My vivid memories

Anthony Fretwell-Downing
Anthony Fretwell-Downing
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Anthony Fretwell-Downing chairs a number of businesses including the Fretwell-Downing Group, supplier of information management systems and services and owner of The Maynard hotel in Grindleford. He divides his time between Sheffield and Stow-on-the-Wold where he lives with wife Julie.


Bingham Park steps hold vivid memories for me. I remember getting the tram from there with my younger brother Alistair when we were attending the Montessori school. The original tram network was far more extensive than it is now, reaching as far as Fulwood, Ecclesall, Meadowhead and Beauchief.


We used to be able to ice skate on Wire Mill Dam almost every winter. It’s amazing to think that not only was it that cold, but the health and safety culture would probably never allow the like again. 


Rustlings Road is arguably where the Fretwell-Downing story began. My father’s baker’s shop was at number 27 and some of my earliest memories are of the dough being made at 5am, followed by the delicious whiff of freshly baked bread. Our home was at 127 Rustlings Road. My father paid £350 for the shop in 1925 and £450 for the semi-detached house ten years later. My mother Ruth lived there for over 70 years before finally moving to Darwin House where she died aged 102.


The bakery business led to bigger and better things, including outside catering and Cutlers’ Hall became the heart of the enterprise.


Burbage was a massive playground where we developed our freedom and independence. It’s frightening that the youth of today are not connected to the outdoors to the extent we were. I will never forget the electrical storms we used to witness as a family from Burbage Edge looking down the Hope Valley.


At the height of the Thatcher era we moved into Whirlowbook Hall. It was with great sadness that the family eventually had to part company with the building after 25 years. Originally it was a training centre for our IT division, then latterly a high quality wedding venue and a fantastic complement to our hotel, restaurant and wedding venue, The Maynard in Grindleford. I still have fond memories of all the dinners we held up there.


Home of our IT people since the year dot, Brincliffe House was the base from which I launched one of the most madcap ventures of my life. A chance meeting on a train with Ed Drummond in 1990 led to his international Climb for the World event, which was filmed by the BBC – and, when the logistics broke down, to my novice climb. I had never climbed a mountain before and hated heights! But thanks to the leadership of 21-year-old Bevis Boden, we made the 11388ft summit of the Eiger.


We cycled everywhere when we were younger and reaching Youlgreave was always a sign that we were nearly home. The longest ride I did was 169 miles in a single day, from Aberystwyth to Sheffield.


We went to school in Oxford, travelling by steam train from Sheffield Victoria station. This was the heyday of steam when Sheffield had five railway stations. It’s now the Holiday Inn Royal Victoria and a pale imitation of its former grandeur.