25 May 2010


Well, I've been lurking around in Ecclesall Woods again on a lovely hot Monday afternoon with sunshine piercing the canopy to dapple glades of bluebells and rare grasses with vivacious light. There are 350 acres of ancient woodland and in past centuries the woods accommodated several rural industries - including charcoal burning.

Another name for a charcoal burner was "wood collier" and one of these fellows accidentally burnt to death in his hut back in 1786. He was called George Yardley and his isolated grave was paid for by a group of his friends - one of whom was the landlord of the nearby "Rising Sun" where Yardley liked to quench his thirst after hard days of physical labour.
This is the full inscription on the gravestone:-
In Memory
Wood Collier who was Burnt
to death in his Cabbin on
This place Oct 11th 1786

William Brooke Salesman
David Glofsop Gamekeeper
Thos Smith Beesomemaker
Samps Brooksham Innkeeper"

I plan to lurk more often in those wonderful woods but the schoolchildren I saw returning home along a woodland path round about four o'clock had better watch out as evidence of their previous saunterings is visible in the form of numerous pieces of litter - not seen anywhere else in that sylvan oasis. I may chase them with a "beesom" or broom made from ash or hazel wands and thereby become The Lurking Litter Avenger of Ecclesall Woods!


  1. We have that problem here increasingly. I really hate it when people are so uncaring of their surroundings.

  2. "I plan to lurk more often in those wonderful woods but the schoolchildren I saw returning home along a woodland path round about four o'clock had better watch out"

    Watch what could be taken out of context YP... :o)

  3. Elizabeth10:19 pm

    That's a really nice story of his friends coming together to buy his gravestone. I can imagine the camraderie they shared around the heat of his fire. I love these old memorials in diverse places; we've lost so much in standardising cemetries, styles of gravestones and regulating locations. x

  4. JENNY You're probably like me and can in all conscience say that you have never deliberately dropped a piece of litter in your life. We should form vigilante groups.
    KATHERINE If you are suggesing that I might be some kind of rainmac paedophile then you are sorely mistaken ma'am!.... Actually, I was very aware of the possible insinuation as I wrote that piece. Glad you picked up on it.
    ELIZABETH I know you are something of an historian. I wonder when it became the norm for everyone - even in remote rural areas - to be buried in official graveyards. I rather like the idea that Mr Yardley was buried pretty much where he died surrounded by the trees that both provided his living and cast shadows over his days.

  5. Elizabeth3:25 am

    The first cemetery in Sheffield was opened in 1836, so George missed booking his plot there by some years. I'm rather glad for him as he was given a lovely place amongst the trees. Sheffield was one of the first places to build areas where non-Anglicans could be buried, open to those of any persuasion. The Anglicans had their individual churchyards for about a hundred years before that and the Quakers had got their act together since their inception. Technically, it is still legal to be buried where you fall, but the specifics are very exacting.

    I feel passionately that people should be allowed to express their grief in a way that is meaningful for them; the Victorians were very good at personalising memorials and bereavement and other cultures still are, but here diocesan or council control has made so many regulations about what stone can be used, shape and size, no kerbing or planting for ease of mowing that it causes a great deal of heartache for those who feel the necessity to focus their grief, and, of course, isn't half so interesting for graveyard historians.

  6. ELIZABETH (Professor Emeritus) Thanks for that.


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