Preview: Ethel

After the First World War Ethel Haythornthwaite dedicated her life to preserving Sheffield’s rural areas. Her story is part of this year’s Heritage Open Days, which have a focus on women

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In 1963, having worked for some time as a shorthand typist for an engineering firm, Jean Smart was ready for a new challenge and an advertisement in the Sheffield Star for “someone to help with interesting and varied work with regard to architecture and the countryside” intrigued her enough to make the leap. She came to work for Ethel Haythornthwaite at the Sheffield branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, where she would stay for the next 37 years.

“Ethel was a reserved, self-effacing person, but she had a steely determination and amazing powers of persuasion,” explains Smart of her employer, a pioneer of the countryside movement whose early work secured the Sheffield green belt, the Peak District National Park, the Longshaw Estate, Blacka Moor, Whirlow Moor and many other surrounding rural areas.

“Ethel’s father was a wealthy industrialist and she and her family lived in a mansion Mr Ward had built on Endcliffe Vale Road in Sheffield,” says Smart, explaining Haythornthwaite’s unlikely beginnings as a countryside campaigner.

“Ethel was first married at the age of 22 in 1916 to Henry Burrows Gallimore. Captain Gallimore was killed in France in May 1917. She was heartbroken and became very ill. Her family tried to help her by taking her to the countryside, which they knew she loved, and eventually she recovered and found a new purpose in life.

“She vowed to try to protect the Sheffield and Peak District countryside and in order to do this she formed a society called the Sheffield Association for the Protection of Rural Scenery, which later became the Sheffield branch of the CPRE. She was determined to make England a place for the heroes and heroines of both world wars to return to.”

Smart will be hosting an illustrated talk about Haythornthwaite’s life and work at Sheffield Botanical Gardens as part of 2018’s Heritage Open Days, England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers.

This year, to celebrate 100 years of suffrage, there’s a focus on Extraordinary Women. For example, there’ll be an exploratory tour of Liverpool Medical Institution, one of the oldest medical societies in the world, which traces its origins to the founding of the Liverpool Medical Library in 1779. The tour will include a lecture introducing two innovative women doctors from 100 years ago.

In Leeds there will be a tour of the Marks and Spencer company archive, with a talk on Flora Solomon, who created the groundbreaking M&S employee welfare programme in the 1930s. There are hundreds more pioneering women celebrated across the region, as well as family events and access to many places that aren’t usually open

“Heritage Open Days champions everyone’s story, believing that history belongs to us all,” says Heritage Open Days manager Annie Reilly. “Extraordinary Women is all about sharing the stories of women across time who have shaped our world and changed our lives.”

Smart feels Haythornthwaite would be happy to be remembered for her achievements but more proud of the fact that the national park and the Sheffield green belt have held and fulfilled their purpose.

Ethel Haythornthwaite (1894-1986): Her Legacy for Sheffield and the Peak District is at Dorothy Fox Education Centre, Sheffield Botanical Gardens, 9 Sept. To find more events visit

Main image: Ethel Haythornthwaite, with her second husband

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