"Even thieves regarded Sheffield police chief with a sort of affection"
Last weekend was UK census day; the survey that gives a snapshot of the people andhouseholds in England and Wales.
The first UK census was held in 1801 and, with the exception of World War II, has continued every 10 years since then. As the records up to 1911 have been publicly released, these census returns provide a treasure trove of information for history researchers.
They also offer a glimpse into the life of West Bar police, fire and ambulance station – now the National Emergency Services Museum – at the start of the 20 th century.
Although a busy working station for over 60 years, the building was also a home to those who lived as well as worked within its walls. When it opened in 1900 it included accommodation for up to 21 single men and an adjoining three-storey house – called the Inspector’s or Superintendent’s house – for a senior member of the service and his family.
The census shows that in 1901 this house was home to Police Inspector Frederick Andrew, his wife Sarah and their five children. Inspector Andrew came from a police family; two brothers were officers and his eldest son, also Frederick, would later serve on the force.
Andrew joined the police in 1882 and rose quickly through the ranks. He was made a full inspector in June 1900, just a month before West Bar opened. His family might well have been
the first inhabitants of the Inspector’s house.
Inspector Andrew was clearly held in high esteem by his colleagues and the city as a whole. When he died suddenly in 1911, aged 48, he was widely mourned. A newspaper obituary remarked, “Even the thieves that he so cleverly out-manoeuvred regarded him with a sort of affection”.
One colleague said, “We could not have had a better chief. There was never a more popular officer.”
Detective Superintendent Andrew, as he had become, was given a grand funeral in Sheffield, attended by the city’s great and good. Among them was the Second Officer of Sheffield Fire Brigade, Frederick Hadwick, who by then was living in the house at West Bar station that had once been the late detective’s home.
Hadwick was the officer in charge of West Bar and the 1911 census records him living there with his wife, Emma, and son Arthur. When the family moved in and when they left is unknown, but records show that in 1916 Hadwick was promoted to Superintendent of the brigade.
Using the census to follow the stories of the rank and file ‘police firemen’ who lived at West Bar is more difficult. Returns from 1901 and 1911 show firefighters born across seven counties, and as far afield as Ireland, serving in Sheffield.
What can be glimpsed through the census, however, is the impact World War I had on West Bar as the flow of fit, active men into the forces saw brigade numbers fall. One of those that went to fight was Henry Fotherby, who was living at the station in 1911. A member of the Machine Gun Corps, he died in October 1918, aged 33, after contracting malaria on active service.
He was not the only former resident of West Bar station to lose his life in the conflict. Two sons of Inspector Frederick Andrew, Joseph and John, were killed; Joseph on the infamous first day of the Somme in July 1916.
For a male-dominated profession it’s unusual to get a peek into the role women played in the fire service, but the census provides just that. West Bar employed a matron to manage day-to- day housekeeping duties and in 1901 that role was being performed by 31-year-old widow Edith Gosling, who lived at the station with her two young children.
Edith’s husband Fred was a former police constable and soldier who had been killed during the Boer War. The Sheffield force provided financial assistance to his family, and perhaps employing Edith was a way of providing a home and an income for the young widow.
By 1911 50 year old Elizabeth McGlade had taken on the job of matron, working alongside her son, Ernest - a serving firefighter. During this period it was common for the matron to be a family
member of one of the brigade.
Although the census only provides the briefest snapshot of life during the many years that West Bar was a working station, it’s a great source of information to discover more about the people who once called it home.