• Derek Webster

    Mr Derek Webster, resident of 77 Cherry Tree Road, 1915-1950


    Transcript of notes from a telephone conversation in 1996


    Mr Webster’s family moved to the Avenue in 1913. His mother lived there until she died in 1975 after 62 years occupancy of 77 Cherry Tree Road. His Father had died thirty years earlier in 1945, whilst he (Mr Webster) had been away from home during the Second World War. The Webster’s were a professional family; his Father, he himself and his son were all chartered accountants.


    Born in 1915, Mr Webster lived on Meadow Bank Avenue until 1926, when he went to Malvern School as a boarder. He was educated there until 1934, returning briefly before commencing Second World War military service from 1939 to 1946. He married in 1950.


    As a young child Mr Webster went to Westbourne School in Broomhill; he walked there every day. His parents had a car from about 1926, but it was used for long journeys and holidays only. Trams from Nether Edge Terminus took people into town but there was only foot transport to Broomhill. When he was very young he recalls that his Grandfather used to come from Broomgrove Road in a carriage and pair. He also had some of the first Daimler cars imported into Britain.


    On the annual gate closure day children were quick to volunteer for duty. The gates would be opened and a hand held out for a one penny tip. This was a good way of supplementing pocket money. Those who didn’t tip found themselves having to get out of their cars to open the gates on their exit from the Avenue. Mr Webster also recalled communal bonfires from the late 1920’s.


    When there was good snow in the winter the Avenue children sledged from the top of Kingfield Road. A lookout checked for traffic at the junction with Cherry Tree Road. The sledgers went down the Avenue and competed to see who could go furthest. Years later, in the ‘Great Snow’ of 1947, he remembers digging his little MG out of the huge snowfall; there was no gritting of local roads.


    The family had a live-in Maid and also a Governess for several years for him and his sister. Mrs Weston did not go out to work. Although the family were on good friendly terms with their neighbours, they were not asked into the house unless it was to make up a four for Bridge.


  • Peter Frost

    Peter Frost (1925-2014): Memories of the Avenue and growing up in Nether Edge

    Peter Frost was not a resident of the Avenue but he had friends here and visited regularly. He lived at 41, St Andrew’s Road from 1927-61. Later in life he lived on Brincliffe Edge Close. In 1996, he provided these memories for the Avenue Centenary celebrations.

    I became friends with various people on the Avenue, particularly the Leeson family, also Derrick Cantrell, who became an organist at Manchester Cathedral. I also remember Derek Senior and the Harrison family. The common bond was that all the boys mentioned, including Jim, Dick and John Leeson, attended King Edward VII Grammar School during the period 1934-44.

    My particular friendship was with John, the youngest of the Leeson’s sons. He was a very outward looking boy and could shin up the two large trees on the Avenue Green like a monkey. In fact, I have a feeling there was a tree house built by John at the top of one of them.

    I was never turned away from the Avenue by anyone due to my friendship with several families – I was generally well accepted – again there was a war on for six years and people had more important things to think about. The War started when I was about 14 years old and at 19 I joined the Royal Air Force. I was fortunate to be stationed in Canada on V.J. Day, 60 miles west of Winnipeg, and I was at Bridgnorth in Shropshire on V.E. Day.

    Prior to this, in the earlier War years I can remember that no major bombs fell on the Avenue but there were bombs very close by; a landmine dropped opposite the present entrance to the Hotel on Kenwood Road and incendiaries fired a coal dump in the grounds of Nether Edge Hospital and lit up the whole area for the German bombers.

    School years

    I started school at the Montessori School at Shirle House, then to Miss Cawood’s on Crescent Road. Following this I was sent to the Prep. School of King Edward’s on Clarkehouse Road and from there to the Juniors part of the school on Newbould Lane. Then followed the Grammar School, where I became good friends with the Avenue boys who were there at the same time.

    We all enjoyed a privileged education and I believe my Father paid £18 per term for what was an excellent education. There were about 700 boys at the school, many fee-paying. There was, however, an annual scholarship intake of about 22 boys and these, at the age of 11, commenced a ‘so called’ scholarship class.

    General Perceptions of the Avenue

    The Avenue has changed so little over the years, although the entrance is somewhat different with the attractive stone gateposts. There were very few cars prior to 1939 and virtually no cars during the War years; I think the only people allowed to run cars were doctors. It was probably also because of the lack of garages on the Avenue. Most people those days used the Nether Edge tram service – a service second to none. Much to many peoples’ regret it was terminated in 1934 and replaced by buses. It was the shortest route into the City. The tram sheds at the terminus were later demolished.

    Social Perceptions of the Avenue

    I think it’s fair to say that, in the main, the people of the Avenue, Kingfield Road and St. Andrew’s Road were either in middle management or the professions, of which many were represented. The City was at the height of the industrial scene and many were managers or directors of companies, involved in the manufacture of steel, cutlery, tools, surgical instruments and general engineering products. Mr Cowan was a typical example. His son Barry also went to King Edward’s and his daughter Molly (a most attractive girl) became a longstanding member of Brentwood Tennis Club. The Vessey family who lived at the top of the Avenue at 77 Cherry Tree Road was another example.

    The relatively good financial means of many residents meant it was common for families to employ resident domestic servants in uniform. During the War, however, many left because they were called up for work in the munitions factories. They did not necessarily return to domestic service when the War ended.

    Earliest memory of the Avenue and the area

    My earliest memory is of the Green; we used to play cricket and enjoy other activities. I was an only child and very reliant on Avenue friends for the various games played. The Green was also particularly convenient for me as I looked upon it as a right of way from St Andrew’s Road to Nether Edge Terminus. I can’t remember ever being challenged. It’s possible that it might have happened but it wasn’t a problem.

    In those days there were a lot of green spaces about; for example, on the corner of Kingfield Road and Brincliffe Crescent there was a field where sheep grazed. Mr Arksey owned this field and eventually built a house for himself on the land, together with other houses. These are the bungalows you can see. There was also the area called Needham’s Fields, where the Knab Farm Estate is now below Brincliffe Edge. In my childhood there were no houses between the Edge and Carterknowle.

    Services and Tradespeople

    Some years ago, there was a large grocery store called Orme’s, situated at the corner of Nether Edge Market. They employed a lady called Miss Miles, who I think lived on Machon Bank Road. She visited the houses in the area weekly, including the Avenue, to take orders for Orme’s groceries. These would then be delivered to the houses each Friday. This was an excellent service, enjoyed by many, keeping in mind the few cars around at that time.

    There was also Bensley’s, on the corner of Cherry Tree Lane selling similar products. Also a sweet shop three houses down Machon Bank Road from the Union pub. Family shops in the area were most important; you had these or nothing! The milkman would come to the door with a big churn and he filled your jug.

    There was a large nursery on Union Road, where flats have now been built. A Mr Hind had a nursery on Byron Road; he used to employ many gardeners, who were sent out to households on a weekly basis. Many houses in the area had a gardener this way and it was fairly inexpensive to enjoy this privilege.

    A long term legend at Nether Edge were the Coffeys, who were twin brothers and made a very good living out of selling newspapers and magazines from Nether Edge Market. They had no premises and would sell their wares from the little alleyway between Tym’s the butchers and Orme’s when the weather was wet or snowy. When it was sunny they spread the papers and magazines on the footpath near the tram terminus to catch all the passengers.

    Mr Coffey would get up at some ungodly hour like 3 in the morning to collect his supply. He finished selling before lunchtime each day and generally headed for a local golf club. He went to bed early, around 7 or 8 in the evening. He lived a sort of twilight existence but nevertheless became a very good golfer. His brother was an invalid with a club foot and other physical problems. The Coffey twins also offered a delivery service to people’s homes. Mr Coffey never seemed to keep any accounts but he had an extraordinary memory for those things. My Father would pay him monthly. He would ask how much he owed and Mr Coffey would state the sum from his head. A few ‘known’ errors were made but what a wonderful character. There were so many interesting people around in those days.


    Editor’s Postscript: Mr Coffey sold his business to Mr Hassack in 1968. The newsagents’ shop (next door to Turner’s Bakery) was opened in 1970 and remained in the Hassack family for the next 47 years. Steve Hassack closed the shop in 2017.


  • Ian Ashmore

    Ian Ashmore’s childhood memories of the Avenue and Nether Edge in the 1950s


    (Contributed in July 1996)


    Ian Ashmore has always lived in Nether Edge on Machon Bank. He remembers Meadow Bank Avenue from his childhood. As a member of St. Andrew’s Church Boys’ Brigade he came to the Avenue to sing carols at Christmas. It was traditional to be asked into the houses to sing, either in the halls or in the front parlours. The people on the Avenue were always generous in supporting collections and things like the Scouts’ bob-a-job weeks. The children always headed for Meadow Bank Avenue first on such occasions! Mr Ashmore was aware of the private status of the Avenue and children knew not to play on the Green unless invited.


    He remembers growing up in Nether Edge in the 1950s. Children were allowed to collect windfalls in the orchards of the houses. Some of the families on Kingfield road like the Tyzak’s and the Suggs held garden parties and the local boys would help with setting up the tables for these gatherings.


    The University Rag Procession started from the bottom of Edge Bank in the early 1950s. On Machon Bank Road there was a small sweet shop and grocer’s called Ramsdens; this was sited on the left hand side, a few doors below the Union. At the top, on the right hand side, was Axe’s the decorator’s.


  • Sue Richardson


    Sue Richardson’s Memories of visiting her Grandfather, Arthur Frank Richardson, resident of 24 Meadow Bank Avenue, 1930s-60s.


    (Summary of telephone conversation, 16/7/1996)


    Sue Richardson’s grandfather, Arthur Frank Richardson lived at number 24, which he rented from the 1930s until the early 1960s. She remembers playing in the garden and in the washhouse, which had a tiled roof and made an ideal play house. At the bottom of the garden was an orchard where she picked apples.


    Mr Richardson was an employee of the Midland Bank. He worked first at the Sharrow Lane branch, living in the flat over the bank. Later he was based at the Church Street branch, and it was then that he moved to Meadow Bank Avenue.


    Sue Richardson’s aunt, Emily Merrill, also lived at number 24. She had been a school teacher and was a very sedate lady, a typical schoolmaam, with her hair neatly scraped back into a bun.


    Their neighbours, the Birch family at number 22, were good friends. Madge Birch popped in every day to check that her grandfather was okay. He died in a nursing home, having spent three decades living on Meadow Bank Avenue. Sue Richardson said she had very happy memories of the Avenue, always enjoying her visits there. The bonfires were remembered with particular fondness. Her father and mother always brought her to the Avenue for them.


  • Nick and Angela Waite


    Memories and experiences of Meadow Bank Avenue

    Background data

    Date        February 3rd 2017

    Names   Nick (Nicholas Stephenson) and the late Angela Waite

    Residence August 1968 to July 2002

    House 33

    Household Nick, Angela, children Steven Nicholas born October 1970, Alexander Henry born November 1971, Eleanor Frances born March 1974 (died 2002) (Also Bramble 1978-96)

    Occupations   Nick – solicitor. Angela – initially research scientist, then mother and home maker, then lecturer in biological sciences.

    Your 10 suggested headings:

    1 Both of us were born and raised in Sheffield, from families long resident here – Angela’s family since about 1915, Nick’s at least since the early 19th century. We both knew MBA long before we lived here. Nick spent Christmas Day on the Avenue from being an infant and frequently visited at other times, because his parents’ best friends Gwen and Ron Tobey lived at no 10. When Angela and Nick first went out together in 1956, Angela’s best friend Diana was going out with her eventual husband Robert Bainbridge who lived with his parents at no 33. So we both knew the Avenue and the Union from the start of our relationship. We were out of Sheffield (university and first jobs) for 10 years and when we returned in 1968, MBA was always first target. We came to look at no 11 which was for sale, found Robert’s parents there, looking to downsize, went to see them at 33 and agreed to purchase their house instead!

    2 When we first came there seemed to be a preponderance of business people, an older age profile and not so many children. This changed during the 1970s, partly from an influx of civil servants and local government officers following the arrival of Manpower Services Commission and local government reorganisation, both about 1974. Overall the age profile came down and the number of children grew rapidly. The occupational mix became more professional and MBA was seen as a great place to raise a family.

    3 The physical shape of the Avenue, as a cul-de-sac with the central Green, as well as the unusual legal structure, meant that it always seemed a self-contained community, more like a village than an inner suburb. Social life was very important to us all, especially the communal activities like the bonfire, the Christmas tree, and after the Queen’s 25th anniversary, the annual summer party. These occasions were backed by the most active residents, especially young families like us. We started having annual Christmas time parties to which we invited all the residents we knew and the idea of regular parties was taken up by many others – usually pretty drunken affairs, it has to be said. (I have a particularly clear memory of our first such party with Mrs Booker, Miss Hodsman and Miss Mousely, sat side by side on our then new settee, each with a small glass of sherry). For us, in the early years especially, the main advantage was the support which all the young parents were able to give each other and the friendships made in those years which have lasted to this day.

    4 All three of our children went to Hunters Bar and then Tapton. (We have a strong connection with Hunters Bar, as Nick’s grandfather was one of the original teachers, both Nick’s parents and his uncles went to the school as did Angela and her brother.)

    5 Social life on MBA was so full that outside organisations often seemed marginal. Eleanor was a choir member at St Andrews (but not for long), Steve and Alex were both members of Brentwood Tennis Club. At various times Nick was a Labour party member and Secretary of South Yorkshire Housing Association and Angela joined Sheffield Bridge Club and Sheffield Beekeepers Association. And of course Nick and the boys went to Bramall Lane religiously for many years

    6 Nick became a Trustee in the early years, after the death of Ron Tobey and Jim Swindells’ move to St Andrews Road (the Minute book will fill in details of dates, personnel etc.) As a conveyancing solicitor, Nick soon realised that the legal history and nature of the job had almost been lost in time, but over a period he managed to get the history and therefore the functions clearly established. There was an early period of dissension largely caused by one resident (long gone from MBA), not helped by Nick’s belief he was right (!) but the problem was much reduced by the common sense and peace making ability of Bill Hampton. Otherwise the procedures were well established and accepted by all, after this early difficulty.

    7 It is difficult to select particular memories, good or bad, for the simple reason that Avenue society was the centre of our family life for 34 years. For us, everything happened there or was related to the place, the residents, and their social life. It is said that Sheffield is more of a village than a city; this is an exaggeration, but in our experience it is an exact description of MBA. It was not a closed community as we all had our careers, outside lives and interests, but it was a self-contained community to a quite unusual degree.

    8 As it is nearly 15 years since we left, it is difficult to comment on change and continuity. Nevertheless we have kept close contact with many friends made during our residence, both those who have also left and those who are still there. So our impression is that there has continued to be generational variations in the age structure and the number of children, but otherwise observation and comments from continuing residents suggest the community remains as central to the lives of those who live there as it ever was. How many single streets anywhere have their own website and researched history?

    9 How difficult! At this stage it seems best to simply list names of people of particular significance to us, without reasons, because I might prefer to give realistic character sketches, some undoubtedly scabrous, and this needs more discussion and guidance before going further. Names who seem particularly significant would include; Alex and Sandra Pettifer, Bill and Hazel Hampton, Tina and David Galloway, Hilary and Alan Taylor-Firth, Andrew and Liz Cousely, Chris and Pat Rodgers, John and Wendy Barthram, Jean Thomson and her partner Colin, Ida Booker, Mrs Meneer, Janet and Alan Foster, Mavis Hamer, Olivier (Monsieur Le Crunch), Tricia and John Yarwood, Llyn and Mike Wilson, the Jarams and the Walkers, the Proctors, the Coates, – and of course the Phillips and the Austins!

    10 I have many photos from our period on the Avenue, it will take me ages to produce a selection, but I will do so in due course if wanted

    Nick Waite


  • Sarah Hampton

    26 Meadow Bank Avenue – House History 1963 to 2009


    I moved into 26 Meadow Bank Avenue in 1963 with my parents, Bill and Hazel Hampton, my brother Jo and our dachshund dog, Ben. I was six years old and Jo was seven. Bill had just graduated from the London School of Economics and had got a job as an assistant lecturer in the Extramural Department of Sheffield University. We came from Colchester and my maternal grandmother was convinced we would all choke to death on the smoke up North! We had been living in a small council house and this big Victorian semi was the first and only house Bill ever bought. It cost £3,000. I remember the wallpaper in the dining room (trailing ivy from floor to ceiling) and the bathroom (penguins).  The house was in quite a state when we moved in but so were many of the other houses we looked at. The days of showing a house at its best had not yet arrived in the 1960s; insulation and central heating were future luxuries. There was a rusty black metal range in the kitchen, which was taken out soon after we moved in, a glass lean-to on the back of the house and a huge built-in mirror at the top of the stairs on the first-floor landing. I watched myself grow up in that mirror and it always fascinated me.  The house was freezing. The rooms were heated by old gas fires and the sash windows and the front door did not fit well.   I was well into my thirties before I realised that I no longer hunched my legs up when I got into bed and then slowly moved them further down as the bed warmed up!  Over the years Hazel initiated many improvements to the house. The glass lean-to was removed and a sunroom built. The outside toilet was taken out and a shower room and toilet installed off the kitchen. A few years after Jo and I left home the gas fires were removed, the house fully insulated and central heating put in. The front steps were rebuilt first in 2001 and again in 2008.

    The steps were still steep when this change was made in 2001. The whale shaped hedge maintained by Alan Taylor- Firth can be seen between the two houses. The changes in 2008 made a gentler safer slope.

    The changes came too late for Ben who developed arthritis in old age and had to be carried, indignant and struggling, up the original uneven steps. Ben’s two priorities in life were warmth and food. His lair was the kitchen and for his first nine years in the house this was heated by a glass-fronted Baxi fire. Ben would lie on the narrow hearth snuggled in close to the heat. Occasionally he would get so hot he passed out and we would have to carry him into the cold dining room to revive him. Ben died in 1974 aged 17.

    Ben loved anyone with food!  Photo taken in the back garden in about 1965.

    In 1972 Hazel bought a second-hand coal-fired Aga. To her horror, it arrived as a heap of rusty looking metal. The specialist Aga firm John Norton & Son put it back together and told her, to her relief, that she had got a bargain. Her bargain meant that the kitchen was always warm and there was lots of hot water.  The coal-fired Aga was changed to a gas-fired one when Bill and Hazel could no longer carry buckets of coal up the cellar steps. The coal had been delivered to the house and tipped by the coalman down a grate into the cellar.  Bill loved all the improvements once they were done but, left to himself, the trailing ivy and the penguins might still have been in residence when the house was sold in 2009!

    My parents did not have much time for gardening whilst they were establishing their careers. The garden remained a wilderness for several years. To begin with, it sloped sharply past three gnarled apple trees to an untamed privet hedge that went down one side and along the bottom of the garden.

    However, Bill and Hazel both came from families where gardens were important for providing vegetables and they both had memories of the flowers their parents grew. The garden developed as they had more time to tend it; they grew a variety of flowers and decorative plants, and vegetables including green beans, tomatoes, courgettes, purple sprouting broccoli and rather too many ‘January King’ cabbages. The garden was at its best after they both retired.

    Bill and Hazel created beautiful vegetable and flower gardens around the house. Top photo taken 1995 and lower one taken 2002.

    In the lower photograph above you can see the old wash house. This was dank and full of cobwebs when we moved in.  A wooden shed leaned against the back of the wash house. It had a sloping asphalt roof which warmed up in the sun. I used to love sitting on this roof on sunny days watching the buses go up the main road in the distance. The shed became unsafe and was demolished after I left home. The wash house was redeveloped into a posh garden store in 1994 for Bill’s 65th birthday.  As part of the redevelopment, a thin metal pipe that went from the wash house to the main house was removed. This was found to be a still functioning gas pipe, perhaps used to heat the water in the washtub. Old paint had been removed from this pipe with a blow torch each time the outside of the house was painted.  A potentially explosive birthday present!  Our neighbour, Alan Taylor -Firth, named the garden store “Chateau Billy” and the slate sign he carved can be seen in the right-hand photo by the door. The apple trees were taken out in the 1980s and, with Jo’s help, the slope was terraced.


    The terracing was improved in 1996 when retaining walls were built.

    The terraced vegetable garden in May 2008.

    Before Bill and Hazel started to grow vegetables we bought them from Sharpe’s at Nether Edge and we had a weekly delivery of groceries from Orme’s.  Hazel kept three of the order books from Orme’s so I know that on the 14th May 1969 our grocery bill for that week was £4 16s 2d[1]. We seemed to eat a lot of ‘Twiglets’. Under the section ‘Residents and Avenue Life’ on this website, there is a photo of a shop called W.W Axe, which was on the corner of Machon Bank and Cherry Tree Road opposite the Union Pub. When I was a child this was Bromley’s Corner Shop.   Mr and Mrs Bromley had a ‘penny tray’ of sweets for children. We bought ‘blackjack’ and ‘fruit salad’ chews, sherbet fountains, sweet tobacco and other cheap sweets designed to keep Mr Swindells, our neighbour and dentist, in business.  Mr and Mrs Bromley lived at the back of the shop and, when Mrs Bromley died, Mr Bromley would often sit out on the pavement waiting for someone to talk to. When he died, the premises were sold and the former shop is now the front room of a private house.

    Bill remained at Sheffield University for the rest of his working life.  He completed his PhD in 1970 and went on to become a professor. He retired in 1994.  He was a member of Nether Edge Labour Party and a dedicated supporter of Sheffield United. His Saturday ritual was to go to Nether Edge to buy a copy of the Green ‘Un. I was told that at work, a secretary would interrupt overly long meetings to remind him of his “important appointment” if “The Lads” were playing at home. He was also a member of Brentwood Tennis Club.

    Hazel qualified as a primary school teacher in 1967 and completed her B.Ed. in 1984. She worked in schools across the City until 1989 including Oakes Park Special School, Burngreave Middle School and Kettlebridge Nursery First School. After retiring from teaching Hazel undertook published research into aspects of multicultural education and she worked for ten years to research and record our family history on both sides. She was an essential ‘critical friend’ to Bill in his work and she contributed to the development of this website by interviewing a few of the older residents.

    Jo and I went to Hunter’s Bar Infants and Junior School. There were separate playgrounds for the junior boys and girls and a white line that divided the mixed infants from the juniors. Jo and I travelled to school together either by bus or walking.  Bill occasionally dropped me off on the back of his scooter; there were very few cars on the Avenue at that time.

    Our first school photo 1964

    The junior girls played various games [2], examples of which can be seen below.

    I bought my whip and top from the post office in Nether Edge.

    We played marbles on drain covers like this one. There was fierce competition for the best drain covers.

    I used Hazel’s dress maker’s elastic to play ‘French Skipping’ at school.

    The junior boys seemed to play nothing but marbles and football.  

    After taking the 11 plus Jo went to King Edwards Boys Grammar School on Glossop Road and I went to King Ecgbert Girls Technical School in Dore. We continued to go to school by bus.  I was taught to sew, cook, iron my father’s shirt, clean a hairbrush and lay up a tray for an invalid, alongside other more academic subjects. Luckily the school became a mixed comprehensive in my second year.

    The Avenue seemed daunting at first.  Some of the residents took the private status very seriously.  I was asked a few times if I lived there. The estate was, and still is, managed by trustees and there were rules about games on the Green and a big notice that said the Green was for ‘residents and their visitors only’.  I remember being at the home of Mr and Mrs Kemp (number 5) when Mr Kemp was invited to become a trustee.  Bill helped to make the selection process more democratic a few years later. I remember cricket matches on the Green when we first arrived and in later years the bonfire on November 5th; as children we used to jump through the hot ashes the next morning, burning holes in our socks. When I was young we regularly had people living with us as lodgers, but we were told not to tell our friends as this was against the Avenue rules.

    The adults might have had rules and worries about status but the children had a fairly exciting sub-culture.  I remember some of the other children: Celia and Frazer Robinson (number 23); Robin and Mark Richardson (number 35); Andrew and Clare Swindells (number 31) and Andrew Blake (number 27).  My best friends were Catherine Kemp (number 5) and Wendy Marshall (number 29).  I occasionally played with Joanna Leeson who lived next door at number 28.  She moved away with her family when I was about twelve and Alan and Hilary Taylor-Firth moved in with their sons Christopher and Robin.    Catherine taught me to speak “Dog Latin”, which involved adding ag to each word, as in “Cagan yagou plagay tago dagay”.  It drove my parents to distraction. We played some games regularly: ‘British Bull Dog’, which involved running madly from one side of the Green to the other to escape the “dog” in the middle; ‘War’, which could get quite hostile but, if it went too far, we would stop the game and renegotiate the rules of play before continuing; ‘Fox and Hounds’, where we hunted each other around the local area. We had hiding places on Kingfield Road, Cherry Tree Road, in each other’s gardens and the grounds of Tintagel House on Meadow Bank Road and the Kenwood Hotel on Kenwood Road (now The George). We went to Chelsea Park to play on the swings and to torment the park keeper who spent his days with a kettle and a newspaper in a little wooden hut nearby.  We often played in the grounds of Tintagel House but we were not sure who lived there. Mrs Kemp told me that a friend of hers on the Avenue, whose garden backed onto the grounds of Tintagel House, had seen people through the windows, “pretending to be trees”.  However, Catherine, Wendy and I suspected they were witches and we sometimes sat quietly on the steps by the front door to watch the members of the coven arrive. Lots of people came and went but none of them wore pointed hats.

    The Merlin Theatre was built in the grounds of Tintagel House in the late sixties. Whilst it was being built we played in the foundations, crawling right in under the newly laid floorboards. When it was completed in 1969 I saw an advert in the Sheffield Star asking for people to join ‘The Merlin Players’ and went along. Tintagel House turned out to be a Rudolf Steiner Settlement rather than a coven.  The house had been bought using a Trust set up by Christopher Boulton and he lived there with his wife, May.  May’s brother Norman Swannack and his wife, Janet, lived in the Lodge at the top of the drive and a few years later Christopher’s mother moved into a specially built bungalow in the grounds. Christopher had polio as a child and the treatment he received restricted his growth. He was a lively intelligent man with a love of theatre and flamboyant clothes. Tintagel House was always open and I spent a lot of time there throughout my teenage years and subsequently whenever I was in travelling distance of Nether Edge. It had a significant impact on my life. Bill thought I was being drawn into a cult but I was welcomed in and not expected to believe in anything; I remain an atheist to this day. I loved being involved in amateur dramatics and had a great time doing all sorts of jobs in the theatre: scene painting and helping with costumes; selling tickets and coffee; prompting and stage management; and taking an occasional acting role.

    At Tintagel House I also had lessons in watercolour painting, enjoyed folk dancing and took part in Eurythmy sessions. I suspect Eurythmy[3] was the source of the rumour that people were pretending to be trees. Christopher died in 1972 and the stewardship of Tintagel House and the Merlin Theatre passed to Robert Chamberlain. As a result of my involvement at Tintagel House, I went to live and work in Botton Village[4] when I left school in 1975 and I eventually trained as a social worker in Sheffield between 1980 and 1982. I remained friends with May Boulton until her death in 2007 and I am still in touch with Robert and his wife Judith.

    Growing up on Meadow Bank Avenue gave me a range of rich and varied experiences. I finally moved away when I left Sheffield for Nottingham in 1989 but I have good memories of being part of the Avenue and Steiner communities. Hazel and Bill always enjoyed living at number 26; they loved the house and garden and the company of their friends and neighbours. Hazel described it as a happy and tranquil place to be. Their grandchildren were always keen to visit them there.                                                                                                                        

    Bill died in July 2009 and his ashes are scattered in Ecclesall Woods. In November 2009 Hazel sold the house and moved to Nottingham to live near me and my family. She returned to the Avenue to see friends but she never returned to the house. Hazel died of frailty at home in March 2020, three days after the country went into lockdown because of the Corona Virus pandemic. I will inter her ashes in Dedham near Colchester, the place where she was born and where her journey started. 26 Meadow Bank Avenue has moved on to be the setting for other lives and other stories.

    Sarah Hampton

    June 2020


    [1] About £45 today.

    [2] Pictures downloaded from the Internet, where a full description of these games can be found.

    [3] Eurythmy is a form of expressive movement. The word stems from Greek roots meaning harmonious or beautiful rhythm. The art form was developed by Rudolf Steiner and Maria von Silvers in the early 20th century.

    [4] A Camphill Community for people with learning disabilities in North Yorkshire.