10 things you didn’t know about Hadfield, Derbyshire – or perhaps you do…

1 The Domesday Book lists Hadfield as Hetfelt, the ‘King’s Land,’ around 4 bovates in size. Its

Hadfield, Derbyshire. The ‘new’ part of town

entry states, ‘The whole of Longdendale is waste. There is woodland, not for pasture but suitable for hunting.’ Longdendale’s value?  40 shillings (£2).   Basically, William the Conqueror swiped the land for recreational purposes…    A bovate, by the way, was an area of land equating to how much an ox could plough in one season which, depending on soil fertility, was between 15 and 20 acres.

Reputedly the oldest house in Hadfield

2  The oldest house (just opposite the Spinners Arms) is believed to have been a dairy farm in the 1720s.

3  This was before the advent of the cotton industry when Hadfield was a rural village like any other. The original village centre was on Hadfield road near the Spinners Arms which, in 1824, was an ale house

The old part of Hadfield, Derbyshire.  The Spinners Arms is to the right.


4.  In 1861, the Sisters of Charity settled in a small cottage in Hadfield Road moving in 1887 to a purpose built convent in the grounds of St Charles’ Borromeo Catholic Church.  Veronica M Wright was the 47 year old ‘superioress’ in the 1891 census. A Norwich born school teacher, five more female  teachers from Ireland, Essex, Oxford and Dorset lived there too.  The visitor at the presbytery next door, (incorrectly spelled as prespetary by the enumerator)  was Franciscan priest Bruno Knight from Peckham.

The Sisters of Mercy lived here 1861-1887

5  From the 1820s, the Sidebottom family invested in cotton mills and constructed a branch railway directly into their factories.



6   Hadfield Station, when it opened in 1844, was part of the Sheffield, Ashton under Lyne and Manchester Railway and subsequently the heart of the village moved nearer the station.  Nowadays,  Hadfield is the last stop on this line.

7    The 1871 and 1881 censuses record people  born from as far away as Ireland.  Cotton spinner John Doyle and his locally-born family all had mill working jobs in 1871.

8    By 1891, T & W Sidebottom owned the Bridge and Waterside Mills which, between them, had 293,000 spindles for yarn and 4,700 looms for weaving cloth,

9    The part of the railway which stretched from Hadfield to Sheffield (closed 1970) is now the Longdendale Trail for walkers and cyclists.

10  Some scenes for the BBC’s TV programme League of Gentleman were filmed in Hadfield.

Facing World War 1

William Henry Smith and Laura nee Petts. ©Adèle Emm

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916), the worst day for casualties in British military history with 57,470 casualties and 19,240 killed in action.    This is my great grand aunt Laura Mary nee Petts and husband William Henry Smith taken some time during WW1.  I suspect he was snatching leave from the front and took the opportunity of taking a photo with his loved one.  The expression in his eyes breaks my heart.

He was a ‘carman’ at marriage; today’s equivalent of van driver but his ‘car’ was horse and possibly cart.  Neither he nor Laura were in their first flush of youth at their wedding see the photo below.  Widower William was 33 and Laura 40. They never had children.  In 1911, they lived in three  rooms in Lee, Lewisham.  He was 38 when the war began.

The badge on his shoulder tab (I’m no military historian, so correct me if this terminology is wrong) puts him, I think, in the Royal Engineers….

Detail of WH’s shoulder badge ©Adèle Emm

I’ve tried to find William Henry’s war record.  I’ve scrolled through dozens of William Henry/ Henry William/ William/ Henry Smith combinations but none were the right age or from the right area.  Admittedly, his records might have been amongst those accidentally  destroyed during the Second World War.  I looked on the War Graves Commission website but the only ones without ages gave so little further information, it was impossible.   I even consulted the 1939 register and found Laura but not William Henry.

Did he survive the First World War?  The truth is, I don’t know.

But his face haunts me.

William Henry Smith and Laura in happier times; their wedding August 1909