Penistone - Market Town

The Town
Market Street Penistone is generally thought to be named from its location as the 'settlement on the hill'. It was occupied by Britons, Romans, Saxons and Vikings in turn, and in 1066 was owned by Ailric. In 1069 it was devastated by William the Conqueror in waging a series of campaigns in the winter of 1069–1070, resulting in the general destruction of homes, stock and crops as well as the means of food production.

Thousands of people died, mostly through starvation, and Penistone 'lay waste' in the records of 1086. The descendants of Ailric built a church in Penistone soon after this time.

The Domesday Survey of 1080 to 1086 refers three times to variants of 'Pengeston'. Other charters used inconsistent spellings like 'Penigestun'. The etymology of 'Penistone' is not absolutely clear. It could mean 'The Farm of the Silver Penny' (Penistone Almanac 1984) but other sources suggest more strongly that the 'Pen' in Penistone is Celtic, meaning 'hill'. Anglo-Saxons gave us the 'ton' part, meaning village or farmstead (not town). The Poll Tax Roll of 1379 calls it 'Villata de Penyston'.

Before the arrival of the railway in the mid-nineteenth century, the greater industry in the area was wool and textiles, mostly in nearby Thurlstone. Railway access allowed heavy industry into the area, with the Cammel Laird steelworks and David Brown's, in 1934. Hi-tech castings joined in later as David Brown began to shrink. Many Penistone workers were also employed at the Stocksbridge steelworks but this is also went into decline. Others worked for the Hepworth Iron Co. - a clayware company which kept its anomalous title for a long time after any interest in iron.

A room above Penistone Grammar School, on its former Kirk Flatts site, was used as a cloth hall until a purpose-built cloth hall was built in 1763 in the town centre. This did not succeed as a business and it was turned into shops with a public house. It became Clark's chemist around 1899 and continues to this day, more than a century later, as a family-run pharmacy.

House-Building Over the Years
We tend to think of house-building on any scale as a modern phenomenon, and it is certainly accellerating and gobbling up the countryside at a breath-taking rate, but Penistone has had several large developments in the past. This section takes a look at them.

1. The Model Village
The first great housing expansion proposed for Penistone was 1921-22, when a model village was envisaged on land close to Mortimer Road, Cubley, with a view to it being copied elsewhere. The land had been purchased in 1919 to accommodate the workers of Cammell Laird steelworks, which later became David Brown's foundries. You can see the actual plan in Cubley Hall. It featured allotments, a bowling club, village green, a monument, two churches, a hostel, recreation ground and a school but no new shops or a public house. This was long before Cubley hall became a public house. The target was for 500 houses, starting with 100 houses in the first phase. Unfortunately, the steel industry was taking a turn for the worse in the years leading towards the great Depression and the mass unemployment around 1930. Only part of the plan was built. This was on Hackings Avenue, Lyttleton Crescent, Racecommon Avenue and Mortimer Drive. A children's recreation ground was also set up in the arc of Lyttleton Crescent. The housing plan is explored in greater depth on the David Brown's and the Cubley history pages.

Cubley PlanCubley Plan

2. Park Avenue, Bluebell Avenue and Southgate
Park AveThe next great housing expansion started pre-war in 1936, with the arrival of Park Avenue off Penistone High Street, Bluebell Avenue and Schole Avenue. These rented, semi-detached council houses were spacious and solidly built of red brick. Back Lane from Market Street to the marketplace must have been extended during this time to join with Schole Avenue. The row of garages by the Bowling Club would have arrived later, as few people owned cars in those days. It is not clear when the Bowling Club was set on Back Lane up but it is possible that there was an early bowling green behind the Wentworth Arms on Sheffield Road. This is a guess but the Southgate and Westgate houses opposite the steelworks entrance on Green Road probably arrived around the same time. The picture shows part of Park Avenue.

3. The Airey Houses
This was the next big wave of housing in the area, starting in the austere post-war years of the late 1940s. Within three years, more than 25,000 Airey houses had been built in England and Wales under a housing programme developed by the Ministry of Works. This was the age of the 'Pre-fab'. They were designed by Sir Edwin Airey whose father's business was WM Airey & Sons of Leeds. The company had previously mass-produced prefabricated buildings for American troops stationed in this country during the war. The Airey Houses had a ten-year lifespan but lasted much longer. These semi-detached homes were built with pebble-dashed, ship-lapped concrete panels affixed with wires to reinforced concrete columns which were erected on a concrete 'raft' base forming both the foundation and the ground floor. Wikipedia says that the reinforcing metal in the columns was 'tubing recycled from the frames of military vehicles'.

In our area, they could be found on: (lower) Ward Street to Green Road, (lower) Victoria Street, Wilson Avenue (part of which is now gone), Dransfield Avenue, Unwin Street (now gone) and Unwin Crescent. The latter crescent featured a large, central flowerbed which, at various times, was maintained by the council or local residents (especially Mrs Hattersley). A few more Airey houses had also been built in Crow edge and Dunford Bridge. People lived in those houses for many years and there was a good sense of community. It was said that there were only eight different lock configurations on the estate and it was not uncommon for people to borrow their neighbour's key.

The interior walls were of a compressed-cardboard-like material, which did little for sound absorption between dwellings. Downstairs had a living room (the 'house'), a front room (the 'room'), a fairly spacious hall and a small kitchen with pantry. There was a fireplace in each downstairs room, except the kitchen and the living room fire had a back boiler for hot water. Upstairs had a bathroom, two large bedrooms (a fireplace in one and an airing cupboard in the other) and a small, unheated back bedroom. The (ill-)fitting steel-framed windows did not seal very well. The houses were very draughty and that fitted well with the name of 'Airey'. Older houses had a stove in the living room, while later ones had a range, with a side oven. These were later replaced by ordinary fireplaces. There was plenty of garden space and a lockable wash-house (with gas point and sink), outside toilet (prone to freezing) and a coal hole.

The houses had a major defect which would lead to their demolition. Chlorides in the concrete caused corrosion of steel reinforcements in the support columns, leading to cracking and spalling of the concrete and the danger of collapse. Airey Houses were classed as 'defective' under the 1985 Housing Act. Unfortunately, they were also susceptible to fire damage, sadly demonstrated by a particularly horrifying fire in Hood Green (or Thurgoland).

As a partial protection against 'Surface Spread of Fire', the internal walls were given a thin coat of plaster in 1979. Some of the houses were also re-wired at the same time. Not all of them, as at least Unwin Crescent missed out. Some residents had the two downstairs rooms converted into one large living room at the same time as the upgrade. The structural problems led them to be scheduled for demolition a few years later, perhaps 1983-ish. These had all originally been rented council houses but some were sold to their long-standing tenants, under the 'Right to Buy' scheme introduced in the 1980s. As it turned out that the private owners had bought defective houses, financial help became available from the Government under the Housing Defects Act 1984 (pdf - updated 1985), for a limited time. The remedial work involved replacing the concrete columns with blocks and building outer walls of red brick, with some fine examples on Unwin Crescent. Demolitions started in the mid-1980s.

Please note that some of the following dates are from memory and might not be entirely accurate.

4. Cubley
In the mid-1960s, Cubley gained a swathe of new houses on two new streets behind and parallel with Hackings Avenue; on Gledhill Avenue and a new road leading from Lyttleton Crescent. Some had serious 'teething troubles', with the builder reluctantly coming back to do remedial work on Gledhill Avenue, under warranty.

5. Behind the Town Hall
Also in the 1960s an estate was built off Lees Avenue on what had previously been rough ground behind the Town Hall. These are: Church View Crescent, Hodgkinson Avenue and Shrewsbury Close, and are mainly semi-detached with some bungalows for old people. It is interesting to note that ordinary houses built up until the 1970s did not usually include garages for off-road parking, as car ownership by 'ordinary' people was only steadily increasing. The solution was to provide rented garages in places such as: by the Bowling Club on Back Lane, by Penistone Church FC memorial ground and behind St Andrew's Church (which was St Paul's in those days before it was rebuilt).

6. Off Bosville Street
A new estate arrived in the late 1960s on Berrywell Avenue and Castle Close. This was on previously rough land in the Green Road area coming from Bosville Street. Deeds say that the land had been sold in 1967. These were mostly rented 'social housing' dwellings but some were (or became) privately owned.

7. Off Wentworth Road and at Thurlstone
Shelley CloseA new estate was built in the late 1970s on Shelley Close and Tennyson Close coming from Wentworth Road. This was close to the Water Hall area near the River Don. The grassland had previously been quite boggy and the houses had to be built on concrete 'rafts'. They are a mix of three (more like 2½) and four-bedroomed houses. Most are semi-detached with a few detached in among. At around the same time, Hassal Homes (an unfortunate name if ever there was one) built an estate on the hillside above the Top of the Town, Thurlstone. The picture shows part of Shelley Close.

8. Off Thurlstone Road
This small estate arrived some time in the 1970s, with Saunderson Road and Milner Avenue, close to the bottom of Stottercliff Cemetery but separated by Stottercliff Wood. This would be called a residential area, with detached houses. A new build in 2014-15 of semi-detached houses between this estate and the cemetery was fiercely resisted by these residents.

9. Developments in the 1980s and 90s
The 'Heron Heights' estate arrived in the early 1980s with Pengeston Road and Rudbroom Close spurring off Chapelfield Lane. Its houses had a warm-air ducted heating system, which was not well-liked and was often replaced with normal radiators. A further line of houses and flats was built in the mid 1980s on an extended Bluebell Avenue, close to Rudbroom Lane leading to the Show Field. These houses had an inner wooden frame with red-brick outer wall. At the same time, Hartcliff Avenue was extended to join the new part of Bluebell Avenue and a row of semi-detached houses were built on one side and a couple of detached houses on the other side. The top end of Clarel Street was extended, with Clarel Close and St John's Close added. There are some splendid detached houses here. A study of Google Maps shows that not many houses were provided with garages, although there were usually some rented garages close to the new developments.

The large Green Acres residential estate went up in this period on the former Cammel-Lairds steelworks brown-field site, with access from Green Road in Spring Vale. Again, they had drives but no garages. A new estate arrived around this time near to Water Hall park and the Viaduct, on the Barnsley Road side of the vale with access on to that road near the viaduct bridge. This was Windermere Road, Rydal Close and Grasmere Close and was the first estate to be built on that side of the River Don. Other houses went up off Wellhouse Lane, with a few more added later. This marked the first spread of houses away from the 'settlement on the hill'.

Weaver's CourtAfter the Airey houses were demolished in the 1990s, rented 'social housing' dwellings were built on the spaces vacated, without any garages or off-road parking. These were around Ward Street, Victoria Street, Dransfield Avenue and Unwin Street. Part of Wilson leading to Unwin Street was removed and sheltered housing for old people built, along with the central building of Weaver's Court with a hall for social activities. New buildings on Dransfield Avenue and Victoria Street are mostly bungalows for old people or people with disabilities. They have features to make life easier for their intended tenants, such as large door handles, handrails and electrical fittings at a convenient height. Some houses on Ward Street are small flats.

The lower part of Unwin Street was ripped up and re-modelled as Lower Unwin Street and its connection with the upper part of Unwin Street was blocked, with Weaver's Court in between. The junction with Ward Street became a staggered crossroads instead of its former aligned one. The picture shows Weaver's Court, as seen from Unwin Street.

It was only in the later few decades of the 20th century that people became affluent enough to purchase their homes rather than rent them, which was always regarded as 'dead money'. There was also a lot of job stability which made the prospect viable. The introduction of a 'Right to Buy' council houses during this period led to many estates having a mix of privately-owned and rented housing. The idea was to raise money for councils to build more social housing but it never worked out like that, with only one new home built for every six sold off.

10. Other Developments
A new estate sprouted up in the 2000s at the 'old' end of Wentworth Road, near Water Hall but a much larger estate almost joined Mortimer Road with Green Road, separated only by Cubley Brook running parallel to Green Road. These streets are accessed part-way up Mortimer Road on the way to Cubley. They are: Moorside Avenue (it had never been a moor), Salter's Way (again not even close), Briar Grove (very possible), Callis Way and Rose Hill Close (which at least was 'close' to Rose Hill on Green Road). A few other houses were built on Green Road around 2012-13. Again, very few of the newer houses are provided with garages for off-road parking, although they nearly all have a drive of some sort.

The population and housing in the Penistone area increased rapidly since around 1997, with the large developments off Mortimer Road, Millhouse Green, Green Road and a other houses here and there scattered around. The maps below are different scales, which might account for some of the differences. See the bottom of this page for some stats.

Map of Area Map of Area 2008
'Getamap' Images reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. GB Grid reference SE 245 030

Various Figures
Looking at Penistone's expansion over the years.

Housing, 1891 - 1911
(From the 1919 Penistone Almanac)
Penistone was then divided into Urban and Rural districts, with separate councils. I presume that the info comes from the national census, which is taken every ten years, ending with a one. Eg. 1901.

Inhabited houses
Year Rural District Urban District Totals
1891 1,243 492 1,735
1901 1,342 611 1,953
1911 1,213 738 1,951

Housing, 1997
Information applies to the 'Penistone West' area, which is not the same as the above.
Source: 'Local Area Community Plan 2000-2001' - Area Forum publication
has numbers from the '1997 'Housing Needs Survey' (library)

Number of homes - 4793
Housing with children under 16 y.o. - 25%
Properties built
- Before 1919 - 25% (1,198)
- After 1975 - 27% (1,294)
Residents who have lived in the same property for more than ten years - 45%

2001 to 2011
The Government's Statistics website has some interesting figures for the ten years between 2001 and 2011:

Population 2001 = 10,101
Population 2011 = 11,270
Increase from 2001 = 1169 = 11.6%

All Dwellings 2001 = 4,384
All Dwellings 2011 = 5,015
Increase from 2001 = 631 = 14.4%

And out of interest, to show how traffic has increased:
All Cars or Vans in Area 2001 = 5,282
All Cars or Vans in Area 2011 = 6,842
Difference = 1560 = 29.6%

Boundary Stones
old mapBefore the days of reliable maps, boundaries were marked out using carved stones. Some still survive, such as the greyhound stone at Bella Vista (on the Hartcliff road), which was mentioned in a 1695 survey of boundaries. It is a few yards away from its original location. Another old marker is the 'Penisale Cross', off the same road. This was erected around 1134 by Richard Lovetot and was visible in the middle of a field until recent times. Some say that it marked the location of 'Penisale' market but historians say that Penisale was the same place as Langsett. It is possible that the stone had been moved in ancient times rather than become lost when the old market came to an end.

A very old custom was popular throughout the country was for residents of a parish to take an annual walk around all of the boundary stones on 'Rogation Sunday', led by members of the clergy. This is on the fifth Sunday after Easter. It was called 'Beating the Bounds' and its purpose was to pass down a memory of the boundary stones' locations to younger people and to pray for a successful harvest along the way. In some areas a small child would be held upside-down and whacked at each boundary stone to instill the memory, then rewarded for his pains. Penistone Round Table still organises a boundary walk each year at around the right time - but without the whacking.

Streets, Lanes and Roads
Street names and house numbers started in this area in 1881. Most are named after important local people, like Shrewsbury, Mortimer, Clarel, Dransfield or based on local features, such as Church View Road, Bluebell Avenue, Berry Well, The Green, etc. but a few pretend 'olde worlde' ones have recently appeared, 'Mews', 'Court', etc. I'm waiting for something like 'Wishing Well Mews', so that we can nickname it Horse Trough Drive.

House numbers start from the end of the road closest to the town centre. It is a convention in the UK that odd numbers are on one side of the street and even numbers on the other side. Occasionally, you find that the unlucky number '13' does not exist, but has been replaced by something like 12a. Nearly all houses have a number but some might also have names. Sometimes with old houses, they have only a name. Our area is a postal district of distant Sheffield and postcodes are now prefixed S36 (previously S30).

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