Christopher Tolkien and John Wilson

The day Christopher Tolkien died I found the work of John Wilson the antiquarian who may be my kin. The jury is still out. Bilbo was the antiquarian of a make-believe world. I am so behind. With the Jessie Benton connection to Washington Irving, I am heir to A vast literary kingdom.

Consider Downton Abbey. I envision a virtual literary salon at Broomhead-Hall at Hallamshire, whose stones may have been shipped to America.

John Rosamond Wilson

“After J.R.R. Tolkien’s death in 1973, Christopher Tolkien spent much of the rest of his life organizing, editing, and publishing what remained of his father’s work—“what remained” turning out to be an absolute trove of wide-ranging material. His most prominent accomplishment was the publication of The Silmarillion in 1977, having assembled the massive tome from decades worth of drafts, notes, and—when needs must—his own written additions to connect and flesh out certain tales. The book itself proved mildly controversial, with fans of The Lord Of The Rings not especially happy with a “prequel” that was mostly semi-dry recitations of myths, and hardcore Tolkien wonks annoyed by certain choices and inconsistencies made in the editing process. And yet the book itself persists in the public imagination, buffered by later additions, including the 1980 Unfinished Tales and the 12-volume A History Of Middle-Earth.


The capital mansion called Broomhead-hall in the northern part of this chapelry is about ten miles distant from the town of Sheffield and five from Peniston. It stands at the head of the valley along which flows the Ewden, one of the tributary streams of the Don, and its front windows command a fine view down the valley of the woody steep of Wharncliffe.

It is one of the very few specimens of houses built by the substantial gentry of Hallamshire in the reign of Charles I. In that reign it was built by Christopher Wilson, who was one of those gentlemen in this part of the county of York who were fined for having neglected to appear at the king’s coronation to receive
the honour of knighthood. He had afterwards a captain’s commission in the parliament army.

There had been a house on the same site long before. In it resided the father of Christopher Wilson, of the same name, who took the lead in the opposition which the freeholders of Bradfield made to Gilbert earl of Shrewsbury in the great tythe cause. And on the same estate the ancestors of the said Christopher Wilson had resided from the time of Edward I. in whose reign a grant of lands was made to Adam Wilson his scutiger, by Thomas lord Furnival, at Wightwistle in the neighbourhood of Broomhead for services in the Scottish wars.

But it appears that before the time of this Adam Wilson there had been of the name residing at or near Broomhead, and that both he and his ancestors married with the families of the best account in this part of Hallamshire.

The estate of Broomhead was till within these few years the last effort of cultivation in that direction. The house stood on the edge of an immense tract of moorland; and it is equally difficult to explain how cultivation should have extended itself so far, and why it should at this point have stopped for a period of six
or seven centuries.
This house has a strong claim on the notice and respect of every lover of Hallamshire topography. It was the birth-place and the constant residence of John Wilson esquire, a gentleman to whom we owe the preservation of so much documentary matter, which but for his care it is too probable would have been entirely lost, leaving this district destitute of that evidence by which alone the character of authenticity can be given to the history of many of its institutions, and the account of many of its principal inhabitants.
It is to be regretted that no notice was taken of Mr. Wilson at the time of his decease in any of the periodical journals; except that he died ” lamented by a numerous and respectable acquaintance, for in him the gentleman and the Christian were happily united.”
This is indeed the best of praises; but as he was also the literary man and the antiquary, we cannot but wish that his contemporaries had given us some information respecting his literary habits and pursuits. It is now too late fully to supply the deficiency, but something may be done.

Mr. Wilson was the great grandson of Christopher Wilson the builder of the present house, and was born in it on the 28th of April 1719. He was the eldest son of his father. His education he received at the grammar schools of Sheffield and Chesterfield, and made considerable proficiency in classical studies. His father died about the time when he left school, and he returned to Bnoomhead to reside with his mother. Mr. Wilson was not intended for any profession.

While the younger children had been sent into the world in different employments and professions, the family estate, neither much increased nor’ much diminished in the generations through which it had successively passed, had been found sufficient to enable the head of the family to maintain hospitality, and to take a respectable rank among the neighbouring gentry.

From the age of sixteen, therefore, Mr. Wilson was never long absent from his hereditary seat. The very circumstance of birth as the heir of a family which has preserved its estate through a period of five or six centuries, is enough to give a man a taste for that branch of antiquities at least which respects genealogy. But along with the estate had descended an unbroken series of evidences such as is rarely to be found, and which of themselves were sufficient to form the foundation of a collection of charters. The hall too stood in the midst of earth-works of the highest antiquity, and on Mr. Wilson’s own estate the plough was every now and then bringing to light relics of the Roman and the Celtic times. How far Mr. Wilson’s predilection for these studies might be fostered by his mother’s brother the Reverend Dr. Cox Macro, the Suffolk collector and antiquary, does not now appear.

That Mr. Wilson’s attention was very early directed to topographical and antiquarian pursuits appears from this – that in 1741, when he was only two-and-twenty, he had completed a topographical survey of Hallamshire, which, while it contains some things which his more matured judgement would have led him to reject, is highly creditable to his industry and spirit of research.

From that time Mr. Wilson seems to have made it the business of his life to collect from all quarters whatever might throw light on the descent of property, on family antiquities, or on the history, manners, and customs of our ancestors. His taste was known, and his knowledge in such matters was properly estimated
by many gentlemen in the neighbourhood, who took a pleasure in enriching his collection with charters when they had ceased to be material to the legal security of their estates. Among the principal contributors were Mr. Staniforth of Darnall, Mr. Bosville of Gunthwalte, and Sir Thomas Wentworth of Bretton. The retired life which he led at Broomhead gave him abundant leisure, which he employed principally in transcribing in a plain and legible hand what he was not allowed to appropriate.

The strength of Mr.Wilson’s collection of manuscript matter lay in its charters. But he had formed a curious collection of original letters, of inventories, of old books of accompt, of early and unpublished poetry, and a variety of miscellaneous matter pertaining to our general history, and more especially to the county of York. All these he had carefully perused and sorted, and his finger index appears in all of them pointing to anything which seemed more peculiarly deserving of notice. Added to these were a transcript of the Domesday book, as far as relates to the county of York, in his own hand; large notices from Torre’s manuscripts copied from the extracts made by his friend Dr. Burton of York; copies of the rates for the county of York, of the book of the bridges, and large extracts from many of the parish-registers in his neighbourhood; numerous pedigrees; many valuable church notes in the counties of York and Derby; and memoranda of occurrences in his own time and neighbourhood, or of what he found preserved by tradition among the people around him.

But his attention was not confined to the collecting of charters and other manuscripts. He improved the library which had been collected by his grandfather the vicar of Sheffield, by the addition of many choice printed volumes; he formed a cabinet of coins of considerable value; and he had a little museum consisting of rare prints, a few paintings, and other objects natural and artificial, ancient and modern, of different degrees of curiosity and value.

Frequent attention to the written character in use at different periods gave Mr. Wilson great skill in de-cyphering ancient records; and I have heard that his numismatical knowledge might justly vindicate for him a claim to the name and character of an antiquary. As his collection increased, his acquaintance with
the antiquaries of his day extended. His correspondence was sought by some of the most eminent among them. He was not a fellow of the Society, but we have seen that his name was coupled in an honourable manner with a communication which in the opinion of the President was one of the most valuable that the Society had ever received. With Bishop Percy Mr. Wilson had a long correspondence on matters connected with his publication of the Reliques of English Poetry, and with the bishop’s descent maternally from a family of the name of Wilson. With Mr. Whitaker the historian of Manchester he was in frequent correspondence; as he was also with Mr. Watson the rector of Stockport, and with Brooke, whose untimely death he did not live to deplore.
He also reckoned among his friends Dr. Pegge the rector of Whittington, and Beckwith, whose edition of Blount’s Ancient Tenures owes something to the assistance he received from Mr. Wilson.

But his memory must not be flattered. That he collected some things which were scarcely worth preservation ; and that he consumed time in laborious transcription from books which at all times were easily accessible, that might have been much better employed in digesting into some regular and connected form what he had collected, in arranging, for instance, his materials for the history of his own and the neighbouring parishes, it would be wrong to deny.

In fact, he arranged and composed nothing, saving his early survey of Hallamshire, and a genealogical account of his own family, which he compiled with great exactness from the body of evidences in his possession, and from such foreign authorities as he was able to procure.

With this aversion to arrangement and composition, it is not surprising that he published scarcely anything. Indeed nothing is known to be from his pen except a few communications to the Gentleman’s Magazine and I much doubt whether he could have been prevailed upon by his friend the Somerset herald to have
taken the part assigned him in the scheme which was much canvassed in the year 1775 for dividing the county of York, or at least the west riding, into portions, to be allotted to distinct antiquaries by whose joint labours it was hoped that a general history of the county, on a scale of proper extent, or at least of the riding, might have been accomplished.
The zeal of Mr. Wilson for collecting continued with unabated ardour to the last. He died at the age of sixty-three on the 3d day of March 1783, and was buried with his ancestors in the chancel of the church of Bradfield.

After his decease his coins and library were sold. His manuscript collections remained entire. A room was appropriated to them in the hall at Broomhead, even when the family had ceased to reside there, and it was inhabited by the tenant of the farm.
The room was rarely opened; and in 1808, when by the favour of the present possessor I was first allowed to have access to them, I found them nearly in the state in which they had been left by him of whose assiduity and care they are so honourable a memorial.
The engraving of Mr. Wilson which is here given is a faithful copy from a portrait now in the possession of his son Mr. William Wilson of Sheffield.
It remains that we add the pedigree as collected by Mr. Wilson himself with some later additions.

Among the manuscript collections made by Mr. Wilson were the following articles:-
An old copy of Kirkby’s Inquest for the county of York.
Erdeswick’s Staffordshire.
Inventory of the furniture of Sir William Cavendish’s house at North Awbrey near Lincoln.
The steward’s account of the expenses of Sir William Saint Lee’s journey from Chatsworth to London,
and attendance on the Queen from August to October 1560.
Original manuscript of one of the voyages of a Cavendish in the time of Elizabeth,
since published in Purchas’s Pilgrims.
Depositions respecting the divorce of Anne of Cleves.
An account-book of Richard Bunny of Newland when he was receiver of the northern counties/containing many original letters of
Edward VI., Queen Elizabeth, and their councils, with matter pertaining to the life of Bunny.
The accompts of Sir John Travis master of the King’s ordnance in Ireland in the reign of Henry VIII.
Sale and Inventory of goods belonging to the priory of Christ Church in Canterbury.
A narrative of the proceedings of the earls, of Essex and Southampton, in a contemporary hand.
The Liberties and Customs of the Lead Mines, in verse, by Edward Manlove.
A treatise on Bail and Mainprize by Sir Edward Coke.
The genealogy of the family of Rockley of Rockley in Woreboroughdale, collected by Mr. Robert Rockley, the last of that ancient name.
A book of husbandry in the manner of Tusser, a Fatherly Farewell, and other Poems, by John Kaye of Woodsome esquire, in the time of Elizabeth,
with an account of the transactions of that family from 1660 to 1642.
A collection of poetry made in the time of Charles I.
An unpublished descriptive poem entitled ‘ The Moors,’ by Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite esquire.
Copy of the Rev. Mr. Garlick’s collections for the history of Wakefield.
A Catalogue of the curiosities, manuscripts, early printed books, ancient deeds and writings,
collected by Dr. Cox Macro of Norton in Suffolk.

Ewden Valley Area

The Ewden Valley is situated on the south side of the district, a tranquil rural area, once described in a local Newspaper article by the Journalist Roger A. Redfern as South Yorkshire’s Loveliest Dale.

Its two reservoirs, Broomhead and Moorhall, provide water for the Sheffield area and make up water for the river Don, they greatly enhance the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

In 1929 a local newspaper reported the opening of the Broomhead and Morehall reservoirs in the Valley by the Sheffieid Corporation.

They were opened by the then Minister of Health Mister Arthur Greenwood M.P. and the reported total capacity of the two reservoirs was 1,618 million gallons of water.

In this section you will find a fascinating collection of photographs showing the purpose built village, constructed to house the labourers and their families, employed in the building of the reservoirs.

The collection was commissioned by Mr. William Terrey, between 1914 and 1929, when he was employed as General Manager of the Sheffield Corporation Waterworks Department.

His responsibilities included, for the design, construction and maintenance of the Ewden Village and for the general administration of the works.

The collection shows views of each type of the buildings in the village, as well as the interiors of a lodgers hut, the recreational hall, the navvies’ room in the canteen, and many others.

The fire at Ewden in September 1925 is also recorded in these photographs.

Mr. Terrey, who died in 1935, was described as “One of the best known Water Engineers in the country”.

His obituary attributed to him the then, excellence of (Sheffield’s) water supply.

The recognised exceptionally high standard of Sheffield’s water supply is a lasting tribute to Mr. Terrey’s work.

The collection was donated by Mr Terrey’s great granddaughter, Mrs H. Dodd of Wiltshire to whom we are especially grateful.

This first set of photograph from the Waterworks Collection show, the New Mill Bridge, which was a packhorse bridge and the original bridge, was actually “new” in the thirteenth century.

The following passage is an extract from Joseph Kenworthy’s book The Broken Earthenware of Midhope Potteries relating to the history of this bridge.

“John Wilson, who lived 1719-1783, says it received this name from a mill which stood at the North end of the bridge. It was called New Mill in the time of Thomas de Furnivall, the second, who died in 1279. He also supposed that there was a bridge at this place, it being a common way from Bolsterstone to Bradfield, Sheffield, and other places. The old bridge was of wood, much decayed, and a new stone bridge was built over the Ewden by one, Benjamin Milns, in 1734, at the charge of the inhabitants of Bolsterstone, for which purpose twenty lays were collected in the Lordship”.

It is interesting to note that the Cassini Historical Map (Old Series) dated 1840-1844 does not show a Mill adjacent to the bridge as described by Kenworthy, posing the question was the mill still there in the mid 1800s?

In 1925 the bridge was dismantled, stone by stone, prior to the reservoir being filled, later in 1929 it was rebuilt in Glen Howe Park at Wharncliffe Side, where it can still be seen today.

Photograph 6 shows the bridge being dismantled to allow for the construction of the reservoir and photograph 7 shows the bridge being re-built in Glen

These photographs show the New Mill Pack Horse bridge as it now looks after being rebuilt in Glen Howe park at Wharncliffe Side.

The cost of the dismantling and rebuilding was paid for by Joseph Dixon Owner and Manager of the local Paper Mill, who previously in 1917 had purchased and presented the Park to the people of Wharncliffe Side.

Sadly Joseph never saw the completion of his dream as he died in 1926 at 77 years of age.

These Photographs are of the Broomhead Bridge prior to it being replaced by the one which can be seen today.

This second set of photograph from the Waterworks Collection show, some of the everyday activities associated with the construction of the reservoir and the people involved in building it.

They display some of the workshops and the after effects of the fire which occurred in Septemb

This third set of photograph from the Waterworks Collection show, the village which was built as a consequence of the construction of the reservoirs.

This fourth set of photograph from the Waterworks Collection, show various buildings and localities around the valley.

It must have been exhausting work toiling for long hours and without the use of modern day lifting equipment, that said can you think of a more pleasant place to spend a working day.

Broomhead Hall

Broomhead Hall was built in 1640 by Christopher Wilson, who had turned down the chance of a knighthood by declining his invitation to the Coronation of Charles 1st.

Later he became a Captain in the Parliamentary army.

Later this building was the design of James Rimington, already very much out of date, it was demolished in 1980, but the Broomhead farm estate is still a very going concern.


Broomhead Mill & House

Here we have a photograph of  Broomhead Mill and House.

If any one has an information on the history of these buildings please contact us.

Wigtwizzle Hall  

Mary the daughter of the reverend John Ibbotson of Wigtwizzle married Christopher Wilson of Broomhead Hall in 1623.

It was demolished in 1923 and the stone was used to build the Waterboard houses near More Hall.

Some gateposts can still be seen in the wall opposite Wigtwizzle cottages.

Margaret Todner wrote this article as part of issue 40 of the Society Newspaper the “Paragon” it included an account by her aunt Grace (nee Marsh) who lived at the Hall.



A brief history of Morehall was written by Brenda Duffield and featured in the Stocksbridge Look Local newspaper, this is an account of what she wrote at the time.


General Information

As can be seen in the following photographs Ewden Valley is a beautiful location.

There was once a Sailing Club here which had its clubhouse on the south bank of the lower Morehall reservoir but they moved their location a number of years ago

Fly fishing continues to be a major pastime on these pleasant waters.

This photograph shows a wintry scene at the Ewden Valley Village in February 1963.

A Weymann-bodied Leyland PD2 158 (PWA 258), new to the B fleet in 1953, brings local residents home from Sheffield with their shopping.

There were several of these infrequent rural services to small settlements north-west of the city, this one reached via a private road serving a Corporation waterworks.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Christopher Tolkien and John Wilson

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    We are in Real Prophecy this day.

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