Glossop Heritage Trust

The Sandhole Story

At the start of 1959 Glossop Council was undertaking work on further improvements to Philip Howard Road. To coincide with the work Councillor Sam Bamforth (who would become Mayor later in the same year) wrote “The Sandhole Story” which was serialised in the Glossop Chronicle over three weeks, from 20 February 1959 to 6 March 1959. The story has been edited slightly to form this single article.

One of the Glossop Corporation properties, particularly well known to most people, and acknowledged to be one of the town’s show pieces, is Harehills Estate.
Described In the council's appendix to the year book as “a plot of land between St. Mary’s Road and the Glossop Brook, and containing 5a. 15p. 1 sq. yd.”, it was presented to the town by Lord Howard of Glossop in the year 1921 as a memorial to his younger son, Lieutenant The Hon. Philip Fitzalan Howard (Welsh Guards) who died May 24th, 1918, of wounds received in action while commanding No. 3 Company, 1st Battalion, in France; and also in appreciation of the services of the men of Glossop who served during the war, “This enabled a much-needed public improvement to be effected by the construction of Philip Howard Road. The levelling of this land provided considerable work for the unemployed during the winter of 1921, and was subsidised to the extent of £2,400 by grants from the Unemployment Grants Committee.”
Behind those two simple statements, “presented to the town by Lord Howard of Glossop” and “enabled a much-needed public improvement to be effected,” lies the story of more than half a century of campaigning for what turned out to be one of the most protracted schemes in the annals of the town.
I wonder how many of the younger folk of Glossop know that the beautiful boulevard called Philip Howard Road was not always a place of delight, with shelters (presented by the late Councillor Farnsworth) where young and old may sit and enjoy the now well-established trees and shrubs In the park which lies astride it.
How many of them know that this area was once known as Sandhole, and was hideously ugly; hen pens fenced with old fish boxes; old salmon tins, rhubarb roots, and a good quantity of other rubbish with plenty of muck and sludge thrown in. One part of it seemed to be nothing more than a vast tipping place for a large quantity of ashes.
How many, young or old, know that nearly a 100 years ago this plot of land earned for itself a different name. This was during the years of the “Cotton Panic” or “Cotton Famine” probably the most appalling period of distress and misery the people of Glossop have ever known. The history of the “Cotton Panic” and its effects on the town is another story, and a long one at that.
Men turned their hands to any kind of job which would bring in a shilling or two. Some went as street sweepers. Others went to break stone at the town’s yard, or to the workhouse to pick oakum. Women went begging for bits of bread. Food kitchens were set up in various parts of the town. In 1863 an Act of Parliament authorised public works for relief purposes. The men were engaged on improvement schemes for the reservoirs and water supplies, old roads, etc., and new roads were cut. The Guardians were unbending on the point that all able-bodied men in receipt of outdoor relief must work for the money paid to them by the relieving officer. And this is where I come to the Sandhole. An attempt was made to improve it. Men were directed to work on it. The work was hard - pick and shovel work; they were not used to it, and they were hungry. Their pay was 3d. per hour, and it was they who gave it its other nick-name. They called it “Pinchbelly Park.”
After a series of discontented outbreaks the men broke out into open riot; they downed tools and refused to work for such a pittance. Forming themselves into a procession they marched to the board room at the workhouse. Someone saw them approaching and the door was locked against them, but these men were in a truculent mood and the door presented no obstacle at all. In the melee that followed, the Guardians escaped as best they could. The police were summoned and six men were arrested.

Sam Bamforth senior
Sam Bamforth, Mayor 1919-1923
Richard Sellers
Richard Sellers, Mayor 1928-29
Sam Bamforth junior
Sam Bamforth, Mayor 1959-1960
The younger Sam Bamforth was grandson of the elder.

It is not a pretty story, and full credit should be given to the person who first conceived the idea of transforming the Sandhole into the delightful park it is today.
Who was that person? For more than 30 years people have argued without providing a real answer; and a short time ago, I heard the same old argument. It started like this: “Who first thowt about improvin' t' Sandhole?” “Dick Sellers, were allus shoutin' about it.” “Nowt o' t' sort, it were Sam Bamfort's grondfaither as first thowt about it.”
Was it the late Alderman Sellers, or the late Alderman Bamforth? I decided to find out.
It should be remembered that such schemes could not have been carried out without the aid of the borough surveyor of those days, Mr W. A. Mitchell, A.M.I.M. Was it he who first thought about improving the Sandhole? Remember, too, that there was then, as there is today, 24 members of the Glossop Town Council, and any one of them might have put forward such a scheme.
In my search for the truth I found that another name crept into the records, that of Mr John Chadwick. And over the years the local Press was inundated with pseudonymous letters praying that the authorities would transform the Sandhole - “one of the biggest eyesores which any town or borough could have” - into a beauty spot, which would be appreciated by all the residents. “and particularly the young mothers, who, in the summer especially, could take themselves there and spend a delightful and health-giving time.”
There is no doubt whatever that there were many abortive attempts to solve the problem of the Sandhole, but with the coming of the First World War the matter was pigeon-holed and forgotten for the time being.

With the end of hostilities thoughts turned to the provision of a suitable memorial “worthy of the town and of the magnificent self-sacrifice of the many local lads who fought and helped to save their country and civilisation.”
A war memorial sub-committee was set up, but before making a financial appeal it was decided to invite suggestions as to the form the memorial should take. Many were forthcoming. Some suggested a Memorial Hall which would be of practical value to the town from the social point of view. An object which would figure in every day life and could be used by all the towns-folk for meetings, social gatherings, educational lectures and other functions.
The endowment of scholarships was considered by many to be a real and practical suggestion which would reap a harvest of usefulness. And, of course, back came the appeals for the transformation of the Glossop eyesore into “beauty Spot” memorial.

With the approach of the town council elections for November, 1919, the political parties were busily engaged in their preparations, and it was rumoured that Mr Richard Sellers, an enterprising townsman, who desired to see Glossop make progress, would place his services at the disposal of the electors. There were demands that active steps should be taken to improve the Sandhole. The town council required somebody to “ginger them up.” Richard Sellers had for a long time strongly advocated the Sandhole improvement scheme, and had done all that he possibly could to bring it about.
Obviously the Sandhole scheme was to be an election issue, and the advocates were urged to keep pegging away until something was done.
The result of the poll showed that Dick was “in”. He ran second to Mr G. H. Simmons (Labour), and ousted Mr E. Collier (Liberal).
The electors had given him the mandate to proceed with the reforms he had so persistently advocated, and almost immediately they were on his track respecting the improvement of the Sandhole.

Sandhole before the making of Philip Howard Park
Sandhole before the making of Philip Howard Park
Philip Howard Road as a new road
Philip Howard Road as a new road

A few weeks later, in a letter published in the local paper, Lord Howard, the owner of the land on which the council wished to build its houses, confirmed his willingness to sell the Simmondley Lane and Newshaw Lane sites, but still could not see his way to sanction the acquisition of the Sheffield Road site.
This particular site, he considered, was quite unsuitable for the purpose of building houses for the working classes as it was too far from the industrial part of the town and would cause people to have to cover long distances in their meal hours. He proposed an alternative site at Pikes Farm which was in close proximity to Wren Nest Mill, and on the high road between High Street West and Primrose Lane; near the trams, and easily accessible from all parts or the town. It had always been considered the best site for further building, even 40 years before, when the town was being developed. The Sites Committee had refused his proposal, but if they could agree, and decide on the Pikes Farm site instead of the Sheffield Road site, he was prepared to give to the town the plot of land known as the Sandhole.
He understood that the land was much wished for by the inhabitants, and when developed by makings broad gravel paths, planting trees and shrubs, and placing seats about, it would make an admirable place for the people of Glossop during the summer time.
Some were of the opinion he was urging the ratepayers to take sides in a quarrel between their elected representatives and himself, and his offer of the Sandhole was nothing more than a bribe.
On November 9th, 1919, as Dick, now Mr Councillor Sellers, took his seat in the council chamber, Sam Bamforth was inaugurated as Mayor of the Borough - a position he was to occupy until 1923.
In the following month the new Mayor addressed a letter to His Lordship on the communication in the local papers, and informed him that that had been the first time he or any other member of the council had heard of the offer of the piece of land known as the Sandhole.
In reply, Lord Howard stated that the offer had been made at the beginning of June, when a deputation of the late Mayor (Mrs M. A. Partington) and the Deputy Mayor (Alderman Wm. White) had waited upon him to know what he proposed to do in the way of a peace celebration for the town. On that occasion he had said that he proposed to give a piece of land which was situated in the town of Glossop. He was unable at the time to name the land, as it depended on circumstances, and also on the consent of the trustees of the estate being obtained. If this piece of land were given and accepted, it might be as a peace memorial. As a misunderstanding appeared to have arisen as to the exact meaning of the offer, he appended an explanation in order to make it quite clear. He intended to present the plot of land known as the Sandhole if the Housing Committee were to decide on adopting the Pikes Farm site Instead of the Sheffield Road site.

Referring to a visit of an Inspector from the Ministry of Health to the Sheffield Road site on October 8th, His Lordship went on to complain that the Housing Committee would have been showing only ordinary courtesy had they informed him that a special commission was to come down from London to investigate the matter. They might then have had an amicable talk together. He concluded: “I hope this may be sufficient explanation on this burning question, as some of the letters in the local papers recently were rather hostile. It is my last wish that anything like this should happen, as the one ambition all through my life has always been to fall in with the corporation's wishes and pull together with them in all matters.”
The Mayor, in reply, thanked His Lordship, but the misunderstanding was not on the council's part. His Lordship had made no proposals, and the council regretted his misapprehension that he had made his offer clear, but the condition he now attached to it was evidently new. As a matter of fact, had the offer of the Sandhole as a peace memorial been made, his worship thought he might safely say it would have been, and still would be, gratefully accepted by the inhabitants of the borough. He went on to point out that Simmondley Lane site had been adopted instead or the Pikes Farm, and there was no need for a second site in that part of the borough. The latter could not, therefore, be considered as an alternative to Sheffield Road. In regard to His Lordship’s allegation of discourtesy, not only was his estate office notified, but the estate representative, Mr Bates, accompanied the inspector on his visit to Sheffield Road. He was glad to learn that His Lordship would have liked a talk on the subject, as this was what the committee had sought in the first place. He would, therefore, ask His Lordship to receive a small deputation to lay the committee’s proposals before him. The matter had now become very pressing.
There was at this time a strong feeling in the town that the council had a fine chance of displaying a business and enterprising spirit, and it was hoped that members of that body would show some of the acumen and foresight which was claimed for them at election time. Lord Howard's offer was a good one and ought to be accepted. If it was ignored, they deserved ail the epithets that might be hurled at them in the future as a non-progressive town. So many generous gifts had been made to the people of Glossop that they were apt to forget what they were and who had made them, but this was another potential gift which would benefit future generations, and they should do all in their power to prevail upon their “local legislators” to accept, regardless of controversial quibbles, and get a move on.

In what he described as a final letter to the Mayor in January, 1920, Lord Howard said that so much had been written on the subject of the Sandhole during the previous 20 years or so he quite thought that the matter had become a “public secret” and so was well known to everyone. The council now knew what his conditions were and would be able to make the best arrangements with the Housing Commissioners. They should understand that if the offer was accepted on the conditions attached to it, the land could be considered a peace memorial. It now only remained for them to arrange matters with the commissioners, and it did not appear necessary to have further correspondence on the subject. And that appeared to be that. But it speedily became evident that it was not regarded with satisfaction by the council.
It was naturally expected that when the new councillor took his seat the question of the Sandhole scheme would be dealt with in no perfunctory manner. But he was strangely quiet. At the monthly meeting of the town council held on January 29th, 1920, there was presented an interesting report of the Housing Committee meeting held a fortnight before. At the invitation of the Mayor, Councillor Sellers had attended that meeting and announced that he had been requested by Lord Howard to lay before the committee details of His Lordship's offer and the conditions attached thereto. The Mayor then submitted the borough surveyor's estimate of the costs that would be entailed by the acceptance. These were:
For sewering and road making from Pikes Farm to the Junction Inn       £7100
Building retaining wall necessary to lay-out of the Sandhole       £4133
Road making       £4056
To which had to be added the cost of laying out the Sandhole.
The committee spent a considerable time discussing the offer and the costs, but regretted that they could not accept it on the conditions outlined by Councillor Sellers. They would, however, accept the Sandhole as a War Memorial should Lord Howard be pleased to make the offer.
For the next few months the Sandhole scheme seemed to have died a natural death.

In October of the same year it became known that the Mayor had presented to the council his plan for the development of the borough. And from that time forward he came into special prominence and his name was now coupled with the Sandhole scheme.
Having had experience of the drawing office whilst manager of the Glossop Ironworks he was able to translate his many ideas in the shape of intelligent plans. One of his schemes was to drive a road along Surrey Street to Hadfield, and it is not without interest that in the Town Development Plan for Borough of Glossop, 1954, the planning authorities lay stress on the necessity for improvement of road communications from the junction of Newshaw Lane and Dinting Road to the town centre, and it is suggested that a new length of road be constructed running parallel to the railway to join Spire Hollin north of the cricket ground. “This would overcome the bends in the existing road, be more direct, open additional areas and eliminate the need to reconstruct a long length of Dinting Road.” Only the railway separates the suggestion of 1920 from that of 1954.
Among his other proposals was the Sandhole Improvement Scheme. A new road was to run from Victoria Street to St. Mary’s Road and was to be intersected at two points (from High Street West and Market Street). Market Street was at that time a cul-de-sac which ended in a clayey slippery slope down to the brook; and it was planned to open up this street for vehicular traffic by the building of a substantial bridge. The new road would also be accessible from George Street by means of a new bridge which would replace the existing Coronation foot-bridge. Skirting the water-course there would be a retaining wail, and parallel to this a footpath would pass amidst garden scenery from Victoria Street to St. Mary's Road with a by-path running into Brook Street and High Street West, thus opening up a third route into the town's main thoroughfare. Commencing practically at the water’s edge a series of shrubberies, artistically laid out, would rise to the part bounded by “top Sandhole.”
This scheme was also to serve a further purpose. It was to be worked upon each time the local labour market was overstocked; the idea being to absorb local employment during recurring periods of trade depression. By that method, it was expected that the improvement might take some years to complete.
The plans were now ready for submission to Lord Howard for his approval, and it was hoped that when he saw them he would renew his promise to present the land to the town to enable a very desirable improvement to be carried out.

But it was not until October, 1921, that the Mayor was able to report to the council that His Lordship had presented to the town the land known as the Sandhole, and that the gift was made as a memorial to the Hon. Philip Fitzalan Howard, who fell in the service of his country, and in appreciation of the services of the men of Glossop who served during the war.
In the course of his report, the Mayor moved “that the cordial and graceful thanks of the council be tendered, on behalf of the inhabitants, to His Lordship, for his generous and kindly gift, which will enable an essential improvement of incalculable benefit to the town to be carried out, and be the means of providing work for the unemployed at the present critical period”. Concluding, the Mayor said that during the negotiations he had found Lord Howard very human, and he thought that if His Lordship had been handled differently in the past Glossop might have been better off than it was.

By March, 1922, the Highways Committee had considered the estimates and drawings prepared by Messrs Brady and Partington for the construction of Philip Howard Road, and a bridge to connect Market Street to it and recommended application to the Minister of Health to borrow the money for the construction of the bridge. But at the monthly meeting of the council the Town Clerk said that the chairman would like the matter referred back. The Finance Committee had in the meantime proposed that the work should not be done by means of a loan, and straight away, but as the occasion served and a certain amount done year by year. This would be more economic. So back it went for further consideration.
Then a new problem cropped up. The following month the Borough Treasurer reported that no provision had been made in the estimates in respect of the expenses incurred. The total sum expended was said to be in the region of £4,300, of which £2,400 was repayable by the Unemployment Grants Committee. The expenditure was, therefore, provisionally charged to revenue pending loan sanction.
At the May council meeting Councillor Sellers was on his feet objecting to the borrowing of money for the scheme. He had always thought that if the work had been done in a business-like manner it could have been done with hardly any expense at all. But the Town Clerk said that Councillor Sellers seemed to be labouring under a misapprehension, the sum referred to was not a sum to undertake new work; it was merely to balance the cost of work already done. If they did not get a loan for the balance it would mean something like a 6d. rate to pay for it immediately. It was money they had spent on the unemployed. In September the Town Clerk put before the council certain correspondence regarding the proposed making of new roads during the winter. He had written to Lord Howard Informing him that the Ministry of Transport had offered certain grants to the corporation for putting in hand works for the relief of unemployed.
The works suggested by the Ministry were the making of new roads, and the only two new roads suggested at the time were the carrying of Pikes Lane into Primrose Lane, and the extension of Surrey Street below Dinting Station to Hadfield.

Asked whether he would be prepared to allow these works to proceed Lord Howard replied that it was his wish that “Sand Holes” road should be finished as it was a great eyesore to the town. As regards looks and usefulness it was very much worse than it was before the corporation took it in hand.
The Town Clerk sent a further letter to Lord Howard explaining that the rough work of the Sandhole scheme had been completed, but the final stages were being taken slowly for several reasons. For instance, the planting of trees would not be commenced until the following October, and the macadamising of Philip Howard Road would not be undertaken until the newly-made ground had settled. He again explained that the reason for the proposed extension of Surrey Street being brought forward at that time was because the Road Boards were prepared to make grants for suitable work for the engagement of the unemployed during the approaching winter. It was considered better to find the men employment than to throw them on the Poor Rate. But Lord Howard was adamant “Sand Holes” should be finished before other work commenced.

Strangely enough, now that the work had begun and the cost known, there were many divided views on the scheme. Some felt that in addition to being costly in the initial outlay, it would saddle the ratepayers with an annual charge for its upkeep. And at a Labour meeting held in the Town Hall, Mr J. D. Doyle, one of the candidates in the St. James's Ward at the November elections had a few things to say about it. “Where did the money come from to spend on the Sandhole scheme? Where did the £5,000 come from to convert that hillside into a stinking tip as it was last summer? Why could the money not have been used for more vital purposes? Part of the money came from the Lord St. David's Commission, but they could have had four times as much as a gift towards a better water supply.”
At the same election, “Dick” Sellers was standing for re-election and there was no doubt whatever that his popularity had waxed. This time, after a heavy poll, he came out on top with 1,383 votes, and Mr J D. Doyle ran second to him with 1,292 votes. The two Liberal candidates, W. Robinson (725) and J. Dearnaley (434) were well down the field.
Immediately after the annual council meeting of that year, when he was re-elected to serve a fourth term of office, the Mayor (Councillor Sam Bamforth) invited members of the council to accompany him to the Harehills Estate, where he planted the first tree.
By November, 1923, the newly-elected Mayor (Councillor Wm. Newton) was able to announce that at last Market Street was connected to Philip Howard Road by bridging over the Glossop Brook. The bridge having been economically constructed to the design prepared by the late Mayor (Councillor Bamforth). But the late Mayor was not present to hear the reference to him. At the election held a week previously he had lost his seat to Mr S. T. Ashton (popularly known as “Sam'l Thomas”), members of his own party having assisted in his defeat by denouncing his methods of local government.
But at a by-election held in the following May (1924) the very same people invited him to stand again. He agreed, on terms. If they wanted him they must work for him. The canvassing must be done only by party aldermen and councillors; he himself would do none. It was said that the agent, Mr Bailey, estimated the number of votes needed to win the election, selected the requisite number of Conservative households, and sent out the aldermen and councillors on their canvass; and Sam Bamforth romped home by a long head.

Sandhole memorial plaque
Sandhole memorial plaque

Two years later, 1926, at the July meeting: of the council, the first question raised was one by Councillor (now Alderman) Mellor, who, when the minutes of the Highways Committee were presented, said he would like to ask if it were intended to commence work on Philip Howard Road before winter. Last winter it was in a disgraceful condition, and it needed a good deal of courage on the part of a councillor to walk across the road and face the criticism. He hoped the work would be put in hand before the coming winter. The town clerk said the report as to costs, etc., had yet to adopt it, and then the time for starting work would largely depend on obtaining the Ministry of Health’s sanction to the loan.
Again in 1927 Councillor Mellor queried the decision to postpone the work for another six months. He had been given to understand that there was a lot of unemployment, and the weather was favourable. What was the reason for the postponement? The Mayor answered that the chief reason was pressure of work in the surveyor's office.
Councillor Sellers continued vigorously to prosecute his mission and complained that time after time the council had postponed the work.
A few months later, Councillor Mellor again spoke on the Highways Committee minutes which stated “that the Philip Howard Road be repaired temporarily for the present.” He said he had raised the question in May and had been told then that it was a winter scheme. In view of the fact that there were between four and five hundred unemployed at the Labour Exchange, and there was no unemployment scheme being put forward, he thought it was now time to find some work for them. He was told that in the opinion of a good many members of the council the road was not ready for making up. It needed a little longer to settle.
Again the matter was referred back for further consideration; but at last, in December, the council resolved to commence the making up of Philip Howard Road.
On a brilliantly sunny evening at the end of July, 1928, Councillors Sellers saw the realisation of a dream. The great transformation had at last been effected - the big improvement scheme accomplished. And wearing the scarlet robe and chain of the office of Mayor of the Borough he had the honour of performing the opening ceremony. Before a large crowd, he said it gave him the greatest possible pleasure of his life to be doing so. He then cut the white ribbon which had been placed at the entrance to the roadway, and he and the Mayoress and members of the council, preceded by the Glossop Prize Band, walked the full length of the road.

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