernard Edward Duke of Norfolk in 1834-6, Messrs Weightman and Hadfield, of Sheffield being the architects, the school adjacent was built by Miss Kate Ellison, and superseded the house of the ‘Wagstaffes’ in Church Street, Old Glossop, which had a long time before been the residence of the Bailies or Steward, and had been converted by Canon Fauvel into a school. – (See his life by G.C. Daniel)

The following anecdote is narrated as coming from Canon Fauvel: ‘He was once travelling by train from Manchester and had for a fellow passenger an elderly gentleman with whom he entered into conversation, amongst other subjects, upon the topic of melons, of which the Canon was very fond. In the warmth of his friendliness the Canon mentioned that a beautiful melon had been on the table at dinner at the Hall where he had been dining with the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk on the preceding two or three evenings, but the fruit had not been cut. On alighting at Dinting Station his fellow passenger also alighted, and to the Canon’s dismay was met by the carriage from the Hall. The Canon remarked to the agent, Thomas Ellison, ‘Tom we shall hear something at dinner tonight about that melon’, and told him what had occurred. True enough, his fellow passenger was there, and proved to be no other than the Duke of Rutland. When the melon appeared at dessert, Her Grace the Duchess of Norfolk, smiling, said ‘Now Canon if you please, we will cut the melon tonight’. Whereupon the Canon rose and jocosely admonished the Duke of Rutland for telling stories of him, the episode caused such mirth’.

To follow by instalments: The Hadfield family, their connection with the Vicars of Mellor and Knutsford – an amusing letter – their associations with the estates as Surveyors – the establishment of mills and works in Glossop Dale - Notable personages in its commercial and public life.


Button image Return to Ellison Reminiscences Contents Button image Return to Local History Articles Button image Return to the home page






Page last updated: 9 May 2017.