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Thurlstone History - Introduction


Domesday Book   |   Water Mills   |   Trade Routes   |   Religion   |   Railway

The pages within this Web site contain extracts from documents and registers obtained whilst performing research into the WAGSTAFF family of Thurlstone.  As such, the extracts are neither complete nor comprehensive, but include information relating to the families of interest.  They may nevertheless be useful for understanding the history of the area.  An introduction to the parish of Penistone and the township of Thurlstone is given below.

Penistone Parish

The township of Penistone is approximately 10 miles to the west of Barnsley, south of the River Don.  At an altitude of 747 feet, it is the highest market town in England.  "The parish of Peniston ... consists of eight townships."  Their identities and populations are as follows.



































The Staincross militia list records that Thurlstone had 40 weavers, 21 clothiers, a dyer and 2 dressers in September 1806.  The population of Penistone township had increased to around 900 in 1851 and was mainly engaged in farming, with some working in the woollen industry and on the Sheffield & Manchester Railway.  The village of Langsett, population 300, borders Penistone to the south and includes Sheephouse, Hand Bank and Brookhouse.

In 1851, Thurlstone was the most extensive township in the Penistone parish.  It was a large village on the Don, 1¼ miles west of Penistone, with several woollen manufactories, and comprised a number of scattered hamlets, 2,018 inhabitants, and 7,740 acres of land, partly in wild uncultivated moors, lying north of Langsett, and extending westward to the borders of Cheshire.  It abounded in coal, ironstone and excellent gritstone.

White’s Directory: Sheffield & District, 1852

The Penistone Enclosure Act was passed in 1819 and the enclosure award was dated 28 January 1826 (it is held at the Sheffield Archives as accession NBC 61); see also the Sheffield Mercury of 24 July 1819.  The Thurlstone Enclosure Act was passed in 1812 and the Award was dated 17 December 1816.

Thurlstone local board was formed in 1868 but Penistone finally achieved a greater population in the 1901 Census (3,073 against Thurlstone’s 2,992) owing to the coming of the railway and construction of the Cammell Laird steelworks in 1862.

Sheffield Archives, NBC 61, Penistone enclosure award and map
John N Dransfield op cit, p 283
Carolyn Thorpe, ‘Thurlstone - Down Your Way’ in Barnsley Chronicle p 42, 16 September 1983

Thurlstone is a community of three-storey houses built into both of the steep hillsides formed by the valley of the River Don.  The main road from Barnsley to Manchester cuts the village in half, particularly as the road was designed for horse and cart rather than modern traffic.  Millhouse was a distinct hamlet of cottages and farms separated from Thurlstone by fields until Local Authority and private housing was built nearby.

Domesday Book

"At the time of the Conquest in 1066, there were two manors in Penistone, one held by the de Penistons and the other by the Saxon lord of Cawthorne, Ailric."  The greater part of these lands belonged before the Conquest to Elric, who is no doubt the Ailric, father of Swein, who held them after the Conquest of the Lacis, and to the family of Ailric the inhabitants of these moorlands owed their church.  It was placed upon a knoll near the vill of Peniston, and what lands did not belong to the family of Ailric would gladly render their tithe to this church rather than to Silkston, from which many of them lay very remote.  The patronage of it continued in the posterity of Ailric to a comparatively late period.

The etymology of Thurlston is helped by the Domesday Book.  'Turulfeston' is villa Turulfi, but the identity of Turulf is not known.  The greatest part of the township of Thurlston was common and moorland.  It adjoined Holmfirth (the wood of holms, a species of oak), which was a chase of the earls of Warren. The vill of Thurlston is about a mile from the church of the parish, and is situated on a pass over the Don. It has long enjoyed a share in the woollen manufactures of the West Riding, and to this Thurlston chiefly owes its superiority in point of population over the other townships of the parish.

Penistone WEA History Group, A Further History of Penistone p 1, Penistone 1965 [James H Wood]

Water Mills

The first corn mill was built by Bosville in 1580, being rebuilt in 1761.  In 1764 a court case took place between Amyor Riche of the corn mill and Waltons of the oil mill, over the use of water which worked the mill wheels.  The weir constructed by the Waltons to supply their mill caused an accumulation of wrack and debris that reduced the water supply to Riche's Hornthwaite mill to a mere trickle, so the mill wheels would not work sometimes for a whole day.  The case was settled out of court, through an agreement to deal with the wrack.

Falls on the Don River near Penistone include

Bullhouse Corn Mill   11½ ft (furthest upstream)

Bullhouse Fulling Mill   14 ft

Ecklands Bridge Works   17 ft

Batty Mill (Tomasson's)   15 ft

Plumpton/Thurlstone Corn Mill   16 ft

Hornthwaite Corn Mill   14 ft

Oil Mill, Thurlstone (cloth)   10 ft.

Vera Nicholson, Upper Don Watermills pp 46-48, Sheffield 2001 [The Hallamshire Press]
Penistone WEA History Group op cit, p 4

This magnificent shire horse won first prize at Penistone show in 1911.  It is pictured outside the old corn mill at Thurlstone.

In the 18th Century Walton’s Oil Mill processed linseed oil for dyes and paints, but by the time of the 1850 Ordnance Survey map it had become a woollen mill.  In 1975, Spring Mill became an undertaking business and was converted to housing.

The former corn mill at Hornthwaite was on the border with Penistone by the road bridge, worked by Armor Riche of Bullhouse.  The Riche family had owned the mill for many years; in a lease of 1724, Joseph Crossley rented it for £22 per annum.  Thomas Askham was the tenant from 1751 to 1762, and the tenancy was renewed on 16 December 1762 for 21 years at a rent of £30 per annum.  Before being rebuilt in the summer of 1761, the mill had 4 waterwheels.  One new wheel replaced the fan, shelling and greystone wheels and drove three pairs of stones, but the mill ceased operation in 1911.  After falling into disrepair, it was converted into a private house in 1987.

Trade Routes

Perhaps the most important commodity that was carried regularly over the moors to the medieval market towns was salt, which was so essential for preserving food and providing flavour.  A special set of names are attached to the saltways, or saltergates as they were sometimes called, those ancient routes from the salt wiches at Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich in Cheshire, and further south at Droitwich, the Salinae of Roman times.  The Pennine highways were used for conveying a variety of goods, but the names that are found alongside them show that the salt trade was the most important of all.  Thus, Sheffield obtained most of its salt from traders who crossed the hills via Chapel en le Frith and the Winnats Pass.  At Hope, a field to the south of the village was known as Salter Furlong and until recently here was a Salter Barn.  Perhaps this was a recognised overnight grazing stop before the salters and their horses proceeded along Salter Lane near Bamford and over the escarpment to Stanage, eventually entering Sheffield via Psalter Lane at Nether Edge.  This name was written as Salter lane in 1485, and not until the 18th Century was the letter P added in the mistaken belief that the route was associated with the monks of Beauchief Abbey.

The picture shows St John the Baptist's church, behind Yates' fish and chip shop on the corner.  Between Yates' and the tea shop is Peter Holmes' butcher's shop.

The most important highway across the Pennines into South Yorkshire has always been that over Woodhead.  The Cheshire portion of this road was turnpiked as early as 1732, and when the Doncaster-Saltersbrook and Rotherham-Hartcliff sections were turnpiked nine years later, this ancient route was said to be very convenient for conveying of goods from Eastern to Western Seas.  The first name of significance as the road emerges from Cheshire up the Etherow Valley is Saltersbrook, the boundary stream between the two counties.  The modern road crosses the brook by a high bridge built about 1830, but the older track sought a much lower crossing.  Then the old highway continued along a course that can be plainly followed to the horizon, both on the ground and by means of the Ordnance Survey map.  Halfway up the hill a branch to the left heads for Wakefield along the Salterway or Saltergate that formed part of the ancient boundary between the township of Thurlstone and the Graveship of Holme, continuing through Upper Denby and along the ridgeway towards High Hoyland.

However, the main highway from Saltersbrook climbed the hill in the direction of Rotherham and Doncaster until it reached the Lady Gross, an ancient and prominent landmark at a height of about 1,500 feet above sea level.  Recorded in 1290 and in various boundary perambulations, it was still marked as a cross on Christopher Saxton’s map of 1577, but all that now remains of it is the sturdy base and the stump of the broken shaft.  The salt track to Doncaster then continued more or less in a straight line to Hartcliff hill and then down Hillside to Hornthwaite, but in 1741 the turnpike surveyor avoided Hartcliff by a sharp detour from Fulshaw Cross through Millhouse Green and Thurlstone.  The turnpike road then followed the old course through Hoylandswaine, Silkstone, Dodworth and Darfield to Doncaster, past Salter Croft at Dodworth, Saltersbrook at Goldthorpe, and Saltersgate at Scawsby.  Salt names can also be located on the Rotherham route, which followed the ridge from Hartcliff to Green Moor at about 1,000 feet above sea level, past Salter Hill Farm and Plantation.  After skirting Wortley along Finkle Street, the salters proceeded through Howbrook to Chapeltown and Thorpe Hesley.

David Hey, The Makings of South Yorkshire pp 61-62, Ashbourne 1979 [Moorland Publishing Co]

Until the 18th Century, clothiers took their cloth to Sheffield for sale.  Some producers thought that a cloth market could be established in Penistone.  An agreement was signed and sealed by 92 cloth makers on 10 November 1743 that cloth would not be sold in Sheffield before 29 September.  In 1763 a cloth hall and shambles was built at Penistone by Josias Wordsworth at a cost of £800.  Previously a room over the old Grammar School had been used, but the cloth market was never very considerable and by 1812 the purpose-built hall was converted to shops and shambles.  Part of the Wordsworth Cloth Hall was converted into the White Bear public house in 1861, but it closed in the 1920s and was converted into the British Legion Club.

R N Brownhill, The Penistone Scene p 55, Penistone 1987 [Bridge Publications]


No chapel arose in any of the distant townships before the Reformation.  One was erected at Denby in the 17th Century and another at Bullhouse in Thurlstone by the early non-conformists.  Thurlstone Netherfield Congregation Chapel, with its beautiful rose window, was built in 1788 following religious gatherings at the home of Mr William Moorhouse, a weaver who lived at Thurlstone.

R N Brownhill op cit, p 39

The chapel near to Bullhouse Hall was erected by Mr Elkanah Rich in 1692.  In a letter to his cousin, Mr Aymor Rich, of Smallshaw, respecting a pew in Penistone Church, he wrote thus: "My father, mother and myself always sat there in Mr Swift's time, that is, while we went to church, until they carried things so high and were so full of ceremonies that we resolved to provide a better way of worship at home."

John N Dransfield, A History of the Parish of Penistone, p 130, Penistone 1906 [James H Wood]

The Railway

Numerous quarries were opened for construction of the Sheffield & Manchester Railway, which passes through the whole length of the township, and enters the Woodhead tunnel at Dunford Bridge station, about 6 miles west of Penistone.  This costly tunnel is about 3 miles long, and its western entrance is at Woodhead, on the borders of Cheshire & Derbyshire.  Hazelhead station, on the same railway, is about 3 miles west of Penistone.  The Earl of Scarborough is Lord of the Manor, but a large proportion of the soil belongs to various proprietors.

The making of Woodhead Tunnel under the Pennine Range some 5 miles to the west of Penistone was a gigantic undertaking.  It occupied some 6 years in making, and an average of 800 men were employed in the works, which we were told were carried on unremittingly day and night.  Sunday, instead of being a day of rest for the workmen, generally turned out the busiest in the week; indeed, being quite in the moors and with few houses for miles around, there was nothing for the navvies to take much interest in.  ... The first train that went through the tunnel left Sheffield at 10.5 am on December 22 1845 and arrived at Manchester at 12.15 pm.  It was 10¼ minutes in passing through the tunnel.

The single tunnel had cost £200,000 and in 1847 a second tunnel was bored.  An outbreak of cholera in 1849 killed 28 workmen but the tunnel was officially opened in 1852.

White’s Directory: Sheffield & District, 1852

Penistone viaduct was fairly important during WWII, but was never bombed.  This was in the time before Mrs Thatcher, when it was on the main line of transport between Sheffield and Manchester.  It is still used today on the line going to Huddersfield.

On Wednesday 16 July 1884 at Bullhouse Bridge, the engine of the express train that left Manchester at 1230, broke its crank axle and left the lines.  Some of the carriages rolled down an embankment, resulting in 24 dead and 64 injured.

John N Dransfield, A History of the Parish of Penistone, p 177, Penistone 1906 [James H Wood]


Graphics courtesy of Rootsweb.

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